Committee Programme & other committee business

Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries

13 August 2013
Chairperson: Mr M Johnson (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Chairperson read out some invitations to the Committee.

Members wanted to raise their concern about various items, and asked that a report be furnished by the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries on the recent outbreak of Foot and Mouth Disease, which could affect meat exports to the European Union, and on the research findings by University of Stellenbosch that some rivers used for irrigation had human waste, which could impact on agricultural exports. The Chairperson added that the Committee should consider a meeting with the South African Maritime Safety Association (SAMSA), and possibly also the Portfolio Committee on Environmental Affairs, to look into the issue of oil spills in South African waters. Another Member reiterated an oft-expressed concern that the Minister hardly ever attended meetings with this Committee.

Members turned to the consideration and adoption of minutes. It adopted the minutes of 23 April, and 11 June with minor corrections and those of 14 June, 18 June, 19 June, 21 June and 30 July, without any amendments. The Committee Secretary was asked, in future, to reflect answers given to all questions raised. Concerns were raised, in relation to the minutes of 18 June, that South Africa had not yet been awarded certification of disease-free status because it had apparently failed to apply for it, following a foot and mouth outbreak, and that avian flu might affect the ostrich industry, and the Chairperson agreed that this matter would have to be further debated before the end of this quarter. 

The Committee considered and adopted its Third Quarter programme, and agreed that on 15 August it would consider the readiness of Departmental patrol boats to contain oil spills. On 11 September the Standing Committee on Public Accounts would be invited to attend the Committee to hear the Land Bank briefing on its annual report.

Members then raised some general comments. One Member questioned why the Committee Members were no longer receiving fisheries reports from the Researcher, urging that they be kept in the loop. The explanation was given that the reports were forwarded to the Chairperson but that this caused some delay as they had to be approved, but the Chairperson denied this, and cited examples where he had provided input within fifteen minutes. He reiterated earlier concerns that the Researchers were supposed to provide impartial comment and should not make any political statements nor express their opinion on officials. Another Member raised concerns about the price of R1 billion paid by the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform for acquisition of the Mala Mala Game Reserve for redistribution, and thought that the concept of market value was being abused.
 

Meeting report

Opening remarks
The Chairperson mentioned that there were a number of planning changes on the Parliamentary Programme for the third quarter. Those changes also impacted on the Committee programme. He noted that the Committee was meeting for the first time inside the Parliamentary precinct after the recess, since previous meetings had been held during the oversight visits.

The Chairperson noted his concern that the Provincial Committee on Agriculture could not meet with the Portfolio Committee.

Invitations
The Chairperson mentioned that the Committee was invited by the Minister to grace the gala evening for the Entrepreneur Women of the Year Award, to be held in Saint Georges Hotel in Pretoria. The theme would be “Harnessing Women’s Talent for Sustainable Food Security.

The Committee was also invited by the Mayor of Ethekwini Municipality, Mr James Nxumalo, and the MEC for Agriculture Meshack Rhadebe to the National Launch of Arbor Week in Hammersdale, KwaZulu Natal.

The Tobacco Institute of Southern Africa (TISA) had invited one Member of the Committee to accompany it on a study tour of the United Kingdom. The purpose of the tour was to conduct research in relation to harm in reduced tobacco or nicotine products, to obtain insights into the regulatory environment and its outcomes, and to share insight for addressing illicit trade.

Mr S Abram (ANC) also wanted to raise some matters of concern. He said that the recent outbreak of Foot and Mouth Disease (Aphthae epizooticae) was a cause of great concern because it might affect meat export to the European Union.

The University of Stellenbosch had discovered that some rivers that were used for irrigation had human waste, and that could pose a health problem. He feared that the possibility of ecoli in the water could have a negative impact on agricultural exports. He suggested that the Department should furnish the Committee with a comprehensive report on both issues.

The Chairperson also mentioned the stranded ship which caused an oil spill in the Southern Cape, which had the potential to pollute the marine life. He suggested that the Committee should meet with South African Maritime Safety Association (SAMSA), and possibly also the Portfolio Committee on Environmental Affairs to look into the issue. He felt that too many shipping companies were not being taken to task for polluting South African waters.

Ms A Steyn (DA) raised her concern that the Minister hardly ever attended meetings with the Committee.

Consideration and adoption of the Minutes
23 April 2013

The minutes of 23 April 2013 were tabled.

Ms Steyn said that in future the minutes should also reflect responses to the questions asked.

The Chairperson went through the minutes page by page and invited comments. He agreed with Ms Steyn, saying that a person reading these minutes years later might think that no answers were given. He asked the Committee Secretary to reflect all responses to questions.

The minutes were adopted, with amendments.

30 April 2013
The minutes were adopted, with no amendments.

11 June 2013
Ms Steyn said that the Committee was never informed that Mr Manya, the Deputy Director General, had been promoted to Director General.

Mr Abram explained that Mr Manya was simply acting on behalf of Mr Sipho Ntombela, the Director General,  for this meeting. However he agreed that the Committee should be informed about all senior appointments.

The Chairperson said that the Department should clarify such matters that could give rise to misunderstandings.

Mr P Van Dalen (DA) asked that the abbreviation “AFF” should be expanded out.

The Minutes were adopted, subject to the minor technical corrections.

14 June 2013
The minutes were adopted without amendments.

18 June 2013
Ms Steyn raised her concern that South Africa had not yet been awarded a certificate of disease-free status, in relation to the Foot and Mouth disease, by the World Organisation on Animal Health (OIE). The OIE report on the general status of the general veterinary services for South Africa was very favourable. South Africa had not submitted an application for the OIE certification of meat products. She said she was also concerned because of the Avian Flu affecting the ostrich meat industry.

The Chairperson agreed that the issue of OIE certification was very critical, because it affected meat exports. Farmers in the Free State province were unable to export meat products to China and Australia due to foot and mouth disease. He said that the Committee should deal with the matter in detail before the end of the quarter.

The Minutes were adopted without amendments.

19 June 2013
The minutes were adopted without amendments.

21 June 2013
Mr Abram referred to paragraph 2.2, suggesting that the Committee should ask South African Revenue Services (SARS) for the reason that South Africa was still importing meat from Brazil.

The Chairperson said that meat imports would be dealt with in a joint meeting with the Department of Trade and Industry on the 23 August 2013.

The minutes were adopted without amendment.

30 July 2013
The minutes were adopted without amendments.

Committee Third Quarter Programme
The Chairperson noted that the meeting on Thursday 15 August would commence at 09:00.

Mr van Dalen suggested that the Committee should include on that agenda the issue of readiness patrol boats to contain oil spills.

Mr Abram suggested that the Committee should seek information on the Land Bank annual financial report, and asked if the Committee Secretary could contact Land Bank and ask for information.

Mr Cele suggested that Mr Abram should direct his questions to the Standing Committee on Public Accounts (SCOPA).

The Committee agreed to invite SCOPA to attend the briefing from Land Bank, scheduled for 11 September.

The programme was adopted with amendments.

Other Business
Ms Steyn said that she had noticed that the Committee was no longer receiving fisheries reports from the Committee Researcher. She asked why the Committee was not kept in the loop about fisheries matters, feeling that there was no good reason for this, and suggested that research expertise was not being fully used.

Mr N Ginidza, Committee Researcher, explained that briefs were sent out to Members.

Dr Farieda Khan, Senior Parliamentary Researcher, told Mr Ginidza that reports were supposed to be forwarded to the Chairperson, who would then distribute them to Members. He said that a new brief would be sent to the Members on 14 August 2013. The last brief was sent in April 2013. The process of sending briefs to the Chairperson delayed the process, because the Chairperson had to provide feedback to the Research Unit and the Office of the House Chair.

Mr van Dalen said that the Committee had not received the briefs for the previous meeting either.

Ms Steyn said she could not understand the reasons for the delay in distributing important information on fisheries.

The Chairperson emphatically explained that the work of the Researcher was supposed to be independent, but apolitical. Referring back to a previous meeting, he said that the Mr Ginidza ha made a serious blunder when he gave his view that “the Department was in the wrong hands”. A Researcher was not supposed to utter such statements. He disputed Mr Ginidza’s statement that delays had been caused by his office needing to give feedback, citing the example of one document that had been sent to him at 07:00, but which he had returned, with the necessary feedback, at 07:15 on the same day.

Mr van Dalen felt that the researcher was free to point out loopholes in a report, even if they were political statements.

The Chairperson reiterated that the Researchers were not supposed to make political statements, but deal with technical research work. The role of the Chairperson was to check whether reports did not have political statements. The Chairperson was expected to scan the report before putting them out in the public domain.

Mr Abram raised his concern regarding the exorbitant price that was paid by the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform (DRDLR) for the Mala Mala Game Reserve, of R1 billion. The land was required for land redistribution but the current owners would continue to run the game reserve. He said that it was bad enough that land was forcibly taken away from the indigenous population in the first place, and then sold cheaply to other people, but the fact that they had re-sold it at a huge profit back to the rightful owners was even worse. The compensation, and whether it was indeed “market value” was questionable. He cited other examples, saying that banana farmers in the Lowveld had sold their farms for R500 million, but continued farming bananas on the same farms they sold. To compound the situation, the very same farmer had then purchased other farms in Free State, which he would, in due course, sell back to the government when land claims were lodged there. The African people who had been living on those farms for generations were removed and were now living in informal settlements. Mr Abram expressed his view that the whole “market value” system was flawed.

The meeting was adjourned.
 

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