GLFTCA Cooperative Agreement: progress reports; Forestry management; SAFCOL 2020/21 Report

Environment, Forestry and Fisheries

26 November 2021
Chairperson: Ms F Muthambi (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

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The Committee received progress reports from the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment (DFFE); South African National Parks (SANParks); Mpumalanga Provincial Department of Agriculture, Rural Development, Land and Environmental Affairs (DARDLEA); Limpopo Department of Economic Development, Environment and Tourism (LEDET) on the the Greater Limpopo Transfrontier Conservation Area (GLFTCA) Cooperative Agreement. The Cooperative Agreement (which is largely driven by SANParks) tries to regularise the reserves to ensure that they are managed effectively and provide socio-economic benefits to the communities living adjacent to them.

The Committee heard that the accrual of benefits to communities is SANParks' main concern. SANParks had recently conducted a workshop with 120 representatives from communities in the area and small business owners from Bushbuckridge, on procurement opportunities and public private partnerships (PPPs) that will be available in the next 12 to 24 months.

The Committee questioned why the decision was taken to drop the fences during the 1990s and asked for a report on this. Members voiced their support of building fences around the Kruger National Park (KNP) and the associated private nature reserves (APRNs). They asked what community benefits it can point to since the signing of the Cooperative Agreement; what socio-economic programmes are underway in the Transfrontier Conservation Areas (TCAs) and their impact on local communities; the ecological role of the TCAs. Members said that more efforts need to be made by stakeholders to ensure that the communities benefit from the economic opportunities created. Members raised concern about the SANParks board standoff with its CEO.

The Committee described the DFFE’s decision not to send a Forestry official to the Fire Protection Associations (FPAs) working group as scandalous. The Department has failed to fulfill its mandate as the custodian of this legislation. In response, the Department said that with the transfer of plantations to conservation bodies, it will be able to focus on its regulatory functions.

The South African Forestry Company Limited (SAFCOL) presented its 2020/21 report and in his political overview the Deputy Minister of Public Enterprises stated that the Department is pleased with turnaround efforts made in SAFCOL. During its briefing, SAFCOL indicated that 2020/21 had been challenging due to the effects of the pandemic on the operating environment. As a result it incurred a R45 million loss for the year. However, it did manage to achieve a growth in cash balance from R252 million in 2019/20 to R336 million. SAFCOL had managed to reduce its irregular expenditure from R51.8 million to R8.6 million.

SAFCOL is currently concluding Phase 2 of its projects. One such project is the Combined Heat and Power (CHP) Plant, where electricity is generated through the capture of heat that would otherwise be wasted. Once Phase 2 is concluded (and it is able to raise funds for the projects), SAFCOL will progress to Phase 3 of its projects, which include the project to supply transmission poles; engineered wood which will be used to build multi storey buildings and high-end properties; a pellet plant project, which will be used to produce compressed wood for energy generation. It is looking to build this plant in Sabie and the method used will produce cleaner energy and provide more energy than coal.

Members were pleased to hear SAFCOL is including local communities in its projects. They asked about the difficulty of having operating leases on land where 57% of the land is awaiting land claim decisions. Other questions included the maintenance of forests and timber theft as a challenge.

Meeting report

Deputy Minister of Forestry, Fisheries and Environment, Ms Maggie Sotyu, introduced the Department and SANParks team leading the presentations.

Great Limpopo Transfrontier Conservation Area (GLTFCA) Cooperative Agreement briefing
Mr Sydney Nkosi, DFFE Chief Director: Protected Areas Systems Management, explained that on 9 December 2002, Heads of State of South Africa, Zimbabwe and Mozambique governments signed an international treaty for the establishment of the Greater Limpopo Transfrontier Parks (GLTP). This treaty provided for the establishment of the GLTP as the core area, followed by the establishment of the broader GLTFCA. He explained the GLTFCA three principles:

Ecological
• The expansion of conservation estates
• Re-establish seasonal migration routes for wildlife
• Harmonise environmental management procedures across international boundaries

Socio-economic
• Promote growth of the tourism sector specifically cross-border tourism
• Create employment in geographically remote areas with limited employment opportunities thereby serving as nodes for rural development

Governance
• Deepening regional integration and cooperation
• Enhance law enforcement

There are six transfrontier conservation areas (TFCAs) involving South Africa: Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park; Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park; Greater Mapungubwe Transfrontier Conservation Area; Lubombo Transfrontier Conservation Area; Maloti-Drakensberg Conversation and Development Area; and /Ai / Ais-Richtersveld Transfrontier Park. A key objective of the treaty is to enhance ecosystems and natural ecological processes by harmonising environmental management across international boundaries to remove artificial barriers impeding the natural movement of wildlife.

SANParks Managing Executive: Kruger National Park, Mr Gareth Coleman, said that part of the controversy around the Cooperative Agreement is around the dropping of the fences in white-owned nature services which first occurred during the 1990s when there were no regulations. The Cooperative Agreement – which is largely driven by SANParks – tries to regularise the white-owned reserves to ensure they are managed effectively and provide socio-economic benefits to the communities living adjacent to them. There are five focus areas in the Cooperative Agreement: land inclusion, conservation, social security, governance and socio-economic benefits.

SANParks has begun a process of including both traditional land and land claimant land, which is an important aspect of what they are trying to achieve. There is pressure on SANParks to intervene in the internal disputes of owners of traditional and privately owned land. However, SANParks does not get involved in the disputes but refers those disputing to the Joint Operational Committee (JOC), which was established to attend to the disputes. If they are not resolved in the JOC, they are then referred to the Joint Management Committee (JMC).

The Cooperative Agreement is but one aspect of the Greater Kruger Strategic Development Plan (GKSDP) and its implementation includes the assistance of the provincial tourism agencies. SANParks believes that the Agreement is the best mechanism to form partnerships in the sector.

SANParks progress on GLTFCA Cooperative Agreement
Dr Marisa Coetzee, SANParks Senior Manager: Park Planning and Conservation Management, and Natural Resource Economist, Ms Candice Eb, presented. The GLTFCA Cooperative Agreement was signed in December 2018 between SANParks and 14 state, community, private entities open to the KNP after a consultative process began in 2015. One reason for the development of this agreement was the decision in the late 1990s and 2000s to drop fences in private, community and state managed areas open to the KNP. Whilst this was done in pursuit of integrated socio-ecological management of landscape and ecosystem services, there was no formal framework to guide the relationship and management in a consistent manner.

Progress to date
• Progress has been made on conservation management with a core focus on species protection in the private reserves and the KNP
• The GLTFCA Strategic Elephant Management Framework (SEMF) is being developed
• The GKSDP was completed in 2020
• Review of Makuleke Contractual National Park Management Plan (MCNPMP) and business plan is in process
• SANParks is pursuing the inclusion of community land as requested by community structures.

Discussion
Mr N Singh (IFP) mentioned that there are too many role players involved in the agreement, which will complicate its implementation going forward. He asked the extent to which SANParks is receiving the same cooperation and enthusiasm from other countries to ensure there are conservation and tourism initiatives. He asked the extent to which internal funds are being used to fund the initiative.

Referring to transformation in the sector, he asked the extent to which the indigenous people of these countries are obtaining ownership of these establishments, as transformation also means that these communities receive equity in many of the establishments.

Ms A Weber (DA) asked why SANParks has never developed a concept paper that it can discuss with the Committee, to ensure transformation and beneficiation are taken into account; with view to holding public hearings. As there was only limited community participation in the preparation of the Cooperative Agreement, what SANParks is doing to correct this going forward.

She raised her concern that SANParks did not have engagements with other stakeholders, besides the landowners neighbouring the park, on the Cooperative Agreement which is of national importance. She asked why other stakeholders were excluded and how this will be rectified.

She asked SANParks to advise when the socio-economic items on slide 10 will be completed.

She asked for SANParks to explain what JMC instruments have been developed.

On the Associated Private Nature Reserves (APNR), she asked who takes responsibility when animals roam around and are killed by hunters. Further, who will take responsibility for poaching in the Limpopo Transfrontier? How will areas which cannot afford the KNP’s resources for protection, be able to protect their animals.

Ms C Phillips (DA) asked what legal matters are being addressed by the signatories and what the implications for the implementation of the agreement are.

It cannot be said that there has been progress in species conservation efforts when rhino numbers continue to decline, with the population declining from 3529 in 2020 to 2800 in 2021.

She asked if there was public participation during the development of the SEMF.

She asked why the APNR resource-use protocols for animal offtakes have not been applied to all state, community and private conservation area in the open Greater Kruger. If it will be applied, when will this be done?

She asked if SANParks has considered if outlawing trophy hunting in conservation areas will attract more tourists.

She asked about the findings referred to by SANParks and the economist’s full name.

Ms S Mbatha (ANC) recommended that the Committee have a joint meeting with the Portfolio Committees on Agriculture and Tourism, so they can solve the issues collectively. During an oversight visit, the Committee recognised that there was great infighting between community representatives, with several of them blaming SANParks for the challenges they faced. For instance, the community alleged that SANParks rangers were involved in the poaching of a rhino. She asked who the community representatives are and if the communities are pleased with them. She requested that SANParks allow the communities to assist with the protection of animals.

She raised her concern on the standoff between SANParks and its CEO. The CEO had won his case against SANParks in court but he is yet to return to the office. She recommended that SANParks allow him back to the office, instead of further pursuing an investigation into the CEO.

The Chairperson asked SANParks what community benefits it can point to since the signing of the Cooperative Agreement. What socio-economic programmes are underway in the Transfrontier Conservation Areas (TCAs) and what has their impact on local communities been? She asked for the successes and challenges encountered during the implementation of the anti-poaching programmes.

She asked what the ecological role of the TCAs are in advancing the protection of iconic species and other wildlife; if the SANParks could share its existing partnerships with non-state actors; what the nature of these partnerships are, their impact and what role SANParks holds in them; has there been beneficiation from the TCAs for communities.

She asked what protocols SANParks has in place to manage human to wildlife conflict, particularly in rural areas. What measures were being taken to protect the threat to their agricultural assets, as there have been reported incidents of this occurring. Moving forward, she asked for the department to provide a progress report on the other conservation areas.

Ms Mbatha asked if SANParks has extended its employment contract with Mr Coleman.

The Chairperson asked the department to explain why the important and historic decision to drop the fences between the private nature reserves and KNP had occurred in 1993. Does the department have a document that will show the reasoning and, if so, that it be shared with the Committee. If not, she asked why the department continues to maintain a practice for which it does not know the underlying reasons.

She raised her concern that there are individuals living in communities around Skukuza and Malelane Gates who are unable to afford access to the KNP and its amenities. She asked in whose interest was the decision to drop the fences. SANParks is one of the agencies meant to fight unemployment, inequality and poverty.

DFFE response
Deputy Minister Sotyu, referring to the dropping of the fences, said that chiefs had laid complaints with the Ministry about animals crossing from one area to another. The fences are the responsibility of the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (DALRRD). There is a joint-operations team which includes DALRRD that is looking into these issues.

She requested that the SANParks questions be answered by the Chairperson of SANParks.

The Chairperson said that the Committee did not receive an apology from the SANParks Chairperson on missing the meeting. She hoped this would be the last time that this occurred. The Committee will follow up the reasons.

Deputy Minister Sotyu said that the department will follow up on the matter.

Mr Singh asked to what extent the dropping of fences contributed to people moving from one country to another. Have there been reported incidents and how they have dealt with them.

On the indigenous benefits, Mr Nkosi replied that in the Richtersveld, the Khoi and San people have released some land that will form part of the transfrontier area. Through its environmental programmes, the department has invested money to build a lodge on their behalf, in the area. Further, the department has committed to capacitating the communities with the skills to run the lodge. This experience has informed SANParks’ understanding on what transformation should look like, particularly equity and ownership benefits.

On the effectiveness of the signed international treaties and the memoranda of understanding (MOUs), the challenge to their implementation has been the different scales of economic development in other countries and with the emergence of the Covid-19 pandemic, most countries have had to direct their finances to the health sector. At times, those countries find it difficult to raise all the resources to invest in the actions taken by South Africa in its conservation mandate.

Recently in the KNP Ingwe area, communities are being equipped with knowledge, so that once the lodge facilities are handed to them, they are able to run the facilities themselves. Both SANParks and the department recognise that they need to accelerate their efforts to ensure that communities receive beneficiation and equity benefits. In addition, they are dealing with the challenges of inequality, unemployment and poverty, through the protocols and tools embedded in the legal framework.

Ms Skumsa Ntshanga DFFE Acting DDG: Biodiversity and Conservation, stated that the decision to drop the fences between KNP and APNR was taken prior to 1994 and the new government was obliged to maintain this decision. There is a need to have an assessment on the benefits accrued in the arrangement so that it can inform a possible decision in the future. In the main the decision was made to ensure that nature roams freely, however, the department needs to ensure that this arrangement provides benefits to the communities in the area. Government has been involved in several processes to ensure that this occurs.

Land claims have been lodged against the KNP. In a previous meeting, SANParks officials elaborated on what processes have been followed and the key challenges faced by government. The Commission on Restitution of Land Rights (CRLR) and the department are working together on this and more information will be provided by the Commission the following week.

Ms Ntshanga said South Africa's relationship with international countries, at a governance level the countries do translate the key focus areas into detailed plans that are then evaluated from time to time. An assessment was undertaken by government two years ago and a report was subsequently released on how the three countries (SA, Zimbabwe, Mozambique) are servicing the agreement. DFFE will provide this to the Committee and it will also inform it on when the government plans to conduct its next assessment. It is government’s responsibility to ensure that the TCAs deliver on their mandates.

The Chairperson asked if the department has access to the documentation records on the decision to drop the fences and, if so, that this be shared with the Committee.

Ms Ntshanga clarified that it was a gentleman’s agreement.

The Chairperson asked what the department has done since to address this and who the beneficiaries of this decision have been.

Ms Ntshanga replied that given the concerns raised by the Committee, the department will need to look into the matter and report back in due course.

The Chairperson mentioned that it was not the first time the Committee has raised this and it seemed as if the department had not been interested in addressing their concerns. She asked if they can confirm a turnaround time for when the department will report back to the Committee.

SANParks response
Acting CEO of SANParks, Mr Dumisani Dlamini, referring to the Board Chairperson’s absence, clarified that there is no record of her invitation to the meeting and she was not made aware of her requirement to be a part of the meeting. He apologised on behalf of SANParks, and assured the Committee that it will ensure this does not occur again.

The Chairperson indicated that the Committee will probe the matter further with the Committee Secretary, to understand why she was not on the list of email recipients.

Mr Dlamini indicated that the board approved the extension of Mr Coleman’s contract for another three years, as his contract was due to expire in April 2022. Discussions between Mr Coleman and the board are underway on the signing of the contract.

In response to the Chairperson asking if it was the previous or current board that extended his contract, Mr Dlamini said that it was the previous board.

Mr Coleman assured the Committee that the accrual of benefits to communities is SANParks' main concern. SANParks conducted a workshop with 120 representatives from communities in the area and small business owners from Bushbuckridge about procurement opportunities and public private partnerships (PPPs) that will be available in the next 12 to 24 months. This had been the fourth workshop for the week. Small business owners have been informed that the KNP needs to move from economic projects to economic transformation. To achieve this, management has undertaken to work with them to create economic opportunities within the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA).

He admitted that the functioning of the KNP needs to improve fundamentally but this has been a challenge as it is an institution which still has remnants of colonialism and apartheid. However, he assured Members that management is tasked with the responsibility to implement government policies and to fix the park.

On the complaints laid, he replied that there will always be complaints particularly as not all communities are awarded the procurement and other economic opportunities in the KNP. He suggested that the Committee conduct an oversight visit to the communities surrounding the parks and the APNRs.

On the APNRs and the dropping of fences, he explained that while 50% of the dropping of fences occurred on private land, the other 50% occurred in areas under the MTPA, LEDET and the Makuya Community Game Reserve. So this policy did not solely focus on privately-owned reserves. The decision to drop the fences was made in either 1993 or 1996, however, it will find the correct information and provide it to the Committee. He added that the Cooperative Agreement has been established to overcome such challenges. The agreement has undergone a legal review and areas of improvement will be provided to the Committee.

He recommended that government should consider if there are stronger benefits for biodiversity management and socio-economic opportunities if the fences are up, rather than continuing to remain down. Further, the question government has to ask is if it wants to have a broader conservation area that allows for the movement of animals, which improves biodiversity management and aims to improve the landscape for future generations; or would the land be better managed with fences.

There are several legal disputes, particularly in white-managed conservation areas, which usually relate to how hunting is undertaken, how tribal landowners can become signatories to the Cooperative Agreement, differences between the land claimants themselves and who the beneficiaries of the land claim are; and who the parties are with regard to the signatories and where the benefits go. As it is a huge landscape, with various partners, legal disputes do arise.

The strength of the Cooperative Agreement is as strong as its constituent parts. A Committee oversight visit will allow for it to see how the agreement is being implemented on the ground.

On the outlawing animal hunting, SANParks has indicated on several occasions that it is not responsible for the issuing of hunting licences. Its only responsibility in the process is to provide an opinion on the ecological impact of removing any number of animals during a hunting excursion, when the applications are made to the MTPA and to LEDET. He is not aware of any trophy hunting of rhinos taking place in reserves near the KNP. The outlawing of hunting is a policy issue and as a state owned entity, SANParks has to work within the current legislative framework.

KNP is the only national park in SA which pays compensation for damage caused by animals. It has an animal damage-causing committee. It is trying to access more funds to pay the backlog of claims won. This backlog was due to differences during negotiations on what the increased amounts for damages would be. However, the increased amounts have been finalised and payment has proceeded. Although, with the budget cuts, SANParks will be unable to fulfill all the backlog. To deal with this, it is trying to access funds either from the Park Development Fund or the department. KNP is not compensating for alleged damage of crops by escaped animals and that was due to the difficulty in ascertaining the size of the claim, what the cause was, who the animal belonged to. KNP is only focused on livestock damages.

The GKSDP consultation process was extensive. This plan sets out a long-term programme and development for the area. Having developed all the frameworks and establishing the relevant partnerships, SANParks is now looking to urge the national departments to invest in the plan. Due to the lack of investment, some GKSDP projects have stalled for years, for instance the Shangoni Gate Development. Communities from the northern side of the park have been calling for the finalisation of this project because if it were to be opened, they will have access all the way up from Polokwane, to the Park. It is unacceptable that SANParks has been unable to find funding to build roads near the proposed development because road construction will unlock a hive of economic benefit for small businesses.

On SANParks anti-poaching mechanisms, there is a close working relationship between the sections in the middle of the KNP and APNR. There is also a close working relationship with security, the Sabie Game Reserve (SGR) and the Singita Sabi Sands Anti-Poaching Unit. However, as the majority of rhinos are in the KNP, anti-poaching initiatives are mainly focused in the park. Although he admitted that the number of rhinos is declining at an unacceptable rate, he assured Members that SANParks does have a plan to respond to this.

Dr Coetzee, referring to the Transfrontier Conservation Areas, said that the KNP is involved in the joint management board and operational committees, which include Zimbabwe and Mozambique, that focus particularly on water resource management, safety and security. SANParks, through SADC, has looked into accessing funding for the TFCAs, particularly the GLTFCA. In line with this, it has applied for € 22 million. There have been concerns on the implementation of the treaty between SA, Zimbabwe and Mozambique.

Dr Coetzee provided context on the Cooperative Agreement, saying that SANParks originally had an agreement with the APNR, which it signed in 1996 and was supported by a master plan that focused on integrated management actions. Sometime in the 1990s, SANParks also signed a technical collaboration agreement with LEDET. A settlement agreement was also reached between SANParks and the Makuleke Contractual National Park. However, areas such as the Manyeleti Game Reserve did not have those agreements in place. SANParks had to look into a consistent framework agreement for state, private and community-owned land particularly as 125 000 hectares of land fall under communities in Limpopo and Mpumalanga, whilst the remaining 340 000 hectares fall under privately managed conservation areas.

Consultations on the Cooperative Agreement first took place in 2015. As the Cooperative Agreement replaced the previous framework, some of the consultations (which included SANParks, LEDET, the MTPA, legal entities and Executive Councils) revolved around the establishment of a legal framework that would resolve the various issues.

During the 2017/18 financial year, consultations took place on the GKSDP. SANParks hosted 54 workshops in several communities, which were attended by 4800 people. Thereafter, in 2018 the framework agreement was presented and a management plan was sent out for written inputs. Further consultations on the programme took place concurrently from 2018 to 2020. This was with all 39 traditional authorities bordering the KNP, through the Limpopo and Mpumalanga traditional authority structures, and the various political structures, which include MINMEC, district and local municipalities. The plan was then approved by the Mpumalanga Provincial Cabinet.

SANParks led a roadshow this year in April, where it presented the implementation modalities around the framework although it is aware the real value will only be seen once the plan is implemented.

The Cooperative Agreement assessment report shows what has been done in the past three years. SANParks is looking to elevate the outstanding issues to both the provincial and national departments, as some of the matters concern provinces.

The GLTFCA instruments include the basic standard operating guidelines to implement the five management pillars. One of the objectives of the agreement is to ensure that there is one universal standard of operating guidelines, as previously there was no framework and individuals (and collectives) were able to act according to their own standards. Some of the objectives of the instruments in the agreement include the development of land inclusion guidelines guided by the Protected Areas Act; the development of guidelines focused on the assignment of management authorities and management plans; the development of a set of safety and security protocols; broader land use; water resource management; how monitoring should take place; and putting together the terms of reference to enable private landowners, community landowners and government to work together.

She admitted that some guidelines are working, others are not. However, the inclusion of the instruments is important as they are used to measure progress.

On resource use, it is important that JOC discussions focus on how these resources should be used for operations, economic benefits and conservation management. Not everyone is using the same standards. It is important that there are clear principles for resource-use that is ethical, sustainable and well regulated, to provide beneficiation.

The legal claims emerged from SANParks' decision to regularise areas so they are classified as protected areas. With several entities not adhering to the protected area framework, it was determined that there needs to be a management authority guided by a constitution or memorandum of incorporation (MOI), which complies with the legal framework. With there being up to 3000 landowners, it is important that these owners meet regularly to prevent internal disputes from emerging. Certain disputes emerge from resource-use or benefit flows. Signatories and landowners have been informed that they should resolve their internal disputes through the dispute mechanisms. Regular feedback is provided to KNP on the outcome of dispute resolution.

Some of the infighting is due to some landowners not being included in tourism activities in the KNP. In other cases, livestock owners have resisted having their land encroached on. She admitted that SANParks can be more efficient when dealing with these issues.

The GLTFCA Strategic Elephant Management Framework (SEMF) falls between the SA, Mozambique and Zimbabwe broader management framework. However, there is a national process which looks at national policies and processes. Some of the challenges the framework looks to deal with include water distribution to historical distribution patterns and elephant displacement due to the erection of fences. The framework also addresses damage-causing animals and the compensation thereof.

On trophy hunting, many of the reserves in the KNP do have animal offtakes and there is some formal trophy hunting that occurs in the APNRs. In the reserves where the hunting is taking place, many of them do have tourism concessions and operators, which is working well in certain reserves where there is effective communication between the executive council structures, warden and landowner structures. Practices are ethical and there is reporting of income received. Unfortunately, this reporting is not taking place in all reserves in the KNP and SANParks is looking to rectify this. In certain reserves there are landowners who are not happy with the decision to allow hunting, as it is against their moral values.

Dr Coetzee stressed that communication with the DALRRD and DFFE is vital, as SANParks requires support with issues such as disease management, the supporting of species and attaining investment for tourist activities. Disease management has been a concern, particularly with the outbreak of foot-and-mouth (FMD) disease. While SANParks has sought assistance from DALRRD to deal with the outbreak, that department does not have sufficient technicians to assist.

In Gidjana, Limpopo, SANParks has established a JOC which meets with local and district municipalities continually. Once new chiefs are appointed through the processes designated by the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Authorities (CoGTA). SANParks has received infrastructure funding from the DFFE and it has since mobilised a waste management project in the area. Further, through the GEF-7 Protected Area programme, SANParks is looking to mobilise further funding, to build capacity for enterprise development and assist with land inclusion.

On wildlife protection, ranger services on the western boundary have a specific role and continually engage with the traditional authorities on matters of safety and security.

SANParks will provide the Committee with documentation on its partnerships, and its engagements with the 39 traditional authorities and seven community forums. She also reported that the private sector conducts educational awareness in the communities.

The Chairperson, noting that the SANParks Board Chairperson had joined the meeting, noted that in future if she does miss a meeting, she should ensure that a board representative is present in her place. In response the SANParks Board Chairperson apologised and took full responsibility.

Ms Mbatha asked SANParks about the current status of the standoff between the Board and the CEO. It has been reported that he is being investigated for hosting a party in February. It seemed as if the Board was on a witch hunt and requested that it allow the CEO to return to his position as the investigation will amount to fruitless expenditure.

She asked if Mr Coleman’s contract has been renewed and if so, why. In 2019 there had been a high turnover of officials at SANParks, which was concerning.

SANParks Board Chairperson, Ms Pam Yako, informed the Committee that immediately after its appointment, the Board was briefed on the CEO issue. During this briefing, it was established that there were two matters happening concurrently: the internal investigation into the CEO by SANParks and the court action initiated by the CEO against SANParks. Prior to the conclusion of the court case, the previous board had appointed an independent investigator to investigate the allegations levelled against the CEO. The investigator indicated that the CEO had a case to answer, in line with the internal policies of SANParks.

The Board acceded to the recommendation and subsequently instituted a disciplinary hearing, which began around the time the criminal case was dropped. The case of the former employee involved in the matter has been heard and the CEO’s case is currently being heard. The matter is almost complete and there has been no evidence that the process was unfair. She appealed to the Committee to allow for the process to unfold, following which, it will be briefed.

Ms Yako said that Mr Coleman’s contract had already been extended once the new board had been appointed. The extension of his contract was important, as his position as KNP Managing Executive is crucial to the park’s turnaround.

The Chairperson requested that follow up questions be responded to in writing.

Mr Singh asked if the 22 million Euros referred to earlier has already been received or committed to SANParks. If it has been, who is in charge of the funds and how they are disbursed. He asked if the 300 000 hectares referred to land owned by private landowners.

There have been complaints from farmers living in the villages adjacent to the KNP about the poaching syndicates stealing their livestock and smuggling them through the Pafuri Gate to Mozambique. What is being done to address these concerns?

Ms Mbatha asked that SANParks provide a written response on the CEO. She advised that the KNP be fully fenced, to protect wild animals from being killed and from poachers killing them. She requested SANParks provide the Committee with a written response, on how local small businesses are benefiting and who are the signatories assigned to represent the communities.

The Chairperson asked why the department has continued to maintain a system for which it does not know the underlying reasons. She requested both SANParks and DFFE provide a report by 30 November latest on who has benefitted from the decision to drop the fences. In addition, all the answers to the unanswered questions should be submitted.

Mpumalanga progress on GLTFCA Cooperative Agreement
Ms Busiswe Shiba, Mpumalanga Acting MEC of Agriculture, Rural Development, Land And Environmental Affairs, said Mpumalanga is endowed with biological diversity, which plays a crucial role in sustainable development, tourism and economic development, through biodiversity management and conservation. As it shares boundaries with both Limpopo and Mozambique, it is imperative that it upholds and sustains active partnership in the GLTFCA, for the purpose of unlocking socio-economic opportunities and biodiversity protection across the boundary lines.

In 2018, the province signed the Cooperative Agreement with Limpopo, SANParks and other private landowners, to protect and secure important land uses for biodiversity; to restore and connect landscapes; to promote alliances in the management of biologically natural resources; to enhance ecosystem integrity and natural ecological processes; to promote the tourism economy; to sustain ecosystem services for improved human well-being; for the strengthening of governance arrangements at multiple levels, as well as improving protected areas management effectiveness.

Whilst the pandemic has exacerbated the state of the national and global economy, through the GLTFCA and the partnerships formed since its signing, efforts will be made to strengthen conservation partnerships for previously disadvantaged individuals, communities and small micro medium enterprises to ensure better access to opportunities in conservation and nature-based tourism activities.

Mr Cain Chunda, Mpumalanga Head of Department of Agriculture, Rural Development, Land And Environmental Affairs (DARDLEA), introduced his team.

Mr Fhatuwani Mugwabana, Executive Manager: Biodiversity Conservation at the Mpumalanga Tourism and Parks Agency (MTPA) briefed the Committee on its progress with the GLTFCA Cooperative Agreement. There are five protected areas open to the KNP, four of which are APNRs (Sabie Sand, MalaMala, Mdhluli and Mjejane) and the other is state-owned (Manyeleti Game Reserve). The working groups, established to implement the targets of the Cooperative Agreement, have focused on four key areas:

1. Socio-economic transformation
GLTFCA partners have established the best practice guidelines for the economic activities within the Cooperative Agreement for resource use and responsible tourism development guidelines, to ensure the socio-economic benefit of communities
2. Safety and security
- The GLTFCA partners work together to protect the biodiversity within the GLTFCA space
- They also work together to fight against rhino poaching and other wildlife crimes in the area
3. Governance
Draft co-management developed with the rightful owners of the Manyeleti Game Reserve
4. Conservation management and land use
The Integrated Master Plan (IMP) and Tourism Master Plan (TMP) have been developed and approved by the MEC for DARDLEA

He reported that there have been challenges in implementation, which include an inadequate budget allocation, the land claim settlement process, the vacancy rate in Mpumalanga's DARDLEA and dilapidated infrastructure fences and tourism attractions.

Limpopo progress on GLTFCA Cooperative Agreement
Ms Keleabetswe Tlouane, Deputy Director-General: Environment and Tourism in the Limpopo Department of Economic Development, Environment and Tourism (LEDET), said that LEDET is responsible for five areas open to the KNP, four of which are state-owned (Letaba Ranch, Makuya, Awelani, Matshakathini) and the other is an APNR (Balule). She spoke to the targets in the four key areas:

1. Socio-economic transformation
LEDET and DFFE are finalising the development of bioprospecting and benefiting sharing protocol with the communities of Manzhezhe, Rambuda, Thengwe, Makuya and Matele
2. Governance
- Awelani Nature Reserve has established a management board
- The Letaba Ranch has signed the co-management agreement
3. Conservation management and land use
- LEDET is planning to have an engagement with the KNP on aligning management plans of those protected areas open to the KNP
- Both the Letaba Ranch and Makuya management plans have lapsed and are subject to review

4. Safety and security
- Law enforcement in and outside the reserves is being conducted
- Daily and ongoing law enforcement actions in the Mopani District

Challenges to the implementation include a shortage of operational budget, a shortage of staff, poaching, land claims and fence infrastructure.

Discussion
The Chairperson asked if the Manyeleti Nature Reserve shared fences with the KNP during the Apartheid era. If not, when did the fence between the two come done, was it before or after the local community claimed the nature reserve.

She asked if there are privately-owned game reserves that share borders with the KNP. When is it considered appropriate to drop the fences between the KNP and private nature reserves generally? What criteria is used to do so?

It was reported that an individual was killed by a buffalo in the Makuya Nature Reserve. She asked if the LEDET is enforcing compliance with the legislation in the park. She asked if the individual was a professional hunter and what the status of that matter is.

The Chairperson noted that during the elections the Minister said they would investigate claims that LEDET is anti-black. She asked how the Department has dealt with poverty, inequality and unemployment in the province.

Ms T Mchunu (ANC) asked if Mpumalanga DARDLEA has engaged with the Limpopo government on the transfer of the Pungwe Safari Camp to it.

She asked LEDET how it plans to include private nature reserves and community-owned nature reserves when it embarks on identifying biodiversity nodes.

She asked why the Department identified infrastructure and fencing as a challenge.

If the rationalisation and commercialisation of nature reserves is completed, how do they intend to include reserves owned by communities and ensure that there is beneficiation?

Mpumalanga response
Mr Chunda, DARDLEA HOD, replied that the Department noted the questions and it may need to provide further responses in writing.

Mr Johannes Nobunga, MTPA CEO, explained that there are private nature reserves bordering KNP that are part of the GLTFCA. When considering dropping fences, it looks into the standard of the fences in the nature reserves bordering the KNP and the ranger population (for the security of animals). If the Department, KNP, MTPA and other participating private nature reserves are satisfied, then fences can be dropped. On the dates when the fences were dropped, he requested that the Committee allow it to provide further information on this in writing.

Currently, MTPA is in court with the owners of the Pungwe Safari Camp and Tintswalo Safari Lodge. On the concessions which were signed when the Manyeleti Nature Reserve was part of the Limpopo government, it contends that some of the concessions have lapsed and need to be stopped. However, the concessionaires are making use of court process to ensure they prolong their stay at Manyeleti. Through the courts, MTPA wants them to regularise their continued stay or remove them and have other concessionaires take part in the Manyeleti Nature Reserve.

The Chairperson asked if they will commit to providing the written responses by 30 November.

Mr Nobunga confirmed that they will do so.

Limpopo response
Mr Riaan De Jager from LEDET, referring to the incident that took place in the Mukya Game Reserve, reported that the individual was hunting a buffalo on the game reserve and he was allegedly killed by the animal. The case was submitted to the prosecutor in the Thonyandou High Court, who declined to prosecute. The case was then submitted to the Chief Prosecutor, who agreed with his fellow prosecutor and declined to prosecute.

The Chairperson asked if he was a professional hunter and if he had all the permits to do so.

Mr De Jager confirmed that he was a professional hunter.

Ms Tlouane said that the Wildlife Trade Office confirmed that the necessary permits were issued.

The Chairperson requested that the Department provide a report on the death of the hunter and the documents on the prosecutor’s decision to decline prosecution.

Ms Tlouane agreed. She indicated that the Department does not have a co-management agreement with the Mhinga community. However, once the findings of the investigation initiated by the Minister are released, the LEDET will provide a written response.

On the biodiversity nodes, Ms Tlouane explained that the Department will conduct a feasibility study and it is currently identifying properties that are owned by the state, those owned by private landowners and those owned by communities. Out of the properties identified, the Department will look into the tourism and conservation benefits. Thereafter, it will declare it as a biodiversity node. LEDET wanted to implement this work in the last financial year but due to budget cuts it had to put the project on hold.

Ms Tlouane replied that the Department has struggled with the maintenance of fences. As many of the areas in the KNP contain the Big Five animals, it has to regularly maintain the fences. To fund its maintenance programme, LEDET utilises the infrastructure funding it receives from National Treasury. In both the Letaba Ranch Provincial Park and the Makuya Nature Reserve, it is looking to conduct maintenance on some of the fences.

On rationalisation and commercialisation, Ms Tlouane replied that was an exercise initiated by the Department to look into state-owned reserves, communal reserves and those reserves that it has co-management agreements with. LEDET has identified three categories to carry out the rationalisation process. Category A looks at the criteria for reserves it can keep as a management authority. Category B are those that it would want to assign management authorities to. Category C are those it would want to change the land use, given the status of those properties at the time.

LEDET wants to assign management authorities to reserves that fall under Category B and are owned by communities. This forms part of the stakeholder consultation that will be presented to management on 30 November 2021 for approval so that it can start consulting with the communities. The Department has to consult with the communities to inform them of its decision to assign management authorities to the reserves; to explain criteria used and the roles and responsibilities of the third party that will be assigned. It is important that it obtains consent from the communities.

The Chairperson said that the state owned entities are pivotal to addressing inequality, unemployment and poverty. The reality on the ground is that communities are used for their land, whilst other people are benefiting. She asked what the other stakeholders are doing to assist the communities in participating economic activities, such as the running of game lodges, game drives and trophy hunting. SANParks and the two provincial departments are on record blaming legislation as a major obstacle to the transformation of operations and local developmental initiatives. The Committee had instructed all three parties to identify the legislative impediments; thereafter, they must initiate amendments. In their written response, the Committee wants to understand how far that legislative process is.

Ms Sotyu thanked the Committee for organising the meeting, as it allowed all the role players to present all the various issues. She indicated that the DFFE will attend a MINMEC soon, and in the meeting it will raise all the concerns raised by the Committee.

Break

Deputy Minister of Public Enterprises political overview
Deputy Minister Phumulo Masualle said that the Department of Public Enterprises (DPE) has been working with SAFCOL to navigate through a number of challenges. DPE has managed to ensure that SAFCOL honours the payments towards its leases and clears the backlog of payments. One challenge has been SAFCOL's shareholding in communities. However, DPE has been pleased with the entity’s efforts to focus on this matter without its assistance. Further, it is pleased with SAFCOL's efforts to improve its functioning.

SAFCOL 2020/21 integrated report
SAFCOL CEO, Mr Tsepo Monaheng, said that SAFCOL currently owns three subsidiaries -- Abacus Forestries, Kamhlabane Timber and Komatiland Forests (KLF) outright -- and KLF had an 80% stake in a Mozambican company called Industrias Florestais De Manica (IFLOMA). SAFCOL also held minority equity stakes in four companies on behalf of communities. These companies were Siyaqhubeka Forests in Kwazulu-Natal (25%), Amathole Forestry Company (16%), Singisi Forest Products (10.9%) in Eastern Cape and MTO Forestry (17.58%) in the Western Cape.

Key findings
• SAFCOL recorded a growth in cash balance from R252 million last year to R336 million this year
• Unqualified audit achieved
• Irregular expenditure of R8.7 million incurred
• R45 million loss incurred for the year
• Achieved 100% of human capital shareholder compact targets.

Mr Monaheng said that 2020/21 has been challenging due to the effects of the pandemic on the operating environment. After putting in place several measures, the company managed to make significant improvements in cost management for the year under review. One of these improvements was its ability to achieve a growth in cash balance from R252 million in the previous year, to R336 million in 2020/21. He was pleased to report that the entity has managed to reduce its irregular expenditure from R51.869 million in 2019/20 to R8.670 million in 2020/21.

SAFCOL invested R13 million in training and development to capacitate employees and drive internal career advancement. 2 343 beneficiaries were trained on forestry specific short skills programmes, of whom 1870 were contractors. This training and development programme also included the funding of 89 bursaries, 25 apprentices, 103 sector-specific learnerships and the placing of 25 interns.

SAFCOL is currently working on various energy generation projects, which are part of its mandate to produce clean energy alternatives to carbon fuels. It is also looking to ensure that the communities are involved in the implementation of these projects.

Management of DFFE plantations
Ms Morongoa Leseke, DFFE Chief Director: Forestry Operations, explained that the Forestry Branch of the Department develops and facilitates the implementation of policies and targeted programmes to ensure proper management of forests through sustainable state plantations, indigenous forests, woodlands and trees outside forests; the development and implementation of policies, legislation, strategy and frameworks for sustainable forest management.

Total budget allocation for the branch this financial year is R716 million, of which R278 million went to operational costs, whilst R280 million was dedicated to compensation of employees. The value of biological assets managed amounted to R760 million during this financial year.

The Department currently has three categories for the plantations it manages: Category A, B and C. Category A plantations are managed through long-term leases (70 years) entered into with four private companies. A portion of these plantations are managed by SAFCOL (187 000 ha). The Category B and C plantations are directly managed by the Department. This compromises 132 745 ha spread over the forestry provinces (Limpopo, Eastern Cape, Mpumalanga and KwaZulu-Natal). The branch also manages 227 114 ha of indigenous forests, as well as seven state nurseries (Ulundi, Rusplaas, Wolseley , Bloemhof, Mahikeng, QwaQwa and Upington).

Some of the challenges faced by the branch in managing its plantations include timber theft, an aging and ailing workforce and poor infrastructure. Due to the challenges it has encountered in managing the forests, the Department is currently looking to transfer their management to Conservation Authorities.

Discussion
Ms Weber asked how the municipalities will assist SAFCOL in its efforts to create more economic opportunities for communities. Would this be through the provision of land? She asked what projects SAFCOL is currently running and the associated challenges; when the payments will be made towards the leases; the due date for 99% of the leases being realised; the immediate and long-term benefits of the land transfers; when SAFCOL will hand over the title deed; its other projects for energy production through trees; and what contribution SAFCOL makes towards the fight against climate change. She asked why is there no nursery in Mpumalanga and what the nurseries are used for, particularly if some of them cannot produce the intended resources. In her final question, she asked what resources are required to utilise the vast tracts of land that are either non-commercialised or unplanted.

Ms Mbatha said that she was pleased with the report as it answered several matters.

She asked if SAFCOL has considered extending its energy projects, as well as its waste to energy projects, from the three provinces it currently operates in (KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo and Mpumalanga) to other parts of the country.

She recommended that SAFCOL look at using timber for manure, which can be sold to small-scale farmers, thus reducing the manure produced on their farms.

She raised her concern on SAFCOL shareholding in communities as the gap between it and the communities is quite significant. The intention of the District Development Model (DDM) is to close the gap between the rich and the poor and to ensure community participation. She insisted that much work needs to be done to close this gap.

She asked what criteria DFFE used when it decided to transfer land to SANParks in the Western Cape. This decision was questionable as SANParks has its own challenges.

She asked if the DFFE has a disaster management plan (DMP).

Mr Singh said that he maintains his criticism on the division of the two departments, DALRRD and DFFE, as 58% of DFFE budget goes to salaries. He asked what plans DFFE has to reduce its staff complement going forward as he believes that it is still too top-heavy.

He asked the extent to which the people living around the forests are receiving opportunities in value-adding activities, such as sawmilling and silviculture. What is DFFE doing to encourage the involvement of the communities. He asked if the Department has identified opportunities in the international market.

Ms Phillips asked for the actual production of seedlings in the North West.

The Chairperson asked what DFFE is doing to control the spread of the polyphagous shot hole borer that kills trees and to shield the trees from damage. Does this beetle poses a threat to the forestry sector?

Many of the trees in the forests of Limpopo are no longer being maintained, with residents even resorting to cutting down the pine trees. She asked what the Department is doing about this, as the cutting of these trees will lead to further environmental degradation.

In previous years SAFCOL had pleaded with DFFE to take over management of the Category A and C plantations. She asked SAFCOL for progress on the matter. She asked that the Department explain why it declined this proposal.

The Chairperson asked if SAFCOL made payments to communities living adjacent to the forests during 2019/20 and the 2020/21 financial years. If so, how much had been paid.

As the Department is not a member of the Fire Protection Association (FPA), she insisted that it is not compliant with its own legislation. What has been done to correct this non-compliance? She asked SAFCOL why there is a lack of firefighting equipment in municipalities; why there has been a lack of enforcement amongst the deployers of the firefighters.; why there has been a lack of cooperation with the FPAs and if forest fires will increase over time due to climate change.

The Chairperson described the Department decision not to send an official to the FPA working group as scandalous. It has failed to fulfill its mandate as custodian of this legislation. She asked DFFE to provide reasons for the non-implementation of recommendations made during 2018/19.

On maintenance of forests, how much of the state forests require rehabilitation and how long will it take the Department to rehabilitate state forests?

As there have been claims of infighting in the Communal Property Associations (CPAs) as well as allegations of family members of traditional leaders holding senior positions, she asked if SAFCOL ensures that the CPAs are legally constituted before entering into compacts with them. How functional are the CPAs in the communities where SAFCOL has compacts. What challenges has SAFCOL experienced in working with CPAs where communities have lodged land claims. Has it implemented mechanisms to ensure the CPA beneficiaries actually receive the benefits.

During its presentation, SAFCOL reported that it leases most of its operating land from DFFE, of which 57% is affected by land claims. This is concerning as SAFCOL could lose access to the land or face uncertain lease negotiations with the new landowners, after the land is successfully transferred to the claimants. She asked what role the Department plays in actively trying to foster healthy relations with the communities near forests that have lodged land claims.

The Chairperson asked how much potential land has been identified by SAFCOL, if it has approached the Department and, if so, what have the outcomes been.

SAFCOL reported that it plans to sell its holding shares in four companies currently holding shares on behalf of communities. She asked the value of the SAFCOL stake and if the communities have been capacitated to function as shareholders in the absence of SAFCOL. What risks and opportunities does this decision pose for the communities?

Where SAFCOL has compacts with communities, are these communities involved in post-harvesting activities such as processing and value addition? She asked for examples of economic development in these communities. In addition, how many 100% black-owned companies have been involved in SAFCOL projects, particularly saw milling.

She asked how many women have benefitted from SAFCOL training and skilling opportunities, which include bursaries, internships and learnerships. Post-training, how many of these individuals achieved employment. Does SAFCOL have a mechanism to ensure that the individuals in these programmes are placed into the industry?

SAFCOL response
On raw resources, Mr Monaheng replied that SAFCOL is looking to increase its raw resources complement, whilst also increasing community participation during the process. SAFCOL has been negotiating with municipalities to ensure that it has access to the management of some of the plantations. Some of the discussions have been positive. It usually looks to involve communities through the supply chain management (SCM) procurement opportunities and also enter into contracts for the transporting of goods, such as the raw material. SAFCOL is looking into entering partnerships with the community in the new plants it is planning to build.

SAFCOL is currently concluding Phase 2 of its projects. One such project is the Combined Heat and Power (CHP) Plant, where electricity is generated through the capture of heat that would otherwise be wasted. Once Phase 2 is concluded (and it is able to raise funds for the projects), SAFCOL will progress to Phase 3 of its projects, which include the project to supply transmission poles; engineered wood which will be used to build multi storey buildings and high-end properties; a pellet plant project, which will be used to produce compressed wood for energy generation. It is looking to build this plant in Sabie and the method used will produce cleaner energy and provide more energy than coal.

He acknowledged that the eco-tourism business is not doing well but for SAFCOL to improve on this, it needs a strong balance sheet, which will require that it obtains a private partnership.

On challenges with the land claims, he clarified that this process is managed by DALRRD and not SAFCOL. However, SAFCOL does engage the communities so that when land claims are completed, it is the preferred partner. It does communicate with DALRRD, through the CRLR, to fast-track land claims. He was unaware when the land claims will be concluded.

The land transfer benefit forms part of the SAFCOL post-settlement model. It is working on an engagement model, where it can partner with communities where there have been no land claims or they have been successful on various projects. Some communities are being trained on how to utilise sawmills, so that they are able to own one in the future. Ideally, in the long-term, communities should be shareholders in the new companies proposed for beneficiation. To manage these companies, SAFCOL would have to provide them with the training and skills.

On climate change, SAFCOL has a significant role to play in curbing emissions. To do this, it will ensure that it plants as many trees as possible, that temporary unplanted areas are low and minimise emissions in its operations.

He confirmed that SAFCOL does have a nursery in Mpumalanga based in Sabie.

On energy generation, SAFCOL is looking into three projects: Combined heat and power (CHP) project, which will generate heat to power its operations; a biomass plant, which will generate energy to add into the country’s grid energy; and the pellet plant project, which has the potential to create jobs.

SAFCOL will have to start its projects in Mpumalanga, as most of its raw resources are in the province. However, it is in discussions with the Eastern Cape Provincial Government, to gain access to new plantations. Once it gains access to more plantations, it will replicate the same model it is utilising.

SAFCOL has already started producing compost through timber waste on a low-scale and in partnership with certain communities in Limpopo.

On the difference in shareholding, Mr Monaheng explained that the decision to allocate communities 16% of the shares (which SAFCOL currently manages on their behalf) in the Amathole Forestry Company was taken when the companies had been privatised. Going forward, SAFCOL is looking into opportunities to increase community shares so that they are greater than SAFCOL's.

Timber theft remains a challenge across the industry and SAFCOL is collaborating with other role players in the industry to deal with this.

On the economic opportunities afforded to communities, many of the beneficiaries of silviculture work are the communities. In addition, SAFCOL has started a sawmilling project this financial year, which includes communities. There are two parts to this project: one is to secure partnerships between the community and existing sawmillers; the second is to procure mobile sawmills (which are easier to finance) and partner with the communities.

On the maintenance of forests in Limpopo, SAFCOL has identified areas where illegal harvesting is occurring but it is managing this. It is catching up with its silvicultural activities, to ensure that there is a good environment where trees are well looked after. He admitted that in the past its maintenance was not up to standard. It is also working with communities to ensure that they recognise that they have to look after the forests.

SAFCOL is currently in discussions on converting the seedling nurseries in Mpumalanga into high quality plantations.

The Department is responsible for rental payments to communities, before the land is transferred. However once the land is transferred and SAFCOL has a lease agreement with the community, it will then pay rent directly to them. The first lease agreement SAFCOL signed with a community was a few months ago and it paid this directly to the community.

Mr Monaheng clarified that SAFCOL is a member of the different FPAs. The Department is responsible for the regulatory process for governance of management of fires and fire protection.

Mr Monaheng replied that the land claims have affected 57% of the land on which it has operating leases. There is uncertainty about the land claims and if SAFCOL will become the preferred partner.

On the shares in the four companies (Amathole Forestry Company, Siyaqhubeka Forests, Singisi Forest Products and MTO Forestry), SAFCOL is holding shares on behalf of these communities that it plans to transfer to them. For instance, SAFCOL is in the process of transferring 9% of its shares in the Siyaqhubeka Forests to the communities in the area.

On black-owned companies involved in harvesting, SAFCOL tries by all means to target Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) Level 1, 2 or 3 companies when it procures services. It is looking to transform the sector, particularly sawmilling, so that there is participation of all peoples. 50% of SAFCOL training and skills opportunities are allocated to women. He assured the Committee that it does focus on women, youth and people with disabilities (PWD).

Ms Christelle Faul Marais, SAFCOL Chief Risk Officer, explained that the duration of land leases is linked to the rotation time of trees on the land. Typically SAFCOL tries to do two rotations which usually takes 70 years. With the first community it has signed with, SAFCOL has agreed to a 99 year lease. The operating leases are signed with the Department, until such time the land claim decisions on whether 57% of the land will be transferred and that new agreements must be signed.

SAFCOL has paid R200 000 on monthly rentals from August to November 2021 to CPAs. It also received an invoice for R1.4 million, which is payable to the CPA from the date the land was transferred in 2019 to the date SAFCOL signed the lease agreement. A reconciliation on the leases paid to the Department will be done so that SAFCOL does not make double payments.

SAFCOL does track the land claim process with the CRLR and enters into the next level of engagement with a community as their land claims proceed, so by the time the community receives the land, both parties would have already agreed to the principles of the land lease agreement. In certain cases, SAFCOL is awaiting the formal transfer of the title deed, then it will sign the lease agreement.

Mr Vishal Harichund, Group Executive: Strategy and Commercial, said that SAFCOL has many projects at various stages of the project pipeline. Some of the projects include the mechanisation project, the Ifloma fibre project in Mozambique and the mobile sawmills. All projects have passed their business case and are in the process of acquiring funding or procurement. Certain innovation projects are still in the screening phase and business cases will be developed. The idea of the project pipeline is to move to the 50/50 strategy, that is to have an equal blend of unprocessed and processed timber. SAFCOL has explored partnerships with the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research and other investors.

He confirmed that SAFCOL is looking into its export strategy to leverage its export market as well as conducting an export strategy to understand SAFCOL's readiness.

SACOL looks to involve the community through its proactive community engagement model.

Ms Hazel Banda, Senior Manager: Transformation, mentioned that SAFCOL donates accumulated sawdust at Timbadola Sawmills in Limpopo to black farmers in the area, who then use it as compost. The 13 social compacts do not necessarily relate to the CPAs, rather, this refers to leadership from the various communities that have been elected by the communities which include land claimants and adjacent communities. SAFCOL has established a joint community forum, where it meets with the land claimants and adjacent communities on a quarterly basis to discuss developmental issues.

Mr Sibalo Dlamini, SAFCOL Chief Operating Officer, replied about transforming the sawmill sector. SAFCOL is supporting new entrants, through the provision of long-term contracts, so that they are able to secure funding and develop sustainable businesses.

He explained that as an FPA member, SAFCOL wants to bring new security technology into its facilities, such as drones to address timber theft.

Department response
Ms Leseke, DFFE Forestry Operations, replied that lease agreements the Department entered into between 2001 and 2005 are 70 year leases.

On the lack of a nursery in Mpumalanga, she replied that the Department relies on the SAFCOL nursery in Sabie when there is a need for seedlings. The nurseries that the Department is managing are not propagating timber, rather they are propagating indigenous trees. Seedlings are used for greening responsibilities by planting seedlings in human settlements as required.

Ms Leseke assured the Committee that the Department will ensure that the figures are correct for the hectares SAFCOL is managing and its shareholding percentages.

On the transfer of natural forests to SANParks, the then Department of Water and Forestry felt that the mandate of natural forests would be better executed under SANParks as it has a conservation mandate. In addition, DFFE wanted to focus on the management of commercial plantations. She clarified that there were no land claims in the Western Cape.

On the transfer of plantable areas, a new structure will be transferred to the diversity and conservation branch because of the homogeneity of the functions. The Department will then abolish the vacant funded posts and reprioritise them to create critical and fit for purpose positions which are aligned to the master plan and the new structure.

On the seedling capacity in the North West, in the Bloemhof nursery there are currently 72 000 seedlings in stock and in Mahikeng nursery there are 49 000. However, this is not a static number and it fluctuates depending on when the seedlings are propagated and harvested.

Ms Pumeza Nodada, DFFE Acting DDG: Forestry and Natural Resource Management, replied that through the Commercial Forestry Master Plan (MP), the Department has partnered with both industry and labour, to look into six separate areas:
1. How the Department can expand its resources, through the plantation of more areas. This responsibility will rest with SAFCOL once the transfer of plantations occurs. With the transfer of plantations, the Department will be able to focus on its regulatory functions.
2. Management of plantations. This is an area where the Department believes Small, Micro and Medium Enterprises (SMMEs) will benefit from this more than they currently are.
3. Processing. For this sector to grow, it needs to ensure that the tertiary production is well-capacitated and to achieve this, the Department is working with the Department of Trade Industry and Competition (DTIC).
4. Illegal activities, such as timber theft and fires. The aim of this is to ensure that there is collaboration between the sector and law enforcement institutions.
5. Research and development innovation, skills development and human resources. As the Department does not have research capacity, it is looking to partner with other role players for research on pests and diseases. DFFE is working with DALRRD and the University of Pretoria to find ways to deal with Shot Hole Borer as it is damaging the trees.
6. Inhibitors of growth, which include transport and water licences.
t the Master Plan provides a blueprint on what the Department and the rest of the roleplayers can do in the sector to deal with all the issues.

On the transfer of indigenous forests, DFFE recognised that due to capacity constraints, it will not be able to manage these forests effectively. She assured the Committee that once the Department transfers the forests to the conservation authorities, it will be able to deal with its challenges.

Ms Nodada clarified that the Department has not experienced land claims related to indigenous forests. This has only occurred in plantation areas. DFFE is working closely with the DALRRD to attend to the land claims lodged.

On how the Department plans to deal with the staff, the new proposed structure is in the process of being approved. The new structure will reduce the number of employees working at the plantations, which will ensure that there are no additional burdens when the plantations are transferred to the different institutions. DFFE will then repurpose the posts so that it can focus on regulatory issues, educational awareness and co-settlement support.

As part of the Master Plan, the Department is working with the Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) on issuing of water-use licences and it has seen positive outcomes.

On the Department’s non-compliance with FPA and legislation, once it is able to focus on the regulatory issues, it will be able to improve on its non-compliance. It has received approval and it is now a member of the various FPAs and it has started making payments to them. The Master Plan also recommends that the Fire Brigade Services Amendment Act be amended to ensure greater participation of state owned entities in FPAs. The Department has also collaborated with its sister departments in the FPAs.

On the working group, DFFE has faced challenges in leading the process. The Department has recently held a meeting on the group and it will be having another meeting on 6 December 2021, to deal with the outstanding issues not addressed in the first meeting.

On opportunities and support for communities around the forests, through the agroforestry projects, DFFE tries to plant agricultural products in its plantation areas for the benefit of communities. With the assistance of SAFCOL and Sabie Sands Game Reserve, this has been piloted in both Limpopo and Mpumalanga and communities have managed to plant crops in between the crops.

DFFE is working with the skills development entity in the sector to get contractors trained for skills development, as part of the Master Plan.

On the international markets, she said that the Department is guided by the Master Plan.

Deputy Minister Sotyu congratulated the SAFCOL officials for their responses and commended the Committee for its work. She thanked Members for their encouraging words, particularly as the Department is facing multiple challenges.

The Chairperson said that in the next two weeks Forestry SA, the Forestry Charter Council and DFFE will appear before the Committee to elaborate on transformation in the sector. She requested that the Department also brief the Committee on the efforts being taken by role players in the sector to reduce emissions, challenges in the entire forestry sector and the increasing carbon forestry efforts.

She thanked the officials for adequately responding to most of the questions posed by Members and said that the Committee will continue following up on those matters. She urged all the relevant role players to create opportunities for young people in the industry.

The Committee adopted the minutes of 9 and 16 November 2021.

The meeting was adjourned.

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