Fifth Parliament Committee Legacy Reports; Committee priorities

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Mineral Resources and Energy

03 September 2019
Chairperson: Mr Luzipo Mr S, (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

Legacy Reports

The Committee were briefed on the Fifth Parliament Legacy Reports of the Portfolio Committees of Mineral Resources and of Energy which dealt with their activities, challenges, outstanding work to be completed in the Sixth Parliament and recommendations.

The Chairperson noted a letter from Committee Member Mileham which raised a number of concerns for the Committee urgently to investigate and to take decisive action on to address challenges faced by communities they served. These were:
• South Sudan oil deal;
• Grand Inga Dam Hydroelectric Scheme;
• Xolobeni Mining Rights;
• Manzolwandle Investments coal mine near Kruger National Park and any other potential mining near protected environmental areas.

The Chairperson was of the view that action could not be taken until Members had been fully capacitated and briefed on all matters. He had decided to present the request to the Committee to decide collectively on a way forward as he did not want to be accused of protecting the Ministers.

Mr Mileham took the Chairperson's point about capacitating Members but it had been four months since the elections and Members needed to get to the actual work of the Portfolio Committee and dealing with matters that affected communities and people’s lives. Xolobeni and the proposed mining licence on the border of Kruger National Park were some of those urgent matters. Waiting would be sweeping these matters under the rug. Mining in South Africa had to benefit local communities and Xolobeni was a flashpoint. It was incumbent on the Committee to pursue this matter as the Committee owed a duty to the citizens of the country to carry out effective oversight.

Some Members agreed that the Committee needed to defer generalised briefings from the Department and rather get to work by taking immediate steps to address the concerns raised. The majority of Members echoed the Chairperson’s view that thorough briefings from the Department were required for Members to do their work effectively. They felt immediate action could not be taken without knowledge of the broader issues. They said a list of priorities could be drawn up after that process had been completed.

Meeting report

Opening remarks by the Chairperson
The Chairperson explained that the Committee was still trying to gather as much information before attempting to undertake any work as they were all aware of the magnitude of the work that lay ahead.

He offered well wishes to the South African rugby team as they continued to claim victory and pride for the nation in Japan. On a sadder note, he felt the country would soon be in tatters. The scenes of the previous day left much to be desired. He condemned the lawlessness. The scenes from Johannesburg and areas of Tshwane left much to be desired. Regardless of the grievances, there were better ways to resolve them. In his view, some of the actions were beyond barbaric as nothing justified burning a human being alive. He felt extraordinary measures needed to be taken and was shocked at the extent of violence in the country. This was one of the bloodiest weeks.

He said the extent of violence against women left him ashamed. He hoped that something could be done – that went beyond words – as a young woman only went to a Post Office to pick up a parcel but was raped and murdered. This was one of many cases as there were seven acts of rape and femicide that week alone. The statistics showed that last year there were more than 3000 murdered women which meant 10 women a day were killed a day. He described the country as a sick nation. Although the Committee did not deal with those particular matters, it did not prevent it from acknowledging them. The Committee should continue to strive for women to break through in the hard-core industry of mining and ensure women remain safe in those work spaces.

Some of the issues would be dealt with as the Committee moved forward. He felt it important that having undertaken the oversight trip it would be important to go back to the drawing board to address some of matters that arose. As a newly constituted Committee it would take a journey to find their feet.

The Committee was supposed to deal with the Legacy Report of the Department of Mineral Resources followed by the Legacy Report of the Department of Energy so they could see how to synergise the two.

The Chairperson explained that the Committee staff required extra time to print out the Legacy Report presentations and asked Members for suggestions on what to do in the meantime.

Mr K Mileham (DA) suggested that the Committee go through the Draft Committee Programme.

The Chairperson replied that would not be possible as the programme was informed by what was contained in the two Legacy Reports which would make prioritising items difficult.

The Committee agreed, for the sake of progress, it would be better to proceed by following what is on the overhead projector. Digital copies had also been emailed to Members which they could follow.

Fifth Parliament Mineral Resources Portfolio Committee Legacy Report
Mr Nkosinathi Kweyama, Committee Content Advisor, gave the briefing and key points were:

Some of the key challenges that emerged:
• A progressive reduction in the real value of the budget which negatively impacted on targets.
• There were multiple issues that required the participation of two or more Portfolio Committees which resulted in a piecemeal approach to oversight.
• Gaps in effective Parliamentary oversight.

The key areas of future work included:
• A continued monitoring of the implementation of the Zero Harm goal.
• A continued monitoring of the implementation of a transformation agenda through collaborations.
• A focus on challenges pertaining to mining communities.
• Address the lack of exploration and prospecting for new mineral deposits.

Recommendations included:
• The Department to ensure that the Committee was aware of changes in performance targets timeously.
• Department's parliamentary liaison officer to attend all Committee meetings.
• Parliament to introduce effective procedures to follow up on issues raised by the Committee.
• The Committee to work closely with other affected Committees (Police, Home Affairs and Environment) to fully address illegal mining.
• Ensure there is enough funding to capacitate the Department in executing the mandate contained in the One Environmental System.
• Ensure full financial provision for mining environmental damage, irrespective of the mine's financial status.
• Ensure regular progress reporting on Mining Charter compliance.

Fifth Parliament Energy Portfolio Committee Legacy Report
Mr Kweyama summarised the Legacy Report and key points were:

Some of the key challenges that emerged:
• Less than 60 percent of the Department performance targets were achieved in the last four years.
• The Department had four Ministers during the Fifth Parliament which negatively impacted legislation, energy policies and regulations.

Recommendations included:
• The Department provide status updates on each outstanding bill.
• Ensure continued quarterly reporting from the Department and its entities.
• Monitor the implementation of Auditor General recommendations.
• Conduct regular oversight visits to the Department and the entities.
• Monitor the turnaround strategy of the Central Energy Fund (CEF).
• Process the report on the Strategic Fuel Fund (SSF) once finalised.
• Address the Electricity Distribution Industry challenges with the Inter Ministerial Task Team.
• Monitor the implementation of the Solar Water Heater programme.
• Ensure the Integrated Resource Plan is reviewed every two years.
• Ensure the Integrated Resource Plan is finalised.

Discussion on Committee priorities
The Chairperson stated that Members have the original Legacy Reports and the presentations were a summary by the Content Advisor. He advised that Members be guided by the original Legacy Reports.

In the spirit of transparency, the Chairperson informed Members that he received a letter from Mr Mileham which raised challenges that he requested the Committee to be briefed on. These were:
• South Sudan oil deal;
• Grand Inga Dam Hydroelectric Scheme;
• Xolobeni Mining Rights;
• Manzolwandle Investments coal mine near Kruger National Park and any other potential mining near protected environmental areas.

The Chairperson had had a discussion with Mr Mileham because a programme had already been planned. Mr Mileham felt strongly that the items raised should be addressed. The Chairperson suggested that instead of dealing with a single matter like the Xolobeni mining rights or Lily Mine, the Committee dealt with all the court cases the Department was faced with and thereafter decide which required urgent attention. The different cases would need to be assessed against one another and the financial implications would also need to be considered. During this discussion Mr Mileham maintained that the Committee should deal with one issue at a time beginning with the Xolobeni mining rights.

The Chairperson had disagreed with Mr Mileham and explained that he should have pursued the matter according to the set focus areas for each quarter. Referring to the report by Mr Kweyama, he highlighted the issue of State Capture-related matters and stated frankly that there was an element of mistrust amongst Members. That became evident when an argument was raised about Members fiduciary duties to perform their tasks.

Going back to Mr Mileham’s request, the Chairperson explained that the Committee had drafted broad areas of focus. The Member had identified matters of personal interest. Those matters would be dealt with in the totality of all the issues before the Committee. The Chairperson refuted the statement that this approach was meant to protect Minister Radebe and Minister Mantashe. The Chairperson said he was sceptical of bringing the matter before the Committee because numbers became an issue instead of rationality. Despite this Mr Mileham had insisted the Chairperson bring this before the Committee. According to the Chairperson, a day had been set aside for the Department to brief Members on its court cases, steps taken by the department, the legal budget and other questions Members would have raised. However, the Chairperson decided that the Committee should discuss how to draw up a programme instead. He feared that if he did not honour Mr Mileham’s requests, his motives might have been questioned. He reassured Members that he was open and transparent and perhaps each quarter Members would have to sit and agree on a programme. Nonetheless, he was sceptical that this approach would turn into a political battle rather than the Committee accomplish the work it had to complete.

In addition, he felt that Members ought to first familiarise themselves with the extensive Energy and Mineral Resources portfolio before attempting to tackle issues one by one. He was 80% confident of his knowledge on Mineral Resources but some Members exposed to the Mineral Resources sector for the first time would be disadvantaged and therefore were not fully equipped to perform their work. They first needed as much information as possible to enable them to participate adequately. Therefore, he felt it would be much more constructive first to get Members at an equal understanding of all the issues by supplying them with all the information before singling out which ones should be prioritised – otherwise the exercise would be counterproductive without prior knowledge.

Citing the Integrated Regional Plan in the Legacy Report, the Chairperson explained how Members may not know how many treaties required their attention and only after a broader briefing on the matter would the Committee subsequently decide to prioritise the South Sudan oil deal. However, currently Members were not on par with one another in their background knowledge. The Chairperson felt the need to explain this at length as he did not want to be perceived to be protecting anyone. The Committee would lift all the issues that emanated from the Legacy Report and deal with them. He would allow Mr Mileham the opportunity to motivate his request because he was of the view that the outcome ought to be a reflection of the Committee and not the Chairperson. This was the most transparent way of addressing the matter.

Mr Mileham said that  he did not profess to have more knowledge than anyone else in the room but he had spent the last four months since the election studying the two portfolios of Energy and Mineral Resources. He took the Chairperson's point on capacitating Members but he felt that that at this stage Members needed to get to the actual work of the Portfolio Committee which entailed dealing with matters that affected communities. He accepted that the Committee had five years to deal with the multiple items that arose out the Legacy Report - many of which could be dealt in the long term such as mineral rights licensing. However, there were issues that were topical that were affecting people’s lives. Xolobeni and the proposed mining licence on the border of Kruger National Park were some of those urgent matters. In his view, waiting would be sweeping the issues under the rug. It was reasonable that part of the Committee’s job was to investigate particular challenges and address them. A briefing by the Department on its twenty or more court cases would dilute the Committee’s ability to actively address the issues he had brought to the Chairperson’s attention. There were numerous written questions that the Minister had not bothered to answer such as those pertaining to Grand Inga. Xolobeni stood out because of the dire economic status of the rural community that was being mistreated by the Department and the corporate community. He wanted to see mining in South Africa that benefited local communities and Xolobeni was a flashpoint for that to be done. It was incumbent on the Committee to pursue this matter. Similarly, the Kruger National Park matter and the South Sudan oil deal needed to be addressed. He was willing to come in for a Friday meeting if it meant the Committee could be briefed on these matters as the Committee owed a duty to the citizens of the country to carry out effective oversight. That would not be possible if matters kept being viewed from a generalised point of view when there are people who are fighting for survival and their rights on the ground. There was time to address the general matters in the long term.

Mr D Mthenjane (EFF) agreed that some new Members might not be knowledgeable. Having listened to both of them, he felt that it made sense to list issues according to their level of urgency. He understood Mr Mileham’s frustration as the Committee’s function was to serve the people of South Africa who needed to have hope that the their representatives were effective. The Committee ought not to be preoccupied with planning but should take decisive action. If there was an opportunity to effect change, then the Committee should take up that opportunity. He understood that the Committee was faced with a myriad of issues but it would be more productive to list issues according to priority, giving immediate attention to the most urgent ones. The most pertinent question was when would this take place. Everyone was well aware of all the problems occurring around the country but the fact remained that Xolobeni mine and Lily mine were currently urgent. He insisted that action could not be deferred until Members had familiarised themselves with the contextual background of the issues dealt with in the Fifth Parliament. He referred to the Legacy Report that spoke to the ownership of certain mines which was now out of date. This therefore indicated that contextual information was irrelevant to the cause at hand. He understood the Chairperson's position that it was important to compile a list of all the affected areas and then prioritise from there so where multiple communities protested simultaneously, the demands were met according to urgency. If one community sought roads and the other water then water would have to be prioritised as it was essential for human survival. Similarly Xolobeni mine and Lily mine were an urgent priority. He was also willing to work overtime to address these matters so he could be answerable to his constituency.

Ms V Malinga (ANC) echoed the Chairperson’s sentiments and welcomed his suggestion in response to Mr Mileham’s letter. She felt all the issues were equal and that it was only fair that the Committee was taken through all the issues. She did not take kindly to the suggestion that the Chairperson was trying to protect certain individuals. She wondered if the communities of Xolobeni and Lily mine were the only ones who faced hardships. The Committee could be perceived to be biased if they were seen to be prioritising certain communities over others. The Committee needed a thorough briefing on the issues that had existed in the Fifth Parliament. Any other approach would be premature and Members would be seen to be disorganised for involving themselves in matters about which they had no prior knowledge. The Department needed to brief the Committee on all the court cases and how they came about. She agreed that key issues needed to be prioritised however this first required identification of the key issues. In her view the deceased individuals of Lily mine as well as the community of Xolobeni were both key so it would be better to extract all the major issues highlighted in the Legacy Report and then move from there as opposed to focusing on one. She asked the Chairperson to guide the Committee as he had wisdom from his experience with Energy and Mineral Resources.

Mr M Mahlaule (ANC) pointed out that the 5th Parliament produced the Legacy Report for good reason. It was to ensure that the 6th Parliament was aware of where they were coming from and how they ought to proceed. The Legacy Report highlight key focus areas and issues that were not indicated in that report should be reflected in a transparent way. He was in agreement with Mr Mileham that Xolobeni and Lily mine required a follow-up. However, the electrification of Eskom also needed follow up and this was tabled in the programme. He warned that the Committee should not fall into a trap of sifting through issues without thorough prior briefing as there were many rural communities with no electricity and part of the economy was stagnant as a result. That illustrated it was impossible to pick which needs were most pressing. PetroSA which was at the heart of the economy being in the oil and gas industry ran a risk of disappearing by 2020 which would render multiple people jobless and that could also be categorised as a priority. Members were recognisable to ordinary citizens on the street who would ask them about issues such as Xolobeni and that did not prevent Member from raising these with the Committee. However when doing so Members ought not to diminish other issues as less important. He insisted that the Committee needed to be briefed first and only then could they prioritise matters on a list.

The Chairperson responded to Mr Mthenjane and said that the court had ruled on Xolobeni mine and the question of consent. There was the Somkhele Mtubatuba court ruling as well and the Chairperson rhetorically asked which of the two were most at risk. He insisted that there was a need to discuss the issue because the Committee might want to take a different approach from the Department. Some Members might feel the Department was disproportionately occupied with Xolobeni when there were similar cases that existed. The Department was dealing with the Mining Charter case which could also be argued to be urgent. Thus, he was adamant that the Department first needed to bring all the court cases before the Committee before any action could be taken. In his view it was impossible to draw a distinction about the most important matters without general information on everything.

On priorities, he felt no distinction could be drawn between the hardships faced at Grand Inga and those faced at Optimum coal mine. The same could be said for Marikana and Lily mine. In essence it ought not to be a competition about which community was poorer than the other therefore warranting immediate intervention.

The Chairperson re-emphasised the above.

Mr Mileham said he did not profess to have more knowledge than anyone else when it came to the hardships faced by the various communities or what particular issue was more important than the other. Nevertheless, he repeated that the Committee ought to investigate issues raised by Members. If Mr Mthenjane flagged an issue at Lily mine then that should be investigated as it was the duty of the Committee to investigate these matters. He was willing to sit on a Friday to address the issues no matter which community it was as he felt that it was time for the Committee to take decisive action. What hardshps communities in need faced would not always be exactly the same therefore the Committee ought to investigate as a means of taking action as opposed to getting briefings from the Department.

Mr M Nxumalo (IFP) felt that Members owed a duty to their constituencies to take action when submissions were made by Members. However, he also accepted the approach that was taken by the Chairperson to collect all the information on the different issues to enable Members to engage meaningfully. It was important to understand the court rulings. Members were from different political parties with different responsibilities but that did not negate their pledge and duty to all South Africans in general. Thus, he asked the Chairperson to deal with the merits of Mr Mileham's request and draft a way forward as to what would happen and when.

Mr Mthenjane was of the opinion that Members were actually in agreement with one another although expressed in different wording. He understood Mr Mileham’s frustration as someone who had not seen tangible results after having served on the Committee for a long period of time. All the items discussed now were court cases and perhaps the Committee should ask the NPA to give a status report on all the cases. He further stated his earlier sentiments.

The Chairperson explained that the court cases at hand were similar cases that dealt with mining rights and consent therefore it was impossible to prioritise one over the other without a briefing from the Department. He repeated and maintained his position as detailed previously.

Ms Malinga referred to the Legacy Report that outlined key areas for future work to be focused on and one of them were challenges that pertained to mining communities. She therefore welcomed the approach of bringing all the litigation cases before the Committee so Members could advise the Department on how to proceed.

Mr M Wolmarans (ANC) shared the same view that the Legacy Report outlined key areas for future work for the Sixth Parliament to undertake. He felt the current discussions could lead to a piecemeal approach as opposed to a comprehensive report that Members could exercise their oversight role over.

Mr Mahlaule repeated his points as detailed previously.

The Chairperson said a list would be drawn up which would try to accommodate all the issues raised including items for consideration and use areas of similarity as an opportunity. To avoid the appearance of bias the Department would be asked to brief the Committee on all matters relating to mining communities and existing legal disputes equally in all communities including Xolobeni and Lily mine.

The Chairperson agreed with Mr Mileham that Members could take an extra day to cover their work.

The Chairperson further reemphasised his earlier points.

Mr Mthenjane thanked the Chairperson for his guidance and felt confident that the Committee would make progress in the current administration.

Mr Mahlaule echoed this.

Committee business
The Committee adopted the minutes of the meetings of 2, 3, 5 July 2019 with amendments.

Ms Phillips wanted to find out if the long awaited Integrated Regional Plan was on track to be presented at the end of September. The Chairperson replied that there was no one present who could provide an answer but hoped the Department was on track with it and that it would be accommodated in the programme.

The Committee agreed that the 20 August 2019 minutes had inaccurately captured the discussion and lacked context and they were requested to be rewritten. The minutes were adopted with amendments.

The Committee minutes dated 21 August 2019 were adopted with amendments.

The meeting was adjourned.

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