Departmental briefings: Tourism, Water & Forestry sector briefings: Strategic Plans & Budgets

NCOP Land Reform, Environment, Mineral Resources and Energy

25 June 2009
Chairperson: Mr CJ De Beer (ANC, North West) & Mr D Gamede (ANC, KwaZulu Natal)
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Meeting Summary

The Department of Tourism tabled extensive written reports, including the Strategic plan and Budget and gave details of the budgets, re-alignment and restructuring of the departments, new and necessary legislation, how the Department intended to match its activities to Government’s priorities, and a description of public entities and tourism. It was noted that tourism constituted 8.4 of GDP in 2008, and had accounted for over one million jobs. It remained a challenge that not all citizens were benefiting from the tourism industry. The Department explained its readiness and role in relation to the 2010 event, setting out the strategies to meet its goals and the global marketing campaign. Members questioned declining fish stocks, but the Minister noted that this did not fall under his portfolio. They also commented on wetland projects in St Lucia, asked where marketing campaigns for tourism were targeted, cited the need to focus on black and local tourism. Questions were also posed about the cost and reasons for acquisition of the new vessel for Antarctic projects, coastal patrols, and the possible conflicts of interest between tourism and mining. The Department would answer further questions around outstanding land claims and outstanding Environmental Impact Assessments in writing.

The Department of Water and Environmental Affairs briefed the Committee on the restructuring of this Department. The presentation focused on water availability and usage, noting continuing backlogs. The Department was providing water for 200 000 households per annum. However, challenges were highlighted with infrastructure, funding, the bucket system, the condition of assets, wastewater management and illegal water discharge, including effluent. There was a shortage of technical skills in many municipalities. 3.9 million households were without access to water, and several were relying still on unsafe water sources. There was a need to look at sustainable development, since South Africa was a water-scarce country, and also to look at education. Members asked about the qualified audit report of the Department, water testing, the bucket system, the possibility of storing water, the need to address problems in North West in particular, water tariffs and pricing, and the chronic shortage of skills, requesting what was being done about these areas. The Department was asked to give a further written report on plans to upgrade waste water plants, plans to eradicate the bucket system and how environmental application processes were aligned with licensing.

The Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries briefed the Committee specifically in relation to forestry. The Department had responsibility for forestry oversight, sustainable forestry management, fire regulation, enterprise development and securing livelihood in rural areas. Major challenges were the integration of competencies at national and provincial levels, rural poverty, the need for the strengthening of skill levels, climate change and funding. A brief overview of the sector was provided, with an indication of geographical spread and yields. There was a need for sustainable resource management, strengthening of skills, growing transformation, and comprehensive rural development linked to agrarian reform and food economy. Members asked whether there was a system or process that informed what activities would be allowed, and what would be prohibited, in forests.

Meeting report

Department of Tourism Strategic Plans and budgets: Briefing
A team from the Department of Tourism (the Department) tabled extensive written reports which included the Strategic Plans, the Annual Review and a fifteen year review of the tourism activities. It also gave details of budgets, re-alignment and restructuring of the departments, new and necessary legislation, how the Department intended to match its activities to Government’s priorities, and a description of public entities and tourism.

The staff establishment was also outlined. Some of the transfers consequent upon the new dispensation would involve all arms of government. A brief summary was given of the activities of the public entities in this sector (see attached presentation for details)
A large part of the presentation was devoted to explaining the Department’s readiness for the 2010 World Cup event, which of course was expected to attract many tourists. Its role in preparing for the event was outlined and it was noted that this was based upon six pillars, which she described as
progress; accommodation; the number and standard of the rooms available; skills and service levels, and the way in which tourists were met and greeted; infrastructure development; marketing and branding. Strategies to achieve the goals, and the progress achieved thus far in each of the six areas were also outlined. Reference was made to the global marketing campaign. Information centers had been set up by the Department in the main areas. All efforts in tourism were aimed at making South Africa the destination of choice for both internal and foreign travellers. The Grading Council offered important support.

It was briefly noted that the State of the Environment report would also impact upon tourism.

Mr Dirk van Schalkwyk, Chief Operating Officer: Department of Tourism,
reminded the meeting that in terms of the recent restructuring and realignment, the former Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism had been split to create a Tourism component and a Water and Environmental Affairs component.

Mr van Schalkwyk said that in 2008 tourism had constituted 8.4% of the National Gross Domestic Product (GDP), amounting to R178.6 billion and had accounted for over one million jobs. Despite the current financial downturn there was, as yet, no appreciable downturn in any of these figures. Tourism, whether from external or foreign sources, or those within the country, was still a significant contributor to GDP and the welfare of the country. In 2007, there had been 9.09 million tourists to South Africa. In 2008, despite the downturn, 9.5 million tourists had visited. In 2008 there were 5667 renewals of tourism grading, and 1542 new gradings, a 34% increase.  Each tourist spent an average amount of R9 000, with most foreign tourists being in the country for 14 days. Most tourist activity was concentrated on the Gauteng and Western Cape Provinces, although the Department was marketing the other seven provinces.

The main pillars of Tourism were suitable accommodation; the development of adequate skills and service excellence in all product and associated services; adequate product and product information (in which government communication services were valuable); adequate and effective marketing internally and externally. Ease of travel, including availability and safety of transport, safe environment, and ease of visa processing were also important.

He noted that the State of the Environment report also impacted upon tourism. This required detailed and ongoing analysis of the state of rivers, the coastlines, the air, spatial bio diversity and the ongoing degradation of the eco-system.

It remained a challenge that not all citizens were benefiting from the tourism industry, as its distribution spread was uneven. This problem had been addressed in the Strategic Plan, which set out some of the interventions that the Department was planning. The Charter for Tourism had been gazetted, and it was thus now a legally accepted document. Tourism was intended to grow, and thereby also grow jobs. It was viewed as the driving wheel of the economy. Because Tourism had an impact upon the environment, Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) processes should be regulated to become more efficient and speedy. Individual developers and the country could not afford undue delay.

Mr van Schalkwyk then went on to discuss the re-alignment and re-structuring of fisheries which was to be split up; certain aspects would fall in future under the new Department of Agriculture, Forests and Fisheries, whilst recreational fishery would remain within the ambit of Tourism. Pelagic fishery would fall within the aspect of job creation. The overriding issue was to ensure the sustainability of the South African fishing resources, thereby maximising sustainable job creation. Marine culture (fish farming) would also move to the Fisheries area, where it logically belonged. This would achieve better sustainability.

Mr van Schalkwyk then outlined the structure of the Marine Coastal Affairs unit. This would comprise an administrative support services section. The Antarctic Research Programme, including Marion and Gough Islands, which were also weather stations, would also cover the Marine Living Resource Fund. He noted that the present staff complement of the Marine and Coastal management was 708 posts. The public entities were Marine Living Resources, The South African National Bio Diversity Institute, iSimangaliso Wetland Park Authority,
The South African Weather Services (SAWS) and South African National Parks. He described the staffing of these entities. The preservation of the bio diverse areas and solid waste Management and Coastal Zone management were to be undertaken in a spirit of economically-and environmentally-friendly friendship, for the benefit of all South Africans, no matter how diverse they might be in their interests.

Mr van Schalkwyk noted that there would be a focus on the Marine Living Resources (MLR) report, and said that the Department’s top priority in 2009/2010 would be to work towards the recovery of the abalone resources, and to protect the endangered hake species. The second main priority was to grow marine aqua-culture. On the international front the objective was to gain an understanding of the correlation between climate change and the oceans. There would also be a focus on improving public perceptions by efficient management of the MLR Fund.

Finally, the Department noted that it would also concentrate on social responsibility accredited and non-accredited training, creation of jobs, development of SMMEs and youth empowerment. Most of the proposed new legislation arose out of the current Presidential Proclamations and would require amending legislation, especially in the tourism area.

The Chairperson referred to the slide on the protection of hake species. He said that South Africa should refer to European countries’ successful models in order to protect its endangered species. The stocks and levels of fish at sea were declining. He noted that using fresh water fish for food was a viable solution, as it had high levels of protein, was generally cheaper to source, and thus more readily available to the poor. The use of fresh water fish would create better food security. Many fresh water projects in South Africa, linked to food security, were listed. He felt that there were too many projects, which led to fragmentation, and there was a need for an integrated project. 

Mr van Schalkwyk noted that he was unable to respond on the issue of fresh water fish supplies, and this fell under the Department of Agriculture.

The Chairperson referred to the wetland project on the East coast, at St Lucia, and said that a similar project had started in Alexander Bay but had come to a standstill. He noted that there was severe rural poverty near Alexander Bay. He called upon the Department, in conjunction with the Department responsible for rural development, to provide work in this area, as there were no other employment opportunities. He also referred to waste management. He appealed to Members to take time out to visit the town.

Mr van Schalkwyk responded that a meeting would be set up and visits to Alexander Bay and Rooifontein would be made.

A Member said he was aware that tourism was the fastest growing industry, but asked where the marketing campaigns were concentrated. There were campaigns in Europe and America listed, but he wanted to know was going on in African countries and in South Africa particularly with regard to the black people.

Ms Sindiswa Nhlumayo, Deputy Director General, Department of Tourism, replied that tourism was the fastest growing industry, and the greatest numbers  of tourists (around 76.5%) in fact hailed from elsewhere in Africa. The Department had now managed to reach almost 80% of the target market in Africa. The Department was now focusing on unexploited areas in Europe. South Africa’s growth in tourism had been above international averages, and was around 5.5%. Now, however, because of the global recession, there was a trend towards shorter travel as more popular. The response strategy would be to market aggressively in Africa to sustain jobs in the tourist industry.
Mr S Plaatjie (COPE, North West) asked the Department to focus on black people in South Africa. He said there was a lack of awareness about South African tourist destinations and more interest needed to be stimulated domestically so that black people would travel more.

Ms Nhlumayo said that in terms of domestic travel, there was a campaign already in operation called the Short Left Campaign, which addressed the fact that most black South Africans had not seen the country outside of their home towns, due to the dispensation during apartheid years.
Mr D Worth (DA, Free State) referred to the acquisition of the vessel for Antarctic projects. He asked if this meant that the SA Agulhas had been replaced with another ship, or whether this would represent the purchase of another ship in addition to it.

Mr Worth referred to the Marine and Coastal Management budget and observed that there was a substantial increase, from R583 million in 2009/10 to R987 million  in 2011/2012. He asked for explanation of these figures.

Mr van Schalkwyk responded that one ship, being the SA Agulhas, would be replaced. The amount of R987 million covered all the expenses around the replacement, including the purchase of the ship.

Mr Worth noted that there seemed to be a conflict of interest between the two sectors of mining and tourism, since expansion of mining would ultimately lead to more pollution. He asked who would ultimately decide, in the case of a conflict, whether the development should proceed.

Mr van Schalkwyk noted that he could not respond to the question of whether the Minister of Mining or the Minister of Environmental Affairs would be more powerful.

Mr Sonnyboy Bapela, Chief Director: Regulatory Services, Department of Tourism, said that both Ministers were on an equal footing.

The Chairperson noted that he had recently held discussions on the question of coastal patrols with the South African Police Service (SAPS) in Port Nolloth and in Upington. He was informed that four vessels would be purchased to monitor the coastlines. He asked for more information on the acquisition of the vessels.

Dr Monde Mayekiso, Deputy Director General: Marine and Coastal Management, Department of Tourism, of responded that personnel numbers had been increased and more surveillance equipment had been procured. Relationships with law enforcement agencies like the SAPS had been improved, so there was greater co-ordination. There were four vessels in operation along the Cape coast, which covered its 2 000 km of coastline. However, SAPS were responsible for the policing of international waters.

The Chairperson also asked about the progress of outstanding land claims in protected areas.

The Chairperson asked about the number of Environmental Impact Assessments still needing to be finalised.

He requested that the unanswered questions be addressed by the Department in writing.

He urged that everyone could promote the country in very simple ways; firstly by keeping the country clean and picking up litter, and secondly by speaking positively about the country.  

Departmental of Water and Environmental Affairs (DWEA): Strategic Plan Briefing
Ms Thandeka Mbassa, Deputy Director General: Water Affairs, DWEA, tabled a presentation that included an overview of the sector, as well as an overview of the Strategic Plan. She explained the new restructuring of the Department and said that this would be complete by October 2009.

Ms Mbassa then said that the availability of water from country dams was currently at about 90%, notwithstanding the fact that some of the provinces were affected by drought. She said that most of South Africa’s water came from surface sources. The highest levels of usage were for agricultural and domestic usage. 91% of households had access to water. However, there were backlogs, specifically in urban areas of informal settlements.

Ms Mbassa went on to discuss the level of service delivery that had been achieved and the investment levels needed, as well as giving an overview of performance with regard to the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) of 2014. At present the Department was performing well and was providing water to 200 000 households per annum. There was a problem with poor infrastructure and the major challenge was funding, as local government needed R3.3 billion to achieve the MDG in terms of which all communities would have access to safe water.

There was still a backlog with the bucket system, specifically in the provinces of Free State, Eastern Cape and Northern Cape. The reason for this was that certain communities refused to accept anything less than flush toilets.

She highlighted the condition of assets and said that the Department was putting a lot of effort into the maintenance of the infrastructure but that there were serious challenges ahead. She highlighted the problem in several provinces (see attached presentation for details). The challenges around wastewater management in each province were highlighted. Challenges also remained around illegal water discharge. She agreed with recent newspaper reports that there were serious problems with effluent, and that municipalities themselves had also contributed to the problem. Mining and industry continued to discharge non-compliant effluent. 30% of treatment plants required immediate intervention to avert crises. 60% required medium term intervention.

Technical skills also remained a serious problem. In several areas there were no engineers or technicians to manage the water systems. Intervention was needed from the Department into many municipalities.

Ms Mbassa then said that there remained 3.9 million households without access to water. Several communities were still relying on unsafe water sources like untreated rivers and streams, and were still vulnerable to water borne diseases. There was a need to strengthen compliance, which was currently a weak area. The serious shortage of technical and engineering skills was a contributing problem. Key weaknesses in the licensing area also needed to receive attention.

She noted that South Africa was a water-scarce country and sustainable development was necessary. The Department was looking at ways to educate communities. Several interventions had been adopted to avert the impending crises, and a number of programmes were implemented, but this was still inadequate. Reconciliation studies had been undertaken in all metros to cope with urbanisation. There were also plans in rural areas to educate the population about rain harvesting. Water quality was a problem. She indicated that there were two programmes to improve water quality: and the River Health programme and the Blue Drop tests had been adopted.

Ms Mbassa said that a municipal indaba was held last year to assist municipalities, and a programme was being written at present to provide further assistance. Plans to develop a learning academy were in the pipeline, in order to improve skills at local government level. Rationalising of support institutions was a further initiative  to improve water quality. The Department was also looking to international municipalities for guidance. There was a need to focus on historically disadvantaged communities. There was also a need to take a firm stance and to prosecute transgressors, including municipalities, more vigorously.

It was finally noted that financial management of the Department was a problem and that the Department had received a qualified audit report.

Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF): Forestry matters
Ms Phindi Dingile, Chief Director: Forestry, Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, gave a presentation specifically relating to forestry issues. She noted that forestry had now moved to the new DAFF, and had been placed under a separate portfolio, and realignment needed to be done. She said a departmental task team had been formed to assist with the realignment.

She listed the Department’s functions in relation to forestry. These included forestry oversight, sustainable forestry management, fire regulation, enterprise development and securing livelihood in rural areas. The functions were at national level but staffing and units were in places in the provinces.

She listed the major challenges as integration of competencies at national and provincial levels, rural poverty, the need for the strengthening of skill levels, climate change and funding.

A brief overview of the forestry sector was provided. She indicated the location of forests in the country, which totalled half a million hectares. The yield of commercial forestry was approximately R5 billion annually. Many of the forests were in the hands of the rural poor, who did not have the skills and resources to manage the forests. The Department needed to supply the necessary support.

Key priority areas for forestry included sustainable resource management, strengthening skills and human resource base, speeding up growth and transformation of the economy, creating decent work and sustainable livelihoods, pursuing African advancement and international cooperation, and comprehensive rural development related to agrarian reform and food economy. Interventions to address these challenges included support for forestry development and enterprise, implementing the Forest Sector Charter and establishing sector partnerships with the private sector to address mutual threats such as fires, diseases and pests.

She noted that over the last few years the forestry division had consistently under spent and in the previous financial year it had under spent by 7 %. It was not spending enough on capacity to deal with core functions. She indicated that forestry had continually been under funded in proportion to its contribution to Gross Domestic Product (GDP). She gave a breakdown of expenditure for 2009/2010 (see attached presentation for details)
The Chairperson referred to the chronic shortage of technical skills in the water sector and indicated that there was a need to overcome this and find a way forward.

The Chairperson referred to the unacceptably high levels of pollution in rivers and said that the solution to the problem started with education on environmental issues in schools. This needed to be built into the curriculum. He asked whether the Department visited the schools.

Ms Mbassa said the skills shortage was a massive challenge and the Department had to look at innovate ways to improve skill levels. An initiative had been taken to launch an academy, to attract young learners from schools into this sector. They would be taken through training and would register as trainee engineers. She acknowledged that that was not enough and that the Department would be working on a national strategy.

The Chairperson referred to bulk water supply problems in the western part of the Northern Cape. For three days a year there was no water in Port Nolloth. He asked if there was a possibility of building a dam in the area. This would also be to the advantage to the southern part of Botswana and Namibia.

Dr Cornelius Ruiters, Deputy Director General: Water Resources and Infrastructure, Department of Water and Environmental Affairs, responded that dams in the Northern Cape had been identified, so that efforts could be made to improve the infrastructure. However several considerations had to be made when building a dam. The decision making process was very complex. Certain dams were balancing dams and feasibility had to be considered. There were also technical considerations as well as factors like topographical suitability.

Mr G Mokgoro (ANC, Northern Cape) agreed that South Africa was a water scarce country and, from his personal observations in his home district, it seemed that the shortages were getting worse. He asked if the Department had looked into the deterioration in the supply of water, and what plans it had to deal with this. He noted there was an abundance of water in the rainy season, and asked what specific conservation measures were taken during the rains.

Ms Mbassa responded that South Africa was indeed a water-scarce country and that several interventions were being considered to prevent further shortages, including the construction of dams, education in water conservation, recycling and desalination.

Dr Ruiters added that reconciliation studies had been conducted, making projections through to at least 2050, to ensure that there would be water security. He responded to whether water could be stored during times of flooding, indicating that flooding was a sporadic event and although there were models to cater for this, feasibility was a major consideration. There were very high levels of evaporation in water storage.

Mr Mokgoro referred to the recent media report about the quality of water supplied by certain municipalities, and asked that the Department elaborate upon these damning reports.

Mr Worth said there were problems with quality of water in the municipalities in the Free State, but that the quality would vary from town to town. Some of the reasons for this were the old infrastructure in some times, shortage of engineers in others, or release of effluent into the Vaal dam. He enquired about testing and monitoring mechanisms and said that various institutions seemed to come up with different results.

Mr Helgard Muller, Executive Manager: Water Services, DWEA, said that water should be tested along the entire distribution system, including in people’s homes.

Mr Worth asked the Department to elaborate on the Blue Drop Test. He said also that Parliament was wasting thousands of rand by purchasing bottled water, when the tap water in the Western Cape was very healthy, largely thanks to the efforts of the DA!

Mr Muller said that the tests were South African Bureau of Standards- certified and were also in line with World Health Organisation (WHO) standards. The Department had adopted the Blue Drop test, which was highly accredited and universally recognised. Several municipalities had received awards for good quality, including some of the small municipalities, Specifics of the tests and certifications were on the Department’s web site.
Mr Plaatjie underlined the fundamental importance of water, but said that several taps, particularly in the North West, remained dry, which was highlighted by community protests. People in several towns were dependent on emergency tanks, which were also often dry. He asked who regulated tariffs, commenting that it was very difficult for communities to access water. The tariffs of some municipalities meant that safe water was inaccessible.

Ms Mbassa responded that it was correct that many taps were dry She admitted that certain municipalities had failed to perform and would continue to fail. A new document had been drafted to ensure that steps would be taken by local government to review responsibilities and functions.

Mr Muller said the fixing of water tariffs was a municipal responsibility. The Department could not fix tariffs. In terms of Section 10 of the Water Services Act, there should be different tariffs applied for the poor, but that too was an issue that was outside the Department’s jurisdiction. However, the Department would act in an advisory capacity in the case of complaints. The Water Services Act was under review and consideration was being given to whether the Minister should have greater powers to control pricing. 

Mr Plaatjie was perturbed by the chronic level of skills problems in the North West, and asked what the Department was doing about this. He said that the bucket system was still in operation on a national level, despite the fact that funds had been allocated to eradicate it. He asked if the system would still be in place by 2010. He asked if facilitation in the budget was made for the 30% of water treatment plants that were reported to be in crisis in South Africa.

Mr Muller responded to the question on water treatment pants that needed direct intervention by stating that this responsibility lay with the municipalities. There was, however, a dedicated fund to deal with the upgrading of sewage systems to which the municipalities had access. The current funds were not adequate for upgrading.

Ms Mbassa said that the bucket system in the North West had been eradicated, and that if there were reports of further usage these would therefore need to be investigated. She added that the issue of the bucket system and its eradication had now been moved to the Department of Housing.

The Chairperson noted that the researchers had asked that certain questions be put to the Departments. The DWEA was asked to outline the plans to upgrade waste water plants by 2010. It should also outline the implementation of the plans to eradicate the bucket system. It should also explain how it had aligned EIA processes with licencing processes.

The Department of Forestry was asked whether there was a system or process that informed what activities would be allowed, and what would be prohibited, in forests.

Ms Mbassa indicated that the Department had received a qualified audit report for the last five years. The key problems had arisen in regard to asset management, which was being addressed.

The Chairperson tabled a Bulk Water Supply report, and encouraged that all Members study this report. He noted that the most important issues revolved around water security.

The meeting was adjourned.


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