DFFE briefing on 6 Transfrontier Conservation Areas; with Deputy Minister

Environment, Forestry and Fisheries

04 March 2022
Chairperson: Ms F Muthambi (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

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The Committee convened in a virtual meeting to be briefed by the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and Environment (DFFE) on the state of six Transfrontier Conservation Area (TFCA) programmes.

The Southern African Development Community's (SADC's) Protocol on Wildlife Conservation and Law Enforcement (1999) defined a TFCA as the area or component of a large ecological region that straddles the boundaries of two or more countries, encompassing one or more protected areas, as well as multiple resource use areas. The Protocol also includes the principle of cooperation amongst member states to manage shared wildlife resources, as well as any transfrontier effects of activities within their jurisdiction or control. Therefore, the Protocol makes provision for the promotion of the conservation of shared wildlife resources through the establishment of TFCAs.

In discussion, the Portfolio Committee highlighted that the TFCA programmes would offer opportunities for rural communities through poverty relief interventions, using nature-based and cultural tourism. It pointed out that the specifications of the individual TFCAs were lacking in the presentation, so the DFFE would have to come back and present the key challenges faced in the management of the individual TFCAs.

Among issues raised by the Committee was the need for more attention being given to the Khomani San community. How frequently did the management of TFCAs meet? What kind of benefits were derived by the Richtersveld community? What was the funding model for the TFCA programmes? Were the programmes positively responding to the poverty, inequality and unemployment challenges within the SADC? Had any states been sanctioned according to the SADC Protocol of 1999?

The DFFE said that South Africa had contributed around R40 million to upgrade the road at the Maloti - Drakensberg TFCA to improve trade and tourism. Funding of the TFCAs was mainly from the African Renaissance Fund, the  International Union for the Conservation of Nature, the Peace Parks Foundation and the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit. SANParks had set aside R30 million to build a lodge for the Khomani San community that would be jointly managed by the two parties. The Richtersveld National Park was communally owned, and there was a joint management board committee consisting of community members that SANParks staff reports to regarding the progress and management of the Park.

Meeting report

Chairperson’s Opening Remarks

The Chairperson said that the meeting had been sparked by a thorough presentation from the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and Environment (DFFE), South African National Parks (SANParks) and two provincial departments that had interacted with the Portfolio Committee. Conservation was both a social and political process that required community engagement to achieve desired outcomes. The Transfrontier Conservation Areas (TFCAs) were in the borderlines between the neighbouring countries. The rationale behind the TFCA was to deal with pro-poor conservation programmes to facilitate community-based natural resources and management engagements.

The Committee was of the view that the TFCAs were relatively large tracts of lands that involved transfrontiers between two or more countries that embraced natural systems. The TFCAs extended beyond national parks and game reserves, integrating mostly private land, communal land, forest reserves, game management areas and sustainable resource utilisation. She believed there was awareness that all of this conservation-related intervention reduced poverty in the rural areas through consumptive and non-consumptive use of natural resources. The biggest issue was to fight inequality, poverty and unemployment.

The Portfolio Committee saw the TFCA's programmes offering opportunities for poverty relief through nature-based and cultural tourism. Tourism was the leading job creator of all the industries within the Southern African Development Community (SADC). Nature-based tourism was a non-consumptive way of using natural resources to benefit rural communities. The Peace Park Foundation that had facilitated the establishment of the TFCAs considered transfrontier conservation as a way forward for addressing unemployment in Southern Africa. The TFCAs had broader tourism opportunities and experiences than single component national parks or other forms of protected areas.

There were three types of tourism-based employment. These were direct employment in hotels and restaurants, indirect employment through local transport, and handicrafts. They had an impact on the increased standard of living of the local residents. The TFCAs played other multifaceted roles besides poverty relief, such as improving the natural resource and biodiversity management, reunification of divided ethnicities, and promotion of a culture of peace and regional cooperation.

The Committee was meeting today to be briefed on whether the bottom line for natural resource management and biodiversity conservation was being met or not. The presentation would be a teaser because only the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and Environment (DFFE) would present, while other implementing agents such as SANParks, iSimangaliso Wetland Park, and Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife would present in the next term.

Ms Maggie Sotyu, Deputy Minister, Forestry, Fisheries and Environment, welcomed the management of the Transfrontier Conservation Areas (TFCAs), and introduced her team which was comprised of Ms Nomfundo Tshabalala, Director-General (DG) and Ms Flora Mokgohloa, Deputy Director-General (DDG): Biodiversity and Conservation,  DFFE.

SADC Protocol on Wildlife Conservation and Law Enforcement

Ms Mokgohloa said the  SADC Protocol on Wildlife Conservation and Law Enforcement (1999) defined a "Transfrontier Conservation Area" as the area or component of a large ecological region that straddles the boundaries of two or more countries, encompassing one or more protected areas, as well as multiple resource use areas. The Protocol also includes the principle of cooperation amongst member states to manage shared wildlife resources, as well as any transfrontier effects of activities within their jurisdiction or control. Therefore, the Protocol makes provision for the promotion of the conservation of shared wildlife resources through the establishment of TFCAs.

South Africa’s TFCAs were :

/Ai/Ais-Richtersveld Transfrontier Park, Namibia-South Africa. A memorandum of understanding (MOU) was signed in 2000 by Ministers, and a treaty was signed in 2003 by the heads of states.
Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, Botswana-South Africa. A bilateral agreement was signed in 1999 and amended in 2010.
Greater Mapungubwe TFCA-Botswana-South Africa-Zimbabwe. An MOU was signed in 2006, and the drafted treaty was under consultation.
Great Limpopo TFCA, Mozambique-South Africa-Zimbabwe. The MOU was signed in 2000 by Ministers and the treaty was signed in 2002 by the Heads of State.
Lubombo TFCA- eSwatini-Mozambique-South Africa. A protocol was signed in 2002 by Ministers.
Maloti Drakensberg TFCA, Lesotho-South Africa. An MOU was signed in 2001 and updated in 2008 by Ministers. Lesotho indicated a possible need to sign a treaty.

(See attached document for details)


Discussion

Mr D Bryant (DA) said the presentation was overarching and touched on the TFCA, but lacked specifics around each TFCA. He suggested that the DFFE should make a presentation on the key challenges faced with the management and the long-term sustainability of the TFCAs. The intergovernmental challenges and lack of funding in each TFCA must be highlighted in that particular presentation.

He asked the Committee to organise an oversight visit to the Kgalagadi TFCA to meet and discuss the challenges faced by the old historic community of the Khomani San living in the southwestern border area. They face many challenges, such as not being able to sustain and practise customs and culture. There were also many other pressures, particularly economic challenges. The Committee had spoken about issues concerning human settlements and land claims in and around Kruger National Park (KNP), but it was also important for it to ensure it paid the same level of attention to Khomani San community challenges.

Mr N Capa (ANC) said the presentation had referred to issues of unemployment, poverty and inequality, and he could see that a lot of that was happening in this process, but the DFFE was failing to elevate these issues, so it would seem as if they were doing nothing. Could the statistics dealing with unemployment, poverty and inequality be reflected in the next presentation? He was pretty sure that there were measures in existence to deal with the highlighted issues but thought that due to time constraints, they could not be presented. How many traditional authorities, with their communities, were involved in the process? What was the nature of land ownership at Greater Mapungubwe? Was it communal or privately owned? What was the mode of operation with the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (DALRRD) and the DFFE?

Mr Capa said that he was worried about the interchangeability of the words "Kalahari" and "Kgalagadi." His understanding was that during the British colonial period, the Kgalagadi name was distorted to Kalahari to confuse the Kgalagadi nation.

Ms C Phillips (DA) asked how frequently the management of the TFCA met. What were the specifics of those meetings? How was the budgetary contribution from each different country decided on for each TFCA? Were the laws in terms of conservation the same across the TFCAs, or were the individual country's conservation laws applied?

What did the pink area marked "safari area" on slide 15 mean? Why was it necessary for a treaty to be signed, as highlighted by Slide 23? What was the thinking behind the treaty? What was the total budget for the road works (slide 24?)? How much had been spent so far? How many kilometers had been upgraded? How many kilometers still needed to be done? What was the expected completion date? She asked when the nation's camping activities for children would resume. What had happened to the budget for those camps in the years that they did not take place? She asked for specifics and the timelines for all of this, and about the kinds of reviews posted on the website after a visit.

Mr N Singh (IFP) asked how frequent the joint government meetings were. What were the challenges experienced in these joint government meetings? Did the DFFE feel that every country was pulling in the same direction in ensuring that the TFCAs worked within their respective areas? What kind of benefits did the Richtersveld community get? What kind of international funding was available to promote the TFCAs? Who controlled the funding in each country? Did some of the entities, such as Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, get funding to promote TFCAs, or was the funding coordinated at a central level?

Ms N Gantsho (ANC) asked about the funding model for TFCAs, and how many countries were contributing towards this funding. What other financial streams were available for financial and material support of TFCAs? What was the level of progress in infrastructure development?  What were the challenges faced by the DFFE in sourcing the required investment for infrastructure and development? How was it overcoming these challenges? What was the level of intergovernmental relations between the DFFE, the Department of Trade, Industry and Competition (DTIC) and the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO)?

Ms T Mchunu (ANC) said she was worried about Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife’s management of the Lubombo TFCA that covered the Eastern Cape, Free State and KZN. How accountable was the management in ensuring that the three provinces were informed about the Lubombo TFCA’s functioning? Did Ezemvelo KZN receive funds from the three provinces? If so, how was the funding managed? She was also worried about the lack of board members for Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife. How did one measure rural development in terms of the response and activities that were happening in the TFCAs, considering that the communities were faced with poverty, inequality and unemployment challenges? Could they conclude that the TFCAs were responding to these challenges? What was the impact of the TFCAs on small, medium and micro-enterprises (SMMEs)? Was there a policy that speaks to the establishment of community conservation areas? If so, how was this policy assisting the community to co-own the TFCAs with the involved departments and the provinces? What was the target for the number of community conservation areas for the previous and coming financial year?

The Chairperson said that Article 12 of the SADC protocol on wildlife conservation and law enforcement of 1999 provides for sanctions of parties that were not supportive of the protocol. Had any of the state parties been sanctioned or punished? Could the DFFE assure the Committee that South African partners in the TFCAs were doing their fair part in the spirit of the SADC protocol on wildlife conservation and law enforcement? Or any subsequent protocol? Were there any discussions on reviewing the management of certain TFCAs due to a lack of proper law enforcement by some of the South African partners? What was the status of this SADC protocol on wildlife conservation and law enforcement relative to the South African Protected Areas and Biodiversity Act? What projects were to be implemented as per slide 32?

The Chairperson asked where the timelines for the priority areas on slide 33 were -- when and who was going to deliver those objectives? Had there been a comprehensive and systematic evaluation of the TFCAs to determine the DFFE conservation effectiveness of specific SANParks before the country became part of the TFCAs? What was the benefit to South Africa of signing the MOUs? What was the progress? Were the conservation objectives in SANParks better achieved now than before the establishment of the TFCAs?

She highlighted that the Minister of Police, General Bheki Cele, had said on 18 February that there was a need for better coordination and alignment between South Africa and its neighbouring countries to combat cross-border crimes. He had further highlighted that the laws in the other countries made it difficult to pursue criminals across borders. For instance, it was legal to buy a stolen car in some neighbouring countries, while it was illegal in South Africa. Did the DG of the DFFE and the chief executive officer (CEO) of SANParks share the view of the Minister of Police about pursuing criminals across the country's borders due to contrasting laws in the SADC? Which country in the SADC that shared a TFCA with South Africa had such laws that prevented effective cross-border law enforcement? Did South African conservation law enforcement officers -- the South African Police Service (SAPS) and rangers -- conduct hotspot crime pursuit into other countries, and vice versa? If it was not happening, why not?

DFFE's response

Ms Tshabalala said that most of the questions that required detailed explanations would be responded to in a written format.

She said that the rural and SMME developments were some of the benefits and focus areas that were agreed to in the MOUs and treaties of the various TFCAs. The Department would be providing a list of various construction projects in the infrastructure focus area. One example that indicated the resources that South Africa and other countries had to contribute to, was the upgrading of the road at Maloti - Drakensberg between South Africa and Lesotho to improve trade and tourism. South Africa had to contribute R40 million, and Lesotho had to secure the balance. The DFFE would conduct a follow-up to check on the progress of the project. She was trying to indicate that South Africa had worked closely with the neighbouring countries. There were programmes in place and details and progress would be provided.

Funding for TFCAs was usually from various regional funds, such as the African Renaissance Fund. The DG said that in terms of crime due to contrasting laws in various countries - the matter was currently occupying the justice and correctional services (JCS) cluster. The statement by the Minister of the Police was indeed true. The matters were being discussed at the cluster level to find ways to enable enforcement to deal with cross-border crime. She added that the DFFE engages with the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) at a bilateral and cluster level to deal with issues that require international agreement and implementation. South Africa recognised the realities of the other countries and in line with the agreements, it was cooperating to deal with the challenges faced by countries involved in the TFCAs. She added that the DFFE was committing to report on the specifics when they presented on the individual TFCAs.

Ms Mokgohloa stressed that the ability and need to meet at a technical level with the countries depended on the coordinating country. In most of the TFCAs, South Africa was not yet the coordinating country. Namibia was coordinating Kgalagadi. Zimbabwe was coordinating Mapungubwe, and Lubombo was coordinated by Eswatini. There was no allocated coordinator for the Maloti-Drakensberg TFCA. Once a country was allocated as a coordinator, within two years it had to not only ensure that the institutional governance structures met, but also had to provide the secretarial services, even for technical-level meetings that implement some of the programmes.

She confirmed that at the country level, the DFFE was meeting with the implementing agent and had initiated with their partner countries. The Lubombo TFCA meeting was scheduled for this month (March) to engage with eSwatini and Mozambique. The DFFE had met with Maloti-Drakensberg in February to discuss the possibility of forming a treaty. The Greater Limpopo had met in December 2021 to check on progress, and South Africa was meeting next week at the KNP to further discuss matters related to the Greater Limpopo TFCA.

She said that the SADC financing facility was driven by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The DFFE had submitted a comprehensive list in September 2021 for funding needs for each of the TFCAs within SADC. The applications were under consideration, and the Department was hoping to get a positive response. The land in Mapungubwe was privately owned, and the only communal land was in Maramani, Zimbabwe. It was part of South Africa's budget requirement to submit their budget needs as part of their funding motivation for the TFCAs to National Treasury through the implementing agent.

She stressed that South Africa was highly active, even when their partners were slow. They were always nudging them, especially because they were not the coordinators. When South Africa started coordinating some of the TFCAs, they would ensure that the meetings happened regularly, and would discuss the implementation of action plans. They would also ensure that the matters that required political oversight were escalated to the ministerial oversight committee.

Ms Mokgoahla said that the Peace Parks Foundation was assisting the DFFE to fund some of the TFCA's aspects and infrastructure, and also to strengthen the capacity, management and the governance of the TFCAs. The Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) also funded some of the activities related to the TFCAs.

Mr Sydney Nkosi: Chief Director: Protected Areas Systems Management, DFFE, said he would provide the schedule of the meetings and the stakeholders of the various governance structures.

He said the bigger part of the land that bordered the Mapungubwe area was privately owned. They were currently engaging with the stakeholders to ensure that they formed part of the committee that decides on the boundary modification of the area. The harmonisation of policies and legislation depended on the interfaces between the members of the states with which South Africa shared the TFCAs. It had not been an easy process, due to the level of cooperation and responsiveness to some of the issues that they want to deal with. They therefore sometimes proceeded as a country to ensure that they deal with the issues of law reform, to ensure that the current National Environment Management: Biodiversity Act (NEMBA) and the National Management of Protected Areas Act includes the protected areas and other land parcels that had conservation value. The countries that border South Africa’s TFCAs did not have a policy on protected areas, so the National Protected Areas Expansion Act had been sent for cross-referencing purposes to establish expansion programmes.

Mr Nkosi said the TFCAs were subjected to management effectiveness tracking tools that checked what issues they had to deal with at a structural, biodiversity, ecotourism, financial and administration level. The Department introduces corrective measures when the tool identifies gaps to ensure that TFCAs recover and were in line with the best performing TFCAs. Through cooperation in terms of SADC protocol and treaties, South Africa tried its level best to implement its specific objectives. In some instances, it had to use diplomatic relations to facilitate engagements with the other countries at an operational level. They had not implemented any sanctions so far on any member state.

He concluded that in terms of the benefits per MOU agreements, the report of the DFFE dealt only with what was stipulated by the members of states on both sides during a particular financial year. The annual report would reflect how much they had achieved in terms of set objectives and the challenges that would need to be addressed.

Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife

Mr Ntsikelelo Dlulane, Acting CEO, Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, said that the road had been developed by the South African Department of Transport (DoT) from Himeville towards Sani Pass. At the same time, there had been talks about the upgrading of the border post at Sani Pass, although the project was not concluded as planned. He confirmed that all the relevant departments were involved, especially the Department of Public Works and Infrastructure (DPWI). The Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) had made funding provisions through Social Responsibility Policy and Projects (SRPP) for some of the projects but had suspended them when the projects stopped. He also confirmed that South Africa gave Lesotho R40 million to develop the road on the South African side to shorten the distance and thereby improve the trade and economic opportunities between the two countries. Mr Dlulane added that the road developed to the foot of the mountain in the Sani Pass area had not been developed to where it was supposed to be, which was to the border post.

Mr Joe Phadima, Head: Socio-ecological Sciences Research, Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, said that South Africa had a coordinating body at the Maloti - Drakensberg TFCA in the form of the Maloti - Drakensberg Trust Fund Programme that coordinated the work conducted at the TFCA involving the Eastern Cape, Free State and KZN. The programme not only manages the biodiversity of the park properly but also facilitates economic growth. The coordination programme was funded by contributions from different departments and entities, such as the Eastern Cape, Eastern Parks, KZN Parks, Free State and SANParks. The traditional councils, authorities and community were consulted, and also form part of the co-management area within the TFCA on the South Africa side.

He said that Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife would provide a more comprehensive presentation in the future to highlight its involvement in the management of the TFCA and to enumerate a number of projects, as well as the actual beneficiation funding models for the community. The frequency of the meetings was conducted through the South African coordinating component. This structure allowed for the convening of the bilateral coordinating committees that facilitate meetings that include South African managers and Lesotho’s Sehlabathebe Park component. There was a national coordinating committee in South Africa that was checked by the DFFE in respect of the Maloti-Drakenberg TFCA management.

He said they still had some issues in Lubombo related to crime and the ownership of vehicles once they crossed the border. They were working closely with the tactical joint operation of the SAPS and provincial law enforcement to assist, particularly in areas around the Tembe elephant park.

He concluded that there were also projects in Lubombo. For instance, a tourism strategy was recently approved in collaboration with the Peace Parks, where there were some challenges such as finding ways to unlock value from the communities and interactions with their counterparts.

SANParks

Dr Luthando Dziba, Managing Executive: Conservation Services, SANParks, said that there was a lot of work happening around conservation cooperation, which would be highlighted during the presentation of the annual performance report. In the TFCA area like Mapungubwe, there were animals that moved across the borders of South Africa, Botswana and Zimbabwe. There was 8 100 herd of elephants that grazed and moved around the three countries. While SANParks appreciated this, they also recognised that when there were so many elephants in one place, they imposed a substantial impact on the vegetation and the ecosystem. If one drove around parts of the Mapungubwe Park, one would observe mopane woodlands had been turned into shrubs. The shrubby ecosystem reflected the frequency with which the elephants returned to the area.

SANParks had identified sensitive areas to be fenced off for recovery purposes. It had also noticed the significant impact of elephants on the baobab trees through ring barking. The baobab trees got infected and died due to their inability to absorb moisture, diseases and the compounding effect of climate change. SANParks had put wire fences around the trunks of these baobab trees. He said a small rhino herd in Mapungubwe moves and crosses the border to Botswana or Mozambique. When they crossed the border, they were able to call and inform their counterparts to monitor the rhinos from their side.

Mr Property Mokoena, Acting Managing Executive, SANParks, said the Khomani San area was inscribed as a cultural landscape in recognition of the Khomani San. All cultural activities of the Khomani San were allowed to be performed in the national park. They had set aside around R30 million to build a lodge for the Khomani San community. The lodge would be jointly managed by SANParks with the Khomani San community. SANParks would provide the expertise to oversee the management of the lodge, but the rest would be controlled by the Khomani San community. The lodge would also be 100% funded by the government.

Mr Mokoena said that when the Kgalagadi TFCA was initiated, the park on the South African side was called the Gemsbok National Park, and the Kalahari National Park in Botswana. It was agreed then that the proper name for the TFCA would be Kgalakgadi (Salt Pans).

The Richtersveld National Park fully and totally belonged to the community, and SANParks pays a rental fee on an annual basis for management purposes. There was a joint management board committee consisting of community members that SANParks staff report to regarding the progress and management of the Park. The Richtersveld community had grazing rights for their domestic sheep, which was rare to have.

Mr Mokoena said that some of the crimes experienced at the border gates of the TFCAs included trespassing, illegal cigarette smuggling and stock theft, especially at Mapungubwe and Golden gate. If they had to arrest a person from another country, they definitely worked jointly with their counterparts on the Zimbabwean or Botswanan side, and hand over the arrested person to the SAPS. Last month, they had seized illegal cigarettes at Mapungubwe to the value of R3 million.

Follow-up discussion

Mr Bryant said that there was a report in 2003 that had highlighted the trophy hunting of elephant bulls between Botswana, South Africa and Zimbabwe. What was the status now? There were challenges around people trespassing at the Ndumo game reserve in the Lubombo TFCA - could they get a response to that?

Responses

Mr Nkosi asked if they could respond to the question in writing so that they could respond appropriately.

Closing remarks

The Chairperson ended the meeting by ruling that the questions could be responded to in a written format.

The meeting was adjourned.

Audio

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