Prior to this meeting, the Portfolio Committee on Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries had a meeting in June with the Minister, the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) as well as other entities which play significant roles in the fields of agriculture, forestry and fisheries. During these meetings, the Annual Performance Plan (APP) and the budget proposals of the Department were discussed.
The focus of the meeting was the consideration and the adoption of minutes which were written by the Committee Secretary from the previous meeting. The other important focus was on the consideration and adoption of the draft report of the APP and budget proposal of the Department.
The Committee focused largely on the recommendations in the report. All the Members agreed that the budget allocation was insufficient and proposed that the Department make a case for Treasury to increase the budget and ensure that 10% of the national budget be allocated to the DAFF. The main area of concern related to the possible closing down of Ncera Farms in the Eastern Cape, to which the EFF representative was vigorously opposed. It was argued that Ncera would not be closing down, but would rather be deregistered and transferred to another organisation or entity to run it. This was corrected in the minutes and in the report.
Introduction, welcome and apologies
The Chairperson the purpose of the meeting was to adopt minutes from the Committee’s interactions with the Department, and to consider and adopt the draft report of the Annual Performance Plan (APP) and budget proposal of the Department.
The Chairperson asked the Secretary go through each recommendation on page 16. Members would make amendments where necessary.
Mr M Filtane (UDF) noted that in the report, the Committee needed to be more time specific on allocation rights, because if they left it to the Department, they would not have time to follow up on anything. He suggested the deadline should be twelve months from date of acceptance by the National Assembly. This would ensure that implementation would happen.
He further clarified that no government department had the authority to enforce action by another department.
Mr T Ramokhoase (ANC) said that they had tried to tackle inter-governmental relations. The Inter-Governmental Relations Framework Act needed to be enforced.
Mr Filtane still stressed the inability of departments to force one another to do things.
The Content Advisor said that the recommendations were for the Minister, and only he or she had authority to enforce.
Ms Z Jongbloed (DA) asked that more detail on the implementation bey provided.
Mr Ramokhoase replied that the detail should be included in the Annual Performance Plan. That way, Members would be better informed.
Mr C Maxegwana (ANC) advised Ms Jongbloed that it was important to have an understanding of the background. The department had said that they wanted to boost farming and fishing, so these became the driver of the plan.
Mr B Joseph (EFF) asked what financial year the report was referring to. He also asked how the committee created synergy in terms of the fishing rights and the quotas. He highlighted that in July, the committee would discuss the third and fourth quarters, which was why he was seeking clarity on which quarters they were referring to.
The Chairperson said that the policy would elaborate how the Department would empower small-scale farmers. With regards to the fishing nights, the Minister confirmed them, but now he is in court. She said that empowering the disadvantaged could not be wrong. Perhaps it was the manner in which it was done. She said that quarters (for reporting) were not important; rather it was the process that was important. They were talking about policy that would evaluate the Department on its inclusive programme.
The Content Advisor said that the allocations ended on 31 December, so if the Department did their allocations late, they would be out of the cycle and they could be taken to court. Thus it helps the Department to implement the allocations early so that companies had no cause to blame the government. This was the same concern that Mr Joseph was also voicing.
Mr Ramokhoase then suggested that they immediately establish a deadline, so that whatever arose in future, the Committee would know that it is protected.
The Chairperson said that they wanted to see implementation of the policy. Thus they expect the Department to implement it in order to accommodate the allocation rights that were lapsing.
The Content Advisor added that in the Amendment to the Act, there were different times for different species of fisheries. They were finalising the implementation plan for policy. The Committee could prescribe that the Department implement on a specific date. That should be added under recommendations, or they could call the Department to the Committee to speak to them about it.
The Chairperson acknowledged that there had been a monopoly and that they needed to bring in small-scale farmers. This would be done by either giving rights to small-scale farmers or by encouraging bigger farmers to include and incorporate the small farmers into their business. The allocation of rights could have a major effect. She agreed that Mr Joseph was right and that a deadline needed to be put in place. She called for Members to speak about whether they wanted to implement a deadline this year, and if so, they needed to consider the issue of the allocation rights passage closing in December.
Ms V Mogotsi (ANC) proposed that they delayed this to the next financial year in order to give time to deal with the allocation of rights.
Ms Jongbloed agreed with Ms Mogotsi, but asked to be briefed as to how it would be implemented.
The Chairperson replied that there was a detailed plan which the Department had, and Ms Jongbloed should read it.
The Content Advisor said that the Department had indicated they would implement in this financial year, by the end of March 2015.
The Chairperson clarified that the Committee was not telling the Department not to implement or to wait for implementation, but rather was telling them that by the end of the next financial year, the Department needed to have completed the implementation.
Mr Filtane questioned how they would know when the Department did it? An updating date should be set up.
Mr Ramokhoase suggested that the updating date be scheduled for the last quarter report.
Mr Joseph said that the EFF could not agree to the closing down of the farms mentioned in the recommendations, because the impact of its closure. There needed to be another look at the reasons.
The Chairperson clarified that it was not the closure of the project, but rather the deregistration of Ncera Farms as an entity. They were not closing and killing it. It had been given budget just for paying staff members and now it needed to be transferred to another entity to run and operate. When something was registered, it needed to be funded, but the R3 million being spent was too costly. If it was for the community, it would be a different story.
Mr Maxegwana highlighted that they had already looked at the report and the recommendations about this, and it was the de-registration and transferring that would continue to empower the people. He suggested that the Committee go to the Eastern Cape and have a look at Nqirha so everyone would know what they were talking about. All agreed with the proposal.
Mr Joseph agreed as well, but was still sticking to his stance of not agreeing to its closure. He said that according to what had been discussed at the meeting on 8 July and what he had read in the minutes, it spoke about closing it down, and he disagreed with this.
Chairperson confirmed that the minutes and report would then need to be edited, and they needed to say ‘deregistered’ and not ‘closed down’.
Mr Joseph then requested that he be provided with some background information.
Chairperson agreed that this was fair and noted it.
Mr Filtane said that after the Minister’s presentation, he had mentioned that some companies give less regard to government plans of enabling people to also enter the forestry industry. In the Eastern Cape, there was a lot of land for forestry but the Department did not allow the communities to have the opportunity to use that land. He thus wanted to lobby the support of the Committee to make the Department put a focus on this issue.
The Chairperson clarified that the Charter already stated all that Mr Filtane was saying, so as the committee, they should rather put pressure on the Department to implement the Charter, and this could be to added on to the recommendations.
Regarding management and disease control, the Chairperson said that the Department should be providing veterinary services that were needed. In rural areas, there is no awareness and support regarding these issues. Although the Department has launched some mobile clinics in rural areas, they are not enough, as people are not even aware of them.
Mr Filtane agreed on this.
The Chairperson then called for a proposal to adopt the report.
Mr Ramokhoase proposed that the report be adopted, with recommendations and amendments.
Ms Jongbloed said that she and the DA reserved the right to not adopt the report until they had had an opportunity to discuss the report with the caucus of the DA.
The Chairperson replied that she understood political affiliations, but everyone had been given time to go through and examine the report before the meeting. She suggested that they go through the rules to clarify whether or not what Ms Jongbloed was suggesting was even allowed. This was not a debate of the House, but a report of the Committee. All this time, Ms Jongbloed had not said anything. She told Ms Jongbloed that she could differ only on content, and nothing else. She added that it would have been helpful if Ms Jongbloed had taken time to do what she was requesting before the meeting and brought a report about what she and her political affiliates were not satisfied with in the report.
Mr Filtane suggested that the Chairperson consider a date where she could provide a workshop for all the Members of the Committee so everyone could know how to address certain issues.
The Chairperson replied that there was an induction workshop for Members, and everyone took an oath as individual members. She repeated that this was a committee meeting, and that there would an opportunity in the House where all parties would debate and, as a party, they could say if they did not support a particular document or budget.
Mr Maxegwana also told Ms Jongbloed that he understood that everyone in the room was from a different political party. He suggested that she should have first touched base with her party and only then come to the meeting.
Mr Joseph highlighted that this was a rather sensitive matter and that everyone needed to understand that they ought to build a community as the committee, on the understanding that they were all fighting a common cause. It should be put down on record that he and the EFF, although they agreed on some aspects, did not agree with some of the recommendations because the recommendations still do not address that Ncera should not be closed down.
The Chairperson acknowledged Mr Joseph’s objection to the report and said that it was valid, because they knew exactly what it was that they were supposed to do, whereas the DA had no particular objection to it and yet they had decided that they were against the report too.
Ms Jongbloed then went on to highlight three important issues which she had with the report that were causing her to not support it. The three issues were:
- Budget allocations for fisheries were not sufficient.
- More money needed to be put in anti-poaching initiatives and compliance.
- There should be la greater focus on promoting small scale farming.
The Chairperson clarified that the Committee had already agreed that there was not enough of a budget allocation for the Department as a whole and had recommended that Department make a case to the Treasury that Agriculture should be given 10% of the National Budget.
She then moved on to say that the Minister had launched Operation Phakisa, which was a government initiative and not necessarily a Department initiative. Operation Phakisa focussed on preserving and looking after natural minerals and resources. The Department of Agriculture could not arrest anyone; they needed to work with the security cluster. So the Department could not say that nothing was being done as there was a programme involving other departments as well. The had President said in the State of the Nation Address that there would be a focus on the seas, as they had not yet tapped into the potential of the sea to generate income and livelihood for people.
She then asked if they could move on to the adoption of the minutes.
Mr Joseph said that he did not have a problem with the content per say, but he realised that there were key questions and dialogue which had taken place during the meeting which had not been reflected in the minutes. He expressed the fear that if someone who knew the industry tooka look at these minutes, they would think that the Committee was not doing anything.
The Chairperson replied that the meetings of Parliament are voice recorded and thus minutes are just a summary. If someone would like to have more detail, they should rather listen to the recordings.
The Secretary noted that not all venues had voice recording devices. She also said that the format of the minutes was the format which all committees used. They used to have a much more extensive form of the minutes, but they had been instructed to keep them as short and concise as possible.
The Chairperson requested that in future, only venues with recording devices be used.
Mr Joseph then proposed that they highlight key issues of discussions in the minutes.
The Chairperson agreed that the key issues had been summarised too much. They needed to give a little bit more detail as to what had been spoken about and what the resolutions were.
Mr Filtane added that the minutes reflected only that there had been a presentation, and they did not give any information about the discussions, and this was not fair.
The Chairperson agreed, and asked the secretary to rectify this.
Ms T Tongwane (ANC) proposed the adoption of the minutes and Mr Ramokhoase seconded the proposal.
The Chairperson told the Committee that before the end of July, they had a slot and should use this to brief the Auditor General, and then also do a briefing with the Department on the third and fourth quarter performance.
She asked if the visit to Ncera Farms would be possible, considering their busy timetable over the next two months.
The Committee Secretary said that they would look at the logistics and they needed to apply for political permission. She did not think it would be a problem for the Committee to go as the rules stated that committees could meet whenever they wanted.
The Chairperson confirmed that the Secretary would inform them if it was logistically possible for them to go the Eastern Cape to visit Ncera Farms. It was important for the Committee to go there before the media did.
She said that everyone would be speaking at the debate on 16 July, and that they should attend and represent their constituencies.
The meeting was adjourned.
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