Review of policies, legislation & practices relating to elephant, lion, leopard, and rhino: High Level Panel briefing

Environment, Forestry and Fisheries

03 November 2020
Chairperson: Mr F Xasa (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

In a virtual meeting, the Committee was briefed on the work of the Minister’s High-level Panel (HLP) of experts on the review of policies, legislation and practices on matters of Elephant, Lion, Leopard and Rhinoceros management, breeding, hunting, trade and handling. It served as an introductory meeting for the Committee on the High-level Panel’s work. This work is set to be completed by 30 November.

A Member noted how lions and rhinos were moved to the category of farm animals and asked if the captive breeding lions are farm animals; are the animals protected in SANParks such as the Kruger National Park wildlife, or are those also categorised as farm animals. The Member wanted to know if such animals fell under the mandate of the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development, and how conservation rules would be used with rhino and lions. Members expressed concern about community consultation taking place on virtual platforms, since not all communities in rural areas have access to Wi-Fi and are able to be on virtual platforms. The HLP noted that there was a significant level of public concern about policies, legislations, and practices associated with these species especially animal welfare and wellbeing, hence they asked why animal welfare was not referred to in the HLP terms of reference. The Committee was informed about the problem of lion breeding being done improperly and Members were concerned that the HLP would not be able to access areas where lion breeding was being done improperly.

There were also questions on HLP Member’s vested interests and how such an issue would be considered by the Minister. Members also wanted to know why the terms of reference did not refer to the recent court judgement that the welfare of animals need to be taken into consideration when decisions regarding them were made. There were no animal welfare experts on the HLP, although there was some consultation. Considering the nature of the discussion taking place, Members asked why none of these experts were on the HLP, and how the Minister and the HLP would take this into consideration when implementing the recommendations of the HLP. With the issue regarding the terms of reference of the HLP, Members asked how it would be dealt with since there were no organised crime, illegal wildlife trade, SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) or zoonotic disease experts on this Panel given that South Africa was in the midst of a global pandemic that was of zoonotic origin.

Members thought that the timeframe set for the Panel to complete its work by 30 November was not realistic. On why certain people were not on the Panel: Member heard that the Panel was appointed by the Minister, and the Portfolio Committee should ask those questions of the Minister. The Committee Chairperson later said that there were clear issues that the Committee should agree on, namely that the questions on the issues of the composition of panel, the timeframe, and a possible extension of the deadline should be directed to the Minister.

Members also asked questions on the financial implications or the projections after the HLP’s conclusion of the project, and how much the HLP thought would have been used by the HLP in discharging its responsibilities. The Committee also requested that the HLP members give the Committee the background of their qualifications and experience. The Committee stated that it needed continuous engagement with the HLP as both parties needed to assist each other on how to resolve these issues, such as that of lions in South Africa.

Meeting report

Chairperson’s Opening Remarks
The Chairperson said that the purpose of the meeting was to receive a briefing on the work of the High-level Panel of Experts for the review of policies, legislation and practices on matters of Elephant, Lion, Leopard and Rhinoceros management, breeding, hunting, trade and handling. He had indicated that this Panel would be meeting the Portfolio Committee for the first time so he thought it would be good for the Panel to get a sense of who the Committee is. He asked Members to introduce themselves to the Panel.

The Chairperson introduced himself, followed by the Members: Mr N Paulsen (EFF); Mr N Singh (IFP); Ms S Mbatha (ANC); Ms A Weber (DA); Ms T Tongwane (ANC); Mr J Lorimer (DA); and Mr P Modise (ANC). (Additional Members were in the meeting, but were not able to introduce themselves at this point.)

Ms Pam Yako, Chairperson: High-level Panel, introduced the delegation accompanying her. She had six members out of the 25 with her; the Panel had a list of the rest of the members which could be made available. The delegation was drawn from a wide range of organisations and skills. Some came from the academic sector, some from communities and people involved in policy before. There was a wide range of skills and experience located in the delegation. The delegation was as follows: Ms Theressa Frantz; Ms Lizanne Nel; Mr Chief Matsila; Ms Tshifhiwa Nangammbi; and Mr Kule Chitepo. The delegation was accompanied by the Secretariat, headed by Mr Paul Daphne. Ms Yako said that she would make the delegation list available.

The Chairperson said that the Committee was interested in the work that the Panel was doing because according to the Committee, the Panel is an outcome of a colloquium that was held in 2018, which resulted in a House resolution that expected the establishment of this kind of panel. It was the Minister who established the Panel. But the Committee also had an interest, and also wanted to clarify certain things amongst themselves because some Members are new; it would thus be helpful for the Panel to give the Committee a picture of what it was doing so that the Committee could understand its work. The Committee is made up of public representatives. Members of the public want to see certain things happening, but such things must happen in a particular order. This meeting is an attempt to close that gap, as well as to say, “from now on, this is how the Committee and the Panel would want to work together”. Because of the time limit, there was only one item on the agenda.

Mr Singh moved for the adoption of the agenda, and Ms T Mchunu (ANC) seconded the motion.

Briefing on the work of the High-level Panel of Experts for the Review of Policies, Legislation and Practices on Matters of Elephant, Lion, Leopard and Rhinoceros Management, Breeding, Hunting, Trade and Handling
Ms Pam Yako, Chairperson: High-level Panel, presented. She said that she is part of a seminar at Wits University, and would have to leave early. The Chairperson had correctly pointed out that there had been work done by Parliament; the Panel has looked at that work, and is part of the things that the Panel has taken on board. The Panel wanted to brief Members on who it was, what it was doing, and what its plans were. At this stage, the Panel would not go into the substance of some of the things that it has done, but the Committee would get a sense of what the Panel’s work was about when the presentation was finished.

The purpose of this presentation is to provide the requested briefing on the work of the Minister’s High-level Panel of Experts for the Review of Policies, Legislation and Practices on Matters of Elephant, Lion, Leopard and Rhinoceros Management, Breeding, Hunting, Trade and Handling.

• Despite South Africa’s excellent reputation as a global leader in conservation, especially in respect of iconic species like elephant, lion, leopard and rhinoceros, there is still a significant level of public concern around the policies, legislation and practices associated with these species, especially in terms of animal welfare and wellbeing.
• On 10 October 2019, the Minister of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries, Minister Barbara Creecy, established an Advisory Committee (the ‘High-Level Panel’ or HLP) to look into these concerns, among others, through a Notice in the Gazette.
• The High-level panel was appointed in terms of S.3A of the National Environmental Management Act, 1998 (Act 107 of 1998, NEMA).

The High-Level Panel’s Scope of Work/Terms of Reference
This included a review of existing policies, legislation, practices. Under each species, there is a list of issues that are specific to each species. The Panel was also asked to evaluate the outcomes of the Committee of Inquiry and make recommendations when it came to black and white rhinoceros. For that species and the others the Panel was asked to assess and provide policy positions and operational guidelines.

Terms of Reference: Identified Key Actors
• Government/regulators/conservation agencies (national & provincial)
• Communities adjacent to Big 5 protected areas
• NGOs (non-governmental organisations)
• Animal welfare & rights groups
• Media
• Industry, game ranchers, hunting associations
• International, regional, sub-regional (where necessary and possible)

The work of the High-Level Panel to Date
• Initiation – The High-Level Panel started its work by way of a two-day Induction Workshop and Inaugural Meeting held on 28 and 29 November 2019. (The Panel was appointed for a 12-month period which ends in November 2020.)
• Thematic sub-committees – In order to ensure a common understanding of the High-Level Panel’s thematic areas and cross-cutting issues its members divided themselves into sub-committees looking at –
• Constitutional framework
• Legislation and mandates
• Land-use and the South African wildlife model
• Transformation in the sector
• Education and capacity building
• International position
• Animal welfare

• Public sector consultations – from November 2019 to June 2020, the High-Level Panel consulted the following organisations in pre-lockdown workshops and meetings, and virtual meetings thereafter –
• Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (DALRRD)
• Department of Tourism
• Department: Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment (DFFE)
• Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (the ‘Hawks’)
• National Prosecuting Authority (NPA)
• Provincial Departments and Conservation authorities involved with the 5 species
• South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI)
• South African National Parks (SANParks)
• State Attorney Services
• The Scientific Authority of South Africa (a separate legal entity within SANBI)
• The South African Revenue Service (SARS)
• The initiation of public stakeholder engagements – on 27 March 2020 (lockdown began on 26 March 2020), through notices in the Gazette and newspapers (the Star (2 April) and City Press (5 April)), the Panel initiated the broader public engagement process by inviting the public to submit written submissions, scientific information, socio-economic information or any other relevant information. Over 70 individual submissions were made.

The Panel extended the closing date for submissions as it initially thought that the lockdown would be shorter. The submission period was for 60 days as opposed to the normal 30 days. On page 11, there was a breakdown of the sources of public submissions.

It was not only the numbers of responses but also the volume of work that was a challenge; some submissions were in excess of 200 pages.

• Historical review – the Panel has familiarised itself with the historical background leading up to and informing its work in order to ensure a more solid understanding of the status quo –
• The Constitution, 1996
• The 1997 Draft Biodiversity and Sustainable Use Policy
• The 1998 Environmental Management Policy
• The National Environmental Management Act (Act 107 of 1998)
• The National Environmental Management: Protected Areas Act (Act 57 of 2003)
• The National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act, 2004 (Act No. 10 of 2004)
• The 2005 Panel of Experts on Professional and Recreational Hunting
• The 2006 Elephant Science Round Tables
• The 2012 Rhino Issues Management (RIM) process
• The 2014 Committee of Inquiry into the trade in rhino horn
• The 2016 Rhino Lab
• The 2018 Report on Intensive and Selective Game Breeding
• The 2018 Parliamentary colloquium on captive lion breeding for hunting and lion bone trade

The Panel’s current work
The Panel mostly had virtual public hearings. The Panel invited those who made submissions to give it further feedback; it did not just rely on written submissions.
• Public consultation – following the written submission from the general public the Panel is now in the process of having ‘live’ engagements with stakeholders within the COVID-19 constraints.
• The following initial consultations have been concluded –
• Consultation 1. Wildlife Industry – 29 September 2020;
• Consultation 2. Conservation NGOs and Individuals – 2 October 2020;
• Consultation 3. Welfare and Advocacy Groups – 6 October 2020;
• Consultation 4. Eco-tourism Groups – 7 October 2020;
• Consultation 5. Tourism Business Associations – 13 October 2020
• Consultation 6. National House of Traditional Leaders – 21 October 2020
• Consultation 7. People and Parks National Committee – 29 October 2020 (The Panel did not receive a submission from People and Parks, but the Panel requested them to meet the Panel and make representations to the Panel.)
• Consultation 8. Associations of Traditional Healers – 29 October 2020
Consultations 7 and 8 were hybrid engagements (a combination of a virtual platform and face-to-face meeting).
• Forthcoming stakeholder engagements (which will use a hybrid model) include –
• Community structures in KZN associated with Hluhluwe/Mfolozi Reserve, Tembe Elephant Park, iSimangaliso World Heritage Site (Ezemvelo KZN and iSimangaliso to facilitate existing park forums)
• Community structures on the Western Boundary of Kruger Park (Limpopo) (Existing Forums convened by SANParks, Trans-frontier Conservation Areas (TFCA) and the Limpopo Department of Economic Development, Environment and Tourism (LEDET)
• Community structures on the Western Boundary of Kruger Park (Mpumalanga) (Forums convened by SANParks, TFCA and the Mpumalanga Tourism and Parks Agency)
• Community structures around Addo Elephant Park in Eastern Cape. (Forum convened by SANParks.)
• Community structures in North West associated with Pilanesberg, Madikwe and Borakalalo Reserves (existing forums)

Finalisation of the Panel’s work
• The Panel will complete its consultation processes by mid-November
• The Panel will have a set of meetings to finalize a set of recommendations in the third week of November
• The report of the Panel with recommendations will be tabled to the Minister of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment by 30 November 2020.
The Panel is starting to identify key points so that it does not have too much pressure on it at the end. The Panel is continuing with the consultation process, but it is not necessarily forming a view yet as the Panel. “It is critical that we hear everybody before we make a conclusion”. The time period of 15 to 30 November will be a critical time for the Panel.

The Chairperson expressed appreciation for the briefing. He noted that the HLP was mentioned by the Minister before, but was now before the Committee and had outlined its process.

Ms A Weber (DA) thanked the Chairperson of the HLP. The HLP started with a colloquium between lion breeding and the bone trade which developed into becoming the HLP and including more animals. The HLP is working with the legislation on managing these animals; the HLP might be doing good work, but last year, lions and rhinos were moved in the category of farm animals. The presentation kept on talking about lions and rhinos as wildlife. Are the captive breeding lion farm animals, and are the animals protected in SANParks such as the Kruger National Park wildlife, or are those also under farm animals? If the rules have changed, has the mandate of the HLP changed? Those animals fall under DALRRD, not under the DEFF. “How do we protect animals that fall under a different set of rules?” Lions and rhino are now farm animals and can be bred; those two have a very different set of rules. “How can DEFF manage that if it is not its mandate”? ‘Where does the conservation of these wildlife farm animals come to farm animals’? ‘How will the conservation rules be used with rhino and lions’? She agreed that the HLP had done consultation. It is sad that it had to happen during COVID-19. The communities in these areas do not have access to Wi-Fi to be on virtual platforms. ‘What has the HLP done to actually consult communities regarding these matters’? The HLP noted that there was a significant level of public concern on policies, legislations, and practices associated with these species, especially animal welfare and wellbeing. ‘Why are animal welfare and wellbeing not referred to in the HLP terms of reference, and why are there no animal welfare experts on the Panel’?

Ms H Winkler (DA) thanked the Panel for the presentation. She said that it is clear from the public affiliations of the members on the HLP that at least 12 of them potentially have vested financial interests in the outcome of the Panel’s deliberations which might compromise the work and the outcome of the Panel and its credibility. ‘Can the HLP advise on how this has been considered by the Minister’? It might open the recommendations of the HLP to future challenges and expensive litigation as has been seen in the Department. On the HLP’s terms of reference it was felt that it made no reference to the recent court judgement that the welfare of animals needs to be taken into consideration when decisions regarding them are made. There were no animal welfare experts on the Panel although there was some consultation. Considering the nature of the discussion taking place, Ms Winkler thought that it was “extremely important” that such experts were members of the Panel. ‘Why are none of these experts on the HLP’? ‘How will the Minister and the HLP take this into consideration when implementing the recommendations of the HLP’? The NSPCA, Audrey Delsink, Cormack Cullen, all declined to serve on the HLP, and Karen Trendler and Aadila Agjee also resigned citing concerns about the composition of that Panel. ‘How will the Panel mitigate against this given that that there has not been enough credible contribution from the animal welfare space and what that opens the Panel up to with challenges against the outcomes’. Certain NGOs advised in the invitations that they could make oral presentations to the HLP, but they were told not to raise the issue regarding the terms of reference of the HLP. ‘How is this going to be dealt with, namely that there are no organised crime, illegal wildlife trade, severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) or zoonotic disease experts on this panel, given that South Africa is in the midst of a global pandemic that is of zoonotic origin’?What about the fact that there are no tourism experts on the Panel’ - because this has an effect on South Africa’s image and there is brand damage’? There is global consensus that has condemned the captive predator breeding industry and canned lion hunting including one of the biggest hunting fraternities -Safari Club International- to say that this is causing blight on the entire industry and it is losing South Africa money.

Mr N Singh (IFP) thanked the Panel for the briefing. He did not believe the timeframe set for the Panel to complete its work by 30 November is realistic. It is doing a lot of work, and the PC heard some of the concerns by Ms Winkler. He thought it would be unfair to ask the Chairperson of the Panel why certain people were not on the Panel. The Panel was appointed by the Minister and the Committee should ask those questions of the Minister. The Committee should appeal to the Minister to gazette the fact that this Panel needs to continue its work for another two to three months, so that when the Committee receives a report through the Minister as a Committee, it has a report that has been well-considered, well-consulted, etcetera. He believed that the Committee must not consider this meeting as a formal interaction with the Committee for its comments on the issue. To him, this meeting was a report-back from the Panel on how it has been conducting its work thus far. Perhaps as one of the groups the Panel wants to consult the Committee was one of those groups, then the Committee should allow the opportunity to present itself as the Committee. He would not like to go away from this meeting and say that the Panel has consulted the Committee and received its views. The Committee is not prepared to give its views at this meeting, because it has not been advised that this meeting is for that purpose. Mr Singh wanted to thank the Panel for the methodology that it had adopted. But he was concerned about the inclusivity of consultation; if there are groups other than those 70 or 80 listed that may still want to make presentations, either through virtual, hybrid or oral representations. It is understood that when this Panel was set up, South Africa did not have COVID-19. COVID-19 will impact on how this Panel proceeds with this work. It will also impact on issues such as zoonotic diseases, because it is known that COVID-19, SARS, etc. are viruses that started off in wildlife. To what extent has the Panel’s terms of reference included the issue of zoonotic diseases and wildlife trading, etc.? He thought that this Panel needs more time to conclude its work and to do more consultation, and even consult with the Committee going forward.

Mr P Modise (ANC) said the Committee must take this opportunity to welcome the brief. He wanted to “rubberstamp” the views of Mr Singh, namely to let this be an introductory meeting. The presentation is a brief, and so it did not go into detail. It sounds as if the mandate of the HLP is broad. Does the HLP think timeframe given to it was sufficient, or was it just working under pressure, given the realities that the country was confronted with of COVID-19 and the lockdown? Does the HLP echo the sentiments of Mr Singh that there might be need for an extension? He took an interest in knowing that in discharging this mandate was the HLP in a position to brief the PC on the financial implications, or the projections, after its conclusion of the project? How much does the HLP think would have been used by the HLP in discharging its responsibilities?

Ms S Mbatha (ANC) felt that the timeframe that the HLP was given is not enough, because there is a lot that needs to be done. There is a lot that was raised. The PC had a presentation the Blood Lions film, where lion breeding was not done properly. In those areas, the PC knows that entry (onto those properties) is not accessible. She was aware that they (the HLP) cannot have access easily in those areas; that was her worry. The timeframe is not enough. The HLP also needs to have professionals who will deal with meat safety. “There is lion meat being donated to the community”. Environmental health practitioners are needed to deal with that, and also to deal with other environmental health issues. They (lions and rhino) are no longer wild; they are now domestic animals, in the way that they are being slaughtered and inspected.  She requested that the Panel Members give the Committee the background of their qualifications and experience, so that the Committee can understand, and also advise to say to add certain things so the Panel’s work is complete. She could still say that the Panel needed more time. The Committee needs continuous engagement with the Panel. Both parties need to assist each other on how to resolve these issues. For example, there is the “burning issue” of the lions.

The Chairperson said that there were clear issues that the Committee should agree on. On the issue of the composition of panel, the Committee should address that to the Minister. On the timeframe and possible extension, the Committee should engage with the Minister.

Ms Yako said that she will share the answers with the other members of the Panel. If the questions are not answered adequately the Panel would provide written responses in some cases. She would do an initial take on the questions and then other Panel Members can add. If need be she would come back and summarise the Panel’s submission. Then, the Panel will provide written responses if necessary.

On the financial implications: She did not have that information off the top of her head, but the Panel does have it in writing how much money was spent in the work of the Panel. The Panel will provide that information.

Ms Yako thanked the Committee for helping the Panel on the issue of the composition and timeframes. She wanted to add the issue of the terms of reference which is what the Panel communicated to the stakeholders who came to the consultation sessions. The Panel did not appoint itself. The Panel was given terms of reference upon appointment. What was included, what should have been included, what could have been included; all of those conversations are conversations with the Minister and the Department. What it did say to stakeholders is that with issues that pertain to the Panel’s terms of reference and composition, the Panel would rather not respond to those issues as a Panel. It would rather deal with the terms of reference that it does have. It did not say that it is not interested in the issues; however, the terms of reference that it has are the terms of reference that it will use as a Panel. On its approach to the terms of reference, there are cross-cutting issues that might apply across species, but might not be specifically referred to in the terms of reference. For example, the wildlife model, the Panel thought that it could not look at these issues in isolation; it has to look at some of the broader issues. The Panel, in so far as is possible, it has tried to not just take a narrow look at the terms of reference. However, it is aware that when one has terms of reference, one is appointed to do a certain task. The Panel has taken a broader view on some of the things and on its approach, but at the same time it narrowed it back to do what the Panel was appointed to do. It has, as much as it can, tried to discharge its responsibility given the concerns that it has. The Panel will work timeously on getting stakeholders to come and make representations, not just the 70 who did make a submission, but beyond that. As the Panel is hearing the issues it has also made invitations for other stakeholders to talk to it.

On if people can still submit: it is “a bit of a tricky situation that the Panel is in”. If it now reopens the process of submissions, it would not be able to finish its work in the time that it has. There are two principals at play here: One that the Panel has made it a point that with those who have submitted, the Panel has made sure that it not only looked at what was written to it, but it also brought people to the hearings to have them explain what they have written to the HLP. It has gone through all of the issues and submissions. In some cases, it had questions from individuals or associations, so it worked through all of those questions. It then said that there were still things that seemed to be important for the HLP to discharge of its work, or some stakeholders. For example, community representatives and traditional healers: The Panel did not receive submissions from those constituencies, but it invited them to submit. It is in the terms of reference that the HLP needs to consult with communities. With stakeholders such as traditional healers- because as it was doing its work and listening to the issues it felt that they were an important constituency. The HLP needed to hear the healers’ views on some of those things, especially with regard to the species concerns and how those impact on healers’ work. The Panel did not take a narrow approach as it went ahead with its work.

On the court judgement: In the beginning, the Panel took a legal opinion on what the Constitutional provisions were and what is intended in the Constitution as well as a view on some of the judgements and what the implications for the Panel were. The Panel incorporated this opinion into its work.

On certain members: Ms Yako could not respond to those members who Ms Winkler was talking about. As far as the Panel knows, and in the correspondence Ms Yako received, and the discussions she had with Ms Karen Trendler, Ms Trendler’s reason for resigning was based on her health situation. She was not aware of any other reasons. The Panel had made Ms Trendler the Chairperson of the sub-committee on animal welfare. The Panel had to get someone else when she resigned. To its knowledge, it was because of health considerations, where Ms Trendler was unable to keep up with what the Panel needed to do. With those members that did not take up the Minister’s appointment, the Panel does not know what the reasons are for them not taking up the Minister’s offer to serve on the Panel. The Panel cannot control who gets appointed. It did make sure that those constituencies are listened to when it has public hearings; it even accommodated international stakeholders. There was one person who was traveling at the time, and based abroad. It had to change its time to one that suited the person’s time zone. The Panel tried to accommodate as much as it could as many people that could have a say in terms of its work.

On departmental mandates: The Panel has tried as much as possible to bring in the DEFF and also the DALRRD. There is an issue that is on its desk, and it is considering how to make recommendations on that, and the issue of overlapping mandates. In its work, it did not just look at the legislation only, or speak only to the DEFF. It also invited officials from the DALRRD to also give it the DALRRD’s legislation and what their legislative framework is that governs the species. Regardless of what law, or who is the custodian of the legislation in terms of national departments, the legislative framework applies. The Panel did not just look at legislation administered by a particular department; it looked beyond that. So far, there is a legislative framework that applies in the DALRRD side of things. It also had, as one of the stakeholders who addressed it, the NSPCA (National Council of Societies for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals). It engaged them in that regard, and asked some of the questions that Members are asking.

On conflicts of interest: The Panel adopted a charter and a declaration on its interests. It has a declaration of interests that members have signed. When it was going to have the public hearings, Panel members were asked to do a further declaration because it needed to know who was part of the stakeholders it was seeing in the meetings, i.e. from specific organisations, or were they somehow interested in those organisations, whether it was a direct financial benefit or by association with an organisation. The Panel has created different categories of declaration; it has on file, who has what interests, whether it is financial, direct, or derives benefit financially, or influence. It has these categories for transparency, and for ensuring that all members of the Panel do declare their interests.

On zoonotic diseases: it is an issue that the HLP has not fully dealt with. There have been views recently within the Panel that it might need to look at that issue, and see how it impacts on the work that it does, and whether it can do justice to that. There is a debate on that issue on the HLP’s desk, specifically on how best to deal with it in a way that is fair and detailed and also comprehensive. The HLP does not want to just “tick a box”. That is a bit of a challenge, but it is on the HLP’s desk, and it is looking into that issue.

On the HLP members’ qualifications and experience: Ms Yako said that the HLP will make that information available. It would also make available information on the financial implications of the HLP’s work which would be in writing.

The Chairperson asked if there was anyone who wanted to add something.

Mr Singh asked if the HLP would need more time to submit a comprehensive well-informed report to the Minister. He also asked if the HLP was looking at the “laundering” of animal products that are illegally acquired through legal sources. For example, people could acquire some of these products illegally, but channel them through a so-called legal consortium or entity and sell the products abroad. ‘Is that something that the HLP is looking at’? He asked if the HLP had an opportunity to see the documentary Blood Lions. There were some serious allegations against some farmers.’ Is the HLP looking at or investigating some of these so-called captive lion breeding farms to see whether the farms are doing what they are supposed to be doing, namely looking after the welfare of lions, or if they are engaged in illegal activities that harm not only the country, but also tourism opportunities’?

Ms Winkler thanked the HLP Chairperson for her efforts to give the Committee comprehensive feedback. She was glad that Ms Yako said that the issue of COVID-19 - a zoonotic disease - is something that had not been looked into very thoroughly. She thought that this was one of the more overarching priorities that really need to be taken into consideration. Globally economies have come to a standstill because of COVID-19. This is something that is not only pertinent to South Africa; the country also has a global responsibility in this area. “We have seen that irresponsible management of wildlife can have a far-reaching impact; more than we can ever anticipate. We have a responsibility going forward to ensure that this never happens again”. Her understanding was that tuberculosis (TB) was found in lion bones that were being exported out of South Africa. This is a valid concern and people have no idea what other zoonosis may exist in the products and derivatives that South Africa is exporting. To speak to Mr Singh’s point on trafficking of wildlife and their derivatives: that is another issue and there needs to be expertise in the HLP that can speak to that because as Mr Singh said: ‘legal trade is often just a cover for illegal trade’. Illegal trade is very lucrative for the people involved and South Africa has to protect its wildlife. ‘With standing members on the HLP: when Ms Karen Trendler declined to participate  when other welfare organisations declined to participate; have they been replaced at all as standing members on the HLP? ‘Are there enough of them (animal welfare experts) to balance out other interests, so that there is a fair proportion of representation for animal welfare on this Panel’?

Ms Yako responded to the follow-up questions. On the issue of replacement of members: members were replaced. She did feel on the balance of probabilities that the members of the Panel make up a fairly balanced Panel in terms of skills, background, and etcetera. She thought that the HLP had enough members that might be coming as individuals, and have views that might not necessarily be in line with the rest of Panel Members. She noted that when the HLP debates, the debates are engaging, and the debates in the Panel are robust. Some Members might have looked at Blood Lions in a personal capacity and others have got books. The HLP has also been sent books to read. It has not watched Blood Lions as a Panel. All have been sent copies of Lord Ashcroft’s book; she assumed that individuals had looked at that book.

On illegal trafficking: The HLP is not necessarily looking at it because “it is a tricky issue” on account of involving law enforcement agencies. The HLP has had engagements with the law enforcement agencies. From the HLP’s side it is fairly convinced that there is enough being done on that issue. The HLP is not looking at the issue directly, but it does have reference to that issue.

[Ms Winkler wrote in the chat box: I think that documentary (Blood Lions) is very insightful and that it should be required for a balance of contribution.]

On timeframes: It is difficult to give a direct answer because the HLP is dealing with very complex issues. Does it have enough information at its disposal to make recommendations on all of the complexities that it is faced with? The answer was “probably not”. On does it have enough information to move the country forward and be able to deliver that within the deadline and still speak to more people as it planned? The answer is yes. Could the HLP go deeper than it has? The answer was “probably yes”. But does it have time to go deeper? The answer is probably no. Even if the HLP were to be given another three months, Ms Yako thought that the issues are a bit more complex for the HLP to be able to discharge and dispose of them in the time that it has. The HLP has “done quite a bit of work” in the time that it has and given the complexity of issues that it is dealing with. From where she was sitting she thought that the HLP will, by the end of this month, finish the work. While the HLP is finishing the consultation process, it has another team that has been working for a month on starting to sift through the information. It has Ms Nel and Ms Nangammbi looking at all the submissions “with a fine-tooth comb”, and are looking at whether the HLP is missing anything and if there are further questions that it needs to get from the stakeholders. Mr Matsila and Dr Frantz are starting to look at: from what the HLP has heard, read and seen, what are the key recommendations that it should be starting to formulate? Those two people have been doing work for over a month on that. Mr Chitepo, who represents the community consultation group, is part of those who are looking at whether the HLP is leaving anyone out. From a community perspective, the HLP must make sure that as much as possible, especially given the fact that some people do not have Wi-Fi and connectivity, it tries to have hybrid meetings. It will be Panel members online, and not community members. Some Panel Members will also be onsite and engaging with communities. In the engagements that the HLP had last week, the HLP used a hybrid model. It had, in some cases, community members that came face-to-face (Ms Yako was in the face-to-face meeting), and the other HLP Members were online. Where feasible, the HLP is looking at various options and it is committed to doing that as much as possible under the circumstances, and reaching out to as many people as possible given the timeframe. Ms Yako said that some of the issues raised Members were also the issues that worried the HLP; it is busy with those issues.  The Committee’s insights and inputs are very useful as the HLP gets into the next phase of its work.

The Chairperson said that now the Committee knows who the HLP is it has been promised that it will get a profile of all of the HLP Members. The appointment of HLP Members was done by the Minister. If there are issues that the Committee wants to follow up, it will engage the Minister. The Committee had almost finished its work it should look forward to seeing what comes out of it. The Committee is now aware of the process. The Chairperson hoped that the Committee would also take into account the work that the HLP is doing and the possible results that will come out of it.

The Chairperson thanked the Members for their time and reminded them about another session at 12 noon where it would be engaging with Dr Jane Goodall as Members of the South African Parliament. Those sessions are usually informative and help Members to think beyond what they are is doing. A link will be sent out so that all Members can join.

The Chairperson thanked the HLP Members. The Committee’s engagement with the HLP was meant to help it represent its communities better and understand whatever issues came out. With the questions that the Committee raised the intention was to empower itself.

Ms Winkler asked that since it was not in the ambit or scope of the presenter to speak on the terms of reference and the composition of the Panel, could the Committee please arrange for a follow-up meeting with the Minister to discuss those specific issues. She thought that a lot of Members had questions around that which could not be answered today (Tuesday, 3 November 2020).

The Chairperson said the Members were noting the discussions as it proceeded. Ms Winkler’s suggestion on how best the PC could follow up on some of those issues was noted.

The meeting was adjourned.

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