The Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries (EFF) said that the subordinate legislature on the rhino horn in the National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act (NEMBA) was related only to powdered horn which could not be easily tracked and traced if there was any illegal selling, and exporting of the powder. The Committee had received commentary reports from three provinces, the Northern Cape, Eastern Cape and Western Cape, all of which had welcomed and were in full support of the new subordinate legislature.
Members expressed concern with the three-year timeframe to develop and finalise a trade model, querying whether it was sufficient for the Department to come up with a better, permanent trade model. They also recommended that continuous extensions should be prevented.
The report could not be adopted at the meeting because not every province had managed to submit the feedback on the legislation. However, the report could be adopted the following week, once all the provinces had submitted.
The Committee was reminded of two Bills which had been presented by the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) that had not been finalised by the Committee -- the National Forestry Amendment Bill and the National Development Laws Amendment Bill. It was suggested that the Committee brief provinces the following year, because briefing discussions that would occur before the end of the current year would be forgotten. Furthermore, the Committee should call for public comments on the Bills before engaging with the Department.
Rhino horn legislation: Provincial feedback
Mr Asgar Bawa, Committee Secretary, read the Eastern Cape report, which was fully supportive and accepting of the subordinate legislation on the rhino horn industry presented by the Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries (DEFF). The province highlighted that the legislation would fill the gaps in the existing legislation and any arising concerns.
The Northern Cape report was also welcoming of the subordinate legislation, but suggested that the three-year prohibition period be reviewed for the legalisation and commercialisation of rhino horn for medicinal purposes.
The Western Cape report was also welcoming of the subordinate legislation, and expressed gratitude for the Department’s efforts to protect the endangered species. However, the report mentioned that according to chapter 5 clause 18 of the National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act (NEMBA), monetary penalties for transgressors were not adequate and should therefore be increased. In addition, the legislation should clearly state the different monetary amounts owed by perpetrators, without any deliberations or interpretation. The Western Cape report highlighted that the legislation would result in an increase in administrative responsibilities for the provinces, and as a result the province would appreciate that assessments performed by the Department were shared with the province.
Ms Magdel Boshoff, Deputy Director: Threatened or Protected Species, Policy Development, DEFF, explained that the three-year rhino horn prohibition was not permanent and that the prohibition was related to the powdering of rhino horns, as well as the selling and exporting of powdered rhino horns, and those smaller than five cm. The three-year prohibition was a temporary strategy allowing time for the Department to develop a proper trade model that was fraud-proof, and allowed it to prevent the illegal laundering of the powdered rhino horn.
Mr A Arnolds (EFF, Western Cape) asked the Department if three years was sufficient to develop and finalise a trade model.
Mr T Matibe (ANC, Limpopo) was in support of Mr Arnolds question, and mentioned that continuous extensions should be prevented.
Ms Boshoff replied that the Department had made provision for any necessary extensions in the subordinate legislation.
In addition, the maximum penalties for environmental offences were outlined in the NEMBA, and the Department had to follow through with the outlined boundaries. NEMBA offences were subject to NEMBA penalties. However, regulatory offences with lower penalty clauses and minor offences were subject to the Department. She added that the NEMBA had made provision for wildlife trafficking by increasing the penalty clause to R20 million, or 20 years, in a higher category for organised criminal offences.
Capacity assessments relating to the increase of administrative responsibilities in the provinces had not been done, nor anticipated by the Department as a result of the implementation of the subordinate legislation, because the Minister would still be the issuing authority. Most of the responsibilities would lie within the Department, and not necessarily the provincial departments. However, provision had been made that an inspection may be performed when someone applied for a selling permit. Although the issuing authority performs the inspection, the sharing capacity may be done by an Environmental Management Inspector (EMI) either from the provincial department, an EMI with a national mandate, or from within the department.
The provinces already had the responsibility for monitoring and ensuring compliance with the requirements, therefore there was no foreseeable increase in responsibility or necessity for capacity assessments by the Department.
Members were satisfied with the responses from the department.
Mr. Arnolds said that the report could unfortunately not be adopted because not every province had managed to submit the feedback on the subordinate legislation. However, the report could be adopted the following week, once the provinces had submitted.
Mr Matibe and Mr. Cloete agreed with Mr. Arnolds’ suggestion.
Mr Cloete congratulated the Department on drafting the regulations and highlighted the significance of the regulations.
The Chairperson thanked the Department and excused them.
The Committee Secretary reminded the Committee of the two Bills which had been presented by the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) that had not been finalised by the Committee. The two Bills were the National Forestry Amendment Bill and the National Environmental Laws Amendment Bill. These Bills lapsed before the NCOP in the Fifth Parliament and has since been revived. The challenge was always calling departments for briefings and then calling for public comment. The Committee’s reports with its inputs were therefore always one step behind the process.
Mr Bawa suggested that the Committee brief provinces the following year, because briefing discussions that would occur before the end of the current year would be forgotten. Furthermore, the Committee should call for public comments on the Bills before waiting to engage with the Department. This would ensure that Members have enough inputs and discussions when briefing provinces to ensure that mandates were incorporated and inclusive of every participant. This would ensure the Committee’s reports did not lag behind. This was a suggested new approach for the new Parliament. This would ensure discussions and mandates are meaningful.
He told the Committee that the public comments had already been opened and made available till the end of January 2020. A report on what the public has to say on these two Bills would then immediately be compiled.
Mr Cloete agreed with Mr Bawa’s suggestion. He asked if this process was correct.
Mr Bawa said this is a Committee process and how the Committee has chosen to best make the process work. The NCOP has a six-week rule but an extension has already been requested to ensure the process was not rushed.
Mr Kobus Jooste, Parliamentary Content Advisor, commented that the courts questioned the extent of meaningful consultation on section 76 Bills. It has been discovered that public comment was not useful as it was received post-fact after the briefings in the provinces took place. Slowing the process down by a few steps and allowing public comment in the work of the Committee before provinces were engaged would ensure better and more meaningful use of public comment. The adverts are expensive – they must be used and not simply reported on after-the-fact as what has occurred in the past.
Pretoria oversight visit
The Chairperson asked if Members had gone through the report that was sent the previous week, and whether it had effectively reflected the oversight visit.
Mr Jooste said that the oversight report included information received from the oversight visit, and did not include any extensive information about the issue.
Mr Matibe asked whether the matters raised in the document, with the comments from the Department, had been incorporated for the meeting. They were key issues and should therefore be discussed before the oversight visit, and not after.
Mr Arnolds replied that the report on the Department’s comments had been received on Friday, and had been compiled five days after the oversight visit. The report was based on the meeting and the oversight visit, but was not incorporated because they were two different reports. He explained that at the end of oversight, recommendations were emailed by Members. Once they were received from the Members, the report may be adopted.
Members decided that a response as to whether the report was a true reflection of the oversight visit would be decided when the report had to be adopted.
The Chairperson asked the Members to consider and reflect on the issues arising from the oversight visits in the presentations delivered by the provincial departments. She encouraged them to conduct individual oversight visits in the respective provinces to ensure progress, which would assist the Committee as well as the government.
Mr Cloete asked that municipal water leakages be urgently discussed the following year.
The minutes would be adopted the following week.
The meeting was adjourned.
- Committee Report on oversight visit to Pretoria
- Subordinate Legislation Pertaining to the Domestic Trade of Rhinoceros Horn: Northern Cape Province report
- Subordinate Legislation Pertaining to the Domestic Trade of Rhinoceros Horn: Western Cape Province report
- Subordinate Legislation Pertaining to the Domestic Trade of Rhinoceros Horn: Eastern Cape Province report
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