Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Portfolio Committee Legacy Report

Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development

19 March 2019
Chairperson: Ms M Semenya (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

Available here once published: Legacy Reports

The Committee reviewed its Legacy Report on activities undertaken during the Fifth Parliament in preparation for adoption. It was noted that although it had dealt with a number of issues over the past term, the implementation of the Medium Term Strategic Framework (MTSF), although it was a work in progress, was one of its key achievements. Unfortunately this was not the case for the Department who had not reported on its MTSF targets.

The Committee heard that the Department had dealt with the issue of the visibility of Extension Officers with the establishment of an Extension Recovery Plan which has already improved extension services. The challenges with regard to the management of fisheries research and the maintenance of surveillance vessels has been resolved since the Department has issued the services of the South African Maritime Safety Association (SAMSA). A Small Scale Fisheries policy has been drafted to ensure that small scale fisheries were also part of the value chain.

The Committee reiterated its commitment to the Blended Funding Formula and the commercialisation of Black producers, sector transformation, the Food and Nutrition Policy and disciplinary action against Officials who had done wrong towards the Department. The Sixth Parliament was advised to follow up on irregular salary increases of CEOs in the Department, the progress of the implementation of the Small Scale Fisheries Policy, compliance, the slow pace at which legislation was processed and enacted and the development of a long term sector plan.

Members were very concerned about the use of advisors and Extension Officers as the DDG had allegedly acquired the services of a lawyer who was paid R27 million over a 12 month period when the same services could have been rendered by the Office of the State Attorney. Also of concern was the R200 million made available by the government to aid KwaZulu Natal for the effects of drought which was only being investigated now. The Committee recommended that not more than 10% of the budget of any programme should be spent on consultants, lawyers and the like to avoid massive economic losses. The Sixth Parliament was also advised to investigate the establishment of an accident fund similar to the Road Accident fund to assist fishermen injured in their work.

The Legacy Report was adopted.

Meeting report

Ms S Govender, Content Advisor, Parliament,  took the Committee through the Legacy report.

She said that the Committee has dealt with a number of issues over the past term, the first being the implementation of the Medium Term Strategic Framework (MTSF), which although it was a work in progress in terms of achieving the targets set out, its  implementation has been one of the key achievements of the Committee. The Department had not reported on its MTSF targets before. The MTSF mainly focuses on job creation, environment resource management and food security.

One of the  key areas in which the Department failed has been the development and implementation of legislation specifically the Preservation and Development of the Agricultural Land Framework Bill. The Department has been working on this Bill for the entire term and it has not been finalised as yet. The Committee has reminded them of the importance of the Bill in terms of the protection of resources.

In terms of food safety there has been a number of outbreaks, one of those being Listeriosis and Influenza which had affected the poultry industry quite badly. The Department has recently reported on progress where these issues are concerned. The task team appeared before the Committee and there has been some progress including strengthening inspection services which are done by agricultural and health officials.

The visibility of Extension Officers has been another issue which has been raised by the Committee, and in this regard, the Department has established an Extension Recovery Plan which has improved extension services, however there is still a shortage of Extension Officers in each province. The National Policy on Extension and Advisory services was also finalised during the term and is in the process of being implemented.

With regard to fisheries, the Committee dealt with the management of fisheries research and surveillance vessels. When the Committee started the current term there was an issue with the management of contracts of certain companies when it came to the management and maintenance of certain vessels. That issue has been resolved since 2014 when the Department issued the services of the South African Maritime Safety Association (SAMSA), which is still responsible for the management and maintenance of those vessels. At that time there was also a challenge highlighted with regard to the Afrikaner which is one of the research vessels, but this has also since been repaired and has been sent out to continue with its research purposes.

The allocation of fishing right processes has not benefitted small scale fishers and has only been of benefit to large scale commercial fisheries. The Committee was told that a Small Scale Fisheries policy has been drafted to ensure that small scale fisheries are also part of the value chain. The implementation of this policy has been at a snail’s pace and this is something which the Department has noted given that the policy was approved in 2012. The Department has since last year started implementing the policy in certain provinces.

In terms of sector transformation, the Committee held briefings with the Department and also with the Transformation Sector Charter Councils. The Committee, through its oversight proceedings  has expressed its dissatisfaction at the slow rate of transformation within the sector.

With regard to forestry, oversight activities, extended public hearings, and the National Forestry Amendment Bill, the Committee has interacted with communities who highlighted issues like slow transformation and the lack of support for small forestry growers. The Committee also had briefings with the Department to discuss issues of transformation.

Key Issues for follow up and Recommendations

The issues for follow up for the Sixth Parliament included firstly, the Blended Funding Model and the commercialisation of Black producers. The Committee has been sitting and dealing with this issue over the last term and they felt that the Sixth Parliament should also continue to give attention to this matter and be clear in its implementation.

The implementation of the Food and Nutrition Security Policy is in progress. The task team has reported commendable progress and the Sixth Parliament can thus just join and continue with the progress in this regard.

Sector transformation should be continuous and regular and ongoing updates have been reported and will continue to be required. One of the issues that has been raised by the Committee has been the disciplinary process against Officials who have been caught doing wrong. One of these cases which has yet to be resolved has been that of irregular salary increases of certain CEOs (Chief Executive Officers). The Sixth Parliament should follow up these processes.

The Sixth Parliament should try to do more and consider taking an oversight visit to the Northern Cape Province in particular, as this was where the Small Scale Fisheries Policy has yet to be implemented.

The next issue was that of compliance and the slow pace at which legislation is processed and enacted in order to replace old legislation. The Sixth Parliament should give an update on the Tuna Fishing Agreements and the promises that were made by the current Parliament with regard to the International Tuna Agreement

The Sixth Parliament needs to pay particular attention to the development of a long term sector plan of 15 to 20 years. Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries are natural resources based sectors and they are highly impacted by climate change and other external factors. Thus, the Sixth Parliament must plan way ahead than just five years. The commercialisation planned for five years might not happen in five years because of possible natural disasters. Pushing the Department towards a long term sector development plan should be a recommendation that the Sixth Parliament should consider. The next sector plan should also include transformation strategies.

As another recommendation, the Chairperson said that the Policy Framework and Implementation plans should be reviewed every five years.

Discussion

Mr M Filtane (UDM) said that on the issue of the use of advisors or extensions, there has been reports that the DDG has allegedly acquired the services of a lawyer who was paid R27 million over 12 months for services which could have been rendered by the Office of the State Attorney. This has now become a big inquiry. Another concern was that   during 2016 it was reported that R200 million had been made available by the government to aid KZN (KwaZulu Natal) for the effects of drought which was  only being investigated now. Based on these and many other cases, Mr Filtane said that he would want to be specific with the recommendation of saying that not more than 10% of the budget of any programme by the Department should be spent on consultants, lawyers and the like including the advisors  as one was experiencing the same problem with rural development where the money that the government is giving is falling into the wrong hands and this is causing massive economic losses for the Department. This will strongly persuade the government to employ only capable personnel in order to reduce reliance on external services.

The Chairperson agreed with Mr Filtane and said that regulations were needed in order to promote the maximum growth of the industry and within the Department. The Sixth Parliament should follow up on the recommendations made by Mr Filtane.

Mr P Van Dalen (DA) said that in game farming there are three different farms, one for hunting, one for tourism and preservation and one for breeding. So there was a need for a special task team to focus on the development of game farming as it could be a very lucrative business for South Africa. This was something which the Sixth Parliament should give attention to. The Sixth Parliament should look into the establishment of an accident fund similar to that of the Road Accident Fund, but a fund which is centred on assisting fishermen who go out to sea and get hurt or who were involved in accidents. Mr Van Dalen said that people who go to sea also use petrol and fuel, and they should be compensated with a levy with regard to that in order to make it safer for the fishermen to go to sea.

Mr Filtane said that with regard to food security, he felt that the Report does not adequately express the extent and the depth of food insecurity in the country. In 2014, Stats SA said that six million people are affected by food insecurity, and this Department needs to take serious action in this regard. He also recommended that when the Sixth Parliament does oversight on the Department, and there should be a report on the socio-economic impact of activities done by the Department. Mr Filtane recommended further that the NSFAS (National Student Financial Aid Scheme) cover students who study agriculture as well, as this will encourage members of the youth to go into the industry. He thanked the Chairperson for the opportunity to speak and said that he appreciated working under the Chairperson and with the Committee.

All Committee members moved for the adoption of the Report. The Report was adopted.

The Chairperson thanked the Committee Members for their comments.

The meeting was adjourned.

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