Air Quality Amendment Bill [B27B-2013] Report adoption, Integrated Coastal Management Amendment Bill [B8B-2013] amendments by NCOP held over; Rhino Poaching Workshop, Committee Legacy Report

Water and Sanitation

04 March 2014
Chairperson: Mr J De Lange (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Committee met to deal with a variety of outstanding agenda items before Parliament rose.

The Chairperson firstly noted that the Select Committee had made various proposals to amend the National Environmental Management: Integrated Coastal Management Amendment Bill, and asked what they concerned. When the Director-General, after a brief period for consultation, noted that they relating to the reclamation of land, he expressed his dismay, saying that the Committee was totally opposed to these provisions as it had expressly intended to tighten the legislation and prevent corruption. There seemed to be no way that the Committee could thus be able to accept the changes, and certainly not without going through them very carefully. Should there be disagreement, he also did not think that there would be sufficient time, before Parliament rose, to take the matter to mediation. He expressed concerns that the official had drafted this provision without referring back to her Director-General, let alone the Committee. It was likely that this Bill could not be passed this year.

It was announced that the tagging of the Protected Areas Bill had been settled.

The Committee adopted its revised Report on the Rhino Poaching Stakeholder Workshop, with some amendments made to the recommendations of the Report.

The Committee Report on the National Environmental Management: Air Quality Bill was also adopted.

The Committee then adopted, without any amendments, a large batch of Committee minutes, ranging from 12 February 2013 to 27 February 2014. The Chairperson agreed with a Member’s remarks that this was not ideal as certain of the issues became forgotten, and said that the issues were to be carried forward in the Legacy Report, and in addition to that, the Legacy Report would suggest that a better administrative way to deal with these matters be found.

The Committee went through its Draft Legacy Report on activities undertaken in the Fourth Parliament, and adopted the Report, with some amendments, and also accepted some additional pints that the Department of Water Affairs raised later, about the usefulness of combined engagements and the Committee Bills.

Heartfelt farewells and departing comments were also made by the Chairperson, Members and Directors-General and officials from the Departments of Environmental Affairs and Water Affairs, on the conclusion of the Parliamentary term.
 

Meeting report

National Environmental Management: Integrated Coastal Management Amendment Bill – Select Committee Amendments
The Chairperson noted that the Integrated Coastal Management (ICM) Amendment Bill was passed by the NCOP last night as reflected in the ATC. He sought an explanation from the Department as to what the NCOP amendments related to. He noted that copies of the Bill, NCOP Amendments and a Committee Report would need to be printed, so that Members could consider and adopt the changes.

Later in the meeting, the Committee continued to discuss the matter.

Ms Nosipho Ngcaba, Director General, Department of Environmental Affairs, explained that the amendment related to alienated land

The Chairperson remarked that this was a huge change that had been effected, and was directly opposed to what the Committee had said. Advocate Radia Razack, Director of Legal Services, DEA, had apparently decided to act on her own without going through the Director-General, or discussing the changes with this Committee, as it appeared that the Director-General was not aware of what the amendments included.

The Chairperson said that these changes could not be passed without the Committee having had the opportunity to go through them very carefully.

Mr F Rodgers (DA) asked what the motivation was. 

The Chairperson responded that he had no idea. The information would be sent to Members. He reminded the Committee this was a section 76 Bill, so if there was disagreement with the Select Committee’s proposals, the revised Bill would need to go to a mediation committee. With two weeks left until Parliament rose, there was clearly no time to deal with this matter.

Mr J Skosana (ANC) agreed that this was a serious challenge, given the lack of time. He sought a report why this was done by Adv Razack during the NCOP process.

Ms Ngcaba said she would provide the Members with detailed information on the NCOP submissions.

The Chairperson repeated that the proposals for changes went completely contrary to what the Committee had said on reclamation, as its provisions were intended to tighten the legislation and prevent corruption. There seemed to be no way that the Committee would thus be able to accept the changes. He repeated his concern that Adv. Razack had changed the clause without consulting her Director-General, which he thought “absurd” and suggested that she should be disciplined. He did not think that there was sufficient time for the mediation and said that this Bill would need to stand over, and probably would not be passed this year.

Protected Areas Bill
The Chairperson said that at last the tagging of the Protected Areas Bill was completed, following some confusion in the House and disagreement expressed on the tagging.

Committee’s Draft Report on the Rhino Poaching Stakeholder Workshop
The Chairperson read through this Report. He requested a few amendments to be made by the Committee Researcher.

Mr Rodgers noted that during the Committee’s discussion on stockpiles, a decision was taken that any money raised should be used for the conservation of rhinos.

The Chairperson asked that this be made clear in the Report and recommendations.

Later in the meeting, the revised recommendations were placed before the Committee and approved

Members adopted the Report, with the corrections.

Adoption of Minutes
The Committee attended to the adoption of Committee minutes as follows:

Minutes dated 12, 13 and 20 February 2013
The Committee adopted the minutes with no amendments.

Mr Rodgers was concerned that minutes were only probed and adopted at the end of a term. He pointed out that although resolutions were made, he had lost track of them after so much time had elapsed, and gave the example of the suggestion to pay a visit to the Wave Energy project in the Western Cape. He thought the minutes should be adopted at the next meeting, so that outstanding issues could be dealt with promptly

The Chairperson suggested this be raised in the Committee’s Legacy Report, in order for the Committee to maintain a better flow of work. He had asked that the two Departments reporting to the Committee maintain progress reports, but took the point and said Committee practices could improve.

Mr J Skosana (ANC) said that that would imply this Committee had bad practices.

The Chairperson took full responsibility for this. He conceded that often, the minutes were not ready on time, but there were a number of matters that, in this Committee, were not done in the ideal way.

Minutes dated 26 February, 27 February, 13 March, 20 March, 13 April, 17 April, 23 April 2013
These minutes were adopted with no amendments.

Minutes dated 7 Ma, 8 May, 15 May, 18 June, 23 July, 24 July, 30 and 31 July 2013
These minutes were adopted with no amendments.

Minutes dated 8 October, 9 October, 15 October, 16 October, 22 October, 23 October  2013
These minutes were adopted with no amendments.

Minutes dated 24 January, 29 January, 4 February, 27 February 2014
These minutes were also adopted with no amendments.

The Chairperson noted that the Minutes of today’s meeting would be adopted quickly over lunch.
He noted that points raised in the Minutes would be covered in the Legacy Report.

Draft Legacy Report of the Portfolio Committee on its Activities Undertaken During the 4th Parliament (May 2009- March 2014)
The Chairperson tabled and went through parts of the Report, raising questions of clarity on a few sections.

He requested some amendments be made to this Report such as the inclusion of the recommendation on dealing with Committee minutes.

The Chairperson thanked Ms Shereen Dawood, the Content Advisor, for her work on this Report which he would read thoroughly when he had the time.

Later in the meeting, Mr Trevor Balzer, Acting Director-General, Department of Water Affairs, raised the point that he thought it might be useful to touch, in the Committee’s Legacy Report, on the combined engagements undertaken, and the practice of Committee Bills, which was not usual. The Chairperson agreed, should other Members agree with this.

The Legacy Report of the Portfolio Committee on its Activities Undertaken During the 4th Parliament (May 2009- March 2014) was adopted by nine votes in the Committee, as amended.

Adoption of Committee Report on the National Environmental Management: Air Quality Amendment Bill
The Chairperson read through the Committee Report on the National Environmental Management: Air Quality Amendment Bill.

Members voted to adopt the Report.

Farewell remarks
The Chairperson noted there would be a lunch for the Members and the two Directors-General of reporting departments in the next week on Wednesday. The Minister and Deputy Minister would be invited as well.

He allowed Members of the Committee to give their closing remarks.

Ms B Ferguson (COPE) said she had found it challenging to come on to the Committee late, after everyone else had already left the starting blocks. She thoroughly enjoyed her time on the Committee because of the interaction and engagement with the Department and Directors-General. It was a personal journey, from which she had learnt a lot. The Department was always gracious, no matter how difficult some of the tasks had seemed, and this had assisted the Committee Members, especially when they dealt with constituency matters. She was impressed that most questions were answered by the Departments on the spot, which and showed commitment and knowledge.

She commented that it would be interesting to see where the rhino poaching led. She felt there would be a lot of discussion on these matters, given the importance of water and the need to conserve and protect the environment. On behalf of COPE she thanked the Department for taking her on this journey. Without the Chairperson, this Committee could have been a little different and may not have been as progressive, understanding and committed as Members were under his leadership.

Ms C Zikalala (IFP) said she felt fortunate to have met some officials in the Departments. She usually liked to work with organised people who were serious about matters. She remembered when the Chairperson took over and things were very tough for the Departments, but the Chairperson had stood his ground and she thanked him for making the Committee orderly. There was a time to joke but there must also be time to work. She thanked the Committee Secretary for her patience and nurturing, motherly ways, which had been wonderful. She thanked the DGs for their hard work which saw the Departments survive and she asked them to keep this up for the next Committee. She thanked the researchers who had worked as an excellent team. Finally, she thanked her “wonderful” colleagues and said she had enjoyed their company.

Mr Rodgers said that he had been in the Committee for a year, filling the place of Mr Gareth Morgan, and that alone had been a challenge, given Mr Morgan’s substantial knowledge. He had learned a lot and he thanked the DGs and their staff for the dedication and progression in looking after water and the environment, two departments that were often neglected in this establishment, or overlooked on job creation and economic matters, despite the fact that without good water and environment, there could be no sustainable life.

Mr Rodgers remarked that the Chairperson had made his mark on water and the environment, particularly with the legislation, where his foresight, knowledge and legal brain was a huge asset to the Committee, although people did not always acknowledge this. He hoped that he would continue to be involved in these issues in one way or another, as South Africa certainly needed him. He thanked the Chairperson for introducing the subject of constituency matters into the Committee, which was such a useful tool, as at the end of the day everyone was there to serve the ordinary people and make a difference to their lives, even if they might not know where Parliament was. He thanked the Departments for the constructive engagement with all their staff, which was fundamental. He also thanked the Committee staff. Finally he thanked his comrades serving with his on the Committee, saying that they had maintained a good working relationship, keeping politics aside, to improve the lives of all people. This had to be acknowledged and congratulated.

Mr Skosana noted that this Committee had reached the end of its journey, after a long road together, which had not always been easy, with hiccups along the way. When he joined the Committee in May 2009, it had comprised water, environment and tourism portfolios, which was tough. At the time, people did not even know what the Committee was dealing with. The Chairperson had changed this around, and had made the Committee known, through his leadership style, input and dedication, which had made the Committee what it was today. He had learnt a lot from him. The Committee, though small in number, had achieved wonders and he thanked Members and wished them good luck in their future endeavours. He urged the Departments to keep up their hard work, which the Committee had appreciated and taken pride in. He also thanked his own party, the ANC, for allowing him to be part of the Committee since 2009, and said that the organisation had contributed to his personal growth since 1992. He also enjoyed working with the other political parties.

Ms B Dlomo (ANC) said that she was the oldest Member of the Committee, but had only joined the Committee a year ago. She wanted to thank the Chairperson sincerely. Coming from a nursing background, she had been sceptical as to what her contribution might be, when told that she should serve on this Committee, but everyone had been very supportive. She had learnt a lot from the Departments, and she thanked them for this. She thanked the Committee Secretary for being very good to the Members, and the Committee staff for their guidance and work. It had been wonderful working with all the Members.

Ms Z Ndlazi (ANC) echoed all the wonderful words expressed by her colleagues, and thanked the Committee Members for their welcoming natures. She felt empowered when dealing with her constituency on important matters. She thanked everybody for their helpfulness. She had learnt good things from the Chairperson and thanked him.

Ms P Bhengu (ANC) thanked the Chairperson and fellow Members for being friendly and supportive. She thanked the Committee staff and secretary for always being concerned. She thought the Departments had done a good work and asked them to keep this up. She thanked the Minister and Deputy Minister for always being available when they were needed and said she appreciated their effort.

The Chairperson knew that everyone would say their final goodbyes in the next week, but noted that not everyone might be there. He had been at Parliament for the last 20 years, after working at the Cape Bar for a long time. The last two years or so had been particularly fulfilling for him. Prior to this he had been a “typical lawyer” thinking that justice was the most important area, and he had made strong statements saying that justice was one of the pillars of society. However, moving to this Committee had, from the outset, been an informative, learning experience, including a true appreciation of how its work affected the lives of many people. This was very different to the justice sector, where even the simplest things such as grammar could become confrontational and create problems. This Committee had allowed him to learn many other things about people and important matters in life. All of this he had learnt from the people in this room. He had said before that a Chairperson was only as good as the people around him, and pointed out that no Chairperson or Minister would ever be able to achieve things by standing alone. A collective of people, working together was needed, and now, at 56 years old, he had found such a collective and a collective goal. It was very infrequent to find people who understood the importance of such a collective, yet this Committee had done so, and he was pleased to have had this experience before retirement.

As Members went forward – and many may not be returning to Parliament – he noted that they should learn from their important life experiences and remember to work for the betterment of people other than themselves. If people saw the individual as exemplary, that would spill over into the party to whom they belonged.

The Chairperson noted that he had a particularly soft spot for both the Director General of the department of Environmental Affairs, and Ms Lize McCourt, the Chief Operations Officer. He did not often create personal relationships with DGs and staff, as he felt a professional distance should be maintained, but it was difficult not to like both of them, as people. Both were highly intelligent and not just beholden to their Minister as most other DGs were. These officials knew the importance of a good relationship with the Committee, as the legislature, and understood the role they must play to take work forward. DGs had a very unique role in balancing what government wanted and being accountable to Parliament and the Committee. The Committee had bent over backwards to help this Department, understanding that their officials worked hard and had always been transparent and open.

Two weeks ago, he did not think the Waste Bill would ever be passed but the Department put their shoulders to the wheel and he was absolutely stunned when the results came out. He had huge respect for the Department’s display of hard work and could see why Ms Ngcaba was declared the top DG in the country this year, because of her personality, intellect and understanding, the way she dealt with things and the different roles she played. Everybody played different roles but it was not always easy to get the balance right. She had a good “sidekick” in Ms McCourt who was possibly the only person who understood the Chairperson’s personality well, who had been consistent in dealing with important matters, getting things done and the Department was very fortunate to have her. This was a very good team. It was a pleasure working with both, and he would remember it for a long time.

The Chairperson felt it important also to highlight some other Department officials who were competent and unique civil servants. These included Mr Alf Wills, Deputy Director General: Environmental Advisory Services, who was highly intellectual and creative in his thinking. This explained why Mr Wills was DEA’s international negotiator, because he was intelligent, level-headed and innovative. The Department needed to cling to such officials because they had such competence that they could go anywhere. He also mentioned Peter, Ms Judy Beaumont, Mr Sibo Tshabalala, Mr Ishaam Abader and Ms Linda Garlipp, who were extremely competent, despite being completely overworked. He also admired the competence of Mr Fundisile Mketeni and recommended that the Department should release Mr Mketeni and some other officials to really make an impact at the next COP, to work full-time on the issues and suggested that if this was not done, nothing would be achieved. He also thanked the Department staff liaising with the Committee, who were also competent, and he asked that this be conveyed to them.

The Department of Water Affairs was a bit different, and he felt sorry for Mr Balzer, with his yo-yo experiences between acting and then not acting as Director-General. This Department, for some reason, could not get stability, even though there were some highly skilled people working for it.  He personally thought Mr Balzer should simply be made Director-General, to bring stability to the Department. The problem was that the instability clearly had an impact and this Department clearly did not have the kind of relationship that DEA had with the Committee. One of the matters that could greatly assist a department was having a Committee on their side. Despite the very trying circumstances, he nonetheless thought the Department was doing well, as seen in the improvement of its financial statements. In the coming year, the Department needed to be more open and interactive with the incoming Committee, as it would really help.

He appreciated the intellectual honesty of the Committee and he never felt that any of the Members were playing to the media or just making a show, as he had experienced with other Committees. They had accepted that if an argument could not be won through intellect, this suggested that the other person had a better argument. Just because ideas came from the opposition did not mean they were bad. Because the Committee Members were intellectually honest and did not seek the limelight, the Committee worked well together. This was a credit and tribute to each Member. The Chairperson felt privileged to have led such a team. He maintained that Parliament and democracy was not about trying to outdo each other, but trying to take all ideas and weave them together. He was not very sentimental about matters, choosing instead to be practical, but protecting the environment was of the utmost importance and a moral high ground for environment needed to be created so that people knew they could go so far, but no further. It may be, in the short term, advantageous to be able to produce shale gas in the next year or two, but this needed to be balanced against the long term effects. Economists did not always think that way. Development needed to happen in a sustainable manner instead of being fixated on a particular and perhaps impractical viewpoint. Members had managed to transcend their narrow, political, ideological perspectives. He had learnt a lot of this from Garth Morgan who, whilst he stuck to his views, had never been dogmatic about them. Being understanding and practical about the environment was more important than being dogmatic, and it meant that good solutions were found.

Mr Trevor Balzer, Acting Director General, Department of Water Affairs, thanked all Members and the Chairperson for their comments. He felt that this Committee in particular had done a lot to raise the profile of Water, in terms of mainstreaming issues and finding solutions to some of the vexed issues in the Department. He found it interesting how the Chairperson had pitted the two Departments against each other, both creating competition and complementing each other. He hoped the Members remained champions of water, whatever their political futures in the next administration. He thought the Committee might consider some matters for the Legacy Report, even though it had been voted on, such as the combined engagements, and the practice of introducing Committee Bills which was not common practice in Parliament. Referring to the debate on the Waste Bill and NEMLA: 3, he credited how what had been said transcended party boundaries, which was largely due to the Chairperson’s leadership.

Ms Ngcaba said that she had found the reflections quite revealing. She always knew that DGs and Ministers had personalities, but she had never taken the Committee Members’ for granted, considering the accountability roles, which she had learnt in the hard way in a SCOPA meeting, which had shaped her understanding of the role of a civil servant in relation to Parliament. She thought it was important to have a harmonious working relationship with Parliament and to cut out self-serving interests. She said the Minister took the Committee seriously. She had initially seen the Committee as something of a “nuisance” but had since learnt the value of the Committee. At times, the Committee raised controversial issues but since it was focused on principles and not personalities, this had helped the Department think through all aspects. She believed the Committee provided input in a way that was unprecedented and this was a model which could be shared with other Committees. The Chairperson and Members had enriched her own leadership and development in her public service career. She wished they could all come back, even though she did not have the power to decide that, nor indeed her own fate as DG. She had come a long way with Mr Balzer and he had come a long way given the difficult circumstances in DWA. She wished the Committee well and encouraged Members to continue to engage with her as the sector needed them to continue to be champions of sustainability. The Department would miss working with all Members.

Ms McCourt found it outstanding that the Committee encouraged growth and innovative thinking. She thought the highest integrity shown by the Chairperson, Members and staff of the Committee had allowed the Department to grow and perform ever better. She thanked the Chairperson for his kind words, and said that she had a very good role-model in the DG. She appreciated the orderly and pragmatic way in which matters were dealt with by the Committee, and its interactions with the Department. The Legacy Report did not do justice to all innovations created, such as the integration of Annual Reports. A lot of legislation and regulations were revised over the past five years and this included sector work, with only three matters outstanding – soil sustainability, the state of the environment and marine mining. Apart from these, all other topical matters had been dealt with systematically. A lot had been achieved, because the Department was constantly challenged by the Committee to pragmatically look at and report on issues. The Department owed a lot to the Committee, including its help on the work pushed through over the last few months, and not only with legislation but all other strategic areas. She thanked all Members for their confidence and assistance.

The Chairperson found that all comments showed the “family-aspect” of the work, which he, as Chairperson, found very fulfilling.

The Chairperson asked that the matters raised by Mr Balzer should be added into the Committee Report, if Members agreed, because this would be very useful.

The final goodbyes would be said next week.

The meeting was adjourned.

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