World Heritage Convention Bill: discussion


14 September 1999
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Meeting report

14 September 1999

The Portfolio Committee members reported back on the public submissions that they had been allocated to read. The members debated whether to invite those responsible for making the key submissions to present oral submissions. As the department was in ongoing meetings with many of the relevant groups, the Portfolio Committee decided to wait until the department reported back on the progress of those meetings before making decisions as to whether to invite people to make oral presentations.


The Chair, Ms Gwen Mahlangu (African National Congress), opened the meeting by welcoming all present. Two of the sub committees that had been set up to look at the written public submissions on the Bill remained to be heard. The members in these groups made brief presentations on the contents of the submissions.

The first sub committee stated that the first key issue in the submissions they had looked at revolved around whether provision had been made in the Bill for establishing the ecological integrity or cultural authenticity of potential heritage sites. Mr Terreblanch, on behalf of the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism, replied that the sections dealing with the objectives and principles of the Bill covered the issues. Further, in order for a site to be nominated for the World Heritage Site's list, the natural heritage sites had to be ecologically sound, and the cultural heritage sites had to be authentic.

The first sub committee stated that a few of the submissions had questioned the degree to which the World Heritage Convention Bill (WHCB) overlapped or meshed with other national legislation, such as the National Resources Heritage Act (NRHA) and the National Environmental Management Act (NEMA). Mr Terreblanch noted that the WHCB was aimed at filling in the gaps of the other two bills, with specific respect to the World Heritage Convention sites.

Mr Makgollo, from the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism, noted that NRHA covered sites of National or Provincial importance, while the WHRB covered sites submitted to the World Heritage Convention, and were deemed to be of global importance to humanity. Before any site could be submitted for the WHRB, it would need to have been registered as a site under the NRHA.

Mr September (African National Congress) noted that the convention seemed to be based in a first world environment, whereas the South Africa approach may be more culturally orientated. He asked whether the gap in perceptions was covered in the Convention.

Mr Makgollo replied that the issue of what constitutes an authentic cultural site has been raised at the Convention. Current definitions revolve around "human creative genius". The questions was therefore relative as to whose standards are used to define creative genius. The convention had acknowledged that the criteria needs to be revisited, and a meeting would be held in March 2000 for this purpose. South Africa had proposed that before such a meeting takes place, the African region should meet to come up with suggestions fit for Africa.

The last sub committee set up to look at submissions made a report, presented by Ms Ramotsamai (African National Congress). She reported that she had done the work herself, as the other members of the subcommittee could not be contacted. The submissions covered two areas, business and international comments. The business comments were received from the Chamber of Mines, and the South Africa Property Owners Association. The submissions revolved around the key issues of inconsistency with the Minister of Environmental affairs being responsible for Cultural heritage sites, vs. the Minister of Culture, Arts and Technology, and the overlap with the NHRA. The international comments were appreciative of the good legislation.

Mr Terreblanch responded stated that the issue of inconsistency had been noted, but that cabinet had decided that one department needed to deal with the issue, and it was most appropriate for it to be the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism. The Ministry for Culture, Arts and Technology would be consulted, as provided for in the Bill. Further, he noted that both the business submissions wanted special provisions noting that nothing in the final Act would take away from any land or mineral right. The department had noted the point, but believed that nothing in the Bill affected any right, and therefore a special provision was not required.

Mr September (African National Congress) asked whether the department had not had an opportunity to discuss the issues with those making the submissions. Mr Terreblanch noted that there had never been bilateral talks. They were fairly confident they understood the issue, and while the point was noted, it was a policy decision that would not be changed.

The Chair noted that all 48 submissions had been read and reported on by the subcommittees. The Portfolio Committee needed to decide whether to hold public submissions. If this was decided, the Portfolio Committee needed to decide which were the key people or organisations to invite to make submissions. A late submission from the Kromdraai had been received, and was tabled for consideration. She requested that the department talk the Portfolio Committee through the submission.

Mr Moorcroft (Democratic Party) noted that the issues in the new document were partially echoed by the comments from Robben Island, and requested the department to provide some feedback on the issues.

Ms Van de Merwe (African National Congress) noted that the group of submissions her sub-committee had looked into included issues of licensing and leasing, which had already been spoken to.

Ms Chalmers (African National Congress) noted that the latest submission was dated two days previously.

Ms Coetzee (Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism) stated that the department was to have a meeting with the chief registrar of Deeds on Thursday, and amendments were expected. Further, a meeting had been scheduled with Robben Island today, or the next day. A meeting with the Director General of Arts, Culture, Science and Technology was arranged for the 22 to look at the NHRA and the overlap. The Kromdraai comments were directed at the heart of the bill, specifically with regard to powers granted to authorities, whether these be existing local authorities or authorities such as those in the NHRA. Further issues around consultation between state institutions, and state institutions and private institutions or individuals, were also noted. MS Coetzee believed it would be worth having the representatives in to hear what was being said.

Mr Terreblanch noted that many of the points had been covered previously. However, there were 5 key issues that could be taken out of the Kromdraai and Robben island submissions. These were:

  1. Consultation
  2. The rights of Private Land owners
  3. Concessioning and licencing
  4. Securing the "Crown Jewels"
  5. National vs Provincial issues

On the first issue, section 7 of the Bill provides for consultation with all interested parties, and provides a list of probable parties. The list is not exclusive. Section 7.2 expressly writes in private land owners and mortgage owners.

On the second issue the bill contained nothing that takes away from any rights with respect to private land owners.

On the third issue, there were currently numerous authorities, such as local authorities, earning some form of income from sites, such as T shirt sales, or gate fees. None of these powers would be taken away. Rather, new avenues to funds were being created, and access provided to funding not previously available.

On the fourth issue, the convention is aimed at resources belonging to human kind of exceptional value, which are worthy of conservation and should not be diminished. Therefore section 33 notes that if the assets are to be used as collateral in financing, then the consent of the Minister of Environmental Affairs, and of the Minister of Finance if the amount is more than 10% of the value of the site, is required. A motion of parliament is not required, as may be impractical if quick decision is needed.

On the fifth issue, both culture and the environment are concurrent functions, and there is therefore a detailed breakdown of the legal standing on these issues that has been done. However, the Bill also deals with international conventions, which is a national competence.

The chair noted that a decision by Parliament can be taken by the Portfolio Committee if Parliament is in recess.

Mr Terreblanch responded that, subject to correction, there will need to be a motion passed by both the National Assembly and National Council of Provinces.

Ms Olckers noted that the department had stated that nothing in the Bill affects the rights of land owners, and disagreed with the department. If an authority had been suet up to oversee the activities at a site, then surely this would influence the rights of the land owners. She requested clarity on the issue. In terms of quick decisions, surely when it comes to World heritage sites, quick decisions were not always good ones. Other sites, such as the coastal shore, required a 2/3 majority vote in Parliament to be alienated from the public trust. Surely sites of world heritage importance should be given the same status.

Mr Terreblanch noted that there was no analytical reason why these sites should be given less status. The choice was a policy one to be made by the Portfolio Committee. With respect to Private Land owners, most sites would not be a case of only state, or only private land. Most cases would be a mixture of the two. There was no sections in the Bill that would force private land owners to be a part of a heritage site. If 99 land owners wanted to form a site, and one key owner did not in order to build a casino, the state could then expropriate the land, and would have to pay the full fair value of the land. Once land owners decided that they wanted to buy into the concept and put there land as part of a site, they then need to accept the conditions associated with having the land treated as a World Heritage site. The land owners can be a part of the management authority, but do not have to be. The Bill is flexible to allow landowners to decide how involved they want to be. When a land owner decides to make the land a part of the site, as in St Lucia, an agreement with the authority would need to be made. The nature of the agreement would have to be on a case by case basis.

The chair noted that all the submissions had been looked at. The Portfolio Committee needed to decide whether to hold hearings and invite people in to make submissions, or to proceed with the Bill to the more formal part of deliberations where parties would make submissions on proposed changes.

Ms Van der Merwe (African National Congress) stated that the Portfolio Committee had had a good couple of weeks of assessing the submissions, and people had been given the opportunity to make the written submissions. Therefore she proposed that the Bill proceed to the more formal stage of Portfolio Committee deliberations.

Ms Mbuyazi (Inkhata Freedom Party) thought it would be wise to invite the people with concerns to the Portfolio Committee meeting. Some of the comments stated that the process had been top down, and it was a good idea to get people involved and on board the process. The Portfolio Committee should id the key people, and invite them to a meeting.

Mr Moorcroft (Democratic Party) agreed with Ms Mbuyazi. He noted that aim of the Portfolio Committee was to produce good legislation, and not have legislation returning in a few months for amendments. Some serious submissions had been received, such as those from the deeds registries office, and the Portfolio Committee needed to know if these concerns were solved. Similarly, the Sterkfontein people had made serious submissions, and the Portfolio Committee should have the people in to hear the various arguments and get on board the process and become willing participants. Therefore the Portfolio Committee should invite three or four of the more serious submitters, which would be valuable in the long run.

Ms Ramotsamai (African National Congress) noted that the problem in inviting only a few was that it was not fair to the other 40 or so who had made submissions. The others may demand to be heard. The Portfolio Committee should look at the submissions, and pin the department down on the key issues.

Mr September (African National Congress) stated that he would like to hear the department's final submission once it had finished negotiating with those it was meeting.

Mr Swart (African Christian Democratic Party ) had the feeling the department was still speaking with people. If the department came back saying that all concerns had been alleviated, then the Bill should proceed. If the department could not allay all fears, the Portfolio Committee should speak to those concerned.

Ms Olckers agreed with Mr Moorcroft, saying that people must be made to feel a part of the process. The Portfolio Committee had the authority to decide which people to invite, and choose organisations that represented overlapping issues, where clarity was required. However, the Portfolio Committee may be wasting time until they had heard what the department had to say after its meetings.

Mr Vilakazi (African National Congress) noted that Ms Olckers agreed with Mr Swart. He thought Ms Olckers was conscious of the issue of fairness with respect to submissions, and who to invite? Mr Swart suggested the department needed to clarify those issues still needing to be addressed. It would be useful to be conscious of time. Therefore the position of Ms Van der Merwe (African National Congress) should be adopted. The department would then inform the Portfolio Committee as to whether there was still a need for inviting comment.

The Chair noted the Portfolio Committee was not in a position to be pushing the Bill through quickly, but did not want to waste time either. The department would be given a chance to respond the following day, and if all the issues were not clarified, then the Portfolio Committee could call people to make oral submissions on Friday.

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