The Department of Environment’s (DEA) unit on biodiversity and conservation briefed the Committee on new norms and standards that would facilitate the protection of rhinoceroses. The Content Advisor to the Committee provided an overview of comments received from stakeholders on two new drafts of legislation which aimed to regulate the planting and cultivation of seeds from the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF)
The DEA briefing focused on the key section of the new draft law that strengthened the conservation of rhinos. The norms and standards focused on horn markings, an improved monitoring process, permit approvals for legal trophy hunting, and micro-chipping. The Department also explained the public participation process and the interaction between the national and provincial government to facilitate this.
The main discussion and queries from Committee Members were around the practicality of these new rules, and whether previously disadvantaged South Africans - specifically rural communities - would benefit from the new legislation. Responses from the DEA were well received, and the Committee agreed to support the new amendments, as they would strengthen the conservation of rhinos and Departmental oversight over activities involving hunting and the preservation of the species.
The second session involved the Committee’s content advisor, who gave a summary of the key responses received from various stakeholders on two new draft Bills of the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF), including how to address some of the challenges that stakeholders had identified. The new draft Bills were the Plant Improvers Bill (B 8B - 2015) and the Plant Breeders’ Rights Bill (B 11B - 2015). Both sought to strengthen and provide clarity on regulations for seed cultivation, the protection of the rights of seed developers, and to align the local industry with international best practice.
A key concern raised by stakeholders had been that the new legislation was an over-reach from government regarding oversight of agriculture, and many respondents had called for a blanket rejection of the new legislation. Another complication was that the draft legislation set small-scale and traditional farmers against large organisations like multinationals. The local small-scale farmers felt that the new legislation favoured large corporations. There was also an important issue around the potential discord that had to be resolved between the Indigenous Knowledge (IK) Bill, which sought to protect local indigenous plant knowledge against patents, as opposed to Intellectual Property (IP) patents, which aimed to safeguard patent rights for those who developed new seed varieties. A mechanism had to be found to ensure that local traditional and small farmers were not disadvantaged by seed patents which seemed to be aimed at large organisations. There was broad agreement that the DAFF and the state’s legal advisers needed to do further work to address these concerns.
Briefing by Department of Environment on draft Norms and Standards pertaining to rhinoceros
Mr Shonisani Munzhedzi, Deputy Director General (DDG): Biodiversity and Conservation, DEA, said that the Department wanted to inform the Committee about the draft amendments to the National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act No. 10 of 2004.
Government Gazette No. 39589, volume 607 -- notice 5 of 2016, contained the revised norms and standards for the marking and hunting of rhinos for trophy hunting purposes. The DEA hoped the Committee would approve the proposed changes.
Key aspects of the draft Bill included national uniformity in respect of the marking of rhino horn and a process to monitor legal hunting, and stakeholder consultation - both within government (provincial and national) and with the general public.
Some of the key comments received included the need for clarity on the positioning of microchips in and on rhinos, clarity on the monitoring and cost of hunting, timeframes for reporting on mortalities, the rhino horn trade moratorium, and a national standard for microchips.
Important amendments flowing from the comments specified that when a live rhino was darted, a veterinarian had to insert the microchip, indicated the precise location of the microchip on a live rhino (behind the ear, close to the base of the ear), rhino mortalities had to be reported within five days, and skin and horn samples had to be collected when a live rhino was darted for any purpose.
The DDG concluded the presentation by saying that the improved norms and standards in the new draft Bill would improve the overall management of the conservation of rhinos.
Some Committee Members said that they had not had enough time to interrogate the report from the DEA on the draft Bill.
Mr C Smit ((DA, Limpopo) wanted clarity on the practicality of implementing the norms and standards
Ms Z Ncitha (ANC, Eastern Cape) requested feedback on the stakeholder consultative process, especially how the DEA felt after the consultation process on the new amendments to the Bill.
Ms E Prins (ANC, Western Cape) asked if any opportunities were being created for previously disadvantaged communities, and if they were aware of the role they could play and of the financial rewards linked to rhino conservation. She also wanted to know if there were specific allocations per species, or if the allocation was only for rhinos.
The Chairperson wanted more information on the DEA’s interaction with communities in the provinces. He asked whether communities were being trained by the Department about the conservation of the species, or if it was left up the provinces to inform and train communities.
Ms Ncitha asked if there was a standard price for those who hunted, and how this impacted on previously disadvantaged communities - did they benefit from hunting fees?
Mr A Singh (ANC, KwaZulu-Natal) asked if funds raised from hunting were used to protect rhinos, or if they were used for other purposes.
Mr Munzhedzi provided the following responses:
- The DEA had collaborated extensively with provinces on the norms and standards. The central
- government had developed an overarching framework of principles and guidelines which the provinces could use to develop their own guidelines, suited to their local conditions. He advised that most of the hunting of rhinos took place in private farms and reserves, and about 25-30% of nature reserves were privately owned.
- Previously disadvantaged communities were being given broad assistance and training on the “wildlife economy” to enable them to participate in the industry.
- Income generated from rhino hunting could stay within communities to provide incentives and income to them, and contribute to species conservation. For example, fees from legal trophy hunting could be used for rhino conservation.
At this stage Mr Munzhedzi, left the meeting and other DEA officials remained to continue the discussion with Committee Members.
Ms Magdel Boshoff, Deputy Director: Biodiversity Policy Development, referred to Mr Singh’s question on how funds raised from hunting fees were used, and said that in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) R1.6m had been raised from rhino trophy hunting, and local communities had benefited from the funds. This was a good example, as the communities were participants in an expansion programme for black rhinos donated by KZN Wildlife. She mentioned a few other initiatives and programmes under the auspices of the DEA to conserve rhinos, such as:
- A rhino laboratory that examined and looked at all aspects of rhino conservation;
- Provincial collaboration, where joint committees like the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), the SA Police Service (SAPS) and Nature Conservation worked together to ensure a coordinated approach to conservation (permits, enforcing regulations etc.); and
- Anti-poaching squads based in all provinces, with assistance provided by SA National Parks
Ms Olga Khumalo, Director: Biodiversity, DEA, commented on the consultation process with stakeholders on the new norms and standards. Although the public consultation process had been very extensive, there were gaps in the logistics – for example, currently there was no process to give feedback to stakeholders who were consulted and provided comments on the draft Bill. Stakeholders would be able to determine if their views had been taken on board only after changes to the Bill by the DEA. The Department therefore had to be very clear when some views were not accommodated in the new draft, and had to inform stakeholders very clearly why some comments had been accepted and others not.
Mr E Mlambo (ANC) said that to him it made sense to support the draft amendments, and he proposed
that the Committee support the new norms and standards as presented by the DEA.
The Chairperson formalised this proposal, and there was unanimous support for the new draft Bill by all Committee Members present. Acceptance of the new norms and standards draft Bill was proposed by Mr Mlambo and seconded by Ms Prins.
Plant Improvement Bill and Plant Breeders Rights Bill: Stakeholder comments
Mr Jakobus Jooste, Content Advisor to the Committee, gave a briefing on comments received from various stakeholders on two draft Bills -- the Plant Improvement Bill (B 8B - 2015, sec 76) and the Plant Breeders Rights Bill (B 11B - 2015, sec 76) - issued under the auspices of the Department of Agriculture
Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF)
Comments were received from the African Biodiversity Centre, SENSAKO, Bozzman Organics, Lets Collaborate, the South African National Seed Organisation, Tristan Holme and Rina Peach.
The following key aspects and issues could be gleaned from the submissions:
- In general, stakeholders called for a blanket rejection of the legislation. Most comments were broad and only one submission contained detailed responses;
- An important issue at stake was the stand-off between large multi-nationals vs. small local farmers insofar as the legislation was interpreted and impacted on stakeholders. Small local farmers felt the draft legislation protected large multi-nationals at the expense of small local farmers;
- The definition of “sell” in the draft was problematic, as seeds were often exchanged amongst traditional and small scale farmers, and the latter felt that the new legislation would hamper their activities;
- Some comments received felt this was an over-reach in terms of powers, and not in line with similar global legislation;
- There was a concern that these drafts may impact on the Indigenous Knowledge (IK) Bill under the Dept of Trade and Industry (DTI), which seeks to protect local indigenous knowledge against patents, as opposed to Intellectual Property patents. Large companies could register patents to protect their seeds that could impact negatively on small traditional farmers who already had a similar type of seeds. This needed to be resolved, and the Department of Science and Technology (DST) would need to be engaged on this.
He proposed the following procedures to address some of the other concerns raised by stakeholders:
- The Committee needed to get legal advice to assess whether this Bill “over-reached” in terms of its proposals vs. international best practice.
- It had to be established whether the new legislation and the IK Bill were in synergy, of if there was any disfunction or conflict between the two.
- The DEA needed to assure the Committee that it had carefully evaluated the impact the legislation would have on small scale farmers, and that it would not harm them.
The Chairperson wanted to know if the state legal advisor could comment on the issue regarding the IK Bill and patents being registered by companies to protect their seeds. Other Committee Members had similar concerns.
Ms Phumelele Ngema, Parliamentary Legal Advisor, said that the DAFF was best placed to look at the synergy or lack thereof between the Intellectual Property Bill and the Indigenous Knowledge Bill. She had not looked at that aspect yet, so could not comment. Her view was that there was no over-reach and that these draft amendments were aligned to international best practice. She also pointed out that this regulation did not impact on the cultivation of seeds, but that it aimed to regulate new varieties.
Ms Ncitha said she now had a clearer picture on the legal issues raised regarding international standards, but she was still unclear on how this new legislation impacted on the rights of farmers.
Ms Ngema replied that in her view, small scale farmers were not affected by the legislation, only large institutions wanting to participate in the big international markets. The legislation was aimed at protecting local citizens, and at the same time required compliance with international laws.
Mr Jooste felt that there was still not enough clarity to enable farmers, particularly small scale farmers, to feel assured that they were not affected negatively by the legislation.
This view was supported by Mr Mlambo, as he felt that even with public participation processes to inform people, not everyone attended these meetings (especially traditional farmers), so more work needed to be done by the DAFF to inform and educate smaller stakeholders on these issues.
The rest of the meeting was taken up by Committee matters, specifically the draft programme on the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act (MPRDA) Bill towards the end of June, when the Committee wanted to engage with stakeholders who had provided comments on the Bill. This process had still to be finalised.
The discussion on the Committee’s visit to the community of Madibeng in North West Province was postponed to a later date. A report on the visit had been issued, but had still to be ratified by Committee Members.
The meeting was adjourned