Committee 1st term programme; Mpumalanga oversight report, minutes adoption

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Mineral Resources and Energy

03 February 2016
Chairperson: Mr S Luzipho (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

Documents handed out
Draft first term committee programme
Draft Minutes of the Portfolio Committee on Mineral Resources 04 November 2015

The Committee started with a short discussion on some long-standing apologies from certain Committee Members and the Chairperson clarified that the reasons for the apologies needed to be given to their parties. The Committee adopted the draft first term programme, with the proviso that it could still be amended after a provisional yearly programme had been drawn and presented to Members at the next meeting, after Members had had a chance to isolate any issues from the last Budgetary Review and Recommendations Report. Members mentioned the Mining Phakisa, and felt that even though this was being driven by the Monitoring and Evaluation unit in the Presidency, this Committee should not be excluded from deliberations. They questioned the status of the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Amendment Act, and the Chairperson responded that he had recently received correspondence from the Parliamentary Legal Advisers, which he would study and discuss at the next meeting. It had been nearly a year since the request for a review of the tagging of the Bill. Members said other points for discussion later in the year must include how the Mine Health and Safety Council planned to use its R200 million surplus, discussions on the Mining Charter, engagement with South African National Roads Agency, and the possible effects of integration of compensation funds. The Department would be requested to brief the Committee on its leadership issues. The DA commented that the new Minister had not attended any meetings, but the Chairperson hoped this would be done in 2016. Members asked if the Committee was still hoping to go on a study tour to investigate fracking overseas.

Members then discussed Committee's oversight report on the visit to Mpumalanga. Salient points emerging from the recommendations were that the Committee had recommended that Lafarge Cement Company must develop a housing policy, and after some discussion on this, the Chairperson emphasized that the Committee was not saying that it must provide housing, for whether it must do so would depend on the terms of its license, but must have a policy. The structural arrangements of shareholding in Pan African Resources had to be clarified by the Department of Mineral Resources. The Committee was recommending that Parliament must consider opening an inquest into 1 000 graves allegedly of unknown mineworkers near Evander, and although there was a suggestion that the Department might consider having the site declared a heritage site, the DA members made the point that this was a function falling under the Department of Arts and Culture, and it may be premature to make any such declarations.

The report was adopted with amendments and an objection from the DA on the proposal by the committee to for LAFARGE to develop a housing policy. 

Meeting report

Attendance of meetings
The Committee Secretary read out the apologies and Mr Z Mandela (ANC) asked for, and received an explanation for long-standing apologies submitted by some Members of the Committee.

The Chairperson said that possibly the issue with longstanding apologies would be that the parliamentary Rules did not give the responsibility to report on reasons for absence from meetings to individual members, as they had to report to their political parties only. In terms of the Rules, Chairpersons were required to tender reasons for their absence. The Committee could therefore not control the movements of Members, whatever the priorities at hand between party and committee responsibilities.

Committee's draft first term programme
The Chairperson said that the reason behind the distribution to Members of the Budgetary Review and Recommendations Report (BRRR) was that he felt there were issues the Committee could tease out from that and add to the draft programme for 2016.

Mr J Lorimer (DA) welcomed the inclusion of the BRRR discussion. He was concerned that nowhere in the draft first term programme was there scheduled to be any discussion on legislation, although he was aware that the Committee was still awaiting a progress report on the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act (MPRDA). Similarly, there was nothing mentioned for a follow up on the Mining PHAKISA. He suggested that the Department of Mineral Resources (DMR) had to give some kind of progress report. The Committee also had to follow-up on the implementation of the findings of the Farlam Commission, as committed to by the DMR. The BRRR had also recommended that the Mine Health and Safety Council (MHSC) had to account to the Committee on how it planned to use its R200 million surplus by February 2016, although it was apparent that could not be included in the first term draft programme.

Mr A Pikinini (ANC) said that he thought the distribution of the draft first term programme would guide the Committee in developing a final provisional programme. However, he felt that on this day the meeting had been convened primarily to adopt a report. He also felt that the BRRR would guide the Committee further in developing its year's programme.

Mr Z Mandela (ANC) said that although the issues raised by Mr Lorimer were important, as they emanated from the BRRR, the draft programme before the Committee was for the first term only. He felt it contained sufficient work towards March 2016, and that the matters that Mr Lorimer had raised could be regarded as ongoing work in the subsequent terms in 2016.

The Chairperson reminded the committee that the Management Committee (MANCO) had written to the Parliamentary Legal Advisers seeking advice on a way forward regarding referral of the MPRD Amendment Bill. The legal advisers had responded but this had only just reached him, and he would like some time to peruse their response. The Committee had effectively exhausted all avenues. On 6 March 2016, it would be a full year since the Committee had referred the Bill back to the Joint Tagging Mechanism (JTM) for classification.

He also commented that he had subsequently realised that the Mining PHAKISA was not in the ambit of the DMR and the Committee but was rather being driven by the Monitoring and Evaluation unit in the Presidency. However; the MANCO and DMR were still trying to find a way to navigate that process. The DMR had said the challenge could be the fact that the Mining Phakisa was subject to the Presidency actually launching the Operation Phakisa. That was why the BRRR had been brought to the Committee.

He then suggested that MANCO needed some time to go through the BRRR so that a provisional programme for the full year - which would not only be talking to presentations but to certain issues in the BRRR and oversight suggestions - could tabled at the next meeting. Of course, all that would be subject to prevailing circumstances including the matters raised by Mr Lorimer and other matters, which included the South African National Roads Agency (SANRAL) and the Mining Charter, still to be included in the provisional programme.

He noted that he had recently read that there had been workshop on the integration of the Compensation Fund (CF), Occupational Diseases in Mines and Works Amendment Act (ODIMWA), the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) and others, which he had unfortunately not attended. The Committee had to consider this issue and what the legislative challenges could be for the Committee.

Mr Lorimer said that it certainly would be useful to see that suggested provisional programme for the year. He asked also whether it would be possible for Members to have sight of the correspondence with the Parliamentary Legal Advisers, as it would be useful for Members in reporting back on the progress of the MPRD Amendment Bill? It was very crucial for the Committee to be updated on the Mining Phakisa. He appreciated the update the Chairperson had given and said it seemed wrong to exclude the Committee just because it was being driven by the Presidency. Mr Lorimer then asked if the Committee was still hoping to go on a study tour to investigate fracking overseas.

The Chairperson asked again to be allowed to study the letter from the legal advisers first, so that he could present it to the Committee at the next meeting.  He also suggested that the MANCO be allowed to present the provisional first term programme first for adoption. He recommended that the Committee should rather concentrate on going through the BRRR so that the Committee would be able to consider the provisional year programme and prioritise any additional matters at the next meeting.

Adv H Schmidt (DA) said he was shocked to have read that the DMR apparently no longer had a Director General. He also asked whether this Committee was going to continue to try working with a Minister who never came to the Committee?

The Chairperson said the Committee would rely on the DMR to report on the matter of the Director General, as newspapers could not be the source of such information. Secondly, he commented that the current Minister of DMR, Mr Mosebenzi Zwane, had been to Parliament already. However, he felt that since he had only been appointed to the post towards the end of 2015 it would be difficult to make any judgment. It might be that the Committee Secretary had overlooked tendering the Minister's apology for the last meeting, as there had been a Cabinet lekgotla taking place. The Committee would only be able to note and judge the Minister's performance from 2016.

The Chairperson reminded Members that he was still asking for adoption on the draft First Term Programme. He commented that there seemed to be consensus that this could be subject to changes when the provisional yearly programme was brought to the next meeting.

Members agreed to adopt the programme, with the proviso suggested by the Chairperson that it may still change.

Committee's oversight report to Mpumalanga
The Chairperson said he preferred that the Committee consider the recommendations directly, but Members could raise other issues if they wished.

He emphasized some of the salient points. The Committee had recommended to LAFARGE Cement Company that it must develop a housing policy; which had been attended to.

There were two areas that had not been captured in the Report. The first was to do with the structural arrangement on shareholding in Pan African Resources PLC. What had been supposed to be a ‘set aside benefactor’ had become the majority shareholder. The Committee had instructed the DMR to provide clarity on that matter.

The second matter was the recommendation by the Committee that Parliament had to consider opening an inquest into the 1000 graves allegedly belonging to unknown mineworkers at Winkelhaak near Evander in Mpumalanga. There were questions as to whether all those buried were actually mineworkers, and their identity. There was also a need for a clear method of disposal of the structure close to those graves, which had been allowed to fall into disrepair, and there was a question whether that structure could not have been disposed of by handing it over to local or provincial entities for development of a possible skills centre, and any other structure for communal use.

Mr Lorimer said he agreed with the all the recommendations, except the one which spoke to LAFARGE developing a housing policy. He would consider this to be an anomaly arising merely out of the fact that the company was operating in the mining sector. In other sectors this was not a requirement; for instance, BMW was not required to house its employees. If employees were within a taxi-ride distance to an urban centre, then the government had no business in insisting that a company, even a mining company, must house its employees.

Adv Schmidt wanted to comment on the recommendation that: ‘DMR had to understand all the implications of turning that burial area into a heritage site and to make sure that the families of the deceased were aware of the implications’. He felt that a heritage site was a function of the Department of Arts and Culture (DAC), so that the recommendation should be amplified with a suggestion that “DMR must approach DAC” or something similar. A possible implication of the recommendation being worded as it presently was might be that the Auditor-General could qualify the DMR's audit report, for wasteful expenditure on transforming a burial ground into a heritage site, outside of its mandate.

Mr Mandela said that LAFARGE, like other mining companies, had applied for a permit and a license to mine. There were conditions and guidelines on their operations, and if they stipulated the housing of employees as a mining company, then it was the Committee’s responsibility to hold LAFARGE accountable for that. He was proposing that any advice needed to be based on LAFARGE's permit and that Members should not speculate on the issue.

The Chairperson reiterated that the recommendation was saying there had to be a clear housing policy developed by LAFARGE. If the policy was that it would not provide housing for its employees that could also be acceptable, as the contention was not about actually providing housing, but having a clear policy. The Committee was not giving a housing directive. Only when that policy was existent could the Committee then speak to what the license stipulated.

The Chairperson took the point raised by Adv Schmidt and reminded Members that DMR had spoken to a multi-sector task team, which would include the DAC and the National Heritage Council (NHC). The Committee had wanted to know how DMR had arrived at the determination of making the burial site a heritage site. The bigger issue was the concern over the 1 000 unknown bodies buried at that potential heritage site. The Chairperson had been contacted by two former miners from Evander and was still following up on that lead that might indicate who the people buried there were. Apart from the graves issue, the Committee had instructed the DMR to involve the police, to gain some knowledge of what might have happened to cause the 1 000 graves to be laid out in such a fashion. Essentially the Committee was instructing the DMR to halt the declaration or any development of a heritage site, and to establish facts first.

The report was adopted with amendments and the objection from the DA on the proposal by the committee to for LAFARGE to develop a housing policy. 

The meeting was adjourned. 

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