Induction Workshop

Environment, Forestry and Fisheries

20 August 2019
Chairperson: Mr F Xasa (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Committee was briefed by on the Draft Programme on Environment, Forestry and Fisheries for the Second Term of the Sixth Parliament; the Overview of the Department of Environmental Affairs over the past five years and the Overview of the Forestry and Fisheries Department 2014-2019. Members were concerned about only receiving the documents prior to meeting which did not leave much time for adequate reflection on the their contents.

The Committee was informed that the Department was mainly a policy-formulating Department on environmental matters, and hence it is comparatively small; the Department’s audit outcomes have retrogressed in the past two financial years; and that recently lost court cases raised public concerns about the Department on matters that could have been handled differently. Some of the challenges were: economic pressures from agriculture and forestry, manufacturing, mining and mineral processing, urban development, external pressures from invasive alien species, and illegal international wildlife trade and climate change.

The main issues raised were about the impact and regulation of the Marine Protected Areas and how it may affect people on the ground; the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), and specifically what informed the positions that government intended to take regarding this issue.

Members asked how the Committee would mitigate against the Department from unilaterally acting on legislation regarding the recent court case between the National Council of Societies for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and the DEA; addressing the ethical ramifications of the legislation that the Department enacted; with regard to CITES and the Personal Effects clause, if there were properly trained officials and customs that were able to differentiate between what was legal and illicit trade; with regard to the various departmental entities, if it would be possible to, in future, have a presentation on each of those entities which will be helpful to understand their core mandates and whether or not they are functioning entities; and what the basis of the agreement between the Associated Private Nature Reserves (APNRs) and the Kruger National Park was, and what recourse does the Department have in the instance of migration between the national reserve and the private reserve.

The Committee felt that South Africa has progressively tapped into green growth opportunities, but this was essentially at odds with perhaps the canned lion industry, which is damaging Brand SA, as according to research done only 1162 jobs are created by this industry. They felt that the fallout from the brand damage was far more severe in terms of tourism and revenue. Members were concerned about the radar at the South African Weather Services as it has been down on numerous occasions, when in fact it should mitigate against natural disasters. Member asked what the Department was doing about the numerous issues and challenges raised. They suggested that this should be addressed to the Committee in the form of a letter. They also wanted to know what kind of constructive proactive community partnerships the Department was promoting that would also benefit its surrounding communities. With regard to the issue of the Department losing certain court cases, Members felt that there were measures that were delayed inordinately, for example the alleged rhino ‘kingpin’ situation which has been postponed and delayed several times.

After the briefing on the overview of the Forestry and Fisheries Department: 2014 – 2019, Members expressed concern when comparing the two briefings because there were more challenges than achievements noted from the second presentation on Overview of Forestry and Fisheries. They said that ‘ordinary fishermen who catch fish to feed their families in their homes are being harassed, charged and taken to court, whilst others get away with exploiting the oceans’. The Committee decided that a lot of time needed to be spent specifically on the component of Forestry and Fisheries because these issues were central to discussions about transformation.

Meeting report

The Chairperson welcomed everyone back from the break and expressed his hope that the Committee will better represent the public, and that the feedback that they got from the communities would make the Committee itself a good forum for the consideration of issues that came from communities. He mentioned that this is an opportunity to scrutinise and oversee the executive action for this quarter.

The Chairperson requested the adoption of the meeting agenda.

Mr N Singh (IFP) mentioned that the Committee only received the documents prior to the meeting and therefore did not have time to review it. Moving forward he said that he would like the Committee to discuss the issue of the Marine Protected Areas (MPAs), particularly the impact and regulation thereof. He mentioned that during the recess he received a delegation from Rock and Surf fishermen who were concerned about some of the restrictions that may be imposed in the MPAs. Therefore he wrote to Ms J Beaumont, DDG: Oceans and Coasts Branch, Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA), and is awaiting a response as to what the restrictions are within the MPAs for Rock and Surf fishermen. He requested that perhaps at some stage the Committee could get a thorough briefing about the MPAs. The general implication of declaring MPAs is a good thing to have but it affects people on the ground. Secondly, Mr Singh mentioned that another issue to discuss is that there has been some statements in the media about the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) and what South Africa’s (SA’s) position is going to be on some of the issues as he did not know if it would be possible for those positions to be reversed. He felt that at some stage the Committee needs to be briefed about what informs those positions that the government wanted to take, particularly with trophy hunting and relaxing the sale of rhino horn etcetera. Finally, Mr Singh mentioned that he attended a colloquium in the last Parliamentary session out of interest that was convened by the former chair of people from various organisations at the colloquium; he suggested that the report or outcome of that colloquium needs to be shared with the Committee as it was adopted in the House with resolutions. The Committee should know if the Department is following those resolutions.

The Chairperson acknowledged the points made by Mr Singh.

The meeting agenda was formally adopted.

The Chairperson allowed the apologies for absence or lateness from Committee Members and expressed his disappointment about the absences because it may affect the way that the Committee deals with issues.

Draft Programme of the Portfolio Committee on Environment, Forestry and Fisheries for the Second term of the Sixth Parliament (20 August – 20 September 2019).

The Chairperson asked if there were any comments on the draft programme. He mentioned that it is important to have a working document but it should be noted that the programme is flexible to change if need be.

Mr Singh mentioned that he had no particular problem with the draft programme but he would like to make a suggestion that the Committee could meet and leave earlier on Fridays to accommodate time for flights. Mr M Paulsen (EFF) agreed as Fridays were days when Muslims had to go to the Mosque.

Briefing on the Overview of the Department of Environmental Affairs over the past five years: Key achievements, Constraints and Implications for oversight.

Dr S Watts, Content Advisor, addressed the following:

1. Key message

- The Department of Environmental Affairs is mainly a policy-formulating Department on environmental matters, and hence it is comparatively small.

- For years, the annual financial statements had been unqualified, with problem areas relatively insignificant and easily dealt with. However, the Department’s audit outcomes have retrogressed in the past two financial years.

- The Department has recently lost certain court cases, raising public concerns about the Department on matters that could have been handled differently.

2. Departmental mandate

3. Conference of the Parties (COP)

4. Strategic opportunities

5. Key achievements

- A comprehensive policy and regulatory framework for protecting the environment and managing natural resources (air quality, climate change, waste, coastal and marine environment, etcetera).

- Pioneering biodiversity laws and policies, which provide for the diversity of species and ecosystems, sustainable use of indigenous biological resources, and the fair and equitable sharing of benefits.

- Actions are guided by the National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan for the period 2015 -2025, which establishes measurable objectives and targets, and assigns responsibility for their achievement.

- SA is progressively tapping into green growth opportunities, via the wildlife/biodiversity economy.

- The percentage of land under conservation has increased significantly from 6.5 percent (2001) to 12.96 percent in the 2017/18 financial years.

6. Challenges

- Economic pressures from agriculture and forestry, manufacturing, mining and mineral processing, urban development, external pressures from invasive alien species, illegal international wildlife trade and climate change.

- Weak enforcement: enforcement efforts (increased arrests, more stringent sanctions) have not kept pace with dramatically increased levels of poaching. Rhinos are a key target, as well as abalone, elephant and plant species such as rare succulents and cycads.

- Inadequate protection of freshwater and coastal ecosystems. Despite increasing pressures on freshwater ecosystems, nearly half are not protected.

- Coastal and marine ecosystems are also affected by effluent pipes directly discharging into them and plastics.

- Weak and underfunded local institutions lack the staff and finances to implement environmental responsibilities/mandates.

- Ongoing granting of postponing applications to major emitters seeking delays in compliance with minimum emission standards.

- Poor/dysfunctional conditions of certain air quality monitoring stations in “air quality priority areas” or air pollution hotspots.

- Increasing role of courts in instructing the appropriate implementation of environmental legislation; for example the Lion bone trade: North Gauteng High Court set aside Environmental Affairs’ 2017 and 2018 quotas for the exportation of lion bones.

- ‘Perceived’ exporting of the environmental mandate in the case of One Environmental System

- Inadequate inter-departmental coordination in the case of air pollution deriving from mine dump tailings and disused underground coal mine fires.  

7. Further expectations on Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA);

8. Departmental Entities;

9. South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) objectives;

10. iSimangaliso Wetland Park Authority;

11. South African Weather Service (SAWS);

12. SAWS provision of public good service;

13. Expectations on SAWS;

14. South African National Parks (SANParks); and

15. Expectation on SANParks

Discussion

Ms H Winkler (DA) referred to the recent court case of the National Council of Societies for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (NSPCA) against the DEA, with regard to the arbitrary increase in lion bone exports. She asked how the Committee will mitigate against the Department from unilaterally acting on legislation around such going forward, she mentioned that although they may have been informed by industry experts, research science etcetera, and that the Committees role is oversight over the Department, it often seems that very important decisions are taken without proper consultation, despite evidence to the contrary. She asked how the Committee will mitigate against this going forward and what is the Committee’s role to that end. Secondly, Ms Winkler then referred to the Departmental mandate, as she had noticed that the presentation mentioned economic and social motivations of the Department, but nowhere did it address ethical ramifications of the legislation that they enacted.  This might be at the core of the environmental crises that is faced in the country, and she believes that the anthropocentric approach is very shortsighted and there needs to be a more ecologically holistic approach with regard to environmentalism to achieve better outcomes. The use of the term ‘sustainable’ is very subjective as it may mean different things to different people and she thinks that it is important to the type of ethic adopted by the Department. In addition, with regard to CITES and the Personal Effects clause, she asked if there are properly trained officials and customs that are able to differentiate between what is legal and illicit trade. Another issue with CITES is that although there are provisions to mitigate against cruelty in the transport of live specimens, there are never investigations into the final destinations of those animals, for instance if a certain amount of animals are meant to be exported to a specific destination, how will one establish whether or not those animals ended up in that destination and what type of responsibility does the Department have towards those animals’ welfare once they leave the country?

Commenting on the achievement that SA has progressively tapped into green growth opportunities, Ms Winkler felt that this is essentially at odds with perhaps the canned lion industry, which is damaging Brand SA, as according to research done only 1162 jobs are created by this industry. The fallout from the brand damage is far more severe in terms of tourism and revenue. With regard to the various departmental entities, Ms Winkler asked if it would be possible to, in future, have a presentation on each of those entities which will be helpful to understand their core mandates and whether or not they are functioning entities. With regard to the South African Weather Service (SAWS) she mentioned that the radar has been down on numerous occasions when in fact it should mitigate against natural disasters. She questioned how such instances are effectively communicated to the public. With regard to ensuring the increased radar data availability, she asked further about the nature of the technical constraints and also the track record of how the radar data is maintained and regulated. Finally, with regard to South African National Parks (SANParks), Ms Winkler asked what the basis of the agreement between the Associated Private Nature Reserves (APNRs) and the Kruger National Park is, and what recourse does the Department have in the instance of migration between the national reserve and the private reserve.

Dr Watts mentioned that his presentation was mainly for oversight and because he does not work directly with the Department and its entities, he would refrain from answering specific questions. He could however comment on some of the issues.

The Chairperson commented that the Committee will engage with the Department and its entities respectively in a consequent meeting. In the meantime, Dr Watts could comment on the questions or issues raised based on his experiences.

Mr Paulsen asked whether the DEA has given input on the impact that the Indigenous Knowledge Systems Bill will have on biodiversity, and if the Department has provided input to the discussion and preparation of that Bill.

Mr Singh, commended the presentation by Dr Watts and mentioned that it was a broader idea of what the Committee dealt with in the last five years. He suggested that after the Committee has identified the challenges, its intention should be to request of the Department, prior to their next meeting, to respond and tell the Committee exactly what they are doing about the numerous issues and challenges raised. He suggested that this should be addressed to the Department in the form of a letter. He asked what kind of constructive proactive community partnerships the Department is promoting that will also benefit its surrounding communities. With regard to the issue of the Department losing certain court cases, Mr Singh mentioned that there are measures that are delayed inordinately, for example the alleged rhino ‘kingpin’ situation which has been postponed and delayed several times. The reasons why such cases dragged on was because of alleged collusion between criminal syndicates. Mr Singh suggested that more should be known about those court cases. He commented on pollution particularly in Mpumalanga and the Durban South basin where it is supposed to be the highest. Many years ago there was a multipoint plan that is supposedly not working so he asked what the National Department is doing to ensure the multipoint plan was revived as they are one of the key stakeholders; he requested that the Department should respond on that issue.

Mr Singh then referred to page 10 of the presentation which discussed the further expectations of the DEA and questioned what the DEA was doing about the expectations that the last Portfolio Committee had presented. He felt that the meeting should flesh out the issues and challenges so that when the Department meets with the Committee they could come well prepared to respond on those items. He also mentioned his concern about lions who are escaping from national parks due to the dropping of fences. The lions that escaped destroyed the livelihood of cattle and sheep of the surrounding communities which tended to justify the communities’ attempts to trap and kill the lions. Even though it might not be the primary responsibility of the Department, they should inform the Committee of the type of intervention and oversight they had with their colleagues and other spheres of government.

Dr Watts agreed that the Committee should record the discussion to request responses from the Department and the respective entities. On the Department’s loss of court cases, he said that those court cases could have been avoided.

The Chairperson said that the Committee would refer to the Department and its entities to respond accordingly.

Ms Winkler suggested that the Committee should take note of all the questions and concerns raised for more clarity.

Mr Singh agreed that the Committee should encapsulate, edit and share all of the issues. He added that he had omitted the discussion on the Green Scorpions, as well as the Working for Water and Working on Fire programmes. He questioned the costs, success and intentions of those programmes.

The Chairperson said that the Committee should proceed to the next presentation due to time constraints.

Briefing on the overview of the Forestry and Fisheries Department: 2014 – 2019

Mr N Ginindza, Researcher, addressed the following areas:

1. Background on the Forestry and Fisheries Sectors

2. Key Policy Focus Areas

• National Development Plan

• Medium Term Strategic Framework

• State of the Nation Addresses

• High Level Panel on the Assessment of Key Legislation

3. Fisheries and Forestry Sectors

Mr Singh requested that the presenter refrain from elaborating on the detail as such information could be continued in the next meeting with the presence of the Department and its entities. The presentation is important but some Members needed to leave at 2pm to attend other meetings.

Mr J Lorimer (DA) agreed and asked if there could be a continuation of the meeting.

• Key Achievements

- Providing technical and advisory support to fish farms, together with sustainable employment on those farms;

- Conducting aquaculture and general fisheries research to inform the setting of quantum, as well as to accelerate the growth of the aquaculture sector;

- The partnership with the industry made it possible for fisheries research surveys to be conducted, albeit under strained financial and infrastructure conditions to help in the implementation of fish stock recovery plans;

- The hake fishery maintained its certification from the Marine Stewardship Council;

- Patrols and inspections of vessels at sea and landing sites have been consistently exceeded;

- The Royal Court of Jersey award of a $67 million (~R1 billion) claim against former Cape Town businessman and his trusts;

- Cooperation and coordination among various State organs in the security cluster and optimal utilisation of available human, financial, technological and other tools of service;

- Certification of plantations by the Forestry Stewardship Council (1 422 areas certified by January 2019);

- The development and implementation of the Agro-forestry Strategy;

- The cumulative increase planted hectares in temporary unplanted areas (TUPs);

- A total of hectares of State indigenous forests that were rehabilitated; and

- Number of hectares of agricultural land rehabilitated under LandCare

• Challenges and constraints

- Long fisheries integration (human resources, information technology, legal services, international relations and stakeholder engagements);

- Under-expenditure on conditional grants, non-compliance with supply chain prescripts and lack of monitoring and oversight by management (from clean to qualified audits);

- Political decision on the Marine Living Resources Fund (MLRF) (Branch or fully-fledged entity with a CEO, CFO, and a Board), the Chief Director acts as a CFO and the DG as a CEO;

- Difficulty in filling of fisheries vacancies, abolishment of posts, redundant posts, and ageing and retiring skilled workforce without replacement at all levels. This has resulted in the highest vacancy rate of 19.4% in the entire DAFF, hence relying on consultants and short-term contracts to get some work done;

- Conflicting mandate at provincial levels (environmental conservation often trumps the human right to food in different water bodies);

- The inaccessibility of the fisheries department, particularly from removed towns and villages;

- IUU fishing (petty crime, organised fisheries crime and fisheries protests) estimating to be > R6 billion + inadequate MCS in the 1.5 million km² ocean space;

- Low staff morale, fraud and corruption;

- Water licensing continues to hinder the planting of new areas and thus undermine the growth and transformation of the forestry industry;

- Lack of support and recognition of small forestry growers and their inclusion in the forestry industry value chain to promote equitable sector growth; and

- A lack of agro-processing and economic benefits for communities surrounding forestry plantations and fishing grounds, and inadequate oversight by the Department.

• Oversight implications

4. Concluding remarks

- The Forestry and Fisheries branches are bringing along a combined staff complement of 2437 personnel and the average of 19.4% vacancy rate;

- Departmental activities need to be linked to a measurable outcome and impact with a determined baseline (such as poverty, unemployment and inequality reduction);

- Management of natural resources needs to be sensitive to all aspects of sustainable development; and

- Mechanisms need to be in place to ensure that benefits reach intended beneficiaries (communities around MPAs and in leased forests).Discussion

Mr Singh commented that there are more challenges than achievements noted from the second presentation on Overview of Forestry and Fisheries. He was concerned that ordinary fishermen who catch fish to feed their families in their homes are being harassed, charged and taken to court, whilst others get away with exploiting the oceans. He added that a lot of time needed to be spent specifically on the component of Forestry and Fisheries.

The Chairperson agreed and said that the issues raised are central to discussions about transformation.

The Committee Members said that they looked forward to meeting with the Department and its entities for responses and clarity on the issues and challenges raised during the presentations and discussions.

The meeting was adjourned 

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