The Constitution establishes government at three levels. The principle of cooperative government devolves legislative and executive powers among three distinctive spheres of government: national, provincial and municipal. Each sphere has autonomous powers and responsibilities working together with the others to ensure that government as a whole meets its constitutional responsibilities. Only in rare situations can one branch interfere when other branches fail to act.

This principle is often overlooked by people who think we still have the pre-constitutional hierarchical system of government with all public power vested in parliament.

The appeal court in Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs v Kloof Conservancy set aside a high court order that sought to impose general obligations on the Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs to oversee that all organs of State comply with the National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act 2004.

The courts will declare what the law is but must leave it to the arms of government how best the law, once stated, should be observed.