SA National Parks Strategic and Annual Performance Plans 2015, Department of Environmental Affairs MTEF allocations briefings, in presence of Minister

Environmental Affairs

14 April 2015
Chairperson: Mr J Mthembu (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The SANParks, in the presence of the Minister of Environment Affairs, briefed the Committee on their Strategic Plans and Annual Performance Plan (APP) for 2015/16. The The Minister explained that the SANParks was doing a good job. However its success would depend on the collaboration with other Departments as well as collaboration with the government of Mozambique. More budget was needed. A major priority was a fight against the rhino poaching. The government should ensure that those who engaged in these crimes received stern punishments. The Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) had established a Five Year Strategic Plan and SANParks had a newly appointed board.  SANParks ran six parks around the country: Augrabies, Richtersveld, Golden Gate Highlands, Wilderness, Tsitsikamma, Table Mountain, Skukuza-Kruger, Addo Elephant, Mapungubwe, and Kruger National Park. These parks were playing a big role in contributing to South African economy. The mandate of SANParks was to conserve, protect, control and manage national parks and other defined protected areas, and biological diversity. It had approximately 550 terrestrial and 48 coastal protected areas, and nearly 4 million hectares were under SANParks management. Its aims and objectives were aligned to the National Development Plan, in respect of increasing the economy and employment, fighting corruption, economic infrastructure, building a capable and development state and placing South Africa at the forefront of the region and the world. Improvements were noted in sustainable environment management, enhanced quality and quality of water resources, environmental sustainability and reliance, and reducing greenhouses gas emission climate change and improved air quality. SANParks was also improving its contribution on social protection, building safer communities, social building and social cohesion, inclusive rural economy, healthcare for all as well as education, training and innovation. SANParks aimed to improve economic contributions through tourism and associated activities. It was enhancing conservation, involving communities, strengthening stakeholder engagement and strengthening its own corporate governance and human capital. Some of the main issues of 2014 and 2015 were summarised. The total expenditure had been R1 344 868 443. The main priority was to create and run an intensive protection zone, with joint operations by South Africa and Mozambique, also involving the Defence Force, Police Services and rangers from the Kruger National Park. Intelligence and investigation was needed. The SANParks needed to break the syndicates and networks, change the mindset and actively see to deportation of all illegal immigrants and Mozambicans without proper reason to be on South African soil. The court in Skukuza would continue to try rhino poaching related cases and have strict bail and maximum sentences in place. Enforcement overall must be improved.

Members agreed with the Minister. Members sought clarity on the strategic objective of optimised socio-economic beneficiation, on whether there was budget allocated on conservation education, on measures that would be taken to ensure the border with Mozambique was secure, on the progress of engagement with the Thailand and China, and on employment of people with disabilities.


The DEA then presented, briefly, the revised allocations for each of its programmes. When the new government had come into place, it had sought to place priority on some of the ANC manifesto points for which specific budgeting in advance had not been planned. This necessitated some adjustment of priorities and money. The goods and services budget, in particular, was cut. Questions for clarity were posed in relation to the original allocations per programme, and what happened to, and the amount of revenue raised from the plastic bag business, and how these revised figures related to inflation. It was agreed that clarity would be sent to the Members in writing. 

Meeting report

Opening Remarks

The Chairperson welcomed the Minister of Environmental Affairs, Ms Edna Molewa and accepted an apology from her Deputy Minister, Ms Barbara Thomson and Director General, Ms Nosipho Ngcaba. He noted other apologies. This meeting would consider how budgets were being used.

South African National Parks (SANParks) 2015 Strategic Plan and Annual Performance Plan [document available on 20 April 2015]
The Minister said she welcomed the opportunity to discuss matters related on SANParks. She said that the DEA had established a Five Year Strategic Plan and the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA or the Department) and SANParks would speak to that. She noted that the SANParks had a newly appointed Board which, as the accounting authority, could have briefed the Committee, except that it was still undergoing an orientation programme, and had sent apologies. She was here as executive authority. She noted that Mr Fundisile Mketeni, Chief Executive Officer: SANParks would brief the Committee.

Mr Mketeni introduced the SANParks' delegates. He proceeded to take the Committee through the attached presentation. He noted that the presentation would be focussing on SANParks'  constitutional mandate, its background, structure and staff complement, contribution to the National Development Plan (NDP) 2030 and alignment to DEA goals, strategic focus and strategic map, MTSF/MTEF priorities, rhino poaching measures and 2015/16 Budget and MTSF Estimate.

Mr Mketeni noted that there were six parks around the country: namely Augrabies, Richtersveld, Golden Gate Highlands, Wilderness, Tsitsikamma, Table Mountain, Skukuza-Kruger, Addo Elephant, Mapungubwe, and Kruger National Park. These parks were playing a big role in contributing to South African economy.

Mr Mketeni stated that SANParks was established in terms of the repealed National Parks Act 57 of 1976 and continued to exist in terms of the National Environment: Protected Areas Act 57 of 2003, with a mandate to conserve, protect, control and manage national parks and other defined protected areas and biological diversity (biodiversity). South Africa had approximately 550 terrestrial and 48 coastal protected areas, of which 294 were terrestrial and 21 were marine state-owned protected areas, managed by 13 different states authorities. Collectively, terrestrial protected areas exceeded 7.9 million hectares, while the coastal/marine protected areas comprised over 426  000 hectares.  Nearly 4-million hectares of these protected areas were under SANParks management.

Mr Mketeni explained how the SANParks contributed to the National Development Plan (NDP) and its alignment to the DEA, in respect of economy and employment, fighting corruption, economic infrastructure, building a capable and development state and placing South Africa in the region and the world. He noted that environmental economic contribution was optimised. With regards to enhancing and safeguarding ecological environmental integrity, he noted improvements in sustainable environment management, enhanced quality and quality of water resources, environmental sustainability and reliance, and reducing greenhouses gas emission climate change and improved air quality.  With regards to the mandate to achieve socially transformed and transitioned communities, he noted an improvement in the contribution in the matter related to social protection, building safer communities, social building and social cohesion, inclusive rural economy, healthcare for all as well as education, training and innovation.

Mr Mketeni noted six key points in the SANParks strategic focus, which were formulated with a view to a sustainable national parks system connecting society. They included:

  • Optimised economic contribution through tourism and associated activities
  • Enhanced conservation and ecological integrity of national parks system
  • Optimised socio-economic beneficiation
  • Enhanced stakeholders engagement
  • Effective and efficient corporate governance
  • Strengthened human capital and management.

Mr Mketeni noted SANParks' Medium Term Strategic Framework (MTSF) priorities, touching on goals, strategy and plan. He then gave a summary of the financial matters, internal processes, and learning and growth perspectives (see annexure)

Mr Mketeni noted that in terms of the 2015/16 Annual Budget and MTSF, estimates were allocated to each strategic plan priority.

He then gave an overview of the SANParks' status and the way forward, noting certain important activities achieved in 2014 and 2015, including future operational structuring. For the year 2014/15, total expenditure was R1 344 868 443.

Mr Mketeni noted that the first priority was to create and run an intensive protection zone, and that there was a joint operation to address the level one problem. Joint operations included the governments of South Africa and Mozambique, SANParks, South Africa National Defence Force and South African Police Services. Rangers of Kruger National Park were deployed. Rangers included Field and Special Rangers.

In addressing the first problem, he noted that services that were needed included intelligence and investigation. The game change in operation touched on making an intensive protection zone, breaking the crime networks, changing Mozambique’s mind-set, and deporting Mozambicans found in South Africa. Mozambican counterparts should be initiated into efforts directed at fighting and safeguarding against rhino poaching, 

Mr Mketeni concluded by briefly stating the way forward. He stressed the retention of the court in Skukuza, which would be trying rhino poaching related cases and having in place strict bail and maximum sentences. The SANParks would work together with South African Police Service with a view to collapsing the crime network and with the Department of Home Affairs with aim to identify and evict illegal Mozambicans residing in the west of the Kruger National Park. The main goal would be to improve enforcement.

Discussion

Ms T Stander (ANC) welcomed the presentation and sought clarity on the strategic objective of optimised socio-economic beneficiation, for which the baseline stated was 18 000 of total number of free access entrants per annum. She commented that she wanted to see more people having access to national parks and more inclusion in the socio-economic beneficiation. She further sought clarity on whether there was budget allocated to conservation education. She appreciated that there was an improvement in the securitisation of protected areas. However, she sought clarity on measures that would be taken to ensure the border with Mozambique was secure. She remarked that more concentration on securitising borders led to the birth of another syndicate, and wondered what might be the impact of taking up the duty to fight against illegal activities which did not fall in its mandate, and expressed her concern that such a duty might threaten the usual business.

Mr T Bonhomme (ANC) commented that rhino poaching was frustrating and demoralising, especially poaching activities taking place at the border with Mozambique. The porous border was also being used by economic migrants and refugees to gain access to South Africa. He sought clarity on the issue of conservation education and about the progress of engagement with the Thailand and China governments.

Mr P Mabilo (ANC) welcomed the presentation and sought clarity on whether there was any study related to measures that had been taken to curb criminal activities and whether these had recorded any real deterrence. He asked if the use of technology was effective, and if there was any radar system installed to monitor parks. He also questioned if there was any joint operation between the government of South Africa and government of Mozambique in relation with fighting illegal activities taking place at the border. He asked also if there was any "stop and search" being conducted on the roads that are in the neighbourhoods of the parks.

On the issue of human resources, Mr Mabilo expressed his concern about the employment of people with disabilities, noting that the presentation noted that this was targeted for 2% achievement by 2020. He stated that this approach showed a slow pace in social transformation.

The Chairperson agreed on that point. He said that Mr Mketeni should have said that the SANParks was working hard to recruit more people with disabilities.

The Chairperson remarked that there was no way to deal with criminality without having sufficient intelligence. Crime was a matter of urgency, that had to be dealt with by different departments, and without this, the Committee could not expect the SANParks to do the impossible. There was also a need to engage with Mozambican counterparts meaningfully, so as to find out what role they might play.

Minister Molewa said that she appreciated the presentation, remarked that the SANParks had done a superb work, and that she wanted to respond to some of the questions raised. The questions that were raised also looked directly to the issues raised by the Department with regard to the request for a budget increase.

On the issue of joint operations between South Africa and Mozambique, Minister Molewa indicated that she had taken certain steps. She was recently in Mozambique, where she met her counterpart and discussed in-depth most of the issues that were raised by Members. A Memorandum of Understanding was drafted and signed. The implementation of it was yet to be discussed. On the Mozambique side of the border, there were three villages that were based inside the park. A request had been made that these villages be relocated. The issue had been discussed with President Chisano and the resolutions were being implemented, so there was some progress in that regard.  Two of the three villages had been relocated. The only impediment was full engagement with the communities in order to meet their demands, since their humanity ought to be taken into consideration. However, she was pleased with progress and movement in this regard. South Africa played a part in finding funds for relocation of those villages, and the German government was funding that project.

The Mozambican Minister of Environment and Tourism launched a huge contingent of environmental police whose duties included, among other things, to patrol the border with South Africa. As far as South Africa was concerned, there were armed forces working together with ranger contingents. These trans-national commitments had been hindered by a lack of "meeting of the minds" of two governments.

On the issue of arresting people who cross the border to Mozambique, Minister Molewa first remarked that this was an issue that journalists were particularly interested in and often posed as questions. It should be noted that South Africans could not cross the border to Mozambique. When a person crossed the border, the duty fell on a Mozambican authority to deal with the matter, and this was started by a South African request. Mozambique was a sovereign country and South Africa could not interfere in activities taking place there.

Minister Molewa agreed that the fences that were built at the border were dilapidated and worn out. She was in talks with the Department of Public Works to build a new fence. She noted that there were three farms which were close to the park, and these farms needed to be fenced too. The cost of fences and other security reasons were estimated as being a US23 billion project. Vietnam was a country that was earmarked to be given the job related to closing the gaps in the security domain.

Minister Molewa emphatically stressed that the minimum sentence of 10 years prison term without the option of fine for those who are liable for poaching rhinos could not be disturbed. The Government should be firm against that crime.

Minister Molewa agreed that there was a need to engage other portfolios and to engage with Mozambique counterparts on the issue of stopping rhino poaching. Any engagement had also to be extended to the countries that were marked as buyers. These issues were being discussed by the Ministerial cluster.

Minister Molewa noted the issue of intelligence, but said that this was quite an involved question to deal with now. In relation to technology surveillance tools, she responded that she was engaging with Minister of Science and Technology, Ms Naledi Pandor, to conduct more research. The SANParks had sniffer dogs, had donated cars and two helicopters to fight against rhino poaching.

On the issue of human resources, she noted that women were represented. However there was a problem in recruiting women in lower positions. Tradition and customs were not seen as major impediments.  She said that a national employment tool or guidance was needed to guide employers in allocating and recruiting people with disabilities. Advertisement seemed not to be a reliable tool. Recruiting people with disabilities was a challenge.

The Chairperson commented that the parliamentarians lacked coordination in respect of collaborating between or among committees, with the result that committees tended to discuss issues in isolation. He noted that the Committee was willing to be part of the demand for reduction of criminality. He agreed that fighting against rhino poaching should be a primary goal. When engaging with other countries, South Africa should be conscious of its own security, and thus not expose itself. Confidentiality was essential and there were certain matters that could not be exposed to the media. Some information, he suggested, should remain classified even if it was related to what the DEA was doing and what it had done to ensure the reduction of criminality. South Africa should not be left exposed.

Mr Mketeni responded that the SANParks was conscious about the issue of employing disabled people. He further noted that 18 000 entrants were targeted, having given consideration to the fact that people were, most of the time, at work. There were numerous people who accessed the parks, and SANParks was also registering a high number of local people accessing parks. For example, the Table Mountain was accessed by two million people. Parks were not isolated areas.

Ms Stander sought clarity on the revenue generated from stock sale and where such revenue was allocated. She appreciated the progress that had been made in engaging with Mozambique and the fact that the matter was taken seriously by the ministerial cluster. She also welcomed the confidential stance that the Minister had maintained. She supported her prioritisation of fighting rhino poaching.

Mr Mabilo requested that SANParks elaborate further on the revenue generated. He further sought clarity on whether measures related to energy efficiency had been taken.

The Chairperson commented that the SANParks should do more to ensure that people benefitted from these parks, economically and socially. People ought to feel that they were part and parcel of the beneficiation of parks.

The Minister noted that the rationale behind poaching was greed. China was not engaged because the research had shown that the laws of China allowed the use of rhino horns in their medicine. On the issue of banning any trade at all in rhino horns, she noted that some people who were advocating for there to be such national trade had challenged the DEA in court, but she believed that the DEA might be successful.

Mr Mketeni responded that the revenue that was generated from the stock sale went to the fund approved by the Board, where it was invested. There were programmes involving children and wives of rangers on which money were spent.

On the issue of beneficiation, Mr Mketeni responded that the communities were included in the SANParks business. Revenue was therefore collected from various activities. Though communities could be allowed in the SANParks business space, some areas were closed to the communities for to valid reasons.

Mr Mketeni reiterated that all departments needed to work together for SANParks to succeed and to uplift the lives of communities.

With regard to energy efficiency, Mr Mketeni responded that the SANParks had reduced 15% of its former energy consumption. In certain areas, solar panels were used; but these solar panels were being stolen.

The Minister was excused at this point.

The Chairperson said that the main question was: What could be done to win the war against rhino poaching? The DEA had to do everything that was needed in order to win that war. He appreciated the fact that Mozambique finally joined the fight. The Committee should look into how it could visit Mozambique for an oversight visit and it should work towards collaborating with other committees. Collaboration on the issue was of paramount importance.

Department of Environmental Affairs revised MTEF allocations [document available on 20 April 2015]

Mr Alf Wills, Acting Director General: Department of Environment Affairs, took the Committee through presentation, focussing on MTEF allocations. He noted that there had been both indicative and revised allocations. The budget was revised and certain targets were adjusted because some of the targets emanating from the broad manifesto could not be met.

Mr Wills noted the funded priorities of the Department, directed towards seven programmes, including:

  • Administration programme, to which R714  049  000 was allocated;
  • Legal Authorisation, Compliance and Enforcement programme, to which R127  517  000 was allocated;
  • Oceans and Coasts programme, to which R484 529 000 was allocated.
  • Climate Change and Air Quality programme, to which R240 149 000 was allocated.
  • Biodiversity and Conversation programme, to which R655 600 000 was allocated.
  • Environmental programme, to which R3 646 864 was allocated.
  • Chemical and Waste Management programme to which R79  281  000 was allocated

(See attached document for full details)

Discussion

Ms Stander welcomed the presentation. She sought clarity on the ocean economy strategy, with regard to indicated cuts to the fund baseline, the increase of the original allocation on various programmes and on R1.5 million spent on plastic bags projects. She also asked that the DEA further unpack the integrated permitting system (IPS) allocations.

Ms H Kekana (ANC) sought clarity on public entity allocations and non-profit institutions and on how these branches of funding empowered women in the long run. She further sought clarity on how the issue of inflation was dealt with. She wanted to know about the IPS, in respect of compliance and enforcement.

Mr Bonhomme sought clarity on whether the DEA was buying locally produced products.

The Chairperson sought clarity on the public procurement, inflation, monitoring and enforcement.

Mr Wills responded that the DEA budget was challenged by the newly elected government, given that it had to prioritise matters that were underscored in the ANC’s manifesto. These matters were prioritised without receiving further budget to run them. The DEA had therefore to cut and revise its funding on some programmes to release up funding. Goods and services were reduced. The original figures appeared on Slide 2, even though these were not further unpacked according to each programme.

On the issue of plastic bags, Mr Wills stated that the revenue went to the National Treasury and therefore he did not know how much was being raised from that plastic bag business.

On the issue of inflation, Mr Wills responded that there could be some goods and services that could be sacrificed. In that case, some adjustments on certain targets could be arranged. The DEA could not come to the Committee before the year end to request more budget.

Mr Will said that he would prefer the opportunity to give more clarity in writing and, if possible, to do another presentation so that the Committee would have a clearer understanding of the revised baseline allocation.

The Chairperson thanked Mr Wills. He noted that that the DEA should respond in writing on questions that Mr Will was not in position to respond to immediately.

Adoption of Committee Second Term Programme 2015

The adoption was postponed

Adoption of minutes

The minutes of the meeting of 23 March 2015 were considered and adopted, without any further change.

The meeting was adjourned. 

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