Kruger National Park & private reserves benefit sharing agreement: inquiry day 2

Environment, Forestry and Fisheries

06 February 2019
Chairperson: Mr M Mapulane (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

Hunting in Greater Kruger National Park: SANParks & Mpumalanga Parks Board

 The Committee continued with its inquiry into the signing of a benefit sharing agreement between SANParks and communities in the western boundary of the Kruger National Park (KNP). The signing agreement took place in December 2018 despite the Committee’s directive and resolution that SANParks first present a draft agreement and concept document to the Committee so Members had a clearer understanding of the agreement.

Ban Animal Trading argued that hunting animals as a sport is always immoral and unethical. It also argued that the dropping of the fences has failed to benefit the animals who remain vulnerable to being killed for personal gain and profit. The organisation suggested that the law around land ownership be reconsidered by the Committee so that the animals who move freely are protected in the same way as the animals in the KNP.

The Committee was then briefed by employees of Cullinan & Associates Inc. on the issue of law reform as it applies to trophy hunting. The presentation raised the issue of the inadequacy of the concept of res nullis in protecting the animals and the issue of transparency. The oranisation argued that the benefit sharing agreement was signed by the South African National Parks (SANParks) despite failure to follow the correct parliamentary procedure. It also argued that the agreement fails to provide for regulatory schemes, compliance to protocols and denies the right to access information. It suggested that Parliament replace the existing agreement through a new inclusive process that takes into account the public interest.

The Associated Private Nature Reserves (APNR) assured the Committee that strict protocols and the principles of transparency and accountability will be adhered to through auditing requirements.

SANParks stated that communication will be strengthened by establishing a parliamentary liaison official. It explained that there was no intention to undermine the Committee by signing the agreement before public hearings were held. Furthermore, the issues of crime, access to water, fires, flooding and drying of rivers were raised.

The Department of Environmental Affairs said it was engaging with officials of SANParks to improve communication with the Committee and a high-level panel will deal with Committee resolutions. The Chairperson then read out a letter he received from the Minister concerning the signing of the agreement.

Members of the Committee raised concern about including the voices of affected communities in the adjacent areas and the fact that the agreement was signed without determining the date and form that public hearings would take place. Members argued that public participation is crucial to having good policy and legislation. The Chairperson expressed concern that the Minister was misled and did not receive the right information. He said he couldn’t understand why she thought there was a misunderstanding when it was clear to everyone what the correct procedure was. He added that consequences must be imposed for the defiance of the Committee’s instructions. Members also raised concern about the hunting protocols, the content of the beneficiation agreements, who benefits from the dropping of fences and security and fencing costs.

Meeting report

The Chairperson greeted members of the Committee and apologised for arriving late. He noted an apology from the Minister. He added that he received a letter from the Minister about the signing of the benefit sharing agreement. He said the letter will be read out and officials from the South African National Parks (SANParks) will be given an opportunity to respond to it. He then asked for the first presentation to begin.
 
Briefing by Ban Animal Trading
Ms Smaragda Louw, Director: Ban Animal Trading, greeted members of the Committee and said she will be speaking on the ethics of hunting in private nature reserves adjacent to the Kruger National Park (KNP). She said the aim of the presentation is to argue against hunting in these areas. She explained that the dropping of fences is based on ecological reasons and allows the animals to move freely. She said the benefit accruing to the private owners has been used to justify the killing of animals for their own pleasure and profit. She suggested that the legal concept of land ownership which enables this must be reconsidered. She explained that the challenge is that hunting happens under the guise of conservation and habitat protection. She said that hunters have turned conservation into an investment opportunity. She added that the problem is that the animals are treated as private property and not the heritage of all South Africans. She explained that the animals are still KNP animals even when they enter the private reserves and need to be legally protected. She then concluded her presentation.
 
The Chairperson thanked Ms Louw for her presentation. He then asked for the next presentation to begin. He expressed concern that the discussion is focused on trophy hunting which is not the intention of the inquiry. He added that hunting needs to be discussed because it is an issue in the adjacent reserve areas but the focus of the inquiry is more on how the benefit is supposed to be shared.
 
Briefing by Cullinan & Associates Inc
Ms Sarah Kvalsvig, Attorney and Consultant, Cullinan & Associates Inc., greeted members of the Committee and said her presentation is focused on trophy hunting and benefit sharing in the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Conservation Area (GLTCA). She explained that animals that leave the KNP areas of the Open System are res nullis under the common law.
 
The Chairperson asked if res nullis applies when animals jump the fence.
 
Mr Cormac Cullinan, Attorney and Director: Cullinan & Associates Inc., replied that it applies where animals are not enclosed. He explained that once you have an open area, the common law applies and they are therefore unowned animals.
 
Ms Kvalsvig said that the concept of res nullis is archaic and inconsistent with constitutional and environmental obligations. On the issue of transparency and accountability, she said the agreement was signed by SANParks despite the fact that directions from Parliament were not followed and affected parties did not comment on the draft agreement. She added that the agreement fails to provide penalties for non-compliance with protocols and that information about the parties involved in trophy hunting are refused. She said this impacts the issue of the right to access information about the management of the Open System. She then handed over to her colleague to continue the presentation.
 
Mr Cullinan said the issue of benefit sharing can be addressed by law reform. He explained that species are going extinct on a scale that has never happened before in the history of humanity. He added that the belief that humanity is separate from and superior to nature is scientifically untenable. He said that animals must be treated as members of the community and not exploited as a resource.He suggested that the concept of res nullis is legally inadequate. He explained that judgments of the Constitutional Court place an intrinsic value on animal welfare and conservation. He said that new legislation would impose duties on human beings and land owners to protect indigenous species. On the issue of benefit sharing, he said the existing agreements which have been signed cannot stand as they are biased in favour of private interests rather than the public interest. He said the agreement doesn’t fix the problem and suggested a new inclusive process to be set out by Parliament to replace the existing agreements.
 
The Chairperson thanked the presenters and asked officials from the Associated Private Nature Reserves(APNR) to respond. He added that the Director-General of the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) may be excused.
 
Briefing by APRN
Mr Wayne Jackaman, Chairperson, APNR, explained that the reserve cooperates with communities and the environment as part of the Open System. He said that due to rainfall and diseases there are marginal land use areas. He added that poaching is a big problem for the reserve at the moment. He said the most important thing about the agreement is that it is comprehensive and allows all parties to be audited. He explained that this will improve the issue of transparency. He said that strict protocols will be in place and only approved outfitters will hunt in the reserve.
 
The Chairperson thanked him for his input and asked officials from the SANParks to respond to the issues that have been raised.
 
Briefing by SANParks
Ms Joanne Yawitch, Chairperson, SANParks, said that members recently interacted with officials from the Department. She added that the Deputy Director-General (DDG) will respond to this. She explained that members of SANParks spent time yesterday discussing the errors and omissions that occurred. She explained that members discussed how to address the issue of parliamentary involvement to give substance to the agreement and how to strengthen their interaction with the Committee. She said the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) will speak on this. She said he will also speak on practical opportunities to remedy the issues that arose in yesterday’s meeting.
 
Mr Fundisile Mketeni, CEO, SANParks, thanked members for allowing them to come back and respond. He explained that the agreement was sent in November and there was a sincere understanding that Parliament would see the document and concerns raised by the Committee would be discussed with them. He apologied for the misunderstanding on their part and that it wasn’t their intention to undermine Parliament. They respect the role of Parliament and in order to improve communication they will assign a function of a parliamentary liaison official. He explained that the benefit agreement is a subset agreement to the main one. He said members will be hosted at the KNP and the adjacent areas so that the agreement can be clarified. The purpose of the agreement is to establish the protection and management of the areas and provides an umbrella framework for this. He added that it is not a re-negotiation of existing agreements. He explained that there are issues of flooding, fires, drying of rivers, water accessibility and crime. On the issue of land inclusion, he said there is an addition of further lands and partners. 
 
Mr Monde Mayekiso, DDG, DEA, said the Department has to work with members of SANParks on further engagements with the Committee such as holding public hearings. He said there is a high-level panel that will deal with the responses to the Committees resolutions. On the issue of legal concepts, he asked that a platform be created for the Department’s legal team to speak on these issues. He added that when it comes to common law there are multiple interpretations and a number of cases dealing with it. The premise of any law should come from an understanding of what it would mean for the country. He asked that a space be created for engagement on the legal aspects. Lastly, he said that communication must be strengthened between the Department, entities and the Committee so that they all have the same understanding.
 
Discussion
 
The Chairperson said he will read out the letter he received from the Minister for the benefit of Committee members as they do not have copies before them. The letter concerns the signing of the agreement. The letter stated that the Minister met with the Chairperson and CEO of SANParks together with the Department. SANParks assured the Minister that there was no intention to defy Committee members and so she requested that members accept her assurance in this regard. SANParks submitted the framework agreement which provided the rationale, context and alignment to principles of economic growth, transformation, inclusivity and the advancement of conservation. The Minister invited members to visit the areas and to engage with communities on the challenges faced in these areas.
 
The Chairperson said he had read the letter last night and had some views on it. The central thrust from it is that there was a misunderstanding. The Minister is being misled once again. There was no misunderstanding as the report was very clear that Parliament would hold public hearings. He added that a public statement was issued on this as well. He noted an argument that the documentation was sent to the Committee. The mere submission of the report is not what was intended. He said the issue is that the document was going to be presented to the Committee and then public hearings would happen before anything could be concluded. A briefing would take place and then a date and the form of public hearings would be determined. He suggested there has been no misunderstanding but rather a failure to own up for defying the instructions given by Parliament. He added that the Minister was misled and she was not given all the facts and information. The major question is the status of the agreement before the contents of it can be discussed. Why would an institution sign the agreement when things have been brought to their attention to not do it? Why was there such a hurry? If it was a pressing matter, the Committee would have received a letter informing members so that it could be treated with urgency. No such letter was received by members. The agreement has been signed even though hearings never took place and somebody must take responsibility for this. This must either be management or the Board. He then asked members to raise questions on the issue of the sharing of benefits with local communities and protocols about hunting as a result of the dropping of the fence. He said the best thing to do is to start the process afresh and properly.
 
Mr R Purdon (DA) said he wanted to suggest a way forward because the process is in a stalemate now. A meeting should be organised with the Minister and the Acting Minister, Mr Derek Hanekom, to find a way forward. The Committee has been informed that the beneficiation agreement must still be concluded but there are approved hunting agreements. Are these new or existing agreements and have they been approved by SANParks? On the issue of security and fencing costs, he asked someone to put a figure to this.
 
Mr S Makhubele (ANC) said he had 4 points to raise. Firstly, the administration, Department and Board of SANParks must understand that Parliament must ensure that policies have gone through public participation to ensure there is good policy and legislation. It is not the task of the Committee to run the Department but rather to oversee what happens in the Department and the entities. He added that in a situation where there is an understanding in terms of procedure, the Committee expects the Department to follow suit. Secondly, the Committee needs a presentation by SANParks on the framework and contents that has been decided on. There needs to be a full presentation on the beneficiation schemes and stakeholders who benefit from the agreement. Thirdly, he the Committee needs to understand who the collapsing of fences benefits. The benefit is not mutual between the KNP and private owners and asked for clarity on this. To whom is it advantageous and beneficial? Fourthly, the Committee may need to conclude the stalemate on its own. On the issue of defiance, he said a letter of response must be sent to the Minister clarifying the Committee’s position on the matter. He added that based on how the Minister responds to that letter, members can finalise what needs to happen.
 
The Chairperson asked that the questions raised by Mr Purdon be answered first and then he will speak on the way forward.
 
An official from the APNR replied that it is a new agreement going forward to regularise aspects around the management plan. She said the hunting protocol still needs to be formally reviewed and adopted through the co-operative agreement.
 
Mr Purdon said the agreements come from Limpopo. Are these approved before? How do you talk to each other?
 
An official from the APNR replied it goes through a management authority and is approved through the management structures. She said what is critical is that it needs to be implemented in the management plan otherwise it risks being non-compliant with the norms and standards.
 
The Chairperson asked that the hunting protocols form part of the next briefing in order to get an idea of the offtakes. A briefing will be scheduled on the status of the draft agreement, how the community is benefiting, the role of all parties and hunting protocols. The Committee acknowledges the letter from the Minister but members don’t know if she was given all the information pertaining to the matter. The Committee will respond to the letter because the Minister is new and may not have an appreciation of where members come from. On the issue of sanctions, this will be discussed in the next meeting. It is clear that there must be consequences for the defiance of Parliament. The Minister will indicate what form of sanction is appropriate in this instance but if it is not done by the next Committee meeting, members will then recommend themselves what consequences should be imposed.
 
Mr Purdon asked for an answer on the fencing and security costs question.
 
An official from the APNR said the fencing costs amounted to R150 000,00 per km. She said security costs for the current year are about R37 million.
 
Mr Purdon asked if the R150 000,00 relates to maintenance costs.
 
Mr Jackaman replied that it relates to upgrade costs. He explained that the fencing is upgraded with cameras and alarms.
 
Mr Purdon asked for the figure in km’s.
 
Mr Jackaman replied that it is between 65-100 km’s.
 
The Chairperson noted the argument against hunting. He said some of the issues relate to policy, legislation and the interpretations of the concept of sustainable use. He said members will continue to engage on these issues.
 
He then adjourned the meeting.

 

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