The Committee on Environmental Affairs met to consider and adopt its report on the donation of wildlife game to private individuals. Members had earlier agreed to have a joint report with the Portfolio Committee on the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF). Although it had attended two meetings with the Environmental Affairs Committee, the DAFF Committee had declined having a joint report on the grounds that they had not been present at previous meetings. After consultation, the Committee on Environmental Affairs decided to present the report alone. Although legal opinion had been sought from the Parliament’s legal department, an opinion was not ready at the time of the meeting. The report was adopted after a few minor corrections, subject to a legal opinion.
Officials from the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) were scheduled to present their responses to issues raised during the public hearing on the Marine Spatial Planning Bill [B9-2017]. Although some officials were present, a key person in the drafting of the Bill, Adv Radia Razack, was reported to have gone on study leave. Members decided that the deliberations would be futile because whatever was decided would lack a legal backing. It was important to establish if and why some of the responses could be included in the Bill, and the legal implications of such actions. Officials from the DAFF were not ready with a presentation on DAFF responses, and said its report would be sent to its portfolio committee. However, the Environmental Affairs Committee insisted that it should see the report first, to ensure that all issues pertaining to the DAFF were captured in the report.
The Chairperson expressed his displeasure about the attitude of DEA officials, and warned that not providing the relevant people for future meetings may result in consequences.
Donation of Wildlife Game to Private Individuals
The Chairperson said the Committee would start the day’s business with the consideration and adoption of its report on the donation of wildlife game to private individuals. The report was on the interaction that the Committee had had with the North West provincial Department of Rural Environment and Agricultural Development and its MEC, on the issue. He reminded Members that there had been a decision to have a joint report with the Portfolio Committee on the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF). He said when Environment Committee had met with the DAFF Committee, the Chairperson of the DAFF Committee had made a remark on the process followed, and had also mentioned that it had not been involved in most of the meetings. The meeting had been adjourned.
Consultation with the Chair of Committees, Mr Cedric Frolic, on the issue had clarified that the report should belong to the Environment Committee, since it had initiated the entire process leading to the report and the issue also fell within the competence of Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA). Therefore the report would be presented as a Environment Committee report, as advised. All references to joint ownership of the report had been corrected, and if any of such statement was found, Members should indicate this. The report would reflect that the DAFF Committee had been invited and its Members had attended meetings twice. The Committee had asked for a written legal opinion, but the Parliamentary legal department was busy and could not provide the Committee with a legal opinion. However, he hoped that the report would be adopted subject to the legal opinion. A careful look at the report had revealed that there was a matter that had not been included in the resolution which should be an item in the resolution. The Committee had been misled with the statement that the game donation had been done in conformity to the policy, but the policy presented had revealed that the draft policy had not been signed. He said there were consequences for misleading the Committee.
Mr R Purdon (DA) said there were certain spelling, punctuation and grammatical mistakes in the report, some of which he had previously noted but had not been corrected.
Ms J Edwards (DA) also noted a spelling mistake.
Mr T Hadebe (DA) said that since the report was the same, except for removal of the information on the joint submission of the report and the spelling mistakes, the report should be adopted subject to legal opinion. He proposed a motion to adopt the report, subject to legal opinion.
Ms H Kekana (ANC) seconded the proposal.
Mr S Makhubele (ANC) said the legal opinion might demand that a change should be made to the report, so the report should not be submitted to Parliament yet.
The Chairperson said the PC would wait for the written legal opinion before the report was sent to Announcements, Tablings and Committees (ATC).
Marine Spatial Planning Bill
The Chairperson said meeting should proceed to the next item on the agenda – consideration of the Marine Spatial Planning Bill. However, the person central to the drafting of the Bill was not present, and other people in the team were not around. He asked if it was desirable for the meeting to proceed without the key person involved in the drafting of the Bill being present. Though someone from state law was available, he had been not a part of drafting the Bill. There were contentious issues that the Committee needed to be briefed about in order to take a decision. He expressed his disappointment that key people that were needed during Committee deliberations were always absent. It was essential to inform the Committee ahead when a key person would not be available for a meeting, so that the meeting could be rescheduled. If the meeting continued, there might be proposals for changes and changing content would be difficult without Advocate Radia Razack, Director Legal Services: Department of Environmental Affairs. He asked Ms Judy Beaumont, Deputy Director General (DDG), DEA, if she had anything to say.
Ms Beaumont apologised for the situation. The team had been working together. The understanding was that the DEA would be reporting on the comments it had received, the overall response and the response from the DAFF. The responses had been crafted with Ms Razack and her team. She hoped to give the Committee the feedback, and a more detailed possible adjustment to the Bill would take place at a later time.
The Chairperson said there was an official from legal services in the meeting, and asked him to advise the Committee on how to proceed.
The official said a decision on how to proceed could be taken by the Committee, but the policy implications of the responses would be better addressed by the DEA, especially when they were related to policies.
The Chairperson said though a Bill was drafted by a Committee, someone was responsible for pioneering the Bill. Ms Razack had been the pioneer, so others might not be able to respond effectively. The same report that would be received from DEA would be the response to send back to the communities.
Mr Hadebe said there was no need to listen to the responses, because the Committee had been present at the public hearing and Members were already aware of them. The expectation was rather to receive a report on the legal implication of the responses. The responses were why contributions from the public hearing should be a part of the Bill, and why some contributions could not be a part of the Bill.
Ms Edward said if the meeting was postponed, it would delay the process, but added that the DDG could return to the DEA with the information and give direction on it.
The Chairperson said it had been noted that the DEA was not willing to incorporate some of the responses. Also, it was important for Ms Razack to be available.
Mr Makhubele said he had gone through the document. There were issues that the Committee would like to engage on, but issues that did not fall with the mandate of DEA had not been captured. He supported the need for Ms Razack to be present. He said that officials from the DAFF should take on the issues that concerned their department for their own deliberations. Time should be allotted to receiving a response from the DAFF.
The Chairperson said Members’ responses indicated that the meeting could not continue. He said Parliament passed the law, and there was a need for Parliament to make a choice which should be based on proper understanding. The Committee would not continue to hear the departmental responses of the DEA. The Department was not doing the Committee any favours in the response to its call. There should be a consequence for the attitude of DEA, and someone should be made to take responsibility for the wastage. He asked officials from the DAFF for their responses, as the bulk of the responses from the public were on issues that related to the DAFF.
Mr Mandisile Mqoqi, Deputy Director General, DAFF, said the Department had not participated in all the public hearings. He had been told by Mr Asanda Njobeni, Chief Director: Marine Resources Management, DAFF, that he had communicated with the Chairperson of the DEA Committee, and they had both agreed that the DAFF’s responses would be sent to the DAFF Committee. The DAFF was not prepared for a presentation to the Portfolio Committee on Environmental Affairs.
Mr Hadebe insisted it was necessary for the DAFF to send their responses to this Committee, because it had been responsible for the public hearing and needed to see if all the issues that had emerged during the hearing, and which were related to the DAFF, had been covered. The Chairperson of Environmental Affairs Committee should be responsible for handing the report to the DAFF Committee.
The Chairperson said he did not have an agreement to present the report to the DAFF Committee with anyone, and did not know the person referred to by Mr Mqoqi. It was obvious that the DAFF was not ready with the responses.
Mr Hadebe said he supported the proposal that the meeting should not continue. Most of the issues that had been raised during the public hearing had nothing to do with the Marine Spatial Bill. They were issues that were often raised in the DAFF Committee’s weekly meetings. There was no way that these issues would be filtered into the Marine Spatial Bill, so it was important to wait for the relevant official. The Committee should discuss the issues that were related to the DEA, and arrange a meeting with the DAFF Committee concerning how it would respond to the report.
Ms Edwards said that having looked at the responses, there were no new issues except for those that the officials and the DAFF Committee were already aware of. What was important was to have guidance on what could be included in the Bill.
Mr Purdon said it was obvious that the DAFF had not known what to bring to the meeting. Although, there were issues that were not applicable to the Bill, the Committee had an obligation to ensure that the community got feedback on the issues. He was not sure how the responses from the DAFF should be done, but it was important to report back on the issues to the communities. This would reflect on the integrity of the Committee, since it had been responsible for the public hearing.
The Chairperson said most of the issues raised concerned the DAFF, which had its own Portfolio Committee. During the public hearing, officials from the DAFF had taken notes, and he had thought that the DAFF would send its responses on these issues to the DEA Committee. It could not direct the activities of the DAFF, but he had expected that these issues would be tackled together. He suggested that the DAFF should make a list of the issues raised, so that it could prepare itself for the next meeting, where it would be given a slot to respond. He also encouraged the DEA to bring all the relevant people to the next meeting. He promised to communicate to the DG and the Minister on the negative attitude of the DEA officials towards the Committee.
The meeting was adjourned.
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