Veterinary & Para-Veterinary Professions Amendment Bill: Adoption; Briefings on Lesotho Highlands Water Project Phase II agreement& Draft Oversight Report on Muyexe Visit

NCOP Land Reform, Environment, Mineral Resources and Energy

22 October 2012
Chairperson: Ms A Qikani (ANC, Eastern Cape)
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Meeting Summary

The Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) briefed the Committee about the changes that the Veterinary and Para-Veterinary Amendment Bill sought to introduce. The main proposal was that in future, gradates in the veterinary sciences would be expected to complete a one-year compulsory period of community service in the service of the State Veterinary Services. There were further amendments made in respect of those who may have fulfilled the academic requirements for the award of their qualification, but not have been granted their diploma or degree because they still owed fees to the educational institution. In future, the South African Veterinary Council (SAVC) would be able to register these people, enabling them to work and thus to pay off their debt. There were also provisions around the registration of foreign-qualified veterinarians and their right to work in South Africa. There were further provisions dealing with appeals from disciplinary committees into the professional conduct, and the establishment of an Appeal Committee and its functioning. Members asked DAFF what strategy it was putting in place to try to halt the loss of graduates to other countries and asked, if the main reason was that they were seeking better pay, if the Department was doing anything to address this. They also questioned the focus on the University of Pretoria, commented that veterinary training was expensive and seemed to benefit only a few people.

The Department of Water Affairs (DWA) and Lesotho Highlands Water Commission (LHWC) briefed the Committee on the agreement signed between South Africa and Lesotho covering Phase II of the Lesotho Highlands Water Project (LHWP). This agreement was intended to  augment the original treaty and address specific issues relating to the operation and implementation of Phase II. It had been signed in August 2011, and now required ratification. The Lesotho Government was represented by the Lesotho Highlands Development Authority (LHDA) and South Africa by the Trans Caledon Tunnel Authority (TCTA), an entity of the Department of Water Affairs. It was hoped that Phase II would be completed by 2020 at an estimated cost of R20 billion. Some aspects of the agreement were set out. It was noted that the countries would be sharing the costs, but that South Africa was to be exempted from taxes and levies. There were agreements in place around the recruitment of personnel, outsourcing, procurement and holding of funds. It was pointed out that 17 communities had been affected, and there was provision for compensation to them. A number of initiatives around environmental management aspects were described. Members wanted to know more about the plans in place for the affected communities. Mr G Mokgoro (ANC, Northern Cape) asked if the beneficiation order was being monitored and taking effect as planned, and wanted to know what plan was in place for affected communities, what account had been taken of involvement of women and youth, whether there would be sufficient water for Gauteng in 2020, and what the developments were around the Vaal River Dam. It was suggested that it would be useful for the Committee to visit the scheme and to receive further briefings from the Department of Water Affairs.

Members adopted the Committee Report on the Muyexe (Limpopo) Oversight Visit.

Meeting report

Veterinary & Para-Veterinary Professions Amendment Bill: Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries briefing
Dr Bothle Modisane, Chief Director, Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, said the Veterinary and Para-Veterinary Professions Amendment Bill (the Bill) was drafted in order to provide for the establishment of an appeal committee and its function, to provide for compulsory community service by newly-qualified graduates, to broaden and clarify the categories of registration of qualified graduates, and to deal with registration and right to work of a foreign veterinarian who had not attained either citizenship or permanent residency.

He expanded that clause 1 of the Bill was effecting technical changes to the principal Act, including using gender-neutral language. The clause also sought to insert a new clause 12(3A) to provide for an appeal against a decision of a committee delegated by the South African Veterinary Council (SAVC) to institute an inquiry, in terms of section 31 of the Act, into the conduct of any person registered in terms of the Act.

Clause 2 would insert a new section 12A in the Act to provide for the establishment, composition, powers and the effect of a decision of an ad hoc appeal committee.

Clause 3 inserted a new section 20A in the Act to provide for the performance of compulsory community service, for a period of one year, by graduates who were registering for the first time as veterinarians in terms of the Act. It also authorised the making of regulations around the performance of compulsory community service.

Clause 4 sought to amend section 23 of the Act, to provide for the inclusion of a physiological condition in the definition of veterinary services. Currently, only a duly qualified and registered veterinary professional and para-veterinary professional was allowed to diagnose, treat, prevent and advise on a physiological condition of an animal.

Clause 5 amended section 24 of the Act, to provide for the registration of a person who had successfully completed all academic requirements for a qualification to practise a veterinary profession or para-veterinary profession, even if the degree had not yet been conferred. In this regard, Dr Modisane said that the diplomas and degrees would be conferred by the relevant institutions once the candidates had also paid their tuition fees in full. However, the SAVC did not want to hold them back from being able to work, in order to settle their debts.

Clause 6 sought to amend section 25 of the Act to provide for continued registration of a registered foreign veterinarian who had since attained citizenship or permanent residence status, in terms of the Immigration Act.

Clause 7 would insert a new section 28A in the Act, to provide for conditions around suspension pending the finalisation of an inquiry and appeal process. These would generally apply to veterinary and para-veterinary professionals who failed to comply with conditions for continuing professional development, as well as those who posed an imminent threat or danger to the public or any animal with regard to his or her professional practice.

Clause 8 inserted a new section 29A in the Act, to provide for the appointment and powers of officers and other persons to perform any duty on behalf of the Council.

Clause 9 inserted new sections 31A and 31B into the Act. Section 31A provided for the appointment of investigation officers to investigate any alleged contravention of or failure to comply with any provision of the Act. Section 31B would allow for entry and search by investigation officers of any premises or veterinary facility where clinical veterinary services were rendered and, where necessary, seizure of documents or records from any premises or veterinary facility being searched, on the authority of a warrant issued by a magistrate or judge.

Clause 10 sought to amend section 33 of the Act, to enable the Council or a committee of the Council to impose cost orders against those subject to a disciplinary inquiry.

Clause 11 inserted a new section 33A in the Act, which would enable registered persons affected by a decision of the Council or a Committee to appeal against that decision.

Clause 12 was amending section 41 of the Act to provide for new offences and penalties.

Clause 13 sought to amend section 43 of the Act by inserting paragraphs (k) and (l) in subsection (1), to provide also for regulations regarding the appointment of inspecting officers at veterinary facilities where clinical veterinary services were rendered, their duties, and the fees payable to them subsequent to inspections.

Clause 14 dealt with the short title and commencement of the Act.

Dr Modisane explained that the budget for the implementation of compulsory community services had been included in the Medium-Term Expenditure Framework of the Department. The Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) and the State Law Advisers confirmed their opinion that this was properly classed as a section 75 Bill.

Discussion
Mr M Makhubela (ANC, Limpopo) asked if there was any strategy in place to stop new graduates from leaving South Africa for other countries, particularly in Europe, questioned if it was the lure of better salaries, and, if so, why the DAFF was not addressing that problem. He also wanted to know if there was any law that protected the police while helping the DAFF.

Dr Modisane said that the concern with new graduates who immediately left the country was that, despite having been trained in South Africa, they were not giving their skills back to the country. The idea behind the compulsory community service was that it was a way of forcing them to put back into the country. After that one-year service period, they would be free to move on to wherever they wished. He commented that the question of what was attracting them elsewhere was not so easy to address. It must be remembered that anyone working in another country was being paid in euros, pounds or dollars. The Department could simply not afford to compete with the salaries, and that was why it had introduced the compulsory service. However, it was also noted that after working in state veterinary services for a year, graduates would realise what it had to offer and show more interest in continuing there, especially in rural areas.

Dr Modisane noted, in regard to police protection, that various institutions had rules and regulations around entry, and the amendments to the Bill now provided that police could enter into these institutions, with search warrants and court papers.

Ms N Magadla (ANC, KwaZulu Natal) enquired why the Department was concentrating on the University of Pretoria for the training of veterinarians. She further commented that the training of veterinarians was benefiting only a few, as it appeared that veterinary training was very expensive.

Dr Modisane explained that it was a question of rationalisation. There were three institutes or colleges that were involved in the training of veterinarians, but the process of rationalisation had placed everything under the University of Pretoria. He confirmed that training for veterinarians was not something that could be done overnight. Hospital facilities and high quality equipment were needed. Rationalisation meant that these facilities could be placed at one university, but shared by others, rather than tripling the costs and requirements. He commented that most veterinary services were skewed in the sense that they had an urban rather than a rural bias. That was why the Bill made provision that the veterinarians would be placed at the South African National Defence Force (SANDF), on the borders and other areas where they were badly needed.

Dr Modisane also emphasised that the current Act said that only an individual who held a graduation certificate could be registered as a veterinarian. The Bill, however, mentioned fulfillment of requirements for a degree, rather than conferring of a degree. A person who had fulfilled the requirements for the award of the degree, but still had fees owing to the University, would not yet be permitted to graduate, but the SAVC would register that person and allow him/her therefore to work and pay off outstanding fees.

Members agreed to adopt the Bill.

Lesotho Highlands Water Project Phase II: Department of Water Affairs briefing
Mr Anil Singh, Chief Director: Legal Services, Department of Water Affairs, gave a joint presentation with Dr Zodwa Dlamini,  (DWA), in a joint presentation with Dr Zodwa Dlamini, Chief Delegate, Lesotho Highlands Water Commission (LHWC). They explained that the main purpose of the Lesotho Highlands Water Project (LHWP) Phase II Agreement was to augment the original treaty and address specific issues related to the operation and implementation of Phase II. The conclusion of this agreement, in August 2011, had been another step in the direction of fostering closer co-operation between and amongst the relevant SADC states, with a view to advancing the SADC agenda of regional integration and poverty alleviation, as articulated in Article 2 of the Revised SADC Protocol on Shared Watercourses.

The objective was to strengthen regional integration by using water as a catalyst for socio-economic development. It would also advance economic links with key African partners. The nature of the cooperation was aimed at mutual development of the South African and Lesotho water sectors, as a foundation for a modernised integrated economy.

This bilateral cooperation could cement political and strategic relations, which in turn could lead to more coordinated strategies in various multilateral environments, such as SADC, African Union (AU) and United Nations(UN). This cooperation further embodied the New Economic Partnership for African Development (NEPAD) principles for development, and Africa’s aspirations for its own Renaissance.

Before this agreement was signed, the Department of Water Affairs (DWA) had received an assurance from the Chief State Law Advisers in the Department of International Relations and the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development that the agreement was not in conflict with any international or domestic laws.

Dr Dlamini indicated that the LHWP was on of the largest engineering projects, worth $8 billion. It was a bi-national inter-basin water transfer scheme which provided an opportunity for the establishment of hydro-electricity for Lesotho. The two governments were represented in this project by the Lesotho Highlands Water Commission, which was exercising authority over the Lesotho Highlands Development Authority, and Trans Caledon Tunnel Authority for South Africa. It was noted that the water tariffs were funded by water users, not South African taxpayers.

The LHWP Phase II started with the establishment of the Polihali Dam and Kobong Pump Storage Scheme. Mitigation measures undertaken during this phase included the rescuing of indigenous and threatened flora and fauna, rehabilitation of disturbed areas, erosion prevention programmes, and preservation of the fish found in Lesotho called Maluti Minu. The monitoring of the preservation of the quality of water was the responsibility of both countries.

The establishment of the Polihali Reservoir had affected 17 villages with 2 547 people. Five villages were fully submerged and twelve were partially affected. The Kobong Pump Storage Scheme was for the account of the Lesotho Government. It was estimated that costs for the completion of the Phase II project would, by 2020, amount to R20 billion.

The Phase II Agreement between these two countries included, amongst other matters, provisions for the following:

-Annual audit to be done by an independent firm of recognised international chartered accountants
-Both countries to supply electricity
-In relation to procurement of goods, Lesotho should be given the first preference, followed by South Africa, then SADC and other international countries
-Lesotho and South Africa were to share value of infrastructure work equally
-International funding agencies were to determine their own procurement rules
-In relation to recruiting personnel, the preference order should be: Lesotho, South Africa, then SADC
-Agreements on outsourcing of services
-Individual staff development through “on the job” training
-Non-utilised funds were to be kept in an interest bearing account
-LHDA and TCTA were to develop a Funding Strategy
-South Africa was not liable for dues, taxes or charges, which meant that any dues and charges and income taxes levied by Lesotho would be paid to South Africa.

Detailed graphs, maps, pictures and figures about finances were shown, illustrating the progress from Phase 1 to Phase II (see attached presentation for details).

Discussion
Mr G Mokgoro (ANC, Northern Cape) asked if the beneficiation order was being monitored and taking effect as planned, and wanted to know what plan was in place for affected communities.

Dr Dlamini said that, in terms of the policy, women and youth were involved in the project. Initially, foreign companies had been used but now it was the turn of local companies. In relation to the communities affected, she noted that money had been set aside to fund the costs that they had incurred.

Mr D Worth (DA, Free State) wanted to find out if there would be sufficient water for Gauteng when the project was completed in 2020.

Dr Dlamini said the LHWP had five schemes, of which three were already in existence, so there was sufficient water for the next 20 years.

Ms B Mabe (ANC, Gauteng) commented that she was interested in the development around the Vaal River Dam. Indications were that that development would benefit the Vaal area greatly. She further wanted to know what the TCTA was.

Dr Dlamini explained that the acronym TCTA referred to the Trans Caledon Tunnel Authority, an entity set up for funding the infrastructure around the LHWP. It was an entity of the Department of Water and Environmental Affairs in South Africa.

Dr Dlamini further invited the Committee to visit Lesotho to see developments around the project.

Mr Mokgoro welcomed the invitation. He suggested that the Department of Water Affairs should come and brief the Committee about the origins or source of water as a commodity, and its sustainability.

Dr Dlamini suggested that it would be useful for the Committee to visit Lesotho first as this would give useful background to a later briefing by the DWA.

Adoption of draft Report
Members adopted the Report on the Muyexe (Limpopo) Oversight Visit.

The meeting was adjourned.

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