African Convention Agreement on the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources; National Water Resource Strategy; Committee's reports

Water and Sanitation

06 November 2012
Chairperson: Mr J De Lange (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA promised the Committee that it would finalise the National Environmental Management Laws Amendment Bill [B13-2012] and have it ready for the Committee to report on it as soon as possible.

The DEA briefed Members on the African Convention Agreement on the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources. Highlighted were the concerns of the Committee and precedents of other international treaties.

The Chairperson was concerned that the procedures for liability were not  converted into, South Africa's domestic law. South Africa had a progressive and far-reaching Constitution which international practices did not always match. The Department should consider this very carefully and report to the Committee.

The Committee adopted its draft report on this Convention.

The Researcher gave a summary of the National Water Resource Strategy Two (NWRS2).

The Committee considered and adopted its reports on its oversight visit to Gauteng, Climate Change 2012 public hearings, and General Resolutions on Treaties.

It then discussed its programme.

Meeting report

National Environmental Management Laws Amendment Bill [B13-2012]
The Chairperson asked when the National Environmental Management Laws Amendment Bill [B13-2012] would be ready with the changes the Committee wanted.

Mr Ishaam Abader, DEA Deputy Director-General: Legal, Authorisations and Enforcement, replied that the eight initial amendments had been made.

The Chairperson wished to sign that day, so that it could go into the Announcements, Tablings, and Committee Reports (ATC) for debate in the National Assembly. 

Mr Abader replied that he would give it to the Chairperson as soon possible..

African Convention Agreement on the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources: Committee's report - consideration and adoption
Mr Abader gave the Committee a view on the precedents that had been set in the environmental world with regard to treaties. He explained the Treaty, and reviewed the Rotterdam Convention, with special reference to protocols and liabilities.

The Chairperson was worried about the South African Constitution and the rights of the courts to look at liability, and what would happen if, for instance, there was a spill between South Africa and Mozambique, and people in Mozambique sued South Africa through the South African courts for damages. He was concerned as to whether  international practices were compatible with South Africa's Constitution.

Mr Abader replied that, in terms of the negotiations and best practice, decisions were generally agreed to by the member states. The African Union (AU) made provision for two thirds voting on decisions. If a decision was made by the Convention, it would be based on a two thirds majority.

The Chairperson said that there was problem of being outvoted.

Mr Abader replied that reservations of members could, as another safeguard, be dealt through a special AU legal office.

The Chairperson said that the concerns would come from litigants.

Mr Abader looked at the sovereignty issues and noted that the sovereignty of member states of the AU was taken into consideration. This essentially meant that no convention could force a country to do what it did not want to.

The Chairperson highlighted Section 231 of the Constitution on ratification and noted that something became binding in South Africa only if the treaty was taken into South Africa's domestic law. He was concerned that the procedures for liability were not being made part of, or converted into, South Africa's domestic law. Other than that, South Africa was only morally bound to the conditions. The Department needed to look into domesticating what was agreed to in order to deal with the situation legally. This had been done in the cases of Justice Treaties on equality. South Africa had a progressive and far-reaching Constitution which international practices did not always match. The Department should look into this matter very carefully and bring back a report to the Committee.

The Chairperson read the rough draft of the Committee's resolutions on the African Convention Agreement on the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources.

The Committee formed a quorum and agreed unanimously to adopt its Committee report on the African Convention Agreement on the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources.

National Water Resource Strategy Two (NWRS2): Researcher's summary
The Chairperson noted that Members should have received a summary by the Parliamentary Researcher of the National Water Resource Strategy Two (NWRS2).

Oversight visit to Gauteng: Committee's report - consideration and adoption 
The Committee read through the report page by page and noted grammatical errors for correction.

The Committee thought it was a very well drafted report and agreed unanimously to adopt it. 

Climate Change 2012 public hearings: Committee's report - consideration and adoption
The Committee read through the report page by page and noted amendments to be made.

The Chairperson said that it captured well the essence of the Committee's work. The Committee Researcher concerned had done an exceptional job.

The Committee adopted it unanimously.

General Resolutions on Treaties: Committee's report - consideration and adoption 
The Chairperson thought it was a well researched report and just needed slight rearrangement.
The Members noted they were very pleased with the work of the Committee Researcher and Content Advisor.

The Committee agreed unanimously to adopt the report.

Committee business
The Chairperson would start looking at a Committee programme for the first half of 2013. He told Members to let him know if anything should be added to the programme. He was unsure when Parliament would start after the recess.

Serious engagement was needed with the People's Republic of China study group. He asked the Committee Secretary to find out to whom he could talk at the Chinese Consulate.

At the next meeting, on 13 November, the Committee would be briefed on rhino hunting. The Department must ensure that the Committee was properly briefed, time frames set out, and the process clearly outlined in a document so what Government was doing was on record.

Ms B Ferguson (COPE) said that the Committee should be informed about the South African Biodiversity Institute (SABI)'s new tracking device.

The Chairperson said this would be done at another time, but not at next week’s meeting.

On 14 November he Committee would be briefed on the Government’s mandate on the Conference of the Parties (COP) 18. He noted that this might be a closed meeting and he would first need to check if the mandate was known to the public or not. He also said that the Committee would be briefed on how far the implementation of the White Paper had progressed.

On 20 November, the Committee would start discussions with the Department of Water Affairs (DWA) on the public hearings on the NWRS2.

The Chairperson welcomed the new Committee document officer, Mr Darren Arendse.

Committee minutes
The Chairperson observed that the draft minutes were still outstanding and being revised by the Committee Secretary. They would be finalised before the end of the year.

If there was time on 13 November, the Committee would finalise the outstanding minutes.

The meeting was adjourned.


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