The Committee on Environmental Affairs met to be updated on the implementation of the “One Environmental System” by the Inter-Departmental Project Implementation Committee (IPIC) from the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA). In addition, the Committee also received a briefing from the DEA, the South African Police Service (SAPS) and the State Security Agency (SSA) on the threatened or protected species (TOPS) regulations, and initiatives to combat wildlife trafficking.
IPIC recounted the background to the formation of the IPIC, and described its mandate. Questions that the Committee had asked the IPIC previously, were answered. The IPIC also outlined updates on its compliance and enforcement strategies in relation to its legal mandate.
The Committee asked the DEA to clarify if the Department of Mineral Resources (DMR) had the capacity to ensure compliance on air quality at the mines. Details were sought of the three phases of rehabilitation of the mines and the time frames for the implementation of the regulations on financial provision. The Committee also asked for updates on the communications that existed between various departments concerned, as well as local government, and wanted to know how the concerned departments would be able to ascertain if there was sufficient funding set aside for the rehabilitation of the mines.
The briefing on the TOPS regulations dealt with the main pressures being faced by the DEA, the objectives of the National Environmental Management Biodiversity Act (NEMBA), the legislative context and key enabling provisions on TOPS, the key provisions for issuing different types of permits, and the key amendments to be implemented on the list of species and TOPS regulations.
The State Security Agency (SSA) briefed the Committee on the strategies used to combat wildlife trafficking. The draft National Integrated Strategy to Combat Wildlife Trafficking (NISCWT) had been put together to increase the capacity to undertake enforcement and combat wildlife trafficking. The challenges identified in relation to the enforcement initiatives included porous borders, unemployment and poverty as issues that negatively impacted on security.
The Committee asked if the Ministry of Finance was involved in the NISWCT, based on the financial implications of the strategy, and also state how the information on the location and geographical availability of the hunted species could be protected from syndicates. It commented that the TOPS regulations appeared to be good, but asked about the impact of the regulations on the concerned species and how people in rural areas could become aware of the strategy. It also expressed its concern regarding the effectiveness of the SAPS in combating wildlife trafficking, and asked how the concerned departments could make the SAPS rise to the challenge of implementing the strategy, since they were leading the implementation.
Members suggested that the concerned departments could engage the services of private security firms, and that the concerned Ministers should put special emphasis on the responsibilities of SAPS in the strategy, and work closely with SAPS. The Committee asked the DEA to explain how it would align with the NISCWT and how the strategy would assist in catching the “kingpins” of the crime, rather than the “poor errand boys.” The DEA was asked to state the checks and balances available for issuing permits, the extent of the view in favour of centralising the issuance of permits, and to clarify if there was sufficient capacity in the courts to speedily prosecute or convict offenders of these crimes. The Committee suggested that all the concerned departments should work together to combat wildlife trafficking, and recommended integrated legislation to combat wildlife trafficking.
Ms H Kekena (ANC) advised the Committee that she had been delegated to act as Chairperson until the arrival of the Chairperson, Mr M Mapulane (ANC), who had sent an apology stating that he would be late for the meeting.
Update on implementation of “One Environmental System”
Mr Alf Wills, Deputy Director General (DDG): Environmental Advisory Services (EAS), Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) gave the background to the formation of the Interdepartmental Project Implementation Committee (IPIC). It had been established by the Minister, and consisted of officials from three departments. The mandate of the IPIC was to monitor the effective and efficient implementation of one environmental system.
He first responded to questions that the Committee had previously asked the IPIC. The competent authority for environmental authorisations and waste management licences under the National Environmental Management Act (NEMA) and the National Environmental Management Waste Act (NEMWA), was the Minister of Mineral Resources. Closure certificates where dealt with by the Department of Mineral Resources (DMR) under the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act (MPRDA). The Minister of Environmental affairs was the appeal authority in respect of all mining environmental affairs.
Mr Wills said 34 appeals had been received in relation to mine environmental affairs during the 2016/17 financial year, with 22 finalised, and there had been a regular feedback and training provided by the Appeals Directorate to DMR regional managers on finalised appeals and challenges discussed at the IPIC. He answered some questions related to the financial provisioning regulations and explained how the DEA dealt with the mining companies that made insignificant contributions -- below the needed full cost of the mine -- before the financial provisioning came into force. He described the function and importance of the IPIC before and after December 2014, the rotation of chairing the IPIC and how IPIC communicated with other stakeholders. He also updated the Committee on the compliance and enforcement strategies of the IPIC with regard to its legal mandate.
Mr T Hadebe (DA) asked if the DMR had enough competence to ensure compliance on air quality at the mines.
Mr R Purdon (DA) asked the IPIC team from the DEA to clarify the three phases of rehabilitation of the mines, and the time frames for the implementation of the regulations on financial provision. He also asked the IPIC to update the Committee on the communications that existed between various departments concerned and local government.
Mr Hadebe asked how the Department was able to ascertain that there was enough funding set aside for the rehabilitation of the mines.
Mr Wills responded that the environmental assessments were conducted through environmental impact assessments (EIA’s), and the Minister of Mineral Resources considered the EIAs when issuing licences. The air regulation process was based on EIAs under the Air Quality Management Act and the issuing authority was the local government, and in some cases the provinces.
The IPIC was presently running training and capacity building programs for DMR officials to ensure that they had the required capacity. The system conducted an audit cycle to determine the adequacy of the financial provision, and it was implemented in three phases. The new approach to financial provisioning was that the mine operation goes concurrently with rehabilitation, which was referred to as phase one, and called on-going rehabilitation. It reduced the risk at the second phase, which was the end of the life of mine, and there was a provision for a latent defect or unforeseen defect, which was the third phase.
Ms Linda Garlipp, Chief Director: Law Reforms and Appeals, DEA, said that the amendment for the financial provisioning had been completed and would be submitted to the audit department. However, the time frame for implementing the regulations on financial provision was 30 days.
Ms Frances Craigie, Chief Director: Enforcement, DEA, reported that the DMR regulations were currently with the government printers. The DMR had the capacity required for the process, compliance and enforcement work, and a work plan had been drawn up to indicate how the joint work would be executed. However, the DMR was still building capacity and currently had a big recruitment drive.
The Acting Chairperson welcomed the Chairperson and handed over to him.
The Chairperson said that he sent an apology that he would be late to the meeting; he forwarded the apologies of Mr S Makhubele (ANC) and Ms H Nyambi (ANC) who lost a son and father respectively. He also sent his condolence to both families. He welcomed the team on DDG Biodiversity and Conservation Mr Shonisani Munzhedzi.
Brief on Threatened or Protected Species (TOPS) regulations
The Chairperson, having joined the meeting, welcomed the biodiversity and conservation team from the DEA, and invited them to brief the Committee on the Threatened or Protected Species (TOPS) regulations.
Mr Shonisani Munzhedzi, Deputy Director General (DDG): Biodiversity and Conservation, DEA, introduced colleagues from South African Police Service (SAPS), the State Security Agency, South African National Parks (SANPARKS) and the DEA. He said South Africa had a diverse range of landscape and a rich biodiversity of both plants and animals. South Africa was the third most biologically diverse country in the world after Brazil and Indonesia, which emphasised the importance of biodiversity. The main pressures facing TOPS were habitat loss and degradation, invasive alien species, illegal wildlife trade, unsustainable use, climate change, desertification and pollution. He described the objectives of the National Environmental Management Biodiversity Act (NEMBA), and the legislative context of TOPS.
Ms Thea Carroll, Chief Director: Bio-Diversity Planning and Management, DEA, described the key enabling provisions on threatened or protected species. She listed the species that were threatened and in need of being protected according to Section 56, and the categories of such species. She explained the NEMBA key provisions for issuing different types of permits on TOPS, according to Section 57 (1), and the types of permits and NEMBA prohibitions according to Section 57 (2). She indicated the key NEMBA enabling provisions in Sections 97 and 57 (4), the NEMBA norms and standards the offences, penalties and regulations for TOPS. She referred to four court rulings and their implications for NEMBA and the need for substantial amendments after TOPS regulations had been implemented in 2007. She concluded by highlighting the key amendments to be implemented on the list of species and the TOPS regulations.
Mr Shonisani Munzhedzi invited the Acting Director SSA Dr Lyle Pienaar to
Brief on combating wildlife trafficking
Dr Lyle Pienaar, Senior Analyst: State Security Agency (SSA) briefed the Committee on the strategies used to combat wildlife trafficking. He said the draft National Integrated Strategy to Combat Wildlife Trafficking (NISCWT) had been put together to increase the capacity to undertake enforcement and combat wildlife trafficking. He described the challenges identified in relation to the enforcement initiatives linked to the investigation and prevention of wildlife trafficking. He identified porous borders, unemployment and poverty as other issues that negatively impacted on security. Wildlife trafficking arose as only one of the many kinds of organised crime in South Africa.
He explained the new approach drafted to address the problem. The objectives of the new approach were to improve law enforcement, increase the ability to detect, prevent and combat wildlife trafficking, and increase international law enforcement collaboration and cooperation. The SAPS were role players who collaborated with other departments to combat wildlife trafficking
Ms Craigie explained the roles and responsibilities of each of the agencies in implementing the NISWCT. The DEA, in line with its mandate, collaborated with the relevant agencies to ensure improved wildlife conservation.
Dr Pienaar indicated the three time-based strategies of the NISCWT and the matrix to monitor the performance of the several measurable key performance areas.
Ms Craigie explained the rhino laboratory work stream, based on the five pillars of rhino conservation.
Dr Pienaar gave a breakdown of the timeline for approval of the strategy, and concluded that SAPS had been given a more enhanced role in the new strategy to ensure the enforcement of laws which would combat wildlife trafficking.
The Chairperson remarked that the strategy was well drafted, and invited Members to question the brief.
Mr Hadebe asked the team to clarify if the Ministry of Finance was involved, based on the financial implications of the strategy, and also to state how the information on the location and geographical availability of the hunted species could be protected so that syndicates would not use it as a compass to access the species.
Ms Kekena said the TOPS regulations appeared to be good, but asked for their impact on the concerned species and how the strategy could be related to the rural areas, where people may not have the awareness or interpretation of the content of the strategy. She also observed that SAPS had not been effective, and asked how the concerned departments could make SAPS rise to the challenge of implementing the strategy, since they would be leading the implementation.
Mr Purdon said there had been an increase in the crime rate which constituted a loss to the nation, and expressed concern on the current state of SAPS. He asked if the concerned departments could engage the services of private security firms. He also suggested that the concerned Ministers should put special emphasis on the responsibilities of SAPS in the strategy, and work closely with SAPS.
Ms J Edwards (DA) said the strategy looked good on paper, but she was skeptical about how it would play out in practice. The Department should elaborate on how the DEA would integrate into the strategy. She also asked how the strategy would help to catch the “kingpins” and sponsors of the crime, rather than the poor errand boys on ground that could easily be recruited.
The Chairperson asked the DEA to state the checks and balances available for issuing permits, because bribes could be used to manipulate the issuance of permits. He also asked the DEA to indicate the extent of the view in favour of centralising the issuance of permits, because the permit issuance system had been reported to be abused. If the strategy was implemented to the letter, it could bring about a reduction of this crime, but it needed commitment from the concerned stakeholders. Did the concerned departments have the capacity to go after the kingpins instead of catching the poachers? He had visited the Kruger National Park and noticed that there were beautiful houses in the villages around it that might well have been built from the proceeds of poaching. He asked the team to state the intention of the strategy and clarify if there was sufficient capacity in the courts to speedily prosecute or convict offenders of these crimes.
Mr Munzhedzi said that when a permit was issued, the conditions in the permit assisted in the standardisation of the approach. The practice of the norms and standards for permits was informed by TOPS. He highlighted the way the DEA would align with the strategy, which included centralising some elements of permit issuance, client assessments on the application of TOPS, and setting out standard operating procedures to ensure that common approaches were used within the concerned agencies.
Ms Craigie said that the outcomes of research were published by the researchers, but the DEA controlled the information made available to the researchers in order to improve security. The DEA had programmes to measure the impact of the regulation of the concerned species, and how the strategy could be related to the rural areas. There were permit committees to ensure that the permits were correctly issued. The legislation was important to correct the problem with the issuance of permits, and an electronic permit issuance system would also assist the process.
Mr Purdon asked the DEA to clarify the species of rhinos that were endangered.
Ms Carroll clarified the different species of endangered rhinos.
Dr Pienaar said that the strategy sought to change the approach of combating wildlife trafficking as a form of organised crime, by asking for political support from all the role players, and the first step was approval of the strategy. He observed that although the DEA was the custodian of combating wildlife crime, it did not have the mandate to combat wildlife trafficking as a form of transnational organised crime. The risks associated with the strategy were human and financial resources, and technology capacity issues. These risks could be mitigated by the use of existing capacity to change the strategic approach to the problem, to have quick wins in the short term, and to involve stakeholders such as the SAPS as a force multiplier.
Major General Phuntshi Chipu, of SAPS, said he was optimistic that SAPS would implement the strategy successfully as evidenced by the decline in poaching since his team took over. However, the increase of poaching in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) was due to the pressure mounted on poachers in the Kruger National Park, which had made the poachers move to KZN. However, the poachers were being arrested. He also allayed the concerns of the Committee on the implementation of the plan, and reported that the plan was already fruitful. The SAPS had identified some people who had not yet being arrested, because SAPS wanted to obtain evidence to link them to poaching crimes. These people were linked by personal profiling.
The SAPS was busy building capacity. At inception, it had not understood the problem and had focused on being inside the parks, but it had now realised that poachers were often outside the parks. The intention of SAPS was to get a deeper understanding of the problem. There was a need to look beyond the nation’s borders, because wildlife trafficking was a regional and continental problem. He also recommended that the Department should go after the kingpins, and not the poachers. He asked if the Department wanted to amend the Act, or the standard operating procedures. There was a need to look at the legislation in order to empower the judicial system to mete out deserving consequences to the criminals.
Ms Rose Masela, Acting Chief Director: National Wildlife Information Management Unit, DEA reported that 22 criminals had been arrested and that the partnership with SAPS had helped the DEA to achieve more from the current legislation.
The Chairperson said that although the statistics indicated poaching had decreased for two consecutive years, the issue of poaching was still a crisis because the numbers were still significantly high. He suggested that all the concerned departments should work together to combat wildlife trafficking, and recommended integrated legislation to combat wildlife trafficking.
The meeting was adjourned
- National Integrated Strategy to Combat Wildlife Trafficking (NISCWT)
- Department of Environmental Affairs: Draft National Integrated Strategy to Combat Wildlife Trafficking (NISCWT)
- Department of Environmental Affairs: Update on Implementation of One Environmental System
- Threatened or Protected Species (TOPS) Regulations