Transfer of fisheries function, and AGriSA / President's meeting: Minister's and Department's briefings

Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development

06 September 2010
Chairperson: Mr M Johnson (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) briefed the Department on the progress of the transfer of the fisheries division into the DAFF. Following the Presidential proclamations, the transfer of staff had been effected, although certain legislation still needed to be finalised, and this was currently with the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA). Some of the portfolios would be decentralised. Of the 737 staff posts transferred, 620 had been filled, and the HR, financial and legislative delegations of staff were still being used as they had operated in the former Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism, pending finalisation of the mid-term review. There were still some discussions ongoing about the transfer of funding, and the DAFF was finding that the current situation was affecting its ability to implement the mandate fully, and there was still lack of coherence and integration. DAFF believed that it was still owed funds on a proportional basis, and a government grant for the vessels still needed to be transferred. The vessel operating grant had been cut in the current year, leading to a serious shortfall but DAFF was discussing this with National Treasury to try to resolve the issues.

DAFF outlined the current status of fisheries, pointing out that most South African resources were already fully or over-harvested. Recovery for some species could take anything from three years, depending on the species. The feasibility of other fisheries was being investigated. The draft policy for the small-scale fisheries sector had been developed, approved and published and there would be an extensive public consultation process over the next two months. The policy aimed to give preferential access to small-scale fishing communities, adopted a multi-species approach in allocating rights to small-scale fishers, and envisaged co-management, whilst trying to safeguard the integrity and sustainability of the resource and promote economic growth. The Department mentioned that commercial abalone fishing had now been reopened, and 286 of the 296 applications had been processed and issued. 269 of the rights holders had been paid social relief payments to date. The Department would be undertaking control and surveillance activities, which took a number of different forms, and would manage the Vessel Monitoring System and participate in regional patrols.

The Department briefed the Committee on the discussions between Agri-SA, the Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, other ministers and the President. The issues raised included safety on farms, plans for the export of excess maize, relations between DAFF and AgriSA, which were generally healthy, how farmers could assist the DAFF to meet the job creation targets, and the inextricably linked role of commercial agriculture to rural development. AgriSA indicated that it was trying to facilitate unification of all agriculture trade bodies, emphasised the importance of commercial agriculture to the economy, in order to provide employment and food security, and thus the need to promote agriculture as a career and promotion opportunity for South Africa. Challenges included the need to firm up cooperation, to jointly reach solutions, and to address matters such as hostile tariffs that hindered job creation. The conflicts in land reform, not necessarily caused by opposition to the policies, but rather to their implementation, must be resolved. Safety issues must also be addressed. The President had emphasised that the creation of the new Department of Rural Development and Land Reform was proof of the focus and prioritisation of the government, and had asked AgriSA to submit a plan to the Minister of Agriculture. Restitution, agriculture and mining were all priority areas.

Members asked when the relevant proclamations would be signed, asked what was being done about rescue and patrol operations, in view of the shortage of vessels, noted that new agreements must be entered into, and heard what would be done about the handing over of finances. Members also sought clarity on the filling of vacancies and the costs and advantages of decentralisation. Members asked for more clarity on the 7-tonne abalone allocation in the Eastern Cape and the experimental farms. Members discussed, in some detail, the need to investigate the quotas, stressing that many of the quotas were being sold on, so that there was not genuine black economic empowerment and that the larger players were still effectively taking over the smaller ones. They urged that the Department must talk to fishing communities and involve them in finding solutions and ensuring that loopholes were not exploited, whilst quotas being misused should be returned to the State.

Meeting report

Transfer of Fisheries from Marine and Coastal Management to Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF)
Mr Langa Zitha, Director General, Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries advised the Committee that on 1 July 2009 and 10 February 2010, the President had made proclamations that the functions of fisheries would be transferred to the newly created Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF or the Department). Legislation was still waiting to be signed off, in order to effect the transfer, and was currently in the hands of the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA). The legislative amendments were required to the following pieces of legislation:

Section 38 of Sea Fishery Act, 1998 (Act No. 2 of 1998)
Section 38 of Sea Fishery Act, 1998 (Act No. 2 of 1998)
Dumping at Sea Control Act, 1980 (Act No. 73 of 1980)
National Environmental Management Integrated Coastal Management Act, 2008 (Acton No. 24 of 2008)
National Environmental Management Act, 1998 (Acton No. 107 of 1998)
Regulations for the Management of the Boat-Based Whale Watching and Protection of Turtles.

He reported that with effect from 1 April 2010, the Fisheries Management branch of DAFF had decided to decentralise some portfolios. In Strategic Support Management (SSM) the portfolios to be decentralised were as follows: -
Strategic Support Management (SSM): Human Resources Management, Legal Services, Communication, Stakeholder Engagement and Outreach, and International Cooperation.
Chief Financial Officer for the Marine Living Resources Fund (MLRF): Supply Chain Management (Facilities Management), Financial Management, and Revenue Management.
Monitoring, Control and Surveillance (MCS):Special Investigations Unit/Monitoring & Surveillance, Environmental Protection Vessels, Compliance
Marine Resources Management (MRM): Inshore Fisheries Management, Offshore & High Seas Fisheries Management, Socio-economic Development
Fisheries Research (FR): Research Support, Resources Research, Marine Aquaculture.

When fisheries were transferred and integrated into DAFF, 737 posts were transferred to DAFF and 152 were transferred to DEA. Of the 737 posts transferred to DAFF, 620 had been filled, and 117 were still vacant. To ensure functionality, the Fisheries branch was using human resources (HR) financial and legislative delegations as they had operated in the former Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism, pending the finalisation of the mid-term review and alignment of policies, which was currently ongoing.

Mr Zitha noted that the DEA had put a request to the Presidency on the practical implications of the current split, to the effect that the situation should remain as it currently was. However, DAFF was of the view that the current situation affected its ability to fulfill its mandate. It was unable to implement the ecosystems approach to fisheries management fully, and was also experiencing difficulties in managing captured fisheries without consideration of the management of sharks and whales. As a result, there was a lack of integration and coherence.

Mr Zitha said that there were also financial implications in the split. DAFF believed that not all funds required for the fisheries function and shared costs, on the proportional basis, had been transferred to DAFF. The value of actual personnel costs transferred to DAFF amounted to R173 million. However, this excluded bonuses, season-going allowances and Occupation Specific Dispensation (OSD). The DEA intended to transfer R116 million for personnel costs. DAFF said that a R141 million Government Grant for Vessel should be transferred, but DEA had indicated that it would transfer R100 million. National Treasury had cut the vessel operating grant, from R150 million in 2009/10, to R64 million in 2010/11, which meant that there would be a serious shortfall for vessels. Ongoing discussions were taking place between DAFF, DEA and National Treasury to resolve the issue.

Mr Zitha then reported on the current status of the Fishery resources. The majority of current South African fishery resources were considered to be fully harvested or over-harvested. Fully harvested resources included shallow water hake, some tunas, squid, prawns, KwaZulu Natal oysters and kelps. Over-exploited resources included deep-water hake, abalone, West Coast rock lobster, South Coast oysters, and line and net fish. Under-utilised resources were swordfish, redeye herring, and many seaweeds. Slow growing animals like abalone would take much longer to recover. Recovery for some species could show results after three to four years of reduced extraction. Feasibility of other fisheries was being investigated, including octopus, whelks and crabs.

Mr Zitha outlined the draft policy for the small-scale Fisheries sector. The 2007 National Summit mandated the National Task Team (NTT) to develop a single policy for small-scale fisheries. The Equality Court ordered the State to finalise a policy framework by 31 August 2010. Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson had approved the Draft Policy, and it was published in the Government Gazette on 3 September 2010. The DAFF would embark on an extensive public consultation process for 60 days as from 3 September 2010.

He then outlined the objectives of the policy. It aimed to create a single policy for small-scale fisheries. It would give preferential access to small-scale fishing communities who had traditionally depended on fishing for their livelihoods. It adopted a multi species approach in allocating rights to small-scale fishers. It also envisaged co-management, aimed to safeguard the integrity and sustainability of the resource, and aimed to promote economic growth through the creation of decent work and sustainable livelihoods

Mr Zitha then moved to the commercial abalone fishing, which had been re-opened on 1 July 2010. 296 applications for abalone catch permits had been received so far. 286 applications had been processed and issued. 255 permits had been collected. 89 vessels had been issued with vessel licenses, linked to the 286 catch permits. 143 tonnes of the Total Allowable Catch (TAC) had been issued to rights holders, and seven tonnes remained unallocated. 39 approvals had been granted for exemption from the Vessel Monitoring System (VMS) requirements. 12 vehicles and 87 trailers had been issued with permits. 269 of the rights holders had been paid Social Relief payments to date, and the rest were being processed.

Mr Zitha outlined that the Chief Directorate: Monitoring Control & Surveillance (MCS) of the Department was responsible for control and surveillance activities. These included land-based patrols, monitoring of fish landings at landing sites, inspections of fish processing establishments (FPEs), and ensuring compliance by recreational fishers and abalone farmers. There would also be management of the Vessel Monitoring System (VMS), search and rescue missions at sea, and the Department also participated in Regional Southern African Development Community (SADC) patrols.

AgriSA/Presidential Discussions
Mr Peter Thabethe, Acting Deputy Director-General: Marketing and Trade Development, DAFF, briefed the Members about the discussion that was held between AgriSA and the President. He said the Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Ms Tina Joemat-Pettersson, had assured the President that relations between DAFF and AgriSA were healthy. She outlined the current issues that had been discussed between AgriSA and the Department, which included safety on the farms (which was also discussed with the Minister of Police), the plans about the tons of excess maize and how to export the maize in a pool,  how the farmers would help the DAFF Minister to meet the job creation targets, and the role of commercial agriculture in rural development, since the two were inextricably linked.

The AgriSA delegation had then outlined its plans to facilitate a unification of all agriculture trade bodies, including the National Agriculture and Farmers Union (NAFU), and how it would use the unification model of Business Unity South Africa (BUSA). It also spoke of the importance of commercial agriculture to the economy, in order to provide employment and food security. AgriSA also mentioned the need to promote agriculture as an attractive career to young people as part of building the cornerstones for food security, and the need to promote South Africa through agriculture as farmers moved into other African countries to practise farming there, whilst still using South Africa as a base.

The AgriSA had highlighted some challenges during the discussions. It noted the need to firm up cooperation and jointly carve out solutions and programmes. At the moment, agriculture had created only 35 000 jobs, but it could have done better had systems been in place and had it not been faced with constraints such as hostile tariffs. The need to facilitate the recovery of the agricultural industry had been impacted upon negatively by the global economic crisis. There was still much conflict in land reform. Farmers were generally not opposed to the policies, but did not agree with the manner of implementation. Finally, it noted that the old commando system had worked in the past to guarantee safety in farms, and should perhaps re-establish this.

The Ministries of Police and of Rural Development and Land Reform, in answer to this, maintained there was a safety plan worked out with farmers, but proper implementation was needed. In principle there was an agreement that there should be a slow-down on the gazetting of farms under restitution.

The President responded that the establishment of the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform was proof of the focus and prioritisation of the government. AgriSA was asked to submit a plan to the Minister of Agriculture. Lastly, the President told DAFF and AgriSA that restitution should be fast-tracked, that agriculture and mining were important sectors with endless possibilities for growth, and that South Africa should continue to show leadership in the continent, and be ambitious in its targets

Discussion
Ms N Phaliso (ANC) wanted to know when the proclamation referred to would be finalised, and who had the power to sign it.

Mr Zitha replied that the finalisation of the proclamation and its content was subject to discussions, and that would be speeded up.

Hon Tina Joemat Pettersson, Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, added that the proclamation was a political issue. It was to be finalised at the level of the Presidency, not by herself, since the President had the right to decide on it. She had signed her consent, and it had been forwarded to the Minister of Environmental Affairs. If there was any deadlock at the Presidency, the legal advisors of DAFF and DEA would have to draw up a new proclamation. DAFF could not prescribe to the Presidency what needed to be done.

Ms Phaliso asked the Department to enlighten the Committee on what was being done about patrols and rescue operations, in light of the shortage of vessels.

Mr Richard Seleke, Acting Deputy Director-General: Fisheries, DAFF, said that in Northern Cape patrols were in operation 24-hours a day, though there was a shortage of funds. The Department was using only three vessels and small chase boats. The National Sea Rescue Institute was responsible for rescue operations, although if one of the vessels of the Department was on patrol when an emergency happened, it would attend to the matter.

Mr Jacob Hlatshwayo, Chief Financial Officer, DAFF, added that the Department had inherited a binding agreement, but its financial implications were not clear. A new agreement on vessel management would be entered into. He agreed that operations had been affected by cutting of funding.

Minister Joemat-Pettersson added that she had met with the Ministers of Finance and Environmental Affairs to discuss the handing over of finances. The Director-General of DAFF could only put pressure on the National Treasury and Finance Minister. This issue was being discussed on a weekly basis, and the movement of funds would happen between National Treasury and DEA.

Mr R Cebekhulu (IFP) asked for more information and clarity on the vacancies.

Mr Richard Seleke explained that there was a moratorium on filling of vacancies, pending the finalisation of processes that still required funding within the Department. However, most senior posts had been filled in the fishery unit, and assessments had been done.

Mr N du Toit (DA), asked whether decentralization would cause any cost increases, and if the merits of this had been weighed up against the advantages in operations. He also enquired how the Department was going to ensure that the fishing industry remained profitable.

Mr Seleke said that the cost implications were within reasonable bounds. Pilot offices would be established and assessments would be made. He noted, in regard to profitability, that the fishing season was short and there were contractual agreements to be taken into account, but that monitoring was being done at the landings.

The Chairperson asked the Department to explain more about the 7 tonnes of abalone allocation in the Eastern Cape, which had to be spread across eleven areas. He also asked about the Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) status of the major role players in the fishing industry.

Mr Zitha noted that in regard to the BEE status, it was important for the Department firstly to obtain a comprehensive picture of the current status, and then it would brief the Committee on the Department’s findings around BEE. He noted that the review of the quotas would be done.

The Minister also explained that the Department wished to challenge the fishing quotas, and that firm legal advice would be sought. The Department needed to find out who owned what, and then would brief the Committee on whether the Department believed it had a strong case for challenge, and would insist that strong lawyers would be briefed, in order to ensure that its case was properly managed. She said that there was a need to be vigilant about the quotas that were given to black people, as they often sold them on or gave them to white fishers. Where that was the case, those quotas should be returned to the State.

Ms Phaliso told the Minister that the State was losing on BEE gains. Small fishing companies were given rights, but were not given support. The big companies were doing marketing for the small players, whose work would thus be “swallowed” by the big players. She asked the Department to consult with the fishing coastal townspeople in order to get the right information on current developments. The Department should be introspective and find out how people got allocated quotas and why they sold them to the white, generally large, players. She had documents to back up her claims, and would forward them to the Minister.

Mr du Toit expressed shock that the Minister was effectively declaring war on the industry.

Ms Phaliso replied that she would welcome a war with the industry, since this would redress past imbalances. She was aware of how the major players were operating, and failed to understand why they were given 15-year rights of fishing while black fishers remained poor. She believed that the government advisors who had allowed 15-year rights of fishing to major players should have to answer to the Court for incorrect advice. She appealed to the Department to put in place at least short-term plans for the fishing communities, so that they could be “rescued” by the Committee, pending the Department getting the right advice and discussing and implementing better plans with the fishing community.

The Minister clarified that the Department would not take quotas from other rights holders. The seas would be patrolled effectively, and in that way small right holders would benefit. No- one would be taken to court over quotas. The point was that the State had a system that had been found to come with unintended consequences. Small players were selling quotas to major players, and that meant that there had been loopholes in the decisions taken. Therefore, the decisions would need to be reviewed to cut out any recurrence. Revision did not mean that someone would be blamed, but rather meant that a comprehensive picture would be gained of what had been done, and there would need to be work on compliance. The absence of proper compliance would lead to depletion of the industry.

Mr Seleke then explained that in the Eastern Cape, there was an experimental fishery for the Eastern Cape abalone.

Dr Kim Prochaska, Acting Chief Director: Fisheries and Research, DAFF, expanded that on the West Coast of the Western Cape, there was enough abalone to sustain commercial fishery operations. However, in the Eastern Cape, commercial fishery was non-existent, and no information existed on abalone. The Department had used research from Rhodes University to see if commercial fisheries operations were possible in Eastern Cape. In KwaZulu-Natal there was insufficient abalone.

The Minister emphasised that the Director-General was familiar with the matters affecting the Department, and must not be seen as a politician but as an administrator. Mr Thabethe worked under very difficult circumstances if he received no support. The Department would continue to work and build on the foundations.

The meeting was adjourned.

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