Marine Living Resources Amendment Bill Report, NAMC nominations: Adoption of Committee Reports, Minute adoption, including meeting with Minister, BRRR and oversight reports postponed

Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development

28 October 2013
Chairperson: Mr M Johnson (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Committee was scheduled to adopt the Budgetary Review and Recommendations Report (BRRR), but this, and the adoption of the oversight reports, were postponed. In relation to the Marine Living Resources Amendment Bill, it was noted that there had been an issue about the tagging, and it was now tagged as a section 76 Bill and could not be adopted, under its section 75 format, as intended, on 29 October. The Committee Report was adopted on that Bill, noting that it was reported as a section 76 Bill. The Committee also adopted its report on the recommendations for the filling of two vacancies on the National Agricultural Marketing Council, for which only two, but both strong, nominations were received. The Committee was recommending appointment of Dr Edwin Conroy and Mr Neo Masithela.

The Committee then proceeded to discuss minutes of meetings between 15 August and 9 October, but excluding the minutes of 8 October, and all of those minutes were adopted, with amendments, many of which were technical. The Committee agreed to include a section for “matters arising” to make it easier to follow through on issues, so that they did not necessarily clog up the sessions. It was noted, from the minutes discussed, that the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) to table and explain the newly-launched Fetsa Tlala programmes, that the Committee would follow up on the status of patrol research vessels, whether Forestry was treated the same as Fisheries, as a branch or a management branch, and that DAFF still needed to report on the aquaculture projects that were being assisted by the State in the Eastern Cape. The DA urged the Committee to follow up with establishing communication links with the Association of Meat Importers and Exporters, who may be able to assist the poultry industry in exporting to other countries. Members agreed that it would be useful for the Committee to write a handover report for the incoming committee in 2014. Members were concerned whether the Finance Committee of Parliament was following up, with Land Bank, on matters other than its financial health, and questioned whether Land Bank was aware of what this Committee was expecting it to do to positively interact with and assist farmers, including fisheries in its developmental work. These issues would be raised during a meeting on the AgriBEE Charter and transformation. Comments on genetically modified seeds were to be referred back to DAFF. The Committee also still needed a report on Kenya’s outlawing of genetically modified products.

One Member asked specifically for inclusion of the statement that he had refused to sign the register in protest, and a similar point was raised about unhappiness expressed during the meeting with the Minister, when she had severely criticised the Committee. It was noted that the new format of the minutes might not require that the events be described in detail. However, particularly in the case of the Minister’s exchange with the Committee on 9 October the minutes would reflect clearly the frustrations that the Committee had with the Minister and also DAFF, and it was noted that the Committee would be writing to both to express their disappointment.
 

Meeting report

Budgetary Review and Recommendations Report for Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries
The Chairperson noted that the Committee had been due to consider the Budgetary Review and Recommendations Report (BRRR) for Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.

Ms A Steyn (DA) said that she was concerned that the BRRR had not yet been circulated, and she suggested that in light of this, the consideration of it be postponed, to allow Members sufficient time to read it.

The Chairperson agreed and suggested that Members proceed with other matters.

Marine Living Resources Amendment Bill: tagging
The Chairperson reminded that on the previous Friday, the ATC had reflected the tagging of the Marine Living Resources Amendment Bill (the Bill) as a section 76 Bill, by the joint tagging mechanism (JTM), instead of section 75 bill as mentioned in the previous report.

This meant that processes of consultation had to go on until late on the 28 of October 2013, between the Chairperson and the State Law Advisors. The Chief State law advisor had expressed an opinion that the Bill was a section 75 Bill, but the JTM was adamant that it was a section 76 bill. The opinion of the Chief State Law Advisor was referred to the Presiding Officers (POs) of the JTM. It now seemed that the Committee had two options. The one would have been to debate on 28 October, but that had not worked out, because of time constraints. In view of the three-day rule the reality was that the Committee could not debate the Bill on Thursday 31 October. The programme would have to be rescheduled for another day, but that decision would lie with the Programme Whip. The Committee really only needed to adopt the report and allow the processes to move ahead, outside of the Committee, to the National Council of Provinces (NCOP).

He said that from the very first day on which the Bill had come to Parliament, the Committee had requested a researcher and a State Law Advisor to go through the document and check on the legality and the tagging, and it seemed that the processes had been ironed out. However, it was now back with the Committee at the last minute; Mr Gary Rhoda, Parliamentary Law Adviser, actually noted the tagging. The Committee had been scheduled to deliberate finally upon, and conclude, the Bill ready for adoption on Thursday, but that was now not going to happen. He explained that this was why he had asked Mr van Dalen not to invite various stakeholders to the meeting, because the corrections and other issues were still ongoing.

Marine Living Resources Amendment Bill [B30-2013]: Committee Report adoption
The Chairperson then proceeded to read out the Committee Report, to the effect that the Committee, having considered the subject of the Marine Living Resources Amendment Bill [B30 – 2013], referred to it and classified by the Joint Tagging Mechanism (JTM) as a section 76 Bill, reported the Bill with amendments. It was noted that the DA objected to the amendment in clause 2 of the Bill, which had been to substitute the phrase “and other marginalised groups” with “the youth and persons living with disabilities”. 

The Committee Report was moved, seconded and adopted, without any amendments

Nomination of Members to National Agricultural Marketing Council (NAMC): Committee Report
The Chairperson said that the Committee had received two nominations, to fill the vacancies created on the National Agricultural Marketing Council (NAMC) which were occasioned by Mrs Stewart-Symington and Mr Maduna vacating their posts.

He then read the Committee report.

Mr S Abram (ANC) said that Mr Neo Masithela had been an MP previously, had served on the Portfolio Committee (as it then was) dealing with Agriculture and Land Affairs, that he had also served as the MEC dealing with economic issues in the Free State, and seemed a strong nominee for those reasons. Dr Edwin Conroy was currently a researcher working in Parliament, and had extensive knowledge in the agricultural sector, even though he did not know his exact qualifications, although they would be detailed in his CV. He believed that his political work on agricultural issues would be useful. For these reasons, he strongly suggested that the Committee should accept the two names and recommend them to the Minister.

Mr M Cele (ANC) said that he seconded Mr Abrams’s motion. Other Members had no objections

That Report was adopted, with no amendments.

Draft Minutes of Proceedings 14 August
The Chairperson noted that the minutes up to 09 of October were set out in the same format, but this had then changed after 09 October. He further noted that in the minutes, a “matters arising” section would be included, and in this Committee, the office of the Chairperson, the Secretary, the Committee Researcher and Content Adviser all worked to carry matters forward and deal with them as far as possible to prevent them having to clog up meetings.

Mr Cele suggested a technical amendment to the minutes that was to make for better readability.

Mr Abram read out the proposed grammatical amendment to the paragraph referred to.

Ms A Steyn (DA) suggested that, under “Matters arising” the Committee should ask the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) to table and explain the newly-launched Fetsa Tlala programmes.

The minutes were adopted with amendments

Draft Minutes 15 August:
The Chairperson noted that these were the minutes dealing with the status of patrol research vessels, the state of readiness on fishing rights allocation, status of fishing harbours and aquaculture (hatcheries and farms) projects
The Chairperson asked as to whether “Fisheries” constituted a branch by itself, or management.

Mr Nhlanhla Ginindza, Committee Researcher, replied that Fisheries was referred to as a “management branch” on official documents, but, in speech, was loosely called the “Fisheries branch”.

The Chairperson wondered if the same applied to Forestry. When Mr Ginidza indicated that he was not sure on that point, he suggested that it be pursued and clarified, for consistency.

Mr R Cebekhulu (IFP) suggested a technical amendment to improve the reading.

The Chairperson noted a matter arising for the Committee’s attention on those minutes. Additionally he also noted a completed resolution.

Ms Steyn suggested that the Committee needed to follow upon on the invitations from DAFF to view the fleet, although she was not sure whether it had been sailing yet. DAFF must also table the report on all aquaculture projects that were being assisted by the State in the Eastern Cape.

The minutes were adopted, with amendments

Draft Minutes 20 August
These minutes related to the briefing by the Department on the first quarter 2013/14 expenditure.

The Chairperson noted a typing error, and Mr Cele noted a technical grammatical amendment.

Mr B Bhanga (COPE) noted a technical amendment on the designation of Ms Nontobeko Qwabe as the Committee’s Agriculture Researcher.

Ms Steyn noted that all the decisions on that meeting were still outstanding.

The minutes were adopted, with technical amendments.

Draft Minutes 10 September
It was noted that these minutes related to the briefing by the Association of Meat Importers and Exporters (AMIE), the South African Poultry Association (SAPA) and the Competition Commission on the poultry tariffs in South Africa.

Ms Steyn noted, under Matters Arising, that DAFF still needed to respond to the SAPA appeal to the Committee about enforcement, compliance, improvement of the regulatory framework for imports of agricultural products, and communication and engagement with the SAPA industry. It further needed to brief the Committee about the Chicken Industry Development Plan and what DAFF’s role had been in the development of that plan.

The Chairperson added that part of the Committee’s oversight obligation was also to go to the Port of Durban to see for itself what was going on, linked to the SAPA appeal.

Ms Steyn added that she had met with some AMIE members on the previous day, but AMIE had complained that there was still no contact between it and the Committee or DAFF. She urged the Committee to cultivate and assist AMIE, who was exporting and thus possibly could be able to assist the poultry industry to export chicken products to other countries, which it was not able, currently, to do.

The Chairperson said that the challenge the Committee had was that it was now meeting for the last time and therefore it had be realistic about whether it would be able to attend to those things itself, or must note them for the incoming Committee.

Mr Steyn said that even if the present Committee could not do those things, it could at least write a summary document for the incoming Committee, to ensure continuity.

Mr Bhanga suggested also that the Committee write a letter to the DAFF to request it to initiate that there be bilateral interaction between SAPA and AMIE.

Mr P Van Dalen (DA) said that possibly the Committee should write a Handover Report on the achievements and work still outstanding.

The Chairperson agreed that Mr Bhanga’s point would assist the Committee.

Mr Cele noted a matter to be carried forward, about the country not having infrastructure to export excess grain.

Ms Steyn, on this point, recalled that it might have been said that grain could only go out of the country via Durban harbour, but she was not certain and thought that perhaps no amendments were needed on that point.

The Chairperson said that he was tempted to include that in the “matters outstanding” report that he was to write to the DAFF.

The minutes were adopted, with amendments.

Draft Minutes 11 September
These minutes related to the briefing by Land Bank on its initiatives, and the newly-developed Wholesale Financing Facility Model.

The Chairperson noted that Mr L Gaehler (COPE) had requested to be excused early as he had other commitments.

The Chairperson said that follow-up was needed on the AgriBEE funds that the Land Bank was investigating and trying to recoup as it never reported back on the progress.

Mr Bhanga noted a technical amendment for readability purposes. He also wanted to make a substantive amendment. He recalled that Mr S Abram was very emphatic in describing the Land Bank’s performance in 2013 as better than it was five years ago, whilst it resided under the Department of Finance. The minute, as currently worded, implied that the Committee had suggested that Land Bank needed to be taken back to DAFF or the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform (DRDLR), but that was not so. He suggested that either this should be recorded as a question, or removed.

The Chairperson said that there was an ongoing discussion in Parliament on the merits and demerits. By Presidential Proclamation, of July 2007, Land Bank had been transferred from the Department Agriculture and Land Affairs to the National Treasury (NT), and the Committee had requested that when it reported to Parliament, it should be to a joint session of the Committees on Finance, and on Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries. The Finance Committee had not prioritised Land Bank. He was not even sure whether Land Bank was reporting to it. However, even when it did, the focus would be on its financial stability and not on the actual details of what it did with farmers.

He added that on 5 November the Committee would be briefed by DAFF and the AgriBEE Charter Council, who would update the Committee on the transformation of the Agriculture sector and the AgriBEE Fund, and particularly whether there was by now more than one project being supported by the Fund. Questions could be raised there.

Mr Abram said he did not know how this Committee had communicated with the Finance Committee, and it should maybe request that this Committee be included during the briefings. He reminded the Committee that Land Bank also had to find investments in competition with other financial institutions, as thus must be seen as doing business in terms of acceptable norms and standards. The AgriBEE Fund had received a R100 million injection, with the idea of assisting small farmers and the Land Bank was the vehicle to do that at that time. Unfortunately there had been fictitious projects created, and monies for those projects had then been paid into an account of a lawyer, and from there to individuals who abused the system. Land Bank had been warned in 2007 that if this continued it was  heading for liquidation. That was the background to the Presidential Proclamation. It had to be commended in that, over the last few years, it had turned things around and increased its loan book, and was solvent. He believed that the Committee’s resolution was actually that ‘meetings should be arranged with all the development finance institutions’. There were many such institutions, and the main purpose was to try to get a sense of uniformity as to how they operated and assisted the agriculture sector

Mr Cele said that he was a bit lost at this point. He thought Mr Bhanga was making a substantive amendment.

The Chairperson believed it had been a statement, not a question.

Mr Bhanga answered that it should be reflected as a question, for reasons noted earlier.

The Chairperson read the minutes, and said Mr Bhanga’s point was a personal perspective. There was ongoing discussion, because it was clear that many black farmers preferred to approach the from the minutes with regard to Mr Bhanga’s claims and said that the point he was raising was that commercial sector, rather than Land Bank, which was the down-side, yet the Bank had, on the positive side, become profitable. He questioned whose interests that profitability served. He repeated his proposal about the meeting on 5 November.

Mr Bhanga said that line with that would be the reviewing of the Land Bank Act and other related pieces of legislation.

Ms Phaliso agreed with Mr Bhanga, and said that Land Bank had not been party to the Committee’s discussions over agriculture, to get an understanding that the Committee expected it to develop agriculture, as well as fishing which was transferred to DAFF, and therefore included under the agriculture mandate.

Mr Van Dalen noted an addition similar to Ms Phaliso’s comment on the need for Land Bank to include fisheries in its development work.

The Chairperson reiterated the point about meeting with AgriBEE fund and repeated that some of those issues could be discussed there.

Mr Abram and Mr Cele noted technical amendments, and another matter to be noted for follow-up.

The minutes were adopted with amendments.

Draft Minutes 13 September
The Chairperson noted that at this joint meeting, a number of departments had briefed Members on their roles in relation to administration, utilisation and management of genetically modified (GM) food in South Africa. He noted a substantive amendment after reading a statement from the responses by the different Departments, and asked what it was that was to have been “generally released”. Additionally he asked whether the Committee had received the report of the outlawing of GM products in Kenya. The response from the Committee was that it was not in possession of such a report

Ms Steyn commented that the statement the Chairperson had read pointed toward a general release of ‘products’, because the discussion then had been on seeds that had been imported into the country and released on the bases of a safety certificate from the country of origin, without being researched in South Africa.

The Chairperson would prefer that this referred back to the relevant departments for clarity, and also to get the report on Kenya’s outlawing of GM products from Parliament or the Departments.

The minutes were adopted with amendments.

Draft Minutes 17 September
This minute outlined the Ncera Farms strategy, and the DAFF’s progress to strengthen food inspection services and labelling in South Africa.

Mr Cele said that he had tendered his apology for the day, but that it was not noted there. He added that there was no need for an addition of possible new Ministers, which would be an outcome of the National elections.

The Chairperson agreed with the removal of that phrase, as it was an extension of the Committee’s responsibility.

Ms Pilusa-Mosoane noted a technical amendment, for readability purposes.

Mr Bhanga wanted it reflected specifically that on this day he had refused to sign the Register, in protest against DAFF’s conduct, and wanted this specifically reflected in the minutes.

Ms Pilusa-Mosoane remembered that indeed that Mr Bhanga had done what he had just said.

Mr Abram said that when a Member was present for a meeting, and had then recused himself, that needed to be recorded.

Ms Twala said that Mr Bhanga had even defied the Acting Chairperson when she urged him to stay.

Ms Steyn said that maybe Mr Bhanga’s complaint had to appear under “house-keeping matters”.

Mr Bhanga said that the reasons for his recusal must be noted; an objection that DAFF was not prepared for the Ncera briefing.

Ms Steyn said it must be recorded that whilst DAFF was present, the official responsible for Ncera was not there, and the DAFF was not prepared for that briefing.

The minutes were adopted, with amendments.

Draft Minutes 20 September
These dealt with the briefing by the Research and Legal Services units on the Marine Living Resources Amendment Bill.

Ms Pilusa-Mosoane noted that she was not marked either as present, or having submitted an apology.

The Chairperson replied that would be verified. He was absent from the meeting and therefore that register was recorded correctly.

Ms Pilusa-Mosoane asked whether the poor attendance of the meeting on that day was correctly recorded.

The Chairperson replied that the register was correct.

Mr van Dalen said that the Committee had raised the issue of the correctness of the tagging of the MLR amendment Bill [B30-2013] and the Legal Advisers had responded that this was purely an information session and they would revert on the tagging. This must be reflected in the minutes.

Ms Phaliso maintained that the minutes were correct because the Committee had not discussed the tagging in the meeting.

Mr Van Dalen still wanted it recorded in the minutes that he had raised the issue. Whether it was discussed or not was irrelevant; very few questions he had asked at that meeting were answered. 

Ms Twala agreed that little was said about the tagging.

Mr Bhanga said that it was a procedural question to ask if a Bill was tagged correctly.

Ms Pilusa-Mosoane said the register would show whether Mr Gary Rhoda was there, but she could not recall the tagging issue being discussed either.

Ms Phaliso moved for adoption of the minutes, with the correction of Ms Pilusa-Mosoane’s presence

Mr Van Dalen seconded that, if his substantive amendments were reflected.

The minutes were adopted with amendments.

The Chairperson told Mr Bhanga, when he requested an update on the tagging, that the MLR Amendment Bill was decided to be a section 76 Bill, and because of the three day rule, the Committee would not be discussing the merits and demerits of the tagging of Bill on the 30 of October.

Minutes 8 October
Mr Van Dalen said that the minutes of 8 October, when the Auditor-General was present, were not in his batch.

The Chairperson confirmed that these minutes would be made available in the next week.

Draft Minutes 09 October
The Chairperson noted that these minutes reflected the briefing by DAFF on Ncera Farms, and progress report on the disciplinary proceedings emanating from findings on Ncera forensic investigations.

Mr Abram believed that the minutes should have reflected his feelings about the comments, as published in the Business Day newspaper, when the Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries had described this Portfolio Committee as the most incompetent she had ever seen, since she had wanted 22 pieces of legislation to be passed but the Committee failed to do this. Mr Abram was disappointed and he was rejecting, with contempt, the statements attributed to the Committee by the Minister. He recalled that had also asked several questions relevant to the performance of DAFF, which was intriguing, but that were not recorded either.

He voiced his concern over how the Minister had deliberately placed him in a negative light for two days in succession in Committee meetings. There was no protection for Members of the Committee. He wanted that reflected in the minutes.

The Chairperson said that he deliberately had allowed Mr Abram to finish voicing his concerns, so that the Committee could get a sense of where it was at that time. He suggested, for the purposes of moving the meeting forward, that according to the new minutes format, which had been approved by the House Chairperson for all Committees, minutes had to reflect relevant issues, the key message and the way forward. The Committee would thus need to decide on whether there was to be a report of the actual contents of a meeting, or if the key message and way forward touched on the contributions of a meeting.

Ms Steyn supported Mr Abram by proposing a substantive amendment that detailed exactly what the Minister said in the media, and the problems that arose as a result of her utterances.

Ms Twala said that the Minister had been complaining that the Committee had been fixated with Ncera and other matters to the detriment of focusing on the MLR Amendment Bill.

Ms Nyalungu said that the Minister had also said that perhaps the incoming Committee, after the 2014 elections, would be better than the current one.

Ms Pilusa-Mosoane was not present, but thought, from what she was hearing, that the Chairperson should have protected Members from the Minister.

Mr Cele said he did not know whether he was reading the report properly, but he did not feel it was trying to cover up anything. He asked if Members felt that everything said had to be covered; that would be problematic for the scribe, but also cautioned that the Committee may have to be careful about what it was saying. He thought the Minutes covered the Committee’s discontent with the Minister’s conduct. He agreed with Ms Pilusa-Mosoane that the Chairperson indeed had to defend the Committee in some instances, but that equally the Committee must respect the Chairperson; a problem arose if the Chairperson allowed Members reign to “run” the meeting themselves. In the past, it had happened that during the Chairperson’s summary, Members would re-open discussions that had already been concluded and therefore the Committee needed to be introspective on its conduct.

Mr Bhanga was not in the meeting, but said he was shocked to read the newspaper report and how matters actually unfolded. This Committee had consistently said that the DAFF and the Minister had been undermining it repeatedly. The Committee should communicate to the DAFF that the DAFF had treated the Committee with contempt. During President Zuma’s first State of the Nation Address, it was said that the days when Ministers thought they were above Parliament had passed. The Chairperson had said that the Deputy Minister of DAFF should tell the Committee why legislation was not forthcoming, but he was unable to attend. He stressed that the core business of this Committee was not legislation alone; it had to give oversight to the Departments, which was precisely what they did not like committees doing. He urged the Committee to write a well phrased letter to the DAFF, and would associate himself with the sentiments of those present on 9 October, saying that the Committee was discontented with the way that DAFF was treating it. The Committee accounted to the speaker of Parliament and not to a Minister, so no visitor could come and tell the Committee how to do its work.

Mr Cebekhulu added that when the Minister shouted loudly at the Committee that had showed contempt for the Committee, and he had approached the Committee Whip to see if the meeting could be closed so that the Committee Members could air their views. He had decided to not respond to the outburst but to walk out as well. He said that he was happy that issue had been raised.

Mr Van Dalen said that there need not to be word for word detail, but he thought that the words “derogatory and disrespectful” would describe the conduct.

Mr Abram said that he was in agreement with Mr Van Dalen’s suggestion, but wanted it put on record that this had not been the first time that the Minister had behaved in that manner. To those who understood, no explanation was necessary, but for who did not understand, no amount of explanation would suffice.

Ms Twala said that since the Chairperson had allowed the Committee to communicate its frustrations about the Minister, she would urge that the Committee follow Mr Bhanga’s advice, to avoid any suggestion that the Committee had been speaking behind the Minister’s back.

The Chairperson said that there were two points that he had made repeatedly on that day and during every other meeting. The first was that the decorum of the National Legislature must be respected, and MPs were expected to show responsibility and calmness of conduct. Secondly, this Committee had work to do in Parliament and the fact remained the Committee was overseeing the DAFF as part of its constitutional responsibility, and equally DAFF had to be responsible to ensure that it was not going astray.

He read the proposed amendments for the Committee.

Mr Cele asked if the ANC could caucus briefly to consider the amendments, and, on resumption, the Chairperson explained why Members had met aside, and thought Mr Bhanga also should have joined them, but he would brief him later.

The Chairperson read the revised sentence, only with ‘unacceptable’ as a substantive amendment to that statement.

Mr Van Dalen asked for that adjective to be also included in another statement.

The minutes were adopted, with amendments.

Mr Bhanga asked whether the Committee was still intending to write to the Minister expressing its unhappiness at her conduct and statements to and about the Committee.

Mr van Dalen agreed that such a letter should be written, and said the Committee should leave it to the Chairperson to decide on how the letter was to be constituted.

Other business
The Chairperson noted that the Committee still had two outstanding reports to deal with. He proposed that the BRRR be scheduled for the following morning, and the oversight visit report on 31 October.

Mr Bhanga asked about the deadlines given for report-backs, particularly on the visits to vessels.

The Chairperson asked if Members had not received DAFF’s responses of 9 October.

Ms Steyn said that the problem was that responses were given by DAFF during Committee meetings, and if a particular Member had tendered an apology, the written answer would not be sent on by e-mail.

Ms N Diya, Committee assistant, said that the copies that members were the only ones that the DAFF had sent.

Mr Cebekhulu noted that he might have received other hard copies and would check.

The meeting was then adjourned.
 

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