Liquor Products, National Forest & National Veld and Forest Fire Amendment Bills: DAFF briefing, with Deputy Minister in attendance

Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries

21 February 2017
Chairperson: Mr P Maloyi (ANC) (Acting)
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Meeting Summary

The Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries briefed the Committee on three proposed bills, namely Liquor Products Amendment Bill [B10-2016], National Forests Amendments Bill [B11-2016] and National Veld and Forest Fire Amendment Bill [B22-2016]. The Deputy Minister was present in the meeting.

The Department reported that the Liquor Products Amendment Bill seeks to amend some terms of the already existing legislation and introduce new terms. One of the new terms to be defined is ‘beer’ and ‘traditional beer’ and the regulation of these terms. Another amendment will be in respect of the liquor content of all liquor products that will be required to lower their alcohol level to just 0.5% so as to comply with the amendments and other international laws. The amendment of the terms beer will not include traditional beer. This will not be regulated by the amendments unless it is being sold and traded on the market. Further, traditional beer that is only made for drinking at ceremonies and events will not be regulated, but the moment it is bottled and sold then it will have to comply with the regulations.

The Committee raised questions about the regulation of traditional beer and the monitoring of it. They further expressed concern about the health issues that some communities may be exposed to as a result of people trying to avoid the amendments and the regulations. The Department noted the concerns and said that it will have to investigate these issues further.

The aim of the National Forests Amendment Bill is to bring the current legislation in line with the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa. The amendments will also promote the inclusion of women and the youth into the projects that the Department will be embarking on. The amendments also introduce appeal procedures that people can follow when officers make decision about the forests that affect the people.

The Committee commented on the appeal procedures and requested that the Department reconsider the appeal procedures with the aim of looking at the steps that people can take in relation to a decision made by the Minister. The Department informed the Committee about the problems it encounters in communities where ownership of the forests is not clear. These issues need to be deliberated with other departments so as to ensure that the assistance provided by the Department reaches the communities intended to receive such assistance.

The National Veld and Fire Amendment Bill, the Department focuses on the definitions that are not adequately addressed in the current legislation and also introduces new terms.

The new definitions of the terms were presented, but the Committee requested that the presenter makes amendments to the presentation and returns to present the amendments once the presentation has been corrected. 

Meeting report

Election of Acting Chairperson

Prior to the meeting taking place, the Committee Secretary announced that the Chairperson is not well and as a result, she will not be attending the meeting. The members were then instructed to elect a temporary Chairperson for the day.

The members nominated and elected the Mr P Maloyi (ANC) to be the Acting Chairperson.

Mr Maloyi accepted the nomination and chaired the meeting.

Opening remarks by the Acting Chairperson

The Acting Chairperson welcomed the Committee and read out the apologies from members who were unable to attend at the meeting. He then asked why Minister Senzeni Zokwana was not present at the meeting.

Deputy Minister Bheki Cele replied that the Minister was attending a Select Committee meeting and apologised on his behalf.

The Acting Chairperson asked the Deputy Minister to introduce his team from the Department to the Committee.

The Deputy Minister Cele greeted the Committee and said that he is delighted to say that there is a new change within the Department that is aimed at empowering women and that a new appointment of a female Deputy Director-General, Dr Shibu Rampedi, had been made for the Forestry and Natural Resources Management position. He proudly said “Alibongwe igama lamakhosikazi”.

Deputy Minister Cele then asked Director-General, Mike Mlengana, to conduct the introduction of the remaining members from the Department.

Mr Mlengans introduced the delegation and informed the Committee about the passing of one of the Chief-Director’s in Fisheries unit.

The members noted the information and offered their condolences to the Department.

Ms A Steyn (DA) requested that in future the names of the delegates be given in advance in order for her and the members to be able to identify the presenters. She also commended the Department on bringing the delegates to the Committee meeting and further stated that she would like to have the presenters come before the Committee in order to see and know the faces of the presenters.

The Acting Chairperson supported the view of Ms Steyn and said that all of the people who are important for conducting presentations must be present at the meetings in order for the meetings to be fruitful.

Deputy Minister Cele noted the comments from the members.

The Acting Chairperson then requested the Department to present on the Liquor Products Amendment Bill [B10-2016].

Liquor Products Amendment Bill [B10-2016]

Mr Dipepeneneng Serage, Chief-Director: Inspection and Quarantine Services, DAFF, explained that the Bill seeks to regulate the content and/or composition of liquor products. It also seeks to narrow the gap between liquor products that contain high and low levels of alcohol. It also seeks to define the term ‘beer’ and what it is within the Bill. The Bill also seeks to describe other products that contain alcohol and afford the control of export and import of the liquor products that were not defined by the Liquor Products Act of 1989. There are other products such as those that are sugar fermented beverages that the Department has not yet decided on whether or not they should fall under the term ‘beer’. This is because the Department did not reach a consensus on the composition of the sugar fermented beverages.

Once the amendments in the Bill come into effect, it will take some time before it can be applied in the provincial legislations as these will need to be amended at a later stage. However, there are things that will change immediately once the amendments come into effect, these will include the reduction of powers of the Wine and Spirits Board. The advisory functions that are currently entrusted with the Board will be taken away and the Board will only be responsible for the administrative functions only.

Another amendment will be in respect of the liquor content of all liquor products that will be required to lower their alcohol level to just 0.5% so as to comply with the amendments and other international laws. The amendment of the terms beer will not include traditional beer. This will not be regulated by the amendments unless it is being sold and traded on the market. Further, traditional beer that is only made for drinking at ceremonies and events will not be regulated, but the moment it is bottled and sold then it will have to comply with the regulations.

Discussion

Mr C Mathale (ANC) and Ms Steyn both had concerns regarding the enforcement of the regulations of liquor products more specifically traditional beer.

Ms Steyn asked who is going to be responsible for ensuring compliance with the regulations: will it be the provinces or will it be the national department?

Mr P van Dalen (DA) asked how the Department intends on regulating the sugar fermented beverages.

Mr Serage replied that the definition of ‘sale’ in the amendment and the Liquor Product Act does not cater for the trade of traditional beer as this will be difficult for the Department to regulate and enforce, especially since no one will be able to tell whether or not money has exchanged hands. In terms of regulating the amendments, the provinces will be responsible for ensuring compliance with the regulations. He further noted and conceded that there are potential health risks that might be imposed by the unregulated alcohol beverages and that the Department still needs to investigate further on this matter and find alternatives of how this can be mitigated. In all, what the amendments do not address, will be addressed by the regulations.

Deputy Minister Cele emphasised that the amendments will regulate the monitoring of the liquor products and other regulated alcohol beverages. However, the enforcement of the regulations will have to be done by the police department.

Mr W Maphanga (ANC) asked about the reduction of the powers of the Board and the effect that it will have on the producers.

Mr Serage replied that the Board as it currently stands only issues certificates and performs administrative functions. The amendment aims to bring the Board’s powers in line with what the Board actually does in practice. As such, the amendment will only be bringing the powers of the Board with what it is currently doing, which is the administration of wine and spirits.

Ms Steyn then asked how and where the Department will test the products to ensure that all sold liquor products comply with the regulations.

Mr Serage answered that the Department has laboratories at Stellenbosch and Pretoria. These will be the areas that will be used for testing the products.

The Acting Chairperson asked the Department to reconsider some of the questions that were raised by the members especially the ones regarding the concurrent jurisdiction of the national and provincial laws regulating liquor products and the issue regarding the unregulated traditional beer.

National Forests Amendment Bill

Dr Rampedi explained that the Bill was drafted with the intention of aligning the current legislation with the Constitution.

The amendments in the Bill seek to provide emergency measures to be adopted in order to halt the destruction of forests; provide procedures and processes that people can follow in order to appeal decisions taken by officers; and promote equity by inclusion of the youth and women in the National Forests Advisory Council.

Regarding the appeal procedures, the people who are affected by the decisions taken by officers will have the opportunity to appeal to the Minister. There will be an investigation on the decision and the circumstances surrounding it. The Minister will appoint a mediator who will then look at the matter from the side of the affected person and of the officer.

In promoting equity, the department aims to assist more women and young people in growing and utilising the forests in a productive manner. The department wants them to be able to cultivate mushrooms and other naturally grown foods and produce them for the market. This will also assist with creating more jobs for other people.

However, the slow progress in transferring the land from the State to the communities hinders the envisaged job creation. At the moment, the department is involved in discussions with a number of communities about how it can assist.

Discussion

Ms Steyn asked whether the forests that are under the National Defence Force are also covered by the amendments and if it will also be transferred to the communities.

Mr Maphanga asked about the time frames that are applicable to the appeals and the period in which these will be responded to.

Deputy Minister Cele replied that all forests are covered by the Bill. However, what slows the process down is that there are many laws that govern the forests and that this means that they have to consult with a number of other departments in order to do something about the forests.  As a result, the progress in agriculture ends up being slow. Also, where people do not see the benefits to having forests around them then those people are most likely to destroy the forests instead of protecting them.

In respect of the time frames about the appeal processes, the Deputy Minister conceded that this area needs to be investigated. The Department will see how the amendments can be improved to include this, but it is most likely to be included in the regulations. The appeal process on the decisions of the Minister also needs to be investigated. Also, there are some key role players such as SALGA that have not been consulted, these key role players will be consulted and their feedback will be reported when the Department meets with the Committee in the next coming meetings. 

National Veld and Fire Amendment Bill

Mr Renny Madula, Director: Forestry Regulations and Oversight, DAFF, stated that the amendments that are brought by the Bill will mainly focus on the definitions of already existing concepts. The Bill seeks to empower traditional leaders as well as municipalities with powers to act in cases of emergency when there are fires in the open fields, through the establishment of the Fire Protection Associations.

The amendments will change, amongst other things, the definitions of: open fire, veld fire, traditional council, and public entity. 

Discussion

Ms Steyn asked whether the Department has the budget to cater for the changes and associations that will be created by the new amendments. She further asked what the Department intends on doing regarding the possible non-compliantcewith the regulations that may ensue from the government.

Mr Madula replied that the Department will work with the National Security Cluster to ensure that both the government and people comply with the regulations. Also, in respect of the budget, the Department is not anticipating to use substantial funds as most of the traditional leaders have already been trained.

Mr Maphanga and Mr Van Der Dalen noticed a number of typographical errors in the presentation especially when looking at the column with ‘what it will read like when amended’. The members complained that the errors created confusion and as a result they were unable to fully understand what the amendments will look like once they come into effect.

The Acting Chairperson requested that the Department be given some time to amend the presentation and come back to the Committee to present again.

The meeting was adjourned.    

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