The Committee met to be briefed by staff on the impending oversight visit to two districts in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) from 24 to 28 November. Members were provided with details of the logistics for the trip and the itinerary for the four days, and were also informed about the media communications strategy for the visit.
The Committee researchers explained why the specific projects had been targeted, the issues involved and the general background to the areas the Committee would be visiting. Members were concerned about language barriers and asked if translation services would be provided. Other issues discussed were the role of traditional leaders in the specific areas, the importance of the Committee understanding the challenges faced by communities in these areas, the readiness of the policy, the mechanisation of projects, and the equitable share contribution for agriculture.
The Chairperson said the meeting would last for only 45 minutes to allow Members to prepare for the sitting of the House at 10h00. She noted apologies from Mr L Ntshayisa (AIC), who was attending another committee meeting, Ms A Steyn (DA) and Mr B Joseph (EFF), who were preparing for the sitting of the House, and Mr M Filtane (UDM), who was making a media statement about the disciplinary report on the EFF by the Powers and Privileges Committee.
Briefing by Committee support officials
The Committee content advisor gave details of the oversight visit which would take place in northern KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) in two district municipalities from 24 to 28 November 2014, with Members flying to Richards Bay. The Committee would look at a number of projects which the Department supported in these municipalities. The Committee had initially wanted to visit two provinces – KZN and Limpopo -- but the House Chairperson had not approved the application because the Committee did not have enough funds to cover two provinces. KZN was the cheaper province in terms of travel and accommodation.
Itinerary for Monday, 24 November
Ms Albertina Kakaza, Committee Secretary, said the Committee would arrive in Richards Bay on Monday, 24 November, and would then drive over and sleep at Jozini Tiger Lodge. An introductory meeting would take place on this day, and would include the Committee from the province, district mayors and members of the national and provincial Department. If the mayors could not attend, representatives from the district municipalities would be present. This meeting would start at 17h00, because Members would be travelling in the morning. Dinner would take place at 20h00.
Itinerary for Tuesday, 25 November
Ms Kakaza said the Committee would go straight to the projects on this day. She had sent an invitation to the traditional leaders in the districts to welcome the Members.
Itinerary for Wednesday, 26 November
Members would meet with traditional leaders on this day. After this engagement, Members would see a commercial production and fishing communities, after which the Committee would drive and sleep over in St. Lucia.
Itinerary for Thursday, 27 November
Members would visit fishing communities and more traditional leaders. Members would then drive to Durban and sleep over. On the morning of Friday 28 November, Members would have a two-hour meeting to reflect on the trip and discuss the way forward. This would include the provincial committee and provincial and national Department. Members would then drive to the airport.
An official from Parliament’s communications unit suggested a media statement be issued prior to the oversight visit. It could include the places to be visited and the purpose of the trip. On the first day of the trip, an alert could be issued so the media knew where the Committee was. This information would also go on to Parliament’s social media portals (Facebook and Twitter) and Parliament;s website. A radio announcement could also be made. Regular statements would be given throughout the trip, and she would be writing articles regularly for Parliament’s website and the internal magazine “In Session”. During the stay, she would liaise with the media to see if anyone wanted to interview the Chairperson, as spokesperson for the Committee. At the end of the visit, a wrap-up media statement would be made to explain what the Committee had found, and what it was happy and unhappy with.
Committee Researcher’s Briefing
A Committee researcher said the district municipalities were chosen because most of the areas were in traditional areas (communal land). There were also huge investments in these districts, but there were also water access issues for the small-holder farmers. The Committee could assess what sort of intervention the Department was providing to aid these people. The Committee needed to note the red line fence for foot and mouth disease – the red line fence was supposed to demarcate the separation zone between animals from SA and those from Mozambique. There were questions about the integrity of this fence, but the Committee could make its own observations about this.
Forestry projects, largely commercial, were chosen in Richards Bay but because the Committee had not dealt much with forestry projects, the Department would come back on this. It would be a good idea for the Committee to get an idea of how some of these forestry projects were working out on the ground – this was why these projects had been chosen. They were also in close proximity to Richards Bay, which remained the hub for the processing of forestry materials and products emanating from the projects. Like with agricultural projects, small-scale growers struggled to make an income and faced barriers in accessing the market in Richards Bay. Without pre-empting, these were some of the problems the small scale growers faced.
Another Committee Researcher said the Department would focus on small scale fisheries in the Kosi Bay area. These areas were affected by removals, but had been applying traditional fishing methods. The management of fisheries in this area was under the competence of the Department nationally, but in KZN it was outsourced. Some of the problems experienced, like in Kosi Bay, were the demarcation of marine protected areas. Some of the areas which the communities used were not declared marine protected, and it was perceived by communities that fishing was restricted to tourists. In Kosi Bay, the fishing rights were handed out by the chief, where the chief had almost the same powers as the Minister in issuing rights and allocating fishing space. This was derived directly from the Constitution and not the Marine Living Resources Act. The chief demarcated the space, like land would be, for families to fish using mostly traps, and not rods or nets. A demarcated fishing area protected the family through generations with no conflict of resource use or sustainability. The issue, therefore, was around recreational anglers outside of the demarcated areas. This affected the livelihoods of these communities. There was also a lack of understanding between the parties concerning the legislation, so there were many issues to resolve, such as implementation and the implementing agent. Almost the same situation was seen in St. Lucia, but small-scale fishers were treated slightly differently, as they were issued with permits. These communities were looking forward to the small-scale fisheries policy, especially in relation to the implementing agencies.
Ms Z Jongbloed (DA) suggested that language could be barrier and asked if translation services would be provided on the visit.
Ms Kakaza indicated there would be two isiZulu translators with the Committee for the whole trip. It was also requested that the Department provide the Committee with a profile of all the projects. This was expected by the end of the week, or Monday at the latest.
Mr M Mandela (ANC) was particularly fond of visiting the area of his great-great-great ancestors from the 1300s – he was very proud of this. In terms of the role of the traditional leaders, he asked if the lands and projects were run through the traditional councils for the betterment of the communities, and how the communities were benefiting from the targeted traditional councils. For some residing under traditional councils, this visit could be a good case study for comparison. Were these areas fully run by traditional councils, or were there parallel structures existing?
The Committee Researcher responded that all of the land was under communal tenure. It was important to get a clear picture of the institutional arrangements. From the information provided by the Department, there were also allocated project leaders or coordinators, so it was not completely clear if the traditional leaders were part of this process or not. There were many observations for the Committee to make in this regard. With regard to the benefits to communities, there were many projects, but the yield to come out of production needed to be assessed. Even with mechanisation support and policies, it was not clear if the actual projects reported on had had that kind of assistance. It was one thing to receive a report on paper, but the exercise of Members actually going out to see would be useful and would verify a lot of issues on the ground.
The Chairperson said it was important for the Committee to assess the traditional leadership arrangement. She had initially wanted the researchers to visit the area before, but such a request had never been made before and had to depend on the Committee’s budget. The Committee needed to investigate itself to get the gist of what was happening on the ground and there should be interactive sessions with small-holder farmers to understand the challenges, to make a proper intervention. There were a number of issues which the Department had briefed the Committee on, which Members now needed to assess.
Mr C Maxegwana (ANC) thought it would be helpful for the Committee to have a short paper on what sort of issues Members should keep an eye out for on the visit.
Mr T Ramokhoase (ANC) was worried about the issues of mechanisation and the state of preparedness for the distribution of fertiliser and manure.
The Chairperson thought the Committee should find out how much provinces were provided out of the equitable share for agriculture as a concurrent function. This was particularly pertinent, because agriculture had been prioritised as a job creator by government. She also questioned the readiness of the relevant policy.
The Committee researcher replied the policy was ready but the implementation plan was not, so the old arrangement was still dominating.
The meeting was adjourned as the bells for the House sitting began ringing.
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