Road Accident Fund Amendment Bill; South African Maritime & Aeronautical Search & Rescue Bill: briefing

NCOP Public Services

18 September 2002
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Meeting report

SELECT COMMITTEE ON PUBLIC SERVICES

PUBLIC SERVICES SELECT COMMITTEE
19 September 2002
ROAD ACCIDENT FUND AMENDMENT BILL; SOUTH AFRICAN MARITIME AND AERONAUTICAL SEARCH AND RESCUE BILL: BRIEFING


Chairperson: Mr V Windvoel (Acting)

Documents Handed Out:
Road Accident Fund Amendment Bill [B27B-2002]
South Africa Maritime and Aeronautical Search and Rescue Bill [B23D-2002]
The following documents will be available here Wednesday, 25 September
Briefing by Department of Transport on RAF-Amendment
Briefing by Department on Amendment to Search and Rescue Bill
www.transport.gov.za

SUMMARY
The Committee considered the Road Accident Fund Amendment Bill as amended by the Portfolio Committee as well as the South African Maritime and Aeronautical Search and Rescue Bill. The State Law Advisors outlined three major proposals aimed at amending Section 10 of the Road Accident Fund Act of 1996. The Committee approved the proposed amendments with no objections. The Department of Transport provided brief background to the proposed enactment of the Search and Rescue Bill that seeks to regulate search and rescue activities in South Africa.

Briefing by Office Of State Law Advisor
The State Law Advisor briefed the Committee on the RAF Amendment Bill. She highlighted the three major suggested amendments to the RAF-Bill. For details of this presentation please see the attached notes.

Briefing by Department of Transport
Mr G Botes: Manager, Maritime Operations, presented an overview of search and rescue activities in South Africa. For details of this presentation please see the attached notes.

Discussion
Dr JC Nel (NNP) wanted to know how many vacancies have occurred as from the last three terms of the Board of the Road Accident Fund. He asked if the occasional vacancies have hamstrung the work of the board.

On the issue of filling occasional vacancies, the SLA stated that the principal Act being amended did not provide for the mechanism to deal with occasional vacancies. This has resulted in uncertainty and disruption of the business of the board.

Mr Raju (DP) asked if the intended purpose for appointment of designated persons to the RAF Board was to represent the Minister of Transport in cases where he is not available to attend meetings of the board.

The Chair stated that, according to his understanding, the Minister is not a member of the board. But the Director-General is an ex-officio member of the board.

A Member asked what the reasoning underpinning the reduction of number of board members from eleven to eight was.

The SLA replied that the difference between the minimum and the maximum number of members was too close as provided in the Act. Therefore the proposed amendment is an attempt to help the board to continue its work. The maximum of eleven members of the board remains intact.

An official of the SLA commented that the process of appointing members to the board has been long and cumbersome. Such was the case especially with filling in occasional vacancies. However, he expressed his satisfaction at the proposed amendments, as they are an attempt to remedy the uncertainty that presently persists.

South African Maritime & Aeronautical Search and Rescue Bill
Discussion
Mr Sulliman (ANC) asked if there are already existing structures for search and rescue operations which simply require legislation to be effected.

Dr. JC Nel (NNP) asked for further clarity on Clause 6 of the Bill, especially where the provision states that SASAR may operate outside the Republic of South Africa.

Mr Botes replied that numerous organisations already exist with activities in search and rescue. However such organisations were operating without a proper regulatory framework. The promulgation of the Bill was therefore prompted by the non-existence of such legislation.

With respect to Clause 6, Mr Botes replied that there is a specific reason why there is no designated area of operation for SASAR. But the SASAR manual sets out designated areas but is not exhaustive. The rationale for this situation was to allow South Africa to assist in cross border rescue missions. Furthermore, it would enable South Africa to fulfil its international obligations as signatory to the International Maritime Organisation.

Mr Raju (DP) expressed his concern over the increasing levels of illegal fishing on South African shores. He asked if Clause 14 also covers fishing vessels in distress but involved in illegal fishing on our shores. He was concerned that this resulted in the depletion of South African fishing resources.

He felt that Clause 13 was couched in terms that almost bear a similar meaning.

The Chair inquired if it was not wise to rewrite Clause 13 for purposes of standardization and consistency. Regarding Clause 14, he wanted to know if spy-planes, which are in distress, would be covered or not.

Mr Botes replied that for purposes of this Bill, it is irrelevant whether occupants of vessels in distress are involved in illegal fishing. The primary purpose of SASAR was to save lives. However, he indicated that organisations such as the National Prosecuting Authority and SAPS are part of SASAR's executive committee. Where people engaged in illegal fishing release a beacon locator and SASAR responded to this call, the Bill provides for the Minister to recover costs incurred in such rescue operation. Therefore information regarding illegal fishing will be the relevant supplied to authorities.

Mr Botes answered that the Bill does not provide for search and operations where vessel or aircraft in distress are involved in acts of war. However, where the occupants of the spy-plane renounce their spy activities then SASAR will be obliged to provide rescue facilities. Clearly, SASAR has no mandate to extend its maritime operations in situations of war.

Dr Nel expressed concern over item four in the memorandum to the Bill. He expressed doubt whether the R400 000 grant to SASAR by the government was sufficient to cover other voluntary institutions involved in search and rescue, such as NIRS-National Institute for Search & Rescue.

Mr Botes explained that the Minister felt obliged to extend a grant to the NIRS, given the commitment it demonstrated in search rescue activities. He reminded Members that NIRS is still a volunteer organisation that was making a tremendous contribution in South Africa. Therefore the payment of R400 000 was in line with agreements with such volunteer organisations.

Mr RM Nyakane wanted clarification on the meaning of the term "aeronautical". Mr Botes explained that the term denotes aircraft, helicopters, airplanes, and hot-air balloons and so forth.

The Chair asked if the Bill provides any role for provinces with coastal areas and if it does what is the role of these provinces. He expressed the view that issues of insurance will have to be considered for people dying in distress situations.

Mr Luthuli replied that DoT is hosting a conference in which provinces have been invited so as to involve them in search and rescue activities. The purpose of the conference is to define the role of provinces and put the search and rescue issues on the agenda of provinces. The conference is scheduled to commence on 20 September 2002.

The meeting was adjourned.

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