The Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries (DEFF) briefed the joint committee on its 2020/21 Strategic Plan, taking the opportunity at the same time to give an overview of all the work that was being done at every level of the COVID-19 lockdown.
The Department described how its Strategic Plan was aligned with government’s priorities. One of the priorities was for economic transformation and job creation, and the DEFF’s implementation of the chemical and waste economy Phakisa would result in the creation of 5 500 jobs in the sector by 2024. The implementation of the oceans economy Phakisa would result in the facilitation of ocean economic activities and investment in the total ocean sectors, including marine transport and manufacturing, offshore oil and gas, aquaculture, coastal and marine tourism, small harbours development, as well as marine protection and ocean governance, which would result in 6 200 jobs by 2024.
Continued investment in managing and conserving biodiversity was essential so that jobs that depend on biodiversity could continue to increase. This implementation was a response to governments’ priority of economic transformation and job creation. In alignment with governments’ priorities in the areas of education, skills and health, investment in environmental education, marine science, and research was essential for knowledge generation and to inform decision making.
Committee Members asked for additional information or clarification on a wide range of the Department’s planned activities. Was there any way in which the Department could issue some temporary permits that would enable recreational fishers who were fishing for their own consumption to access fishing rights in KwaZulu-Natal? Would the high level panel (HLP) be taking into consideration the recommendations of the industry colloquium? Was the HLP reconsidering the breeding, hunting and handling of elephants, when there were existing elephant norms and standards? What waste picking initiatives would be embarked upon this year, and of the 5 500 jobs that the Department wanted to create by 2024, how many would be in the waste picking sector? How many heritage sites were being monitored in South Africa? What was the current status of the waste tyre recycling initiative?
Co-Chairperson Modise began the meeting by introducing the Department of the Environment, Forestry and Fisheries (DEFF) to the Committee. Minister of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries, Ms Barbara Creecy and Deputy Minister, Ms Maggie Sotyu, were in attendance.
Minister Creecy said the purpose of this meeting was to give an overview of work done at every level of the lockdown. The Department would present the strategic overview and alignment of its Strategic Plan with government priorities. One of the priorities was economic transformation and job creation, and one of the DEFF’s responses to this was the implementation of the Chemical and Waste Economy Phakisa, which would result in the creation of 5 500 jobs from the chemicals and waste sector by 2024. Another implementation involved the Oceans Economy Phakisa, which would be the result of the facilitation of ocean economic activities and investment in the total ocean sectors, including marine transport and manufacturing, offshore oil and gas, aquaculture, coastal and marine tourism, small harbours development, as well as marine protection and ocean governance, which would result in 6 200 jobs by 2024.
The Department had also aligned activities such as the implementation of biodiversity economy initiatives. South Africa’s biodiversity underpinned the economy, society and human wellbeing. Continued investment in managing and conserving biodiversity was essential and so that jobs that depended on biodiversity would continue to increase. This implementation was a response to the governments’ priority of economic transformation and job creation. Minister Creecy said that the Department was mitigating biological invasions through the implementation of the Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP) for the environment sector, which estimated that 307 408 work opportunities would be created.
In alignment with the governments’ priorities for education, skills and health, the Minister said that investment in environmental education, marine science and research was essential for knowledge generation and to inform decision making. Improved capacity for the environment sector would be achieved through the implementation of the DEFF internship and environment education programmes, where 424 young people would participate in the internship programme. A further 1 000 students would be placed in the Work Integrated Learning (WIL) programme, and 2 000 teachers would receive training in environmental management through the Fundisa for Change programme.
Minister Creecy said Programme 1 (administration) of the Strategic Plan would provide strategic leadership, management and support services to the Department. The administration would contribute towards an efficient, accountable and capable state and provide administrative and executive support to the Director-General and administrative support to the Department. The Minister said that efficiency, accountability and a capable state would be monitored through good governance, compliance with legislative requirements and effective financial management in three ways:
- Unqualified audit opinion: This would ensure that the Department implemented improved controls and recommendations emanating from audit recommendations and provided assurance to the Department and continuous Identification and management of performance risks.
- Improved systems of corporate governance: Internal audit planning and execution would assist the Department to detect gaps and areas of improvement in controls and governance.
- Expenditure on broad-based black economic empowerment (BBBEE) rural and township enterprises.
Administration would also profile the environmental sector capacity building through ways such as Fundisa for Change, learnerships and WIL programme placements, and through preparation for the 4th Industrial Revolution in the long term.
Minister Creecy also gave a report of the Department’s operations and focus during the COVID-19 pandemic.
She said that the corporate management services meant that at level 5 and level 4, remote connectivity had been enabled, including the use of digital communication platforms to reach their stakeholders. There had been continuous risk assessment and implementation of mitigation measures in line with COVID-19 protocols. Measures were being implemented to ensure readiness by 15 May, such as disinfecting buildings, hygiene measures, screening of officials and visitors, and giving consideration to the safety and security of employees, especially those in essential services. This involved the provision of sanitisers, personal protective equipment (PPE), managing the numbers of people in office blocks, human capital management (HCM) services, compliance to disclosure directives, payroll administration, labour relations matters and the provision of Wellness support services.
The Minister added that at level 4 of the lockdown, recycling was being reintroduced at 50% of working capacity. The environmental activities would commence at this level, and workers were following the regulations that had been introduced during the lockdown, and were working at a distance from each other. Participants on farms were generally protected, and fisheries was considered an essential service.
She asked the Committee not to discuss the Annual Performance Plan (APP) at this point, as the Department was not in the position to answer questions on the report.
Regulatory compliance and sector monitoring
Mr Ishaam Abader, DDG: Legal, Authorisation and Compliance, DEFF, presented the second programme, which focused on regulatory compliance and sector monitoring. The purpose of this programme was to promote the development of an enabling legal regime and licensing authorisation system that would promote enforcement and compliance and ensure coordination of sector performance. This would be done through:
- Law reform: drafting and vetting of legislation;
- Appeals and litigation management;
- Corporate legal support; contracts, legal opinions;
- Environmental impact assessments and integrated permitting systems;
- Integrated environmental management: systems and tools development;
- Compliance promotion and compliance monitoring;
- Enforcement: administrative and criminal.
Mr Abader said that the key pieces of legislation that governed the Department’s work were the National Environmental Management Act, (NEMA) 1998 (Act No. 107 of 1998) and the National Environmental Management which includes the Biodiversity Act, 2004, (Act No. 10 of 2004), Air Quality Act, 2004 (Act No. 39 of 2004), Waste Act, 2008 (Act No. 59 of 2008), Protected Areas Act, 2003 (Act No. 57 of 2003), Integrated Coastal Management Act, 2008 (Act No. 24 of 2008), the World Heritage Convention Act , 1999 (Act No. 49 of 1999), the Marine Spatial Planning Act, 2018, (Act No. 16 of 2018) and the Criminal Procedure Act, 1997 (Act No. 51 of 1977).
The operations and focus of the Department during the COVID-19 pandemic included the development of policy / environmental management tools that would assist with economic recovery, and urgent sectoral legislation to carry on functions under lockdown, to attend to urgent litigation and provide urgent legal opinions to the Department, and to attend to appeal decisions within legislated time frames. The DEFF would also process quality and defensible environmental impact assessments to promote economic growth while protecting the environment, and ensure proper compliance and enforcement measures continued, to ensure the adequate protection and sustainable utilisation of the country’s natural resources.
Oceans and coasts
Ms Judy Beaumont, DDG: Oceans and Coasts, DEFF, said that the purpose of this programme was to promote, manage and provide strategic leadership on oceans and coastal management. This was done through the management, coordination, facilitation, analysis and reporting on the implementation of initiatives within the ocean economy. The Department would provide overall national strategic direction, leadership, management and support to ocean and coastal science, including undertaking national, regional and southern ocean science monitoring and analyses. The expected number of jobs created through implementation of the Oceans Economy Operation Phakisa programme for the 2020/21 period was 1 550.
Climate change, air quality and sustainable development
Programme 4 focused on climate change, air quality and sustainable development. The purpose of this programme was to lead, promote, facilitate, inform, monitor and review the mainstreaming of environmental sustainability, low carbon and climate resilience and air quality in South Africa’s transition to sustainable development. This would be done by monitoring and evaluating national climate change responses in order to ensure informed climate change response decision-making. Some of the indicators would be the number of jobs resilience plans developed and implemented for the sector, and the number of climate change strategies and plans developed and approved. The targets involved the low carbon growth strategy submitted to Cabinet for approval and the sector jobs resilience plans developed for five value chains -- coal, agriculture, tourism, petrol-based transport and metals -- over the 2020/21period.
Biodiversity and conservation
The purpose of this programme was to ensure the regulation and management of all biodiversity, heritage and conservation matters in a manner that facilitates sustainable economic growth and development. One of the indicators highlighted in this programme was the number of new parks established. The target for the period of 2020/21 was the declaration of one national park. With regard to the Departments focus during Covid-19 pandemic at level 5, the high-level panel (HLP) would continue their work, and at level 4 the HLP would facilitate online sessions.
The purpose of this programme was to implement the expanded public works programme (EPWP) and green economy projects in the environmental sector. The environmental programme (EP) implements 14 environmental programmes that seek social and specific environmental outcomes. The DEFF leads the EPWP environment and culture sector. It had created 969 679 work opportunities over the past five years. The EP alone had created approximately 400 000 work opportunities over the past five years. It had consistently achieved the employment targets for women (55%), youth (60%) and people with disabilities (2%). The environmental programme co-ordinates biosecurity for the country.
Chemical and waste management
Mr Mark Gordon, DDG: Chemical and Waste Management, DEFF, said this programme’s main purpose was to ensure the regulation and management of all biodiversity, heritage and conservation matters in a manner that facilitates sustainable economic growth and development. The objective of the Department was to reduce the negative environmental and health impact of waste and risks posed by chemicals, and to increase the commercialisation of the circular economy and create value from resources currently discarded as waste. One of the key objectives was to reduce waste to landfill by 75% of industrial waste and 50% of municipal waste through education and awareness, a compliant society, and the application of cleaner production.
Ms Susan Morongoa, Acting DDG: Forestry and Fisheries, DEFF, said the purpose of this programme was to develop and facilitate the implementation of policies and targeted programmes to ensure proper management of forests and the sustainable use and protection of land and water; to manage agricultural risks and disasters by supporting optimal sustainable production across the forestry sector; to implement best management practices across the forestry sector, and to protect, conserve and the rehabilitate woodlands and natural forests. One such indicator expected from this programme was the number of hectares of temporary unplanted areas (TUPs). The target for the 2020/21 period was 1 279,5 ha. The Department’s focus during Covid-19 at levels 5 and 4 includes working on the draft framework for the release of Category B and C plantations (80 000ha).
Programme 9’s purpose was to ensure the sustainability utilisation and orderly access to the marine living resources through improved management and regulation. Aquaculture and economic development ensured aquaculture growth and development and the management of the 12 proclaimed fishing harbours. Fisheries Research and Development advises on, and promotes, the sustainable development of fisheries’ resources and ecosystems by conducting and supporting appropriate research for total allowable catch (TAC) and total applied effort (TAE) recommendations). Marine Resource Management also manages and regulates the commercial, recreational and small-scale fishing sectors. The expected outcome of the programme was an effective and enabling regulatory framework for the management and development of marine and freshwater living resources (oceans, coasts, rivers and dams). The outcome indicators include the Marine Living Resources Act, and the regulations being reviewed and amended.
Ms H Winkler (DA) shared her concerns as a resident of KwaZulu-Natal about the small scale fishing rights. She said it seemed to be a grey area, a mini hard-core recreational activity, which had led to many who did not consider the permit, or to apply for those permits because they did not qualify, and now they fell within the recreational category and were now unable to fish for their own consumption. Ms Winkler wanted to know if there was any way in which the Department could issue some temporary permits that would enable recreational fishers who were fishing for their own consumption, to access fishing rights in KZN.
The second issue was charter clubs which operated on tourism. She asked if there was a way to address this grey area. She asked if the HLP would be taking into consideration the recommendations of the industry colloquium. Was the panel reconsidering the breeding, hunting and handling of elephants, when there were existing elephant norms and standards, and how long would it take for them to be reconsidered and revised? She also wanted to know what waste-picking initiatives would be embarked upon this year, and of the 5 500 jobs that the Department wanted to create by 2024, how many of those would be in the waste-picking sector.
Ms S Mbatha (ANC) wanted clarity on the learnerships and issuing of bursaries, and shared her concerns regarding the number of recipients in Gauteng. She asked about the number of heritage sites that were being monitored in South Africa. How did the Department view the issue of wildlife spill over, especially with regard to Covid-19? How did the government deal with its own non-compliance with chemical and waste management regulations? She was relieved about the phasing out of mercury, but was still concerned about waste tyres, which were most often found in the townships. She was also concerned about the amount of waste the Department was planning to divert to landfills.
Ms C Labuschagne (DA, Western Cape) said that after the lockdown was announced, the fishing industry had taken 15 days to get the regulations. She asked why it took that long. Adding to the question that had already been asked regarding fishing, she asked why the sub-systems fisheries were not included at this stage. Regarding permits, in what way were fishers being supported? She asked for more detail on the waste management plan or strategy, and the environmental priorities that should be incorporated in the integrated development plans (IDPs) of the 44 district municipalities, as well as the referencing of staff that should be trained. She enquired about the $40 million of donations that the Department had received, and wanted to know in which format that fund would be accounted for.
Ms W Ngwenya (ANC, Gauteng) said that the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) was aware of the Department’s two section 76 pieces of legislation which were before the Committee. The Committee was pleased that the Chairperson was already planning for the two pieces of the legislation. Did the Department have any piece of legislation that they would be submiting to Parliament this financial year? How was it providing PPE for EPWP beneficiaries? Did the Department anticipate the renewable energy project being a joint project between the DEFF and other departments, and if so, which departments?
Ms M Mokause (EFF, Free State) was concerned that Covid-19 had brought with it devastating issues, one of which was the closure of SANParks. She asked about the agreement for the continuation of mining, and how the Minister had reached that decision.
Ms L Bebee (ANC, KwaZulu-Natal) asked what happened to full-time students who received bursaries from the Department after they completed their studies. She asked for clarity on the number of environmental performance assessments that would be conducted. What had caused the significant reduction in the number of joint enforcement operations to be conducted, from the actual performance target of 65 in 2018/19 and the estimate of 96 in 2019/20, to 45 in 2020/21? How did the Department envisage the sustainability of the Ocean Phakisa in the area of protection?
Minister Creecy acknowledged that there were many questions regarding fishery. The first issue was that all environment regulations that allowed for fishing in the sea were covered under the Marine Living Resources Act, which identifies three categories of fishing people -- commercial fishers, small-scale fishers and recreational fishers. There was no category called “subsistence fishermen” in the Act, and if there was no such category under law, there would not be any dispensation under any regulations for small fishing people. She said it was understood that there were people who fished for their own tables and that in some instances, they sold these fish, which was not allowed by law. They did this by buying a permit from the Post Office.
She said that under level 4, recreational fishing was not permitted. There would be those who were defined as recreational fishing people, and they would be fishing for their own tables, and then there would be others running charters and taking tourists to go and engage in game fishing, and so forth. The point that she was making was that none of those activities were permitted under lockdown regulations for level 4. The Department was currently involved in discussions with state law advisors on the position of recreational fishing people under level 3. At this stage, she could not share more, but the Department did recognise that there were people who had been fishing for food security purposes using these licences. Therefore, it was making a case that these people should be included in level 3. She could not give an assurance that that would be the case, as the discussions were ongoing.
The second issue she wanted to address was the different waste streams the Department was working on, and the waste tyres situation. The Waste Phakisa had identified 27 waste streams, and the Committee may be aware that there were different organisations that might be working on those different waste streams. The Department had identified waste tyres as an important waste stream, and wanted to see a plan to effectively deal with the matter. A Member had indicated that there was a time when the Recycling and Economic Development Initiative of SA (REDISA) was operating under a contract to dispose of waste tyres, but that contract had come to an end in 2017, and for a temporary period of time the Waste Bureau had been involved in processing tyres. The Department was currently working with the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) to develop a section 29 intervention. This would be a state-initiated intervention that would cover the disposal of waste tyres, including recycling. There had been an initial consultation with the industry, and the intention was that there would be a further consultation with the industry at the end of June. The DEFF would then put out a proposal formally for public comment. The idea was that this would present opportunities for anyone interested in participating in that process, and also a much better opportunity to deal with a problem that many of the Committee Members had indicated was quite serious in our country.
Minister Creecy said the Department was well aware that in the previous financial year, there had been a finding by the Auditor General of irregular expenditure in the Waste Bureau. The Department had initiated an independent forensic investigation into this irregular expenditure and a report had been received regarding part of this irregular expenditure -- about R45 million. The forensic investigation had found no intentional financial misconduct, but the balance of the money was still being investigated, the result of which was expected at the end of the year. She added that the lockdown had impeded the process.
The Minister proceeded to address the issue of other sectors, including paper packaging, glass and e-waste, as well as light bulbs. The Department was currently concluding a Section 18 process where it was calling for voluntary industry plans. It was the Department’s intention that those voluntary industry plans would be advertised by the end of June. There were many good industry initiatives taking place at the moment, and the DEFF wanted to be in a position to recognise some of them.
The whole issue of the formalisation of waste pickers was integrally related to the Section 18 and Section 29 processes. One of the criteria for both of these plans was that those who would be working in this area had to have a process to formalise waste pickers. The Minister said they were currently working with waste pickers to provide protective equipment. It was also important to note that all businesses had a responsibility to ensure that their employees had protective equipment while practising social distancing and the Department would work with the waste industry to ensure that regulations were adhered to and implemented.
The Minister also addressed the issue regarding the HNP that dealt with rhino, elephant, lion and other species. She had had an opportunity to meet and address the panel, and had emphasised to them the extreme seriousness of their role to the Committee. She was aware that there may be many criticisms with regards to this panel, and asked the Committee to give them a chance.
She also referred to the Marine Resources Fund and the budget, and said that the Fund was supposed to be generating revenue from licensing. However, that function had been far from optimal. She said that SANParks received R398 million from the Department and the Marine Resources Fund received R500 million from the Department. SANParks was able to raise its own revenue, and it was time that the Marine Resources Fund does the same so that it could perform its functions properly.
Minister Creecy apologised for the delays in making the level 4 regulations known, explaining that there was a bottleneck, with the regulations first having to go to the state legal advisors.. The Agriculture bill had been withdrawn, as there was a general concern from the industry that they were over-regulating, and that the agriculture industry had already been regulated by the Department of Agriculture. With regard to mining licences, the Member had addressed the question to the wrong person, as she did not have those kinds of powers.
The DEFF was in discussions with SANParks on how it would sustain the important work that was done with those communities. She could not go into more detail regarding this work, as it pertained to the recovery process and the new programmes that the Department would want to put together following the budget adjustment.
The Minister lastly addressed the issue of the carbon tax, and said the tax was being implemented by National Treasury, and that it was not something that involved the Department.
Ms Nosipho Ngcaba, Director-General (DG): DEFF, referred to a Member’s written questions, and said that there was a new deal for people in nature, which was a theme that framed the outcome of what was expected in respect to the contract of parties in the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) code 15. It was likely that such a contract of parties was going to happen this year. She proceeded to address a question in respect of air quality standards and the role of the Department. She said the Department provided support to municipalities to enforce air quality standards, as there were technical challenges in understanding the complexities of the air quality standards.
Ms Makotoko referred back to the presentation, and provided the Committee with the required statistics on learnerships and bursaries. She added that the Department was in communication with the private sector to absorb these learners and students into their companies.
The Chief Financial Officer followed with his response to the audit opinion the Department had received. He said that the Department had an audit action plan which was being monitored on a weekly basis, and that the Department would be reporting to the audit committee, adding that he hoped that at some stage this would be shared with Portfolio Committee.
The DG proceeded to address the question on world heritage sites, stating that the country had ten world heritage sites and all of them were being monitored through compliance with the Convention that was implemented by the country.
She referred to the 44 districts, and said that the way that they ensured that the environmental issues were captured in the plans provided as input to the coordinating Department, Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta), to ensure environmental sustainability was entrenched within the 44 districts.
The Minister summed up the responses to the joint committee, and handed over to the Chairperson.
Ms Mokause said that she had not heard any of the officials addressing the departure of the SA National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) CEO soon after she was appointed. What did the Minister think the lingering issue was, of Africans not being welcomed, particularly black women?
Mr A Arnolds (EFF, Western Cape) referred to the Minister’s response to the West Coast issue about mining licences. He asked whether the Minister was saying that beaches were not a critical biodiversity area which must be protected, and added that the company that was involved in this matter was known for not complying with environmental laws.
Mr N Singh (IFP) said that some of the people within the Fisheries Department had been diagnosed with Covid-19, and asked what this meant for other staff members and the Department.
Joint Committee Responses
The Minister said that she was not in the position to discuss the SANBI matter, and that if the management of that organisation was opposed to African people, and if the former CEO had any evidence, she should submit it.
The Minister said that with regard to Mr Arnold’s question on environmental systems, she said that the authority that issued the environmental impact assessment (EIA) was the Department of Mineral Resources (DMR), not the DEFF. She was only the appeal authority, and could only consider the legal argument put before her by the appellant. She added that there was no legislation in this country that prohibited mining on beaches unless those beaches fell within a protected area.
She confirmed that one member of staff had tested positive for Covid-19 in the Foretrust Building in Cape Town, and they had closed the building to allow for deep cleaning. The Department would assist with the contact tracing that had to happen in such an instance. The Department would do everything it could to protect its staff members.
The meeting was adjourned.
Xasa, Mr FD
Arnolds, Mr A
Aucamp, Mr S
Bebee, Ms LC
Capa, Mr N
Creecy, Ms B
Galo, Mr MP
Gantsho, Ms N
Holomisa, Dr BH
Labuschagne, Ms C
Lorimer, Mr JR
Mbatha, Ms SGN
Mchunu, Ms TVB
Mey, Mr P
Modise, Mr PMP
Mokause, Ms MO
Ngwenya, Ms W
Paulsen, Mr N M
Singh, Mr N
Smit, Mr CF
Sotyu, Ms MM
Tongwane, Ms TM
Weber, Ms AMM
Winkler, Ms HS
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