Minister on Department of Agriculture, Forestry & Fisheries; Marine Living Resource Fund Strategic Plans 2013

Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries

17 April 2013
Chairperson: Mr M Johnson (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The purpose of the meeting was for consideration of the Strategic Plans and Budget of the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) and the Marine Living Resource Fund (MLRF) for 2013-2018.

Upon opening the meeting, the Chairperson commented that the parliamentary researcher’s opinion that “Fisheries was in the wrong hands” and which was in the media that morning, bordered on the political space of the Portfolio Committee and had caused harm rather than assisted the Committee. However, the topic was not up for discussion in the current meeting.

The Minister said that DAFF was calling for urgent intervention mechanisms to cushion farmers and ensure that farm workers and communities were not left destitute after the recent farm wage increase posed additional threat to the vulnerable sector across the value chain. DAFF believed that the wage disputes were a reflection of structural shortcomings in the sector, such as the decline in the number of commercial farmers, the farmers consolidating enterprises to maximise profit, the ageing farm population, struggling small-holder farmers, limited support, and diminishing agricultural skills. The market demand and supply tended to be brutal to farmers, who were moving to consolidate and integrating to maximise profit, while small-scale farmers were left out of the agricultural mainstream. Further risks were exacerbated by natural economic factors, the credit crunch, international recession and exchange rates, and high cost of energy/fuel and electricity. Other negative factors were: the deregulation of the sector; institutional and marketing support had further left a significant void in the industry; there was limited uptake of the green revolution; and government support was minuscule compared to support given by other countries to their farmers. It was understandable that with serious erosion of capital in the sector, there would be loss or shedding of labour. The interventions included the WTO green box subsidy; ring-fenced job funds; the Youth Employment Development Initiative; funding mechanisms from the Land Bank for prime minus three and for warehouse facilities for commercial and large-scale farmers who were struggling; and Transnet had established a dedicated team to focus on taking agricultural products from road back to rail transport. The extent to which DAFF could assist with recapitalisation of small-holder farmers to become commercial farmers would be debated in De Doorns on 26 April 2013.

DAFF was in discussions with the Department of Labour on whether sectoral negotiations would be the most effective way to negotiate farm worker wages and was also in negotiations with other industries, farm worker unions and larger unions to explore whether collective bargaining may better assist the agricultural sector. The National Development Plan on agriculture had also not anticipated nor calculated for the increase in salaries of farm workers.

The Acting Director-General made a detailed presentation on deliverables for the Medium Term Expenditure Framework cycle for six budgetary programmes, as allocated by Treasury and the annual performance plan of the six departmental programmes as reflected in Annexure 1 of the strategic plan.

Members asked why the Deputy Minister seldom attended the Committee meetings; if the repayments as highlighted in the Public Protector report had been made; if proper process was followed in the appointment of the DDG of Fisheries; and if the Minister had laid criminal charges against the fishing company that had threatened her.

Members also asked what was in place to address the gaps in vacancies; why it was difficult to recruit skilled staff; when the skills audit of 2011 would be sent to the Committee; and whether the problem with aquaculture production was an issue of skills or money. They further asked what measures were in place to secure food in South Africa; how many jobs had been created according to the target the previous year; why there was no report on the target for the LandCare programme which had been targeting 874 000 jobs over four years; what progress had been made toward creation of the 145 000 jobs expected in agro-processing by 2020; and why this information was not mentioned in the strategic plan. They further questioned how DAFF would recover the target of increasing the fish stock target by 10% and why the rebuild target for crayfish stock and the Observer Plan deviated from the previous year’s plan.

While 24 Acts had been reviewed, Members wanted to know which Acts were reviewed; which provisions of the Act were up for amendment; what the time frames were for the amendments; when the MLRF had been declared a public entity; and how far the process of developing Fisheries Codes and transformation had advanced.

Members were concerned that DAFF had spent 99% of its funds but had achieved only 51% of targets. They asked what mechanisms were in place to improve financial management controls; for an explanation on money spent that was not accounted for; and how DAFF had responded to the AG report that there had been no improvement in the supply chain management IT systems.

They were also interested to know what DAFF was doing to increase access to markets for small-holder farmers’ produce; if the Masibambisane Project was still in process and how small-scale farmers and farmers in the communal areas were benefiting from the project.

Since agricultural land was being lost to mining, Members questioned the relevance of the performance indicators and targets for forestry and natural resources management. They also asked what plans were in place for re-forestation; whether there was a budget for re-forestation; how many hectares and what percentage of that land had been rehabilitated since the 2009/10 financial year; and what measures were in place within the LandCare programme for rehabilitation of land.

A Member asked for information on the African Horse Sickness outbreak which was currently in the country; whether avian flu vaccinations were up to date; and when stakeholders would be given the reasons for OIE (Office International des Epizooties – World Organisation for Animal Health) not recognizing South Africa’s Foot & Mouth Disease (FMD) free status.

Finally, Members asked about progress had been made with infrastructure for harbours, jetties and other access points and the status and exact date when the fishing vessels would be on the sea.

Since the Deputy-Director General for Food Security was unable to attend the meeting, questions on food security were to be answered in writing. Also, questions relating to the previous year’s annual performance plan and targets would be answered at a later date. The opportunity to report on the AG report would arise when presenting the annual report to the Committee. The Chairperson concluded that most of the answers would be forthcoming at the May 14/15 2013 DAFF briefing to the Committee on the Fisheries’ rights allocations and the state of Marine Living Resources in the country. This would also give DAFF some leeway for receiving and processing the information.
 

Meeting report

The Chairperson opened the meeting by indicating that earlier that morning there had been much media interest about an opinion made by a parliamentary researcher, who had stated that “Fisheries was in the wrong hands”. This bordered on the political space of the Portfolio Committee and had caused harm rather than assisted the Committee. The role of the researcher was to indicate what was happening on a technical level. Any specific opinion would be in the researcher’s individual capacity and not on a parliament letterhead. However, that discussion did not belong in the current meeting and the agenda would proceed as planned.

Ms Tina Joemat-Pettersen, Minister: Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries pre-empted the presentation by stating that DAFF was making recommendations to government and to various structures as to how it would revitalise South Africa’s agriculture with short and long term plans for sustainability. Despite its declining share in the economy, agriculture was still a significant sector of the economy. It was a precarious sector, subject to the widest range of risks.

The recent farm wage increase posed additional threat to the sector across the value chain. DAFF was calling for urgent intervention mechanisms to cushion farmers and ensure that farm workers and communities were not left destitute. DAFF believed that the wage disputes were a reflection of structural shortcomings in the sector, such as the decline in the number of commercial farmers, the farmers consolidating enterprises to maximise profit, the ageing farm population, struggling small-holder farmers, limited support, and diminishing agricultural skills.

The sector was currently affected by market demand and supply, which tended to be brutal to farmers. Vulnerability in food insecurity was increasing and farmers and agri-farmers were consolidating and integrating to maximise profit. Small-scale farmers were left out of the agricultural mainstream. Further risks were exacerbated by natural economic factors, the credit crunch, international recession and exchange rates, but the three areas, high cost of energy/fuel, electricity and the increase in the salaries of farm workers. With the decline in the farm net incomes, the increasing debt and liability burden of farmers showed that the debt burden was double the income of farmers. It was understandable that with a serious erosion of capital in the sector there would be loss or shed of labour. Other negative factors were the deregulation of the sector; institutional and marketing support had further left a significant void in the industry; there was limited uptake of the green revolution; and government support was minuscule compared to support given by other countries to their farms.

The interventions requested by DAFF included the WTO green box subsidy. DAFF was working together with the Minister of Finance to ring-fence job funds for the sector. DAFF was also prioritising the Youth Employment Development Initiative to assist with youth in agriculture and funding mechanisms from the Land Bank to be able to offer loans to small-scale farmers at the price of prime minus three and warehouse facilities for commercial and large-scale farmers who were currently struggling. The commodity approach would examine whether the increase in salaries would have a negative impact on farms. Surprisingly, few farmers had applied to the Minister for exemption of Labour and also very few who applied for exemption submitted their three year financials, which would have assisted them in qualifying for the exemption.

DAFF was responsible for the Strategic Infrastructure Programme of the President and the logistics on how government should seek to intervene to assist farmers. In the current year, Transnet had established a dedicated team which focused on taking agricultural products from road back to rail transport. It was also critical for DAFF to assist with recapitalising small-holder farmers to become commercial farmers. This category of new commercial farmers was threatened by the burden of the wage increase and DAFF was assisting them with structuring of their debt. The statistics in the NDP on agriculture had also not anticipated the increase in salaries of farm workers. DAFF could not build a successful agriculture sector on the back of cheap labour. The extent to which DAFF could assist and to what degree they could assist was currently being debated. The next debate with the Deputy President regarding important shifts in the sector would be on the 26 April in De Doorns and the Committee was invited to participate. DAFF was in discussions with the Department of Labour on whether sectoral negotiations would be the most effective way to negotiate farm worker wages and was also in negotiations with other industries, farm worker unions and larger unions to explore whether collective bargaining may better assist the agricultural sector.

The position of Director General and the two Deputy Director-General positions were expected to be filled within the following month.

Mr Sipho Ntombela, Acting Director-General, DAFF said that DAFF was before the Committee to present the 5 year strategic plan for 2013/14 and to 2017/18 for tabling in parliament. The presentation would focus on deliverables for the MTEF cycle for six budgetary programmes, as allocated by Treasury. It would also focus on the annual performance plan of the six departmental programmes as reflected in Annexure 1 of the strategic plan.

The challenges in the sector included: increasing food prices; slower growth of the sector compared to other economies; increase in production costs in agriculture; inadequate extension services especially in Forestry and Fisheries; declining fish stocks; climate change and loss of agricultural land to mining, housing and industrial developments; increase in commercial farming resulted in smaller businesses being forced out of the sector; transformation having significant socio-economic impacts; and lack of adequate resource management in the subsistence sector.

Policy and programme interventions were listed on page 6 of the presentation. The targets for the interventions were to: increase small-holder farms from 200 000 to 250 000 by 2014; increase the number of employees on commercial farms from 780 000 to 800 000; aim to place 30 000 households in small-holder schemes by 2015; 145 000 jobs in agro-processing by 2020; 5520 jobs through the Community Works Programme Plan; rehabilitate 32 280 ha of rangeland, cultivated land, weeds and invader plants; and recovery of targeted fish stocks (abalone, hake and West Coast Rock Lobster) by 10%.

The medium term statistic framework priority areas were in alignment with the key outcomes and six strategic goals and were tabled in the presentation. The jobs and opportunities created by Working for Fisheries Programme, Land and Soil Management and refurbishment of Category B and C plantations were also listed. The strategic interventions, performance indicators and targets for each year for the six programmes were listed: 1. Administration; 2. Agriculture Production, Health & Food Safety; 3. Food Security and Agrarian Reform; 4. Economic Development, Trade & Marketing; 5. Forestry & National Resources Management; and 6. Fisheries Management (Presentation of Programme 6 replaced the presentation on MRLF).

DAFF was in regular contact with Treasury to improve accounting for money in the provinces and it was intensifying its way of working with the provincial departments. A high percentage of the budget received went to provinces. DAFF was also was also intensifying engagement with stakeholders and other government departments, as well as its oversight work in all district municipalities.

The Chairperson said that the Committee had met with the Auditor General in preparation for the session to establish whether any issues highlighted in the previous Annual Report were currently unchanged and warranted a response from DAFF. It was not in the AG’s scope to answer the questions; therefore Members would ask questions in the discussion. He suggested that the Strategic Plan for the Marine Living Resources Fund (MLRF) 2013-2013 presentation had been covered in the presentation by the Director-General. He welcomed the invitation to attend the meeting in De Doorns and appreciated that the office of the DG position being filled was a step in the right direction.

Discussion
After questions were already posed, Mr Ntombela said that the DDG for food security was unable to attend the meeting due to prior arrangement and therefore questions on food security would be answered in writing. Also, questions relating to the previous year’s annual plan and targets would be answered at a later date and the opportunity to report on the AG report would arise when presenting the annual report to the Committee. All questions have nevertheless been included in the minutes.

The Chairperson asked why the Deputy Minister had not attended the meeting.

Ms N Phaliso (ANC) asked the Minister what measures had been put in place in agriculture and mining so that food security was not under threat.

Mr S Abram (ANC) commented that the problem with DAFF not reaching the food security objectives was lack of leadership. Once permanent staff was in place and they were secure in their job, they could put everything into carrying out their guidelines and perform optimally. One of the growth targets was to increase the smallholder farms from 200 000 to 250 000 by 2014. Even if there were 200 000, this would mean that in one year another 50 000 farms needed to be created. The Committee had repeatedly requested full detail on the existing farmers, including how they had been assisted, how much funding they received, the success rate and how much DAFF would be spending in the financial year. When setting targets, it was necessary to evaluate performance of the past year. The AG reported that DAFF had spent 99% of funds allocated to it but had achieved only 51% of targets. This was worrying. The strategic plan as well as the presentation talked glibly about a number of plans. The document became a public document, as were all previous strategic plans. Targets being set were not realistic and targets will not be reached. The agriculture sector was in dire straits. The South African farmers were subjected to at least 12 different forms of taxes, levies, workman’s compensation, vat and others. Farmers were leaving the sector on a daily basis. It was dependent on numerous other factors over which they have no control. South Africa needed to protect its industry to create jobs rather than rely on imports. Foot and mouth outbreak prevented South Africa from exporting meat to certain countries. He said that he was also concerned that while DAFF provided funding to provinces, appropriated by parliament, the Committee had no say over how the money was spent. Furthermore, after six weeks, the Committee had not yet received responses from DAFF regarding certain questions that were raised.

Mr P Van Dalen (DA) asked how DAFF planned to address the conundrum of increasing the number of farm workers while driving up the input cost for farmers – farm workers wages.

Above questions unanswered.

Mr Van Dalen asked how DAFF would recover the target of increasing the fish stock target by 10% when there would be a lower starting base of about 2.5% after the current year and it would take longer after reckless action and ignoring the advice of scientists. He asked what was in place for increase of crayfish (rock lobster) stock.

Mr Johann Augustyn, Chief Director: Fisheries Research & Development, DAFF replied that the 10% increase on fish stocks was an indicative amount in the strategic plan. However, how the stocks respond was difficult to predict. Perhaps the rebuilding strategies for each species should have been explained. For the rock lobster, the operational management procedure had decision-making principles supporting a 35% rebuilding strategy for that stock over a period of 15 years, with a target date of 2021. DAFF would stick to that target and it will be implemented the following year. For hake, the operational management procedure planned to recover stock of more than 5% over a five year period. In terms of the operational procedure, some years ago the total allowable catch (TAC) had to be reduced to reduce pressure on the stock. In fact, the hake stock recovered at a faster rate than 10% and the TAC had been able to recover from 120 000 tons to 150 000 tons over the past four years. As a whole, stock had increased by about 20%. Line fish was an effort-controlled fishing with as many as 200 species of line fish. Many species were heavily depleted, but the deficit had been reduced since 2005 and several key species had recovered, but it would be necessary to further reduce effort to ensure more general recovery of more species of line fish. The measure to achieve this would be determined in the current year.

Mr Van Dalen asked why the plan to rebuild crayfish stock was not mentioned - why the plan had deviated from the previous plan.

Ms Apelgren-Narkedien said that there was a delay but no deviation in the plan to protect exports from the small-scale sector and the jobs involved. DAFF would revert back to the 35% recovery plan and it was now on track. Ecological-scientific approaches had to be balanced with economic and social issues for the sake of sustainability. DAFF had met with the WWF and come to an agreement to commit to the 35% rebuilding.

The Minister said that she had requested a recollection on the matter so that it could be published in the gazette. This way there would be a legal requirement to comply with the 35% recovery rate.

Mr Van Dalen said that on a point of order, this appeared to be a postponement - a deviation. The Committee had been misled.

The Minister replied that if the plan was legally binding, each and every individual would have been committed to the plan and would have been held accountable. A regulation in the gazette would ensure that the plan was legally binding.

Mr Van Dalen said that he expected a department to stick to a plan that they presented to the Committee.

The Minister responded that in order to enforce the plan, she had to make it legally binding so that she could act upon an individual who had deviated from a plan of such importance.

Ms Phaliso commented that people were poaching because they were hungry, yet securing the coastline with coast guards involved job creation and would secure food safety. Action had to be taken and one could not be emotional about the problem.

Mr Van Dalen commented that enforcement of compliance with marine and coastal legislation was a noble strategic intervention, but there was nothing from DAFF’s Observer Programme of the past year that was in place in the current year. He asked how operations would be affected and where the money would come from for the newly proclaimed Marine Protection Area around the Edward Islands.

Mr Augustyn replied that the Observer Programme had lapsed two years earlier. The decision was taken the previous year to reintroduce the programme and DAFF had recently committed in various forums that it would be reinstated within a year. Procurement processes had progressed to final stages but had been slow. Within one to two months, the service provider for reinstating the programme would be appointed.

Mr Van Dalen asked for clarification on how the target of 1100 fulltime job opportunities in Working for Fisheries programme would be reached by spending R200 million per annum.

The DDG for Fisheries replied that a job was defined by the Department of Public Works as a work opportunity. When DAFF stated that it has a target of 1100 jobs, it refers to 1100 fulltime equivalent employment - when an employee works for 230 days. DAFF had exceeded the previous financial years’ target of 1100 by 200 jobs. Due to this target being exceeded, Public Works had incentivised the programme with an additional R8 million.

Ms Phaliso asked for more information on the areas where the Working for Fisheries programme was working so that these areas could be monitored.

Mr Abram asked exactly what time was meant by ’over the medium term’ for the spending of R202.8 million Working for Fisheries programme.

Ms A Steyn (DA) asked the Minister to comment on the AG report that there was insufficient communication between those charged with governance and the Minister, who contributed to the lack of commitment and accountability. Reported information was not useful and was not reliable, there were material misstatements and limitations in submitted annual financial statement. The Committee had asked the AG whether the DG availability and change in DG had an impact on the AG findings, but the AG was not able to answer the question as it had been difficult to meet with the Minister. She asked the Minister to give her opinion on the matter. The AG felt that although DAFF was not moving in the right direction, certain aspects had improved compared to the previous year. A concern was that 99% of the budget was spent in the previous year but only 51% of the targets were reached. One of the problems for the Committee, and possibly what was a concern of the AG, was that although 51% of targets were reached, many of them were not measurable. Since many operations on the provincial level were not reported to the Committee, it was not possible to determine whether policy was implemented on the ground. She asked what process could be put in place by DAFF so that measurable changes for food security and access to cheaper food were in place.

The questions were unanswered.

Ms N Twala (ANC) asked if there was willingness to improve the situation where targets budgeted for had not been reached while the budget had been 99% spent. She asked for an explanation on money spent that was not accounted for.

Mr Ntombela said that questions relating to the previous year’s annual plan and targets will be answered at a later date and the opportunity to report on the AG report would arise when presenting the annual report to the Committee.

Ms M Pilusa-Mosoane (ANC) asked what mechanisms were in place so that the Chief Financial Officer could improve financial management controls. Since national government gave provincial government money, monitoring and evaluation was essential. The Committee did not have access to the provinces and therefore would always ask DAFF what was happening in the provinces.

Ms Phaliso asked how DAFF had responded to the AG report that there had been no improvement in the supply chain management IT systems.

Mr Jacob Hlatshwayo, Chief Financial Officer, DAFF added that DAFF did not agree with the issue of no improvement at all in IT systems. DAFF had set up an audit committee which involved the CFO, Monitoring and Evaluation and the Office of the AG. Two years earlier, there were problems with IT control, but the AG was the first to say that since DAFF had introduced audit metrics, there had been some improvement. While DAFF had received an unqualified audit report, there had been some problems with the supply chain management processes and wasteful expenditure. The CFO office had since beefed up its billing process and in 2011/12 improved on the wasteful expenditure to less than R10 000. Monthly reports were presented from the DAFF directorates and these were being enforced. DAFF was focused on sticking to the procurement plans decided by Treasury.

Mr B Bhanga (COPE) asked what was in place to address the gaps in vacancies. It appeared that the cause of the problem was not explained by the CFO. The problem seemed to be broader than the establishment of an audit committee. He asked for clarity on the vacancy problem and how the strategic plan was addressing the vacancy problem.

Mr Hlatshwayo replied that he had responded to the earlier question regarding comments made by the AG but had not responded about the internal audit. While the Audit Steering Committee addressed particular audit findings of the AG, the Internal Audit Committee was a directorate which advised management on internal control and risk management. The Audit Committee was an independent assurance unit which assisted with controls within DAFF.

Mr Abram said that it was difficult to understand why DAFF was unable to recruiting astute personnel and fill the vacancies when institutions such as CPUT had gone to the extent of developing their qualifications around the branch, there was the Fisheries programme of CPUT and there were aquaculture and fisheries feeder programmes that fed into the branch. In 2011, the branch conducted a skills audit but there had not been a report on the outcome of the audit. He asked what the outcome was, particularly in relation to the skills shortage and redundant posts.

Ms Apelgren-Narkedien replied that it was difficult to fill positions for highly technically-skilled people in aquaculture research but DAFF had contracts with universities for skills training and colleagues had been sent for high-tech training overseas. DAFF was accelerating filling of those posts. She would refer back to the Committee on the outcome of the skills audit.

Mr Abram asked Ms Apelgren when the skills audit of 2011 could be sent to the Committee. It was important for the Committee to access whether DAFF had the necessary skills to drive the strategic plan.

Ms Apelgren replied that she could commit to giving the Committee the existing two year old document on the 26 April 2013.

Mr Bhanga asked whether the problem with aquaculture production was skills or money.

The Minister reminded Members that in the past, aquaculture was never a priority of the country. It was now a priority and DAFF had expanded to include aquaculture. DAFF was finalising aquaculture policy and funding between Department of Water Affairs, DTI and DAFF. DTI launched its plan for aquaculture in the past month which included up to R40 million for aquaculture SMMEs and this was the first time there was a dedicated budget for these SMMEs. DAFF was involved in the scientific operations aspect. The policy would go through cabinet and the draft would be made available to the Committee. DAFF had intensified development of aquaculture and was engaging with the private sector in this regard.

Ms R Nyalungu (ANC) asked for more information on the renovations of agricultural training institutes around the country.

Ms Steyn said that all farmers were unprotected and struggling and she welcomed the recommendations of cushioning them - the green boxes, finances, etc. She also asked if the repayments highlighted in the Public Protector report had been made.

Mr Bhanga congratulated Sue Middleton, the Chief Director: Fisheries Operation Support on her Arbitration Award. He strongly criticised the lack of leadership at the executive level, lack of measurable monitoring and evaluation, starting from legislation. It was impossible for the Committee to perform oversight, offer guidance, assess and hold the executive management accountable when there were acting DGs and abuse of power. 

Ms Steyn asked what DAFF was doing to increase access of markets for small-holder farmers’ produce. She also asked if the Masibambisane Project was still in process and how small-scale farmers and farmers in the communal areas were benefiting from the project. She also asked for more information on the Agro-ecological strategy that had recently been finalised.

Mr Abram asked what progress had been made toward creation of the 145 000 jobs expected in agro-processing by 2020. Again, this was not mentioned in the strategic plan but the target had been set in the New Growth Path of 2010.

Mr Abram asked how the internal document by the journalist reached the media.

Ms Steyn said that she had asked Dr Cornelius about the report on Rift Valley Fever but two months later the report had not been forthcoming. It was difficult to deal with plant and animal health when reports from DAFF are kept under the carpet.

The above questions were unanswered.

Ms Steyn said that she was extremely concerned about how the African Horse Sickness outbreak which was currently in the country. Although cases were being reported to state veterinarians, there was no information on the DAFF website and people did not know what to do about it. Horses that were vaccinated on a yearly basis were still dying.

Dr Modisane replied that 46 cases had been reported up until Feb 2013. DAFF was dedicated to improving six specific areas: information and communication with farmers, stakeholder engagement, engagement with provincial department functions, recapitalisation in testing laboratories and vaccine facilities to make sure they were meeting standards, ensuring scarce skills in veterinary sciences, and monitoring and information systems.

Ms Steyn asked when stakeholders would be given the information on the OIE (Office International des Epizooties – World Organisation for Animal Health) evaluation report which had declined DAFF’s application. It was difficult to respond to industry’s questions on the matter without the reasons for the decline.

Dr Michael Modisane, DDG: Agriculture Production, Health & Safety; DAFF replied that the OIE final report had been received and the recommendations were being taken care of and these would be shared with the Committee as DAFF proceeded with the Management Plan. The feedback on the reasons for OIE not recognizing South Africa’s Foot & Mouth Disease (FMD) free status had been received and DAFF was addressing the issues raised. DAFF was preparing for resubmission during the month of May.

Mr Bhanga commented that despite available resources and political stability, through lack of vision and decisiveness, the agriculture, forestry and fisheries sector’s contribution to food production in South Africa was failing its people. It was lower than in countries such as Egypt, Kenya and Nigeria. Agriculture had been reversed under ‘our’ own hands and had not improved since the previous year. In the State of the Nation Address, President Zuma had highlighted Agriculture’s role in transforming South African society, in line with the NDP, yet DAFF was unable to implement and make an impact. He asked the Minister to account for the problems facing the country’s agriculture and to what extent DAFF would change the situation. While the LandCare programme was targeting 874 000 jobs over four years, there was no report on how many jobs had been created according to the target of the previous year.

Ms Steyn said that she understood that the LandCare programme was supposed to be about rehabilitation of land, not job creation. In most communal areas, land was degraded. She asked what measures were in place in the programme for rehabilitation of land so that access to land and productivity could be increased in these areas.

Mr Abram said as far as forestry and natural resources management was concerned, DAFF had asserted that 70% of South Africa’s land was degraded. He asked how many hectares and what percentage of that land had been rehabilitated since the 2009/10 financial year.

Dr N (Thabi) Motete, Deputy Director-General; Forestry; DAFF replied that the total amount of degraded land was 100 000 ha. Available resources in the past three years allowed for only 1.17 % of that land to be rehabilitated (since 2009), which was slightly above the target of 1%. The new targets for the annual performance plan could be shared with the Committee if necessary. 

The Chairperson asked what plans were in place for re-forestation in George and Overberg and whether there was any other land and a budget for re-forestation.

Dr Motete replied that the forestry rehabilitation in those areas were temporarily unfunded. The detail on resource allocation and implementation would be presented in the quarterly report.

The Chairperson asked what period of time ‘temporary unfunded’ referred to as they had already been unfunded for four years.

Dr Motete replied that the four years were part of temporary. The ten year rotational period had gone by but she assured the Committee that they would be funded in the next rotation.

Ms Phaliso suggested that DAFF should lobby the Land Reform cluster to deal with the challenge of losing agricultural land to mining. Small-holder farmers on communal land attained from the municipality could not farm while they were being threatened by commercial farmers.

Ms Twala said that during the Agri-SA conference it became clear that there was a shift from agriculture to mining. She asked whether this was an agreement that had been concluded at the risk of the communities who were currently not food-secure. She asked what the plan was to secure food in South Africa.

Ms Pilusa-Mosoane asked what relevance the performance indicators and targets for forestry and natural resources management would have, since hectares were indicators, yet the land would be shifting to mining, as was happening in western Limpopo.

Dr Motete replied that as Members correctly stated, there was no legislation that placed the use of land under the custodianship the Minister. DAFF was consulting on a technical level on policy and legislative arrangement on the preservation of agricultural land to safeguard against the critical loss of land. The outcome would be shared with the Committee.

Mr Van Dalen asked which provisions of the Act were up for amendment and what the time frames were for the amendments as this had not been included in the Committee programme.

Ms Phaliso said that she was interested to know if the Marine and Coastal Management Act had been reviewed, as for years as an activist, she had been calling for a review of this act to see transformation. She said that the 24 Acts that had been reviewed should have been listed in the presentation.

The Chairperson welcomed that in programme 6, 70% of any new fishing rights allocation will go to small-scale coastal black fishing communities. His understanding was that this would improve their lives.

Mr Abram said that in the 2012/13 financial year, DAFF suspended the Fisheries Charter with the intention of developing Fisheries Codes, but this was not in the current year’s strategic plan. He asked how far the process had advanced.

Ms Sue Middleton, Chief Director: Fisheries Operation Support, DAFF replied that in 2005, when the DAFF did the long-term rights allocation process, the BEE Act was not in place. Hence there was no Fisheries Charter or Fisheries Codes as are prescribed by the current act. DAFF recognised this issue and it was in the strategic plan and was also picked up in the report in the paper the previous day that the eight sectors due for re-allocation of rights at the end of 2013 were: Oysters, white mussels, commercial sharks, linefish, KZN prawn-trawl, squid, tuna and hake handline. These sectors were already earmarked to be accessed by small-scale, subsistence and black fishers. DAFF would ensure that in the new rights allocation process at least 70% of black BEE targets were reached in those eight sectors. For the remaining sectors, DAFF would at least maintain current transformation levels and in some sectors it would greatly enhance the transformation. This would be part of the Operational Management Plan for the rights allocation process.

Ms Phaliso recommended that infrastructure challenges be addressed and factories be reopened through lobbying the Department of Public Works so that people could make a living and targets for job creation could be reached. Harbours, jetties and other access points for the small-holder fishing communities was also an important issue.

Ms Greta Apelgren-Narkedien, Deputy Director-General: DAFF Fisheries Branch replied that jetties and slipways fell under municipalities, but the DPW, which served on a joint committee with Fisheries, had recently concluded a Spatial Development Plan from an economic perspective and this plan included improving jetties and slipways. The technical report had been completed and they would be visiting communities of the west and south coast to consult with them. This was a very positive forward movement in that respect.

Ms Phaliso asked for clarity on when the MLRF was declared a public entity. The Committee needed to be clear on whether it was an administrative fund or a socio-economic upliftment fund so that it could be monitored correctly. She commended the Minister for being the first minister to give attention and listen to the historically disadvantage coastal people. However, the Forestry and Fisheries sector was not transforming aggressively. Also, the indigenous knowledge of those who know the water and coastline was being lost. Steenbras fishing, for example, was taken from the very people who understood the sport and were making a living from it.

Ms Middleton replied that the MLRF was declared a schedule 3A public entity under the PFMA in 2001. It was based on the premise that marine living resources and access to them was a privilege that one paid for. It was for the benefit of all South Africans but not all SA received the right to harvest. If you received a right, you paid for it. Those monies paid into the MLRF which basically covered all the operations of the fisheries branch for the work done by Fisheries to service the industry was money recuperated from the fishing industry. Salaries were paid from Treasury and operations were generated from the fishing industry. Other monies received on top of that not generated from the industry were earmarked funds from Treasury for vessel operation costs and the Working for Fisheries Programme.

Mr Augustyn said that both the White and Red Steenbras species were severely depleted. The Red Steenbras species was almost extinct. It was agreed between all circles – scientists and indigenous knowledge - that both species were heavily depleted. In the case of White Steenbras, DAFF was trying to recover stocks by restricting net-fishing in certain areas. Red Steenbras had been de-commercialised. In fact, it could not be caught by anyone. 

Mr Bhanga asked what the status was of the fishing vessels.

Ms Apelgren-Narkedien replied that on 3 April 2013, DAFF signed a contract with regional manufacturers who would repair the vessels. Three vessels were 80% ready. For South African Maritime Society of South Africa to register the vessels, the inside and outside had to be properly repaired, equipment had to be sound and crew and operation management had to be recruited.

Mr Van Dalen asked who was signing the contract.

Mr Bhanga asked how long it would take to get the vessels onto the sea.

The Minister replied that DAFF was working to get the vessels at sea as soon as possible.

Mr Bhanga asked if ‘as soon as possible’ meant a week, a month, a year…

Ms Apelgren-Narkedien replied that it was not possible to give an exact date as they were waiting on the Ministers of Defence, Veterans and Agriculture to agree on the release of the vessels. The navy would not allow the repair officials to enter the premises without following political procedure. The process was not under her control.

The Chairperson said that most of the answers would come from the May 14/15 2013 DAFF briefing to the Committee on the fisheries right allocations and state of marine living resources in the country. This would also give DAFF some leeway for receiving and processing the information.

Ms Pilusa-Mosoane asked how the target for fish farms would be achieved when they had actually reduced in number.

DAFF replied that the target for fish farms in the current financial year was 10 farms and it would offer support to existing and new farms through its provincial HODs and state veterinarian scientists and would also offer support in relation to business plans and food safety certification of all fish products. Contracts for new land-based fish farms in the agriculture development zones were being finalised.

The Chairperson suggested that there should be a vigorous campaign to increase the number of fish farms in South Africa to far greater than 10.

The Chairperson asked what if there had been any inclination to have agriculture, fisheries, communication, legal, IT systems, etc integrated into one department.

Mr Ntombela replied that the Marine Living Resources Fund was established in terms of legislation and any changes required a legislative process. Support functions would be integrated to support DAFF core functions.

The Chairperson asked if security on farms was a line of interest for DAFF and if it was included in the budget. He also asked if it was possible that Marine Protected Areas have been declared protected areas to shut out communities who would have been living there for their day-to-day survival.

The Minister replied that there would be a proclamation signed between the Minister of Water & Environment, Minister of Agriculture and the President and from that a service level agreement would be entered into between the two departments. Thereafter, an Operational Management Plan would be initiated so that management of the Marine Protected Areas would be finely balanced between the economic value and access (that is, environmental protection).

Mr Van Dalen asked for an indication of when the Operational Plan for protected areas would be in place.

Ms Steyn said that South Africa had become a net importer the previous year. She asked what measures were in place to ensure that South Africa became self-sustainable and that South Africa did not unnecessarily import goods.

Questions were unanswered.

Mr Van Dalen asked if proper process was followed in the appointment of Ms Apelgren-Narkedien for the position of DDG of Fisheries.

The Minister replied that Ms Apelgren was transferred from the Department of Public Service & Administration with the President’s signature for the transfer.

Mr Van Dalen asked the Minister or Acting DG to explain why DAFF had ignored the important NDP and input from the Committee with regard to long-term allocation rights and transformation.

The Minister affirmed the Committee that DAFF was not moving away from the NDP and was engaging with the fishing industry. It was committed to ensuring that the entire fishing industry moved as a united front towards recovery strategy and in a transparent fashion with regard to allocation of rights. DAFF should not pre-empt the process but give the process a chance to engage with the commercial sector and in a manner which was agreeable to the industry. She added that the recovery strategy for any species, particularly that of rock lobster, was respected and enforced. Whatever industrial development that took place in the fishing industry would be mindful of the environmental impact and decisions made for the country.

The Chairperson suggested that the fisheries grant should increase as a focal area for agriculture development. He also suggested that basic education should include teaching learners about growing their own food at home.

The Minister replied that the Maputo Declaration and Mangaung spelt out the country’s need for agriculture and that FET colleges and schools would teach agriculture.

Mr Van Dalen asked if the Minister had laid criminal charges against the fishing company that had threatened her, as Section 34 of the Anti-corruption Act committed her to do, and whether the offenders were arrested.

The Minister replied that she trusted that the law enforcement agencies knew how to deal with the matter.

The Chairperson concluded that with all six programmes and financial support programmes in place, it would be nice to know that South Africa was heading to become a net exporter, that employment, inequality, poverty, you name it…was turning around and that at any time DAFF could say how it was performing in line with the NDP and Millennium Development Goals. Not all was doom and gloom, but the Committee had to be more robust in their oversight work to ensure that solutions to the challenges were expedited. DAFF had to play its role in implementation of the legislation. The presentation and presence of DAFF paved the way for the entities to present to Parliament.

The meeting was adjourned.
 

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