North West Department donation of high value species to private individuals: oversight responses

Environment, Forestry and Fisheries

29 November 2016
Chairperson: Mr P Mapulane (ANC)
Share this page:

Meeting Summary

The meeting had been convened because the Committee had found that the North West Parks Board (NWPB) had not followed due process in donating a large quantity of game to individuals in the North West Province. In addition, when the Committee had requested a report from the office of the Member of the Provincial Executive Council (MEC), the report had not been provided. The Committee had therefore posed seven questions on the issue to the province’s Department of Rural Environment and Agricultural Development (READ).

The questions posed by the Committee covered:

  • the circumstances under which game donations were made;
  • the policy used for game donations and the date the policy was adopted;
  • whether the Department had donated similar high value species in the past, and who the recipients were;
  • details of the species available in the various parks prior to and after the game donations;
  • whether there was any impact on the viability and the breeding potential of the remaining species;
  • the capacity, human resources and land space of individuals or companies that received animals; and
  • details of individuals who constituted the recipient company that had benefited from the donation.

The Committee was not satisfied with the responses given, so it engaged the Department in robust discussion. They asked why READ had failed to use the Preferential Policy Procurement Framework Act (PPPFA) to process procurements on the contract, which was an unsolicited bid that included supply management issues. Why had a massive amount of animals been donated by READ in 2015? Why had high value species such as buffaloes and white rhinos been donated to previously advantaged people? The Department was asked to give details of the relevant experience, qualifications and expertise of the parties involved with the South African Rare Games Breeders Association (SARGBA) and the SARGBA Black Empowerment Equity (BEE), including how the shareholding of SARGBA had been done.  Other issues were the criteria used for donations, aspects of transformation taking place under wildlife donations, whether the donations took place on only one farm, and if the donations were a profit-sharing exercise. READ was asked account for each of the animals donated in order to ascertain whether the game donations were used to enrich some individuals.

Specific questions were directed to READ’s involvement with SARGBA, including the contradictions in the dating of the agreement.  Did READ have any framework for donations and was this framework followed in the game donation process? Did it have the capacity to check the habitat suitability of donated Game? Would the game donation to SARGBA not lead to overstocking based on the present stock of animals on the breeders’ farm?

The Department conceded the project had not been carried out with due diligence, and it had made some errors. For instance, it had not initiated an ‘expression of interest,’ particularly when it had escalated the number of game donations to SARGBA. An evaluation of the game donation project had led to the hosting of a conference to sensitise women and youths on wildlife, although presently the NWPB could not donate game to women and youths. The Department had learnt its lesson and was willing to do due diligence on the project, based on the Committee’s advice.

It invited the Committee to visit the project because the process of interaction between the Committee and READ needed to be continued to ensure that it would succeed. The Committee accepted, but said that because this would be an oversight visit, it first needed to receive permission from Parliament. It advised the Department not to continue with the remaining donations until the Committee had sufficiently interacted with it and was satisfied with its responses. 

Meeting report

Opening remarks

The Chairperson said that the meeting had been convened because the Committee had observed that South African National Parks (SANParks) had not followed due process in donating game to some individuals in the North West province. In addition, when the Committee had requested a report from the office of the North West Member of the Executive Committee (MEC), the report had not been provided. Therefore, the Committee had requested to meet with the North West MEC and the Department of Rural Environment and Agricultural Development (READ).

Department of Rural Environment and Agricultural Development (READ): Presentation

Ms Manketse Tlhape; MEC: North West (NW) READ, tendered apologies on behalf of READ for not meeting the earlier scheduled meeting of 18 October 2016, and explained that it was because the invitation had not got to NW READ on time. Consequently, NW READ had written a letter to the Committee to apologise, and had submitted information on the questions before appearing before the Committee today.

The Chairperson said that the apologies of NW READ were accepted in good faith, and invited the team to brief the Committee.

Ms Thlape recounted the process that had led to the reconvening of the meeting from 18 October to 29 November (see document attached). She said that the seven questions asked would be answered by different members of her team.

Dr Poncho Mokaila, Head of Department (HOD): READ, answered the first question about the circumstances under which the game donations were made. He said that the South African Rare Games Breeders Association (SARGBA) had placed a written request for government assistance in the form of a wildlife donation on 6 November 2014. The proposal received by the Department had contained strategies to sustain wildlife, the vision and mission statement of SARGBA, its partnerships, founding members and employees, the current breeding programme, game species and the location of the farm in Kgetleng local municipality, the structure and shareholding of the proposed transformation, the number of animals on the farm, the start-up capital required and the current value on SARGBA assets. The NW executive committee (EXCO) had granted permission for the Department to do due diligence on the proposal, and a due diligence report had been compiled and submitted to the NW EXCO on 3 March 2015. In addition, on 25 March 2015 the NW EXCO had granted approval on the SARGBA proposal on condition that further developments would be made on the costing of the business plan, approval of the game donation policy, the selection of beneficiaries, the signing of agreements, and project monitoring and reporting.

In implementing the EXCO resolution of 25 March 2015, a project steering committee (PSC), comprised of key people in bio-diversity, veterinarians and SARGBA members, was appointed by the Department with clear terms of reference. During the Departmental budget vote speech of 2015/16, the NW Parks Board (NWPB) had pronounced its new vision which was to ensure transformation of the game industry through the development of the Wildlife Management Transformation Policy. Furthermore, the cost of the business plan was jointly developed by SARGBA and its identified beneficiaries, and the business plan costs were adopted by the Department and the NWPB through the provincial joint steering committee (PJSC) operations.

The game donation agreement between the NWPB and SARGBA was approved on 7 June 2015. Consequently, the Chairperson of the NWPB had granted approval for the donation of available breeding stock in line with the agreement. On 3 July 2015, SARGBA had signed the partnership and shareholder agreement with Black Empowerment Equity (BEE) partners and the Employee Trust to form South African Rare Game Breeders Holdings (SARGBH). The structure was comprised of 50% SARGBH and 50% BEE partners. The Department and SARGBH had finally signed off on the donation policy on 29 February 2016, in line with clause three of the agreement. The last part of the conditions, the plan for monitoring and evaluation, was approved on 30 March 2016, through the PSC.

He reported that the focus areas that would be monitored in the project included areas of training and transformation, financial sustainability, breeding success, regulation, compliance and intuitional compliance. In addition, the transaction on game donation was subject to a regulatory audit by the Auditor General, and no findings had been detected in the annual report of 2015/16 for both the Department and the NWPB.

Mr J Denga, Director: Bio-diversity Management (DBM), NW READ, was asked about the policy used and the date the policy had been adopted. He said that the old game donation policy was used for purposes of the donation, but subsequent cases had been subjected to a reviewed policy approved in 2015 (see document). Two game policies existed, and both policies enabled the Department to provide game to the community and other individuals that wanted donations from NW Parks.

Asked whether the Department had donated similar high value species in the past and who the recipients were, Mr Denga said that it had been implementing game donations to empower farmers in the community since 1994. The farms included Moja Moja game farm, Tosca in the Mompati district of NW Province, and the SARGBH breeders. In 1995, the province had been the first to donate five white rhinos to Botswana, and subsequently, there had been more donations of white rhinos to Botswana, particularly by SANParks, to augment the population.

At the heart of game donation was the Convention on Bio-diversity, which rested on Article 1. The major objectives of Article 1 were to conserve game and wildlife, sustain bio-resources and also to provide an equitable and fair sharing of benefits that accrued from bio-resources. At present, the Department was only performing the function of conserving game and wildlife, but game donation was an attempt by NW Province and NW Parks to ensure that there was major transformation in the wildlife industry. Consequently, the MEC and the premier of NW in 2015 had enacted an Act that empowered the NWPB to transform the wildlife sector so that new entrants could enter into the wildlife industry.

The fourth question sought details of the species available in the various parks prior to and after the game donation, and Mr Denga referred the Committee to the confidential wildlife census report before and after the donation. He said that based on the mandate, the Department was responsible for maintaining the health of the animal in terms of conservation and species health. Buffaloes, antelopes and nyalas had been requested and donated, but the Department had a team of scientists that worked in the park and these scientists had a record of animals that could be used for breeding.

The fifth question asked whether there was any impact on the viability and the breeding potential of the remaining species. Mr Denga answered that this was stated in the confidential habitat suitability report, but the only challenge was on how the species benefited the community.

The Chairperson observed that Mr Denga had not mentioned rhinos in his response.

Mr Denga replied that rhinos were not donated, adding that the values of each species were stated in the confidential wildlife census report.

The Chairperson asked him leave out the value of the species.

Mr Denga further reported that a team of scientists had given an assurance on animal viability by ensuring that species were not in a dangerous condition, and had also investigated the suitability of the new habitats.

Dr Hector Magome, Board member in charge of conservation, NWPB, responded to question six, which asked about the capacity, human resources and land space of individuals or companies that received animals. He said that SARGBA had made a presentation, which was included in an annexure. Based on the contract, NWPB owned 50% of the stock and when the animals performed better, it would be empowered to improve its viable stocks. In South Africa, private farms owned about 20 million hectares of land, while the state owned between five and seven million hectares. Furthermore, almost all the high value species were owned by private farms. However, the state owned a lot of elephants and white rhinos.

Mr C Mathale (ANC), from the Portfolio Committee on Agriculture, observed that Dr Magome had focused only on high value species in South Africa as a whole.

Based on this observation, the Chairperson asked Dr Magome to focus on high value species in the NW Province.

Dr Magome said that in establishing the stocks for NW Province, he needed to give an overview of what was presently available in South Africa.

The Chairperson remarked that though the Committee would not want to restrict the Department in their presentation but they should also consider the time factor.

Dr Magome said that the capacity for high value species was in the hands of private farmers, and not in the hands of the government. Furthermore, SARGBH breeders had a land capacity of 2 000 hectares, and this area was sufficient to allow wildlife to thrive. They also had ability to give the species supplementary feeding and veterinary services. The supplementary feeding was in terms of having the financial resources to feed the stock during the drought period being experienced presently in South Africa. They also had trained veterinary staff and could also provide security for the donated animals.

Dr Mokaila answered the final question, which sought details of individuals who constituted SARGBA, the recipient company that benefited from the donation. He said that in line with the shareholding arrangement signed by SARGBA and its employees, SARGBA had a 50% share, while SARGBA BEE -- which was comprised of 40 employees -- also owned 50% of the shares.

Discussion

Mr T Hadebe (DA) asked if the Department had sought legal opinion before proceeding with the contract agreement, since the contract agreement was an unsolicited bid. The Preferential Policy Procurement Framework Act (PPPFA) of 2000 was clear on how such procurements were supposed to be undertaken, since the contract agreement contained supply management issues. He asked the Department to consider the Committee’s legal opinion, because a lot of discrepancies had been observed by the Committee in the unsolicited bid.

Ms J Edwards (DA) said that during the brief, the Department had reported that donations were made to the community, but this statement was contrary to Annexure 14 of the report. For instance, the list of donations in previous years showed that donations were made overseas. In the previous years (1997-2014), 121 animals had been donated locally and 99 animals had been donated overseas, but in 2015 a massive total of 262 animals had been donated. She further observed that 130 buffaloes and 50 white rhinos had been donated to Mr Mike de Koch and other members of SARGBA. She asked the Department to explain why such a large number of animals had been donated recently, because there had been a huge leap in 2015. Why had the Department donated high value species of buffaloes and white rhinos to Mike de Koch and other members of SARGBA? She asked the Department to give details of the relevant experience, qualifications and expertise of the parties involved with the BEE. She also asked the Department to explain how the shareholding of SARGBA was done, the criteria for donation and the veterinary report used to make donations.

Ms A Steyn (DA, PC Agriculture) asked who the chairperson of SARGBA was, because the relevant annexure carried the signature of an unidentified person. She asked the Department to state what other aspects of transformation was taking place, apart from the donation of animals. Did the donations take place on only one farm, and had training taken place during the transformation? Were the donations a profit sharing exercise? What benefits would be received by the READ in later years?

Mr S Mabilo (ANC) said that the apology tendered by the MEC on behalf of READ was unacceptable, because the Department had undermined the Committee. He observed that in implementing the game donation contract, the READ had not made a request for a basis of interest. In addition, it had not advertised the contract, so the game donation favoured a particular group and did not consider transformation issues, because only males benefited, and not females, youths and the marginalised people. Since the animals were public property, females, youths and the marginalised people needed to benefit from the donated game. He therefore asked the Department to explain the criteria used to determine the game donation beneficiaries. He also asked READ to state the size of the farms that received the game donations, and the kind of animals that SARGBH had on its farm before receiving donations. The Department had to account for each of the animals donated in order to ascertain whether the game donations were used to enrich some individuals.

Ms H Nyambi (ANC) asked about the status of the animals donated so far, because the Committee had received information that some of the donated animals had died when being returned. She also asked if the animals donated to private farms would ever be returned. Why were females and youths not beneficiaries of donated animals?

Mr Z Makhubele (ANC) persuaded Members to forget about the issue of READ’s undermining the Committee, and convinced them to accept READ’s apology. He remarked that stock taking of game could be difficult, as this could not be compared to taking stock of domestic animals. He asked if READ had the capacity to take stock of game animals, and if the game policy clarified the number and value of game species that could be donated. Did READ have any framework for donations and was this framework followed in the game donation process? Did READ have the capacity to check if the destined private farm had a suitable habitat to nurture the donated game? Had they received other requests for game donation at the time SARGBH made a request, and could they presently donate game to other parties who made requests? He observed that the SARGBH holding company had a lot of white presence, so he asked READ to clarify if SARGBH was a predominantly white-owned private farm.

Mr Maloyi asked if there was a specific reason why READ had changed the date of the signed agreement from August to February, as identified from READ’s confidential report. Should the signed agreement be disregarded, because READ’s presentation and the signed agreement showed contradicting figures of game donations. In addition, READ had stated in its presentation that SARGBH had 2 000 hectares, so he asked it to clarify if game donations to SARGBH would not lead to overstocking.

The Chairperson asked the MEC to clarify the contradicting information about the implementation of game donation of high value species in the annexure and confidential report. He also asked READ to provide written follow-up on the answer given to the question asked about the impact on the viability and the breeding potential of the remaining species, as the response given had not addressed the question. In addition, he asked READ to give more information to the question raised by Mr Maloyi on overstocking, because according to Annexure One, SARGBH had received double the number of animals that it originally had on its farm. The MEC should explain the timelines on signing the agreement, because despite the fact that READ had received the proposal on 6 November 2014, and December had been a holiday period, the EXCO had approved the SARGBA proposal by 25 March 2015. Had the process of approving the SARGBA proposal, followed due diligence? He informed the MEC not to respond to Mr Mabilo’s concern regarding the apologies tendered by the MEC and READ for not adhering to the earlier invitation of the Committee of 18 October.

READ’s response

Ms Thlape said that the different questions would be addressed by the different members of her team.

Mr Denga said that READ had a regulatory monitoring plan document that was used to monitor the project’s strategic objectives, which ranged from institutional governance issues, regulatory compliance matters, breeding success and health of the animal, finances incurred and transformation empowerment. In addition, READ had a tool that monitored the animals and the timeframes (six months or one year), had an indicator of genetics purity and strength, signs of disease, births recorded and signs of stress. He said that READ would present a written report on the project’s strategic objectives.

The Chairperson interjected, and asked READ to state if any death had been recorded on site at the farm.

Mr Denga replied that READ would provide figures on mortality during the movement of animals in a written submission.

The Chairperson asked READ to clarify if the written submission on the project’s strategic objectives would contain information on animals monitored on site at the farm. He also remarked that there had been a question that had asked READ to provide the population figure of animals on site on the farm.

Mr Denga said that the project was a breeding programme, and all the animals selected for breeding in the project were marked and could be identified to provide population figures of animals on site on the farm. In checking habitat suitability, READ had facilities within the country, and to check habitat suitability outside the country, it relied on checks made by the receiving farm and a team of scientists from READ South Africa, who would visit the recipient country. However, the habitat suitability that he had referred to in the presentation was for capability within the province and the country.

The Chairperson asked Mr Denga to clarify if the submission on habitat suitability included answers to questions on overcrowding that had been asked by Mr Maloyi.

Mr Denga replied that a breeding facility did not rely on natural feeding but a lot of artificial feeding would be used to supplement the feeding during the breeding. The question on habitat suitability had been addressed in Annexure 15.

The Chairperson remarked that Annexure 15 did not address the issue of habitat suitability, but addressed the number of animals donated.

Mr Denga responded that habitat suitability was captured in Annexure 16, and apologised to the Chairperson.

The Chairperson asked Mr Denga to clarify if Annexure 16 was actually prepared to address the issue of habitat suitability for the recipient farm. He then asked the HOD, Dr Mokaila, to clarify the issue when Mr Denga could not substantiate his claims.

Dr Mokaila assisted Mr Denga by reporting that as a Department, READ had not responded adequately to question four, which had been about how many animals were taken out of the farm and how many animals were present on the farm initially. The response given by READ was on the habitat suitability at the recipient farm. Therefore, he made a commitment that READ would make another submission to answer question four.

The Chairperson said that he was following the line of response of Mr Denga on the question of overcrowding, taking into account the number of animals the recipient farm had initially and the animals donated by READ, but he had made reference to breeding and had stated that in breeding, the habitat was looked at on the basis of supplementary intensive feeding, not the size of the farm. Mr Denga had not reflected an answer to the question on the habitat suitability of the recipient farm, and he advised the team from READ to clarify the issue.

Dr Mokaila clarified that Annexure 16 addressed the habitat suitability of the recipient farm, and not the provincial farms. Furthermore, on the next page a table that addressed the size of different private farms used for breeding of different species was included. Therefore, the habitat suitability presented in the Annexure 16 report was that of the recipient farm.

The Chairperson noted the clarification on the habitat suitability of the recipient farm, and asked if any Members had a follow-up question on the issue.

Dr Magome said that the Department acknowledged that it had not followed ethical procedures in moving game from the provincial farms to zoos in the past, and had learnt their lessons. However, READ was committed to making improvements on ethical procedures. In the past, game donation initiatives had not come with any monitoring requirements, and therefore the game donations had not added value to NWPB. The quantum leap in game donations identified in the SARGBH project was a partnership between the NWPB and SARGBH, and this step had been undertaken to improve the population of game owned by NWPB by making a significant investment. In addition, he said that Section 4.6 of the contract agreement read as follows: ‘On expiration of this agreement half the initial breeding stock of each of species donated shall be returned to NWPB or be donated to other BEE beneficiaries at the discretion of NWPB, based on the game donation policy.’

After this quantum leap in game donation made by NWPB, no immediate donation could be made to any applications. However, for future donations, Section 4.6 of the contract agreement empowered NWPB to donate game to other farms, because the initial stock would be evaluated after five years and the 50% stock returned could be donated to other farms. Furthermore, because NWPB was not interested in returning game that had been intensively bred back to the wild -- because this game would be vulnerable to predators -- the Game would be used in future empowerment projects, and SARGBH was a partner for such projects.

He agreed that the contract agreement should have an addendum that stated ‘quantity of animals to be donated’ and not ‘animals donated’. For instance, according to the contract, game to be donated needed to be healthy, but presently the buffaloes had tuberculosis and were quarantined based on legal requirements in the contract, and were yet to be moved to the private farms.

The Chairperson asked Dr Magome to clarify what he meant by ‘moving to the private farms,’ and also to state whether rhinos had been moved.

Dr Magome said that the term meant the process of trans-locating the game, and added that rhinos had not been moved. He committed to having the addendum included in the contract.

He said that there was a contradiction in the dates because the new Board had been going through a process of adjustment and the contract had been signed retrospectively.

The Chairperson asked what he meant by the contract being signed retrospectively.

Dr Magome said that in 2015, the NW government had gone through a major reformation that had led to the North West Park and Tourism Board (NWPTB) being repealed, and two new entities being created -- the NWPB and the NW Tourism Board (NWTB). The discussion on the agreement had taken place under the NWPTB, but when the MEC had appointed a new Board, the successors had gone through a new process and had decided to continue the contract based on the date that they had signed the contract with the parties.

The Chairperson remarked that a successor did not need to sign any other agreement, except to nullify the former agreement, so there had been no need to backdate the signing date from 2016 to 2015.

Dr Magome said a tacit agreement that was signed was binding, but Dr Mokaila would resolve the issue. He added that when supplementary feeding was involved, more animals could be sustained in an area than could normally be supported.

The Chairperson said that the Department should complete their responses before Members asked any follow-up questions.

Dr Mokaila said that the entity was undergoing transition, but recalled that on the 25 March 2015, the READ already had an EXCO resolution that the project must be implemented based on the conditions stated, although the shareholders had had some transitional issues. Because of the commitment to continue with the project, the project had commenced, while planning and implementation continued simultaneously. In addition, the clause actually ratified the activities that were taking place before the 2016 date, because the steering committee had met monthly to make strategic and operational decisions on which animals would be donated and the process of translocating them. Therefore the clause ratified in good faith the decisions that had taken place before the agreement was signed.

The Chairperson said his understanding was that Dr Magome had indicated that, as a new Board, the NWPB had had to inherit what had happened in the previous Board, and that was why NWPB had had to make a retrospective application. However, Dr Mokaila had stated that there were transitional issues, and the retrospective application had been made to cover the decision taken by the steering committee, so the explanations gave two different rationales for the contradictory dates. Therefore, if the steering committee had been involved in the preparatory work to the actual donation, READ had not needed to cover this with another contract, because when a contract was signed it meant that the parties had agreed with all the logistics and were ready to proceed with the contract, based on the conditions. He asked the team to confirm the actual rationale for the contradictory dates of 2015 and 2016.

Dr Mokaila said that the READ had a moral and legal obligation to continue with the contract, despite the issues that had been raised by the shareholders.

The Chairperson asked if these issues did not have any impact on the contract, and whether any activities such as the transfer of animals had occurred before signing the agreement.

Dr Mokaila said that the Department may have implemented some activities before signing the contract, but none of them had contravened the contract. However, this could not be interpreted as backdating of the contract. The Department was open about the activities that had taken place before signing the agreement -- they had been in line with the contract.

During the transition of the entity, NWPB had obtained legal opinion from the internal legal officers, but had not sought external legal opinion. Furthermore, in terms of the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA) the Department was required to work with Section 54 concerning the significant disposal of assets the accounting officer needed to inform the Treasury.

The Chairperson asked Dr Mokaila if NWPB had considered the transaction as a significant disposal of assets.

Dr Mokaila replied that the transaction had been interpreted as such by the internal legal team of NWPB.

The Chairperson asked if NWPB could confirm that the accounting officer had informed the provincial treasury of the transaction, in line with Section 54 of PFMA.

Dr Mokaila confirmed that NWPB had informed the provincial treasury of the transaction.

The Chairperson asked if NWPB had any correspondence on the compliance.

Dr Mokaila said that NWPB had interpreted the transaction in terms of Section 54 and 55, and had a letter that confirmed that the MEC had approved the transaction through the accounting officer of the NWPB, and this could be submitted to the Committee. However, there had been issues around the advertising for the transaction.

The Chairperson mandated NWPB to submit the correspondence.

Dr Mokaila committed to providing written submissions. With regard to the relevant experience of the SARGBA, the beneficiaries had relevant business experience, farming and technical expertise, and had been selected through advertising to the public. In addition, different applicants had made requests around the same time as SARGBA.

The Chairperson asked Dr Mokaila to provide details of the application.

Dr Mokaila said that although these applications were not included in the submissions made to the Committee, the NWPB had made this submission to the provincial treasury. One of the applicants had been Lichtenberg Nature Reserve, and a written submission would be provided to the Committee to substantiate the issue.

The unidentified signature in Annexure One was that of the Chairperson of SARGBA. The other operations carried out had been captured in the first and second quarter assessments, but this would be presented in the monitoring and evaluation report.

The Chairperson mandated NWPB to submit the correspondence on the first and second quarter assessments. He also asked Dr Mokaila to provide details on the birth and death of animals.

Dr Mokaila committed to provide the information in a written submission.

On the participation of women and youths in BEE, he stated that although this had not been indicated, women and youths had been employed in the BEE. NWPB would monitor this area using management controls. He admitted that NWPB had not fully complied with women and youths’ participation in BEE.

The Chairperson interjected, and observed that there had been no compliance.

Dr Mokaila conceded that there had been no compliance on women and youth participation in the SARGBA BEE.

The Chairperson asked READ to address why the approved proposal had been from a white family that was previously advantaged.

Dr Mokaila said that even in agriculture, BEE had not made any achievements because white farmers still dominated agriculture. Consequently, wildlife farming was still dominated by the white farmers.

The Chairperson said that it did not make sense to the Committee for the contract to be approved for white farmers when the goal of transformation -- empowering previously disadvantaged people -- was supposed to be implemented by READ according to the contract.

Dr Mokaila replied that before the goal of transformation could be achieved, the Committee needed to answer the question as to whether black farmers existed. The Department had invested in the quantum leap game donation to empower previously disadvantaged people.

The Chairperson repeated that it did not make sense to the Committee that the contract had been approved for white people, but decided to take a break on the matter.

Dr Magome said that the Department conceded on the issues raised by the Committee. However, the contract acknowledged that although the NWPB was supposed to donate game to new farms, NWPB may not be able to do this because specialist knowledge and finance was needed, and presently only SARGBA met these criteria. In addition, after the five year period, new entrants would have been able to get developed in this area, and therefore they could become empowered.

The Chairperson asked the MEC to allay the concerns of the Members in terms of dealing with unsolicited bids and the disposal of assets, and to confirm if these transactions complied with the PFMA.

Ms Tlhape said that READ had received the same questions from the NW Province. Although game donations had been done before, in this situation the amount on game donated had been increased. In the past, game was donated to particular farms, but when READ received a proposal that would lead to the empowerment of black people, the process had been started. Some lessons had been learnt and READ was committed to correcting the mistakes made. A report presented on the evaluation of whether the project had empowered previously disadvantaged people had necessitated the hosting of a conference to sensitise women and youths on wildlife. As a result of the conference, people had become interested in wildlife, but presently NWPB could not donate game to women and youths.

The Chairperson asked the MEC to confirm if she was satisfied that the transaction had followed government prescripts in terms of PFMA.

Ms Thlape replied that NWPB had not fully complied with government prescripts, but they had learnt some lessons and werecommitted to make amends.

Ms Steyn expressed her concern on the overcrowding of animals, even though the overcrowding was for breeding proposes. She noted, however, that the Department had stated that this was possible if the animals were put under supplementary intensive feeding. She asked for clarity on the grazing capacity that was allowed on farms, especially if some of the farms were already dry due to lack of water. Why was the Department not embarking on supplementary intensive feeding for its own wildlife stock if private farms were using this procedure?

Mr Hadebe observed that if the Department had informed the Committee about the transaction, the Committee would have advised NWPB to go through the Expression of Interest, as stated in the Preferential Procurement Policy Framework Management Act (PPPFMA). The Act states what should be done when deviations such as unsolicited bids occurred. He also asked the MEC to state if the Minister was confident that the transaction was above board.

Mr Maloyi observed that the contract was not for five years, but actually for ten years. He said that the rationale for overstocking was flawed, because even when breeding on an area of 1.7 hectares, only 106 animals could be grazed. He asked the Department to commit to provide a written submission to this question. The presentation had shown that the agreement had been signed before the EXCO resolution, and the Committee would investigate this issue further, on the approval of the Chairperson. He also observed that the census in Annexure 15 was insufficient.

The Chairperson mandated READ and NWPB to give more detailed information on the census question because the answer given was insufficient.

Mr Maloyi said the Committee needed to visit the farm workers to make them know that they were supposed to be part of the shareholders in SARGBA. He also observed that a member of the SARGBA BEE was once a mayor of the Rustenburg municipality, and this did not reflect the empowerment of previously disadvantaged people.

Mr Mathale asked the Department, based on their earlier response, to clarify the census of NWPB stock before and after game donation.

The Chairperson said the Department had explained the number of available animals before the donation in each of the farms (protected areas), but the question was about how many animals were present on each of the farms, not on the global NWPB stocks which in addition should address the viability of the animals.

Mr Mathale withdrew his question.

Mr Makhubele asked if the Department had sought guidance from the national department on the framework. He remarked that shareholding was not limited to knowledge or expertise in breeding, but anyone could be empowered even if the person did not understand the sector. The Committee would still interact with READ on the issue of game donations so as to assist READ achieve its goals.

Ms Edwards said some of the questions she asked had not been answered. One of the questions had been answered, but there had been a misunderstanding concerning the beneficiaries. Was Mr Henri de Kock qualified to put animals to sleep for translocation? She asked the Department to provide the veterinary report prior to and after the translocation of animals. She also asked why four of the beneficiaries of SARGBA BEE were part of the nine-member steering committee.

Mr Mabilo observed that the Department had not fully answered the question on broad women and youth participation in SARGBA BEE, although the Department had stated that women and youth had been employed by SARGBA. The responses given to the Committee on the questions had been inadequate. He asked the Department to give the Committee a written report on whether due process had been followed during the transaction process.

The Chairperson followed-up on the policy issue by asking the Department to address the matter of retrospective applications to the June 2015 policy approval. He also asked the Department to address the issues of outstanding donations, in view of the matters arising before continuing with the contract. The advice of the Committee would be that the Department should stop carrying out any other activities in the contract until after the Committee’s concerns had been addressed.

Dr Magome said that, as reported by the MEC, the implementation of the contract was a learning process. In terms of practice, in South Africa one could put an animal to sleep only if one was accompanied by a veterinarian, and Dr Mokaila would address the issue of Mr Mike de Kock.

He said that the donation policy of 2014 had been improved in 2015 and would be further improved, based on the Committee’s comments. The old and new policy in Annexures ten and eleven had been used to implement the game donations. In the past, the old policy had been used, but certain parts of the new policy were being employed for game donations presently.

The Chairperson said that the Department needed to resolve the contradiction over whether Annexure ten or eleven captured the old policy or the new policy.

 Dr Magome reported that there were no policies on donations from the national department, and SANParks did not have a policy presently on donations.

The Chairperson responded that SANParks did have policies.

Dr Magome reported that although SANPark had policies on small donations, presently there were no policies on large donations.

Dr Mokaila said that the private farm that had signed a contract on game donations with the Department had already applied for more land through the appropriate authority, and this plan would be attached in the written submission on overstocking that would be submitted by the Department to the Committee. The Department was committed to addressing procurement by implementing the PPPFA because the Department had learnt its lessons on such transactions. He admitted that the contract was for ten years, and not five years as stated earlier. He also admitted that the contract had been signed after the EXCO resolution. He said that a BEE trust agreement had been developed. He made a commitment that the Department would respond to questions on policy in writing.

He agreed that Mr Henri de Kock could put animals to sleep only in the presence of a veterinarian. The steering committee members had been constituted for the purposes of implementation, but the oversight committee was different and independent of SARGBA. The Department was also committed to finding ways of broadening the participation of women and youth in BEE, and written submissions would be provided for questions that had inadequate answers.

Ms Tlhape committed the Department to providing a monitoring and evaluation report on the first and second quarters. She reiterated the willingness of the Department to work with the Committee, since nationally READ was advocating for a bio-diversified economy. She also invited the Committee to visit to the project, because the process of interaction between the Committee and READ needed to be continued to ensure that the project would succeed.

The Chairperson asked the MEC to state if the project had been carried out with due diligence.

Ms Tlhape replied that she could not say that the project had been carried out with due diligence because the Department had made some errors. For instance, the Department had not initiated an ‘expression of interest,’ particularly when it had escalated the number of game donations to SARGBH.

Mr Maloyi remarked that the Committee needed the EXCO resolutions, not submissions made by the MEC. He also remarked that buffaloes and white rhinos were rare species, and therefore the policy did not cover these animals.

The Chairperson said that Mr Maloyi’s comment would be addressed at the next meeting, and invited the members from PC Agriculture to attend it. He mandated the Department to present the letter from the EXCO and make written submissions to questions four and five, and all other questions to which there had been inadequate answers. The Committee accepted the proposal to visit the project, but since this would be an oversight visit, the Committee needed first to receive permission from Parliament. He advised the Department not to proceed on the remaining donations until the Committee had sufficiently interacted with the Department, and the Committee was satisfied with their responses.

The meeting was adjourned.

Share this page: