DFFE Budget: Committee Report; Agreement between TMNP & CoCT; Panel of Experts Report on St Lucia Estuary; DPME on DFFE outcomes; with Minister

Environment, Forestry and Fisheries

03 May 2022
Chairperson: Ms F Muthambi (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

Tabled Committee Report

The Department of Forestry, Fisheries and Environment presented an update on the artificial breach of the iSimangaliso estuary which happened in January 2021. There had been meetings with stakeholders from St Lucia including traditional authorities, ratepayer’s associations, and other representatives upon the release of the public report. One of the fundamental recommendations of the panel was that when there is a system such as the St Lucia estuary, it might not be correct to manage it in the absence of managing the whole river system. Another issue was that when the recommendations had been implemented, some fell under the control of the Department and relate to the roles of other departments. The last issue mentioned was that of the relationship between iSimangaliso as a management authority and the surrounding community. The panel discussed exceptional circumstances for the breach of the river mouth in the future and among those discussed, were physical circumstances which include long closed mouth state. With the ecological circumstances, the panel together with the stakeholders came up with a few which include berm build up, sedimentation accumulation and alien invasive species to name a few.

There were concerns from the Members that there were several references, to no data, being kept both before and after the breaching and that there were reports of long-term tensions between the management authority and the community which had not been dealt directly with by iSimangaliso.

SANParks and the City of Cape Town gave a review on the Heads of Agreement which was being amended. The obligations held in the agreement were not completely fulfilled, reason being that the Operational Environmental Management System was not approved by CoCT. It was indicated that on the side of the CoCT, there were matters that required legal advisory. Many issues were raised, and there was the conclusion that there was a need for both entities to work hand-in-hand and resolve the ongoing operational issues.

The Department of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation also had the opportunity to share a performance report for the environmental sector and the associated recommendations. It was indicated that mid-term reports would be used to find issues that could be expedited so that the term does not end before accomplishing set objectives

Meeting report

The Chairperson welcomed all Members, the Minister of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries and the panel, the South African National Parks (SANParks) team, the City of Cape Town (CoCT) team, the Western Cape Provincial Government team and the Department of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation (DPME) team. The floor was handed to the Minister for briefing.
 

Minister’s remarks
Ms Barbara Creecy, Minister of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment, offered an apology for the Deputy Minister who could not attend the meeting. She said that the previous week, on Thursday, a public report had been released on the artificial breach of the iSimangaliso estuary in January 2021. After the release, there had been a workshop with the stakeholders from St Lucia including traditional authorities, ratepayer’s associations, and other representatives. There had been detail in explaining the outcomes of the report and how the process of implementing the recommendations was to begin. She highlighted that it was important to mention that the report recommendations had been accepted and the board of iSimangaliso, together with the management had been briefed that the recommendations should be implemented with speed.

She said it would have been ideal for the Chairperson and some Members to have been present as they would have been instrumental in raising the complexities of the community. However, they were pleased that one of the Members represented the Committee at the launch event.

She said that there were three issues that she would like to give guidance on. The first issue was that there were findings of what happened and whether it was in line with the regulatory environment. Secondly, there were guidelines in place as to what should happen in future and thirdly, there were also guidelines for future work.
 
One of the fundamental recommendations of the panel was that when there is a system such as the St Lucia estuary, it might not be correct to think that it could be managed in the absence of managing the whole river system. This is something that had not been factored into previous management plans and is therefore an important area of future work. Another issue was that when the recommendations have been implemented, some fall under the control of the Department and relate to the roles of other departments such as Water and Sanitation, and Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development. She mentioned that it was the Department's commitment to bring such players in as quickly as possible, so that they could assist with the implementations.

The last issue mentioned was that of the relationship between iSimangaliso as a management authority and the surrounding community. She added that there was some time taken between the release of the report, which was mainly to spend time with the board and to request that they take active and proactive responsibility for that relationship. Historically, it had not been a happy relationship, however, the board has done a lot to improve the relationship.

Review of the Scientific Basis for Breaching the Mouth of Lake St Lucia Estuary

Mr Bonani Madikizela, Research Manager: Aquatic Ecosystems, Department of Forestry, Fisheries and Environment (DFFE) presented the Review of the Scientific Basis for Breaching the Mouth of Lake St Lucia Estuary. He revisited the terms of reference that were given to the panellists and the list of things they were required to make recommendations on. These included advising on the significance and impact of the artificial opening of the estuary mouth and how it relates to the implementation of the Global Economic Fund (GEF) 5 project interventions and the St Lucia estuary management plan. Advice on the exceptional circumstances, as defined in the estuary management plan that lead to the decision to breach the mouth, including those of an environmental, social, and economic nature. Advise on the impact of the mouth opening on the functioning of the estuary system and the wetland system as well as the associated environmental, social, and economic implications. In addition, the development of guidelines for the immediate and ongoing management of the system.

The panel discussed exceptional circumstances for the breach of the river mouth in the future and among those discussed, were physical circumstances which include long closed mouth state. With the ecological circumstances, the panel together with the stakeholders came up with a few which include berm build up, sedimentation accumulation and alien invasive species to name a few. The panel recommended social and economic circumstances which include back flooding, damage to the infrastructure, and increase community-conservation conflict.


The key recommendations fell under three categories, namely, maintenance, monitoring, and communication. With regards to maintenance, the panel recommended that maintenance breaching could continue, however, ecological, and social reasons must be clearly defined so that breaching is done when necessary and efficient. It was also recommended that vegetation and sediment be cleared from the Mzunduzi and beach channel. The recommendations for monitoring were that Ezemvelo KwaZulu-Natal (EKZN) should continue to do biophysical monitoring and this should start in the socio-economic sphere.

Discussion

Ms C Phillips (DA) thanked the Chairperson, Minister, and Mr Madikizela. She said some of her questions were regarding the panel report and the input that was made. She highlighted that there were several references, to no data, being kept both before and after the breaching which was concerning. She asked whether there were any actions to be taken in this regard as this played a huge role in the disaster that had occurred.

Ms Phillips asked whether it would be possible to get a broad outline of the key recommendations of clearing the rivers and the beach channel and added that SAWS was too slow to react to give some of the data needed by the panel. She inquired whether there would be any action taken against them for that and asked for the specific department responsible for the streamflow data that was never recovered.

She said the reports noted the long-term tensions between the management authority and the community, and when this was previously raised with iSimangaliso, they were surprised by the fact. She added that was an unnecessary response as it the situation was obvious to everyone.

She said that the monitoring standards were clearly non-existent and inquired about what was going to be done to change that in the future.

She highlighted that the report made mention of plants that were not being controlled and asked about the action to be taken as the control of these plants was a recommendation of the GEF project. She asked about the reasons this had not been done and those who were responsible for the task.  

She explained that there was a large deposit of clay in the mouth which was apparently caused by the results of the GEF project which was implemented incorrectly. She asked whether the budget for the project had been used up and if so, the reasons behind the fact since the implementations were incorrect.  She added that, the fact that the clay was there is one of the reasons that the water is not washing out properly and asked what was going to be done to get rid of it and if there was any action to be taken against those who did not implement the project correctly.

On the observation of the birdlife, she asked if there were any records kept before the breaching concerning the birdlife. She added that there was a comment in Dr R Taylor’s submission on the lack of transparency in releasing the documents on the GEF project. There was also no monitoring of the expanding shoreline vegetation and the decrease in the amount of variety of birdlife in that area, and that was before the breach of the mouth.

Mr N Singh (IFP) said that the Committee should be pleased that they had been vindicated when reading the report in terms of taking up the community issues as strongly as they did. He thanked the Minister for her cooperation, ensuring that the report was completed and allowing the Committee to interrogate it and look at the way forward.

He said that the Minister had mentioned that she accepted the report and the recommendations and had requested iSimangaliso to implement the recommendations with speed. He inquired about the resources being set aside to implement the recommendations in the short, medium, and long term and the timeline set in place for implementation. He added that this was a reminder that when it comes to international agreements, the parties involved must be mindful of the socioeconomic impact on the surrounding communities and not get carried away by what international agreements say because circumstances from a socioeconomic view will be much more different from what is experienced in the country. He added that this should be flagged moving forward.

Referring to the second question, which relates to the report on regular meetings and the lack of consultation between iSimangaliso and stakeholders, he highlighted that it was something they had been hearing about for some time. He asked about the mechanisms to be employed to ensure that any conflicts between iSimangaliso, the community and any other authorities were managed as quickly as possible without having to take the community engaging in protests, leading to damaged infrastructure. He emphasised that these mechanisms needed to be clear on how regular consultations were to happen and who was to be consulted. He added that it was important that those to be consulted were directly affected and impacted by what happens in the area.  

Mr Singh noted the recent flooding and added that, in this regard, there was divine intervention although in some parts of the province there was mayhem in terms of the loss of life and infrastructure. He asked on what was to be the medium to long term solution in the area. He added that there was still a lot of work to be done and inquired about who was responsible for such, and whether the panel was going to remain.

He stated that the last question related to one of the slides which mentioned the “lack of benefit to farmers”. He asked how the situation was going to be ameliorated, whether there would be compensation to farmers and the extent to which other departments were to be involved and when this would occur.

He said that the report given was a positive one and it moved the issue forward. He added that he hoped that there would be continued cooperation and consultation between government, iSimangaliso and the communities in the area.
 
Mr D Bryant (DA) asked for clarity on whether the berm was slightly monitored or not at all.

In terms of the decrease in birdlife, he asked about the type of birds which were at risk and whether there were any species at risk due to a decrease in bird life or if it was simply a case of fewer birds making use of the estuary.

He mentioned that it was said that the biophysical monitoring had been of a high standard and the socioeconomic monitoring had not been good. There had to be a correlation between the biophysical monitoring undertaken and the impacts on agriculture seen over the past few years. He highlighted that there must have been some red flags during monitoring and whether these had potential impacts on farmers.

In terms of information flow, he was mindful of the point raised that information from the South African National Parks (SANParks) was accessible and is provided regularly. He said that of far more concern to the community was that information flow, the other way around, was a more significant challenge. The community’s voices and concerns were not being heard and he hoped that some of the commitments made during the seating, to consult further with the community, would be upheld.

Mr Bryant highlighted that it was mentioned that farmers had been farming with the wrong produce and made use of incorrect agricultural practices in the area. He asked if a department of any of the members liaised with farmers to inform them of this fact.  He added that he assumed that there was an expert who was familiar with local conditions and is part of the advisory panel. He added that this could be considered going forward and meetings should be held with farmers on this basis.

Mr P Modise (ANC) recalled that Mr Singh raised an issue that pertained to the timeframe of the implementation of the recommendations of the panel of experts. He asked for clarity from the presenter on the financial implications that had been endured thus far.

Ms T Mchunu (ANC) thanked the Minister and the panel for the presentation. She mentioned that her first point would be on the emphasis on whether iSimangaliso decides on the estuary issues, the consideration of indigenous knowledge and traditional leadership and the surrounding community. She said that this should be highlighted and taken seriously.

On the communication side, she agreed that the issue of communication should be a long-term issue and asked on how it would be ensured that communication is enhanced amongst the communities. She said that communities needed constant communication and education on the park as a heritage site and the impact it has on them.

Ms N Gantsho (ANC) mentioned that Mr Modise had partly covered the issue of costs and highlighted that although it had been mentioned that there had been substantial damage to infrastructure, the cost was still unknown. She asked for an estimation in this regard.

She asked for clarity on what was meant by “increased community conservation conflict”.

The Chairperson took a moment to acknowledge the celebration of Eid and wished peace, safety, and good health to those in celebration. She commended the Minister and the team for their prompt response in dealing with the discussed issue. She added that it needed to be emphasised that St Lucia could no longer be managed as an isolated system and activities in the catchment and flatlands should be considered in future management plans. Where possible, this should be a multi-sectoral responsibility as there are other departments which are key players. She added that it would be best to coordinate intergovernmental interaction and acknowledged that there has already been some time allocated for implementation plans.

She said it was important for the Committee to receive the timeframes and added that if the recommendations were to be implemented to the letter, that would indicate that the work was moving in the right direction.

She conveyed her appreciation to the Minister for the leadership provided on the matter.

Responses

Ms Creecy stated that she would be dealing with a few of the questions and would thereafter allow her team to take on the rest.

She said there was an implementation draft in place, which was shared in the workshop held in St Lucia, and the stakeholders had asked to be given time before their input was conveyed. She added that they would also like to be given until the end of May 2022 to finalise the plan. Some of the work, such as the removal of the alien vegetation, had already begun as there were funds already allocated. Once consultations with the stakeholders are finalised, it is only then that the full plan would be shared with the Committee. She highlighted that the plan did include timeframes and responsible parties as well.

She further emphasised that, as the Department, they wanted to develop the said plans by consulting with the relevant stakeholders before handing over to the Committee for monitoring moving forward.


On the issue of the panel members, only two were available to stay on for six more months and they would form part of the socioeconomic sphere, which is an area that has been historically neglected in the way in which the management plans have been developed. She added that their thoughts were that members would be of assistance. Members had put forward the recommendations that independent facilitators needed to help with. She had asked that they also submit plans for how they would spend the extra six months together with the Department.

With regards to the beach channels and the canals being overgrown with vegetation, she said that she had asked the Director-General (DG) as well as Mr S Bukhosini, Chief Executive Officer, iSimangaliso, to work together to look at how quickly water and sanitation could be brought on board. She added that she had spoken with the Minister to ask for his assistance because the channels and canals were under his domain.

Ms Creecy indicated that she had been in communication with the DG to look at all issues pertaining to this because there would be various regulatory requirements before moving into clearing the channels. Both the DG, CEO together with the Department of Water and Sanitation would be looking at the matter with urgency.

She said that it was important for the Department to be providing drainage relief to those areas and this had been a recommendation of the Committee in the past.

She recalled that the issue of the independent facilitator, which was to ensure that the voice of the community is heard and brought on board, had been spoken about.

She mentioned that she had taken the opportunity to meet with all the traditional leaders on the day before the panel report was released and many of the concerns that were raised related to other departments. Very few raised issues on the estuary mouth and the majority had other problems which relate to the need for proper agricultural support, including the appropriateness of crops. This was where the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development was to be brought in as the appropriate authority. She added that she had informed the leaders that they were making a range of demands which do not fall under their domain, however, they fully understood that local leaders dealt with the level of government that they encountered which is the iSimangaliso Wetland Park Authority. She indicated that they had the responsibility to bring the relevant players to the table and added that this was the reason why it was important that the board had proper oversight over the process and leads some of the development challenges in the area as these were impacting the community’s relationship with iSimangaliso. She added that as the level of government that is in contact with the communities, there is a responsibility to bring relevant players to the table and that is what will be done.

On the issue of the data, there was a service provider that was supposed to have provided data, however it went AWOL and that is why there was no available data. She said that the question to be addressed was whether the problem should be fixed with limited resources available or to hound the service provider in court. She added that if there was money available, she would prefer to hound the service provider in court because of doubts on whether the data would be received as it might have not been collected from the onset. These were some of issues that needed to be faced.

She handed over to Mr Madikizela to go over some of the technical questions that had been asked and then allow Mr Bukhosini to make a few remarks about timeframes with regards to implementation.

Mr Madikizela indicated that he would be brief as the Minister had answered most of the questions.


On the issue of biophysical and socioeconomic monitoring, one would expect that biophysical monitoring would be easier to do under normal circumstances. However, there was a lack of data which is why it was recommended that iSimangaliso sourced a scientist and technicians to make sure that the monitoring is designed according to environmental water requirements.

He added that the GEF recommendation report and KZN Wildlife should continue with the monitoring which was already in place and that it should be structured including when the breaching is done.

With regards to bird monitoring, he said that as long as there are still plants around the wetland it was not of major concern and not a serious threat. The bird count decline could be because the monitoring during the COVID-19 period was irregular or not happening at all and therefore the information provided might not have been accurate. He added that accurate data would be available when monitoring commences and that they were not aware of any species loss. 

Mr Madikizela said the berm height issue was one that needed to be monitored to make sure that when the berm hits certain levels, breaching would be considered. If this does not happen, the wall would be too strong and more water or floods would be needed to break it and the risk would be that it may not break. This then prevents the connection between the marine and the estuary and it also causes flooding further into the communities. This was why It had to be monitored as it grows and be handled as soon as it reaches a certain height and that is when breaching should happen to prevent the negative effects. He reminded the attendees that St Lucia, like any other estuary, opens and closes and that there are very few that remain open throughout. When an opening is required, it must be in line with the ecological requirements because conservation is important as well. He added that a breach cannot be done at any time, but breaching guidelines are needed to define the exact conditions in which to breach.

He mentioned that the issue of sediment is one of the indicators that variables must be monitored. The sediment comes from different directions and some of it is windblown, coming from the ocean side and this has to be monitored and confirmed with observations and data.
 
Mr Bukhosini (iSimangaliso CEO) confirmed that the report was launched and presented to them as well as the management authority. The Minister was clear that she needed an implementation plan as she had already said that a draft implementation plan had already been prepared and presented to the stakeholders. The stakeholders had engaged the entity to say that they would also like to have an input as there is a planned collaboration to address the mentioned issues as they are complex and have a lot of dynamics to take into consideration. He added that they were engaging stakeholders to find a suitable time to discuss the draft plan which began in April.

He said the Minister had already indicated that assistance had been received through the Department in terms of funding for the June maintenance wherein there was clearing of the alien vegetation. This process had already begun in the month of April, as it was a matter of urgency and will go up to 2023.

He indicated that there would be an engagement with other departments to collaborate on certain projects and added that the canal clearing of alien vegetation and the sludge was one of the projects that needed collaboration.

SANParks – City of Cape Town Heads of Agreement

Mr Property Mokwena, Managing Executive: Parks, SANParks, gave a brief background on the Heads of Agreement (HoA) which was adopted in 1998 and mentioned that the agreement was being amended and SANParks together with the CoCT were sharing presentations on the progress.

He highlighted the obligations which SANParks held in this agreement of which six out of the eight were fulfilled. Reasons for the failure to fulfil the obligations included the Operational Environmental Management System having been prepared by SANParks but not being approved by CoCT. This meant that SANParks was unable to fulfil their duty on this. Another reason for SANParks’ failure to fulfil their obligation was that both parties needed to agree on the survey of the properties. He highlighted the obligations of the CoCT and showed that they had only fulfilled three out of five obligations. They have yet to transfer the land to SANParks and cover the costs of the annual review of the administration and management of the park. Both these parties also had shared obligations, all of which have been fulfilled and are ongoing and some of the split obligations were also mentioned as key issues in the review process.

City of Cape Town – SANParks Status of HoA Amendment Process

Ms Lorraine Gerrans, Head of Sustainable Partnerships and Financing in the Environmental Management Department, CoCT provided updates on the progress of some of the matters which required legal advisory. She highlighted that the conservation-linked management functionality had been transferred and the National Park established. She also stated that the land transfer still required more attention and that the strategic partnership plan provisions were still under discussion with senior legal counsel. She added that there was further discussion required regarding urban encroachment into the park and that the HoA revised draft document had been approved.

Western Cape Department of Environmental Affairs and Development Planning and Cape Nature

Mr Gerhard Gerber, Head of Department: Environmental Affairs and Development, Western Cape Government, stated that they were not party to the Heads of Agreement (HoA) but, as the provincial conservation authority together with Cape Nature, they were also the provincial land use authority with a great interest in the National Park.  

Dr Ernest Baard, Executive Director: Conservation Operations, Cape Nature, represented Dr Razeena Omar, Chief Executive Officer, Cape Nature. He confirmed that Cape Nature was not a signatory to the HoA. He clarified that the entity did not manage land on the Cape Peninsula and therefore, remains as the nature conservation authority or conservation agency for the Western Cape Province in a regulatory function under the nature conservation ordinance as well as under the auspice of the new Western Cape biodiversity regulatory act. He added that the entity did not have anything to present as Dr Omar had engaged with the Committee.

SANParks

Ms Pam Yako, Chairperson, SANParks, said the presentation she would render was on the Table Mountain National Parks HoA which is in line with the agreement between SANParks and the CoCT. She explained that the importance of the park, in terms of the conservation estate that SANParks manages, is a critical park and they would like to ensure that everything that is done by management is in line with the highest conservation standards. She added that as they work with the city in matters of the HoA, they are guided by principles of intergovernmental cooperation and relations. She explained that there had been a need identified to review the HoA which was established in 1998, and that this was ongoing work which encompassed legal aspects as well as various working groups tackling issues that have been identified.

She added that there had been areas where they had been caught in legal matters and that there were still issues which required the views of senior counsel. She hoped that these could be resolved so that the management of the park could be achieved in a way that suits the interest of all parties. She stated that she would not go into detail as Mr Mokoena would do so in the presentation.

Ms Yako said the delegation present included Mr Dumisani Dlamini, Acting Chief Executive Officer and Ms Yolan Freidman, Chairperson of the Conservation Committee, as the work falls under the committee that she manages. She added that Mr Mokoena, who was to present, is responsible for all National Parks excluding the Kruger National Park. Dr Luthando Dziba, Head of Conservation, SANParks, was also in attendance.

Discussion
Mr Singh said that he had been reading about a proposal for a hotel or some type of infrastructure in the park or on the mountain which seemed to have been receiving some kind of support. This is despite there being concerns around the biodiversity and environmental impact. He asked that someone speaks on the issue.  

Ms Phillips, addressing the presentation by SANParks, said all conservation functions had been taken over, she wanted to know how that impacted the conservation activity of the human-wildlife conflict, especially regarding baboons and highlighted that this had not been mentioned as a key issue. The park was open access and in light of the human-wildlife conflict that had been experienced, she asked whether it would not be advisable or considered to put up some boundary fences in strategic areas to help prevent this conflict. She said that SANParks took no responsibility for the human-wildlife conflict and did not attend the previous two meetings organised by Cape Nature in regards to the human-baboon conflict. The habitat of wildlife, especially their water and food resources, is constrained by human development and therefore it is expected that there will be more human wildlife conflicts and a plan needed to be set in place. She inquired from SANParks on what their intentions were to help to address this conflict.

Mr Bryant said that the future of Table Mountain National Park was at a critical stage. He stated that the park was not only a tourist destination for international and domestic travellers, but is also a part of South African culture. He emphasised that it is also important to all South Africans and Capetonians that the iconic mountain be protected and also the fauna and flora as well as all the activities that go along with the mountain and the surrounding reserve.

In terms of security, he mentioned that stakeholders, businesses, and tourist agencies have flagged security as being an issue on the mountain. He acknowledged that the Minister had taken great steps over the past year towards getting an enhanced security system in place, a new facility and assisting with getting the dogs back. However, he highlighted that there were still some serious security issues on the mountain, and that he still needed clarity in terms of the responsibility that has been taken on by SANParks as this had not been clear. He acknowledged that the issue had been touched on briefly by the CoCT during the presentation but further emphasized that the issue was both an important and central aspect. He explained that the ongoing security issue does not only apply to mugging incidents and theft but also to recent bursts of abalone poachers. Plant species have also been poached and sold off. He added that the South African Police Services (SAPS) plays a key role but there is also a role for SANParks augmented by CoCT as well, he asked for feedback on the matter.

Mr Bryant highlighted that it was mentioned that both parties needed to agree on a couple of land transfers, and further asked for an explanation on the matter, the nature of the disagreement, how the co-management agreement worked in terms of marine protected areas and those responsible. He asked if SANParks was entirely responsible and if that was not the case, how a work balance had been reached and whether there was a written agreement.
 
He asked who was responsible for managing the boundaries of the park, whether there were areas of the park that were fenced, and those responsible for the maintenance of that fencing in those areas should it be broken or destroyed.

He asked on when the CoCT would complete the nomination process for the Table Mountain Forum, and if it was possible to get feedback on whether the forum was currently functional and meeting regularly.

He asked if a deadline had been set in terms of when the HoA would be concluded.

The Chairperson, referring to the issue raised regarding the implementation of the HoA, said that it is known that certain things are subject to legal opinions. On the part of SANParks, she acknowledged that there was a legal sub-committee that met to discuss the legal opinions and both parties were consulting on the opinions that have been received.

On the issue of the negotiation, she did not see the timeframe as to when these would commence and asked for clarity on the obligations.

She asked whether the CoCT was able to transfer staff and assets as there is still an issue about the transfer of land to SANParks. She added that Alderman Eddie Andrews would have to explain why the transfer of the land to SANParks had not been done as well as the annual review of the cost to cover the administration and the management of the park.

She stated that when agreements are entered into, they need to be renegotiated. She asked whether it was clear as to how much land CoCT contributed to the Table Mountain National Park, as the agreement seemed to be between owners.

She added that from her understanding, the HoA seemed to be a contract between CoCT and SANParks and asked whether this was in writing.

Responses

Alderman Eddie Andrews, Deputy Mayor, City of Cape Town, said that when he took office in November, one of the first matters that was brought to his attention was the SANParks HoA issue. Thereafter, a series of internal engagements with the city’s administrative and political teams to consolidate what was still outstanding immediately began. He agreed that the relationship between CoCT and SANParks was not what both parties preferred it to be as there exist several matters which had not been given the required attention.

He added that most of the Members had sought clarity on a few matters which all link to operational matters, and said that improvements on basic relations were needed. There needed to be more intimate operational relations as this would resolve most of the matters which currently need input.

He said a real current issue would be the baboon management and how respective obligations were to be fulfilled, including respective action from the Cape Nature colleagues who are key partners in the program. There are some operational concerns and constraints with the matter and there needs to be a plan on how to best move forward in a sustainable manner.

Another recent matter relating to the SANParks agreement would be how the concessions are advertised, managed, and issued as well. More importantly, how communication with stakeholders and partners who currently have a concession would be achieved. He added that the issue also includes the coordination of a response in the safety of the people who hike up mountains or any other safety aspect. What needs to be addressed is how best to improve on the matter.

He stated that with the absence of engagements being pursued, it was difficult for CoCT to transfer land when there was no strategic partnership plan and independent oversight. He added that this was due to the fact that the foundational relations between both parties were not what was desired. He said that he appreciated all the commentators, however, there was still difficulty in communication even with basic things.

Referring to the planning applications and the hotel that is being proposed, he said that they were arguing the point that whenever there is an entity of national government where land has been allocated for operations along the coast or in mountainous areas, such as Table Mountain National Park using the CoCT’s Development Applications Management Plan, the proposed usable should be consistent with the entities’ core focus area. Whatever is proposed, be it official or simply expressed interest, has to be consistent with the core focus areas.  He emphasised by saying “We are not going to draw a hard line in the proverbial sand on this matter”. He acknowledged that all parties would prefer to be happy, and this could only be achieved through communication on a basic level, and ensuring that input is given on important matters.

Alderman Andrews said that from the perspective of the CoCT, every activity leads to the local municipality and that is why there are planned relations improvements so that key issues may be resolved. He added that if any of the stakeholders are absent from conversations, the integrity of any objective is compromised, and this was not what they wanted as they pride themselves on being a responsive government. The aim is to improve on collaborative efforts to ensure that final outcomes are achieved in a manner that satisfies everyone.

ms Gerrans, referring to timeframes, mentioned that as soon as the issues relating to legal opinions have been finalised, there is a draft document in place with which to reconvene the steering committee and thereafter look at the process to adopt the revised HoA. She added that the sooner the legal matters are resolved, the quicker things would be able to move forward. Within the next few months, there should be a way forward, and this would allow for some of the issues to be resolved and to get the agreement to a state where there could be internal discussions with political principals.

With regards to the question relating to the nomination of a Park Forum representative, she stated that the forum was drafted and would serve at the Council in either May/June.

Ms Yako echoed the CoCT’s approach on the matter and added that there is a need for collaboration between SANParks and the City. She said that, in this regard, they would like to be given an opportunity to look at some of the concerns that the City seemed to have that are outside of the issues related to the HoA so that they work together on these matters.

With regards to the other questions, she stated that she would ask the officials to respond.

In the chat, Alderman Andrews made a commitment to Ms Yako to connect.

Mr Mokoena, referring to the Public Private Partnership (PPP) request for development in the upholstery battery on Table Mountain, said that the site has military history and is zoned as a mixed-use site which means that development would be fitting.

On the question of conservation functions being taken by up SANParks, he confirmed that it was indeed correct and added that they are responsible for all conservation within the boundary of SANParks.

He indicated that the baboon population is mainly in the Cape Point area, which is fenced and the responsibility to maintain the fencing was that of SANParks and Table Mountain National Parks.

Regarding the issue of security, he agreed that there is indeed a problem because one can access the mountain from any given side. There has been a recent team launch of 18 members who are trained in sea, air and mountainous rescue work and the results are evident. There were measures put in place to ensure that in areas considered peak areas for poaching, there are resources such as helicopters which have been deployed to assist law enforcement and rescue people who get stuck on the mountain. He added that the success of such can be definite only if joint efforts are provided by the city and community at large.
 
He explained that the Park Forum had been launched, and this was the result of engagements between the Minister and stakeholders which was held in Table Mountain. The chairperson of the Park Forum had, however, resigned and processes have been initiated to make sure that the forum is supported to be able to function in its optimal capacity.

On the question about the hectares which were supposed to be transferred, he indicated that it was around 15 or 16 hectares.

Dr Luthando Dziba, Managing Executive: Conservation Services, SANParks, addressed the questions relating to human-wildlife conflict, mainly around the baboons. He highlighted that Mr Mokoena mentioned the fact that there was a baboon population on both SANParks land and land that either belongs to the city or private land. One of the key issues that have been mentioned was the fact that there are challenges with regards to the management of baboons and trying to keep them away from residential areas without using lethal methods. The challenge of the growing baboon population has placed pressure on various troops, and this might push them to seek easily accessible food sources in the city surroundings. The forwarded proposal is to establish cooperation between the entity, the city and Cape Nature around managing baboons which will ensure that there is no shifting the blame from one party to the next. The baboons inside the park are the responsibility of the park, however, once they leave the boundaries, they become a provincial responsibility. They are also moving in and out of the park and as such, there should be collaboration on this to ensure effective management of the population.

Addressing the question around marine protected areas, he mentioned that the Robben Island marine protected area is the one that interfaces between sea and land, and this has been assigned to SANParks as a management authority.

He stated that an operational plan had been completed for the Robben Island marine protected area as well as the marine protected areas in Addo and Namaqua. They hoped that some of the work that relates to the responsibilities of managing marine protected areas could be executed in such a way that the conservation outcomes are achieved.

He indicated that they were aware of the fact that some of the illegal activities such as the poaching of abalone happen in areas that are in the marine protected areas. The rescue team that has been established works closely with law enforcement in the city and there has been established communication between city law enforcement officers, SANParks rangers and security as well as SAPS in an integrated way to ensure that some of the issues relating to illegal activities in the area are addressed accordingly. Similarly, with issues that relate to illegal harvesting of plants in the park, when city officials, law enforcement officers and SAPS find or catch anyone, they forward reports and SANParks manages those as best as possible to minimise impact. He added that they worked closely with Alderman JP Smith and his team, and there is a lot of information sharing to reduce wildlife crimes and possibly eliminate it in the national park.

Mr Dumisani Dlamini, Acting Chief Executive Officer, SANParks, addressed the question on infrastructure posed by Mr Singh. He confirmed that there was an open tender requesting proposals in the market for PPP which was part of the commercialisation strategy. In this particular PPP, leaders were requested to help SANParks establish a 20 luxury room hotel development with an estimated investment of around R65 million. He indicated that there was a preferred bidder who had been regular according to the internal SCM processes. All internal processes were being concluded in order to make a formal announcement on the matter.

The Chairperson opened the floor for concluding comments.

Alderman Andrews stated that he had three specific questions that needed clarity. With regards to the baboons being the responsibility of the park, he asked if this was inclusive of all the baboons or only those that are at Cape Point. He noted that once the baboon enters the urban areas then the obligation changes slightly, however, he inquired as to what could be done to ensure that the baboons stay in their natural habitat. With all the income derived from the Table Mountain National Park, he asked on how much had been reinvested back into the park.

The Chairperson added that Ms Yako and the senior management team should reach out to the new city management and said that these were matters that needed to be discussed.

Mr Singh stated that he did not have a question but a comment on the response from Mr Dlamini regarding the concession and the PPP that is being considered. He said that those of them who had just returned from Nairobi had seen how a game park and a city can live side by side. He hoped that all three spheres of government had been adequately consulted on the proposal, mentioning that it should not be used to sort out financial woes but should rather be based on environmental protection before any financial considerations.

Ms Phillips said that several baboons do not originate in Cape Point but there are those that come from Table Mountain National Park. She asked for clarity on how those baboons become the responsibility of the city when they leave the park. She added that Kruger National Park and SANParks are bodies that deal with human-wildlife conflicts and do not push it on the provincial government. She sought clarity on why there were such changes when it comes to the Western Cape government.

Dr Baard wanted to put on record that in terms of the Western Cape situation with the baboon conservation and management under the current laws, there is the nature conservation ordinance as well as the new biodiversity act that is being consented by the Premier within the legal framework. Cape Nature, as the conservation agency of the province, has the following responsibilities, policy formulation, lawmaking, and compliance and enforcement of baboons in this case. When there are problems with the baboons off SANParks property, there are several investigations of human-wildlife incidents which are illegal incidents under the ordinance which is the ruling law. He added that they were not shirking that responsibility.

He highlighted that in collaboration with other local authorities such as Plettenberg Bay, Knysna, the Overstrand, CoCT and Pikketberg areas there was a lot of awareness being done as well as raising partnerships with local authorities and management advice. He added that, under these laws, Cape Nature does not have the obligation to keep baboons out of urban areas. The management of nuisance animals and health and safety of residents, was the local authority’s mandate and within that sphere, that is where the cooperative governance lies for human-baboon conflict on the Cape Peninsula. He stated that he proposed and supported an integrated approach to baboon management specifically within and outside urban areas. 

Ms Yako said that, as an entity, they deal with matters of conservation and the management of conservation areas and added that the issue of working collaboratively as the spheres and in partnership is of paramount importance. That is why there is a need for SANParks to sit together with the new city leadership and brief one another in terms of finding ways of working better between the two entities.

She said that when looking into concessions, it is not only the financial gain that is targeted when such establishments are considered, but because SANParks is a conservation agency, things are done within the environmental prescripts and that is what guides all PPPs in national parks.

The Chairperson asked how the CoCT and SANParks differentiate between the baboons that come from the park and those from the provincial nature reserve and whether the animals were tagged for identification purposes.

Ms Creecy said that Dr Baard gave a very good explanation of how the process must be handled in an integrated manner by all levels of government. She suggested that the fundamental problem was that, there not only exist complexities in terms of the management of baboons at different levels of government, but there is also a significant civil society interest and involvement in this process. The consequence of that is that management processes are being pulled in different directions. She added that she had suggested this to the chairperson of the board and would also like to make the same suggestion in the sitting so that this matter be further examined. She added that what was needed was a round table on the question of baboon management and also to make sure that civil society organisations are brought in so that everyone could be on the same page. Civil society has an important role to play as well as the three levels of government and there needs to be a developed agreement on an approach to human-wildlife conflict as well as an agreement on best practice and a way forward.

She made a plea to the City, indicating that when she convened the meeting with stakeholders and role players, it was very well attended and there was enormous interest from civil society to get actively involved in the management of the urban park. That is why the forum is so critically important because it helps to reach those who are interested in assisting in different actively involved departments together with the three levels of government. She sent out a plea to the City to fast track the process and attend the council meeting in May and not to wait for June. She said that there was a lot of commitment from the citizens of Cape Town to be actively involved in the process and if there was consistency in the way management processes were approached, then it would be a priority to listen to and involve the communities in the Western Cape.

She highlighted that, as the Members have stressed, the park is important and iconic and is one of the jewels in the SANParks crown and for all these reasons, which have been stressed in the Committee, it is of importance that commitment remains to ensure that cooperative governance processes give the best possible outcomes, both for the residents and the conservation.

Performance Report on the Environment Sector and Associated Recommendations

Mr Robert Nkuna, Director-General, Department of Monitoring and Evaluation (DPME), said he liked the way that the Committee had been engaging with the Department, as it had been consistent in engaging with the work of the DPME. He stated that the presentation came in part from what was presented to Cabinet and the Minister was aware of some of the issues that were raised in the previous engagement. He added that there had also been a follow up with the Director-General and engagements with the Department would continue with regards to some of the issues that require respective attention. He added that they were interested in the performance of the Department and get concerned when there are challenges with performance, however, it does not end there as they work together to find solutions. One of the issues that had been established across the departments are programmes that involve various government departments. First, horizontally, there are always challenges that need to be unlocked. There are also those that are vertical, where there are inter-sphere issues that present constraints in the performance of government. He mentioned that the presentation would serve to highlight challenges and continue with the recommendations.

Mr Zakkhele Mdlalose, DPME, highlighted a few constraints and recommendations as raised by various departments. The presentation included seven government priorities for the 2019-2024 term which included, economic transformation and job creation, education, skills and health as well as the spatial integration of human settlements and local government. The DPME listed a few of the achievements such as enabling the role of Just Transition to Sector Emission Targets (SETS) and Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC). There are also set improvement plans for the ease of doing business especially on the Atmospheric Emission Licences and capacitated local government spheres and online AELS approval.

The DPME has also recommended that a study be undertaken by the DEFF on the options of centralisation. They also recommended that sector reports should reflect alignment to seven priority reports (PESI, ERRP, Masterplans Just Transition plans) as well as their contributions towards different government outcomes and impact by different departmental programmes.

Discussion

The Chairperson thanked the presenters and expressed it was always exciting to hear from the Department as the reports assist greatly.

Ms Phillips asked a question about the waste economy. She said that she noticed that the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) have not been met and added that she was concerned by the lack of progress considering that it causes a lot of pollution in water waves. She also noticed that the Kruger Park camps lacked in the area of waste management and added that this needed to be addressed urgently. She asked that the Department presents a plan on how the issue would be fixed.

She inquired about the Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP) jobs created in Working on Water and Working on Fire. She stated that Working on Fire jobs are very specialised and it did not seem practical to use EPWP workers unless they had to take on roles such as clearing alien invasive plants. She asked for clarity on where these workers were utilised. She explained that the Working on Water project in Johannesburg was a huge failure, the workers cleared the reeds, left them and they were never collected, and private residents had to make arrangement for collection.  She added that there have also been a number of instances where the EPWP workers have cut down indigenous trees instead of alien invasive plants. She wanted to know the kind of training people undergo before being EPWP workers in Working on Water and Working on Fire.

Mr Singh thanked the DPME for a high-level report and found it provided another avenue of oversight.


On the question of waste management, he stated that when reading the presentation there was a sentence that read “lower targets do not allow the waste industries” and asked for clarity.

Mr Bryant stated that some of the targets that have been set, the overall sitting at 48%, are three years in, two years are left, and the final year will probably be chaotic with elections.  He asked how confident the officials were that they were going to increase and improve on the percentage to try and get it as close as possible to a 100%.

In terms of the spatial integration of human settlements, which is sitting at 32% at the moment, he asked about the steps to be taken to improve on this.  

Ms A Weber (DA) said that she had one question about the waste economy. She indicated that the presenter mentioned there had been someone who was appointed to start with the process began in December 2021. As it stands, it is almost five months later, and the person has not been appointed. She added that she did not think that it had to take such a lengthy period to appoint someone to take on such an important role.

The Chairperson commended the Department for being courageous enough to identify the binding constraints. What comes to mind after looking at the binding constraints is whether the Department shares those constraints, and that being DFFE. She added that she was raising the point as it was very important, and unless an agreement on issues is met, there will always be pulling in different directions. It was said that the presidential climate commission was currently considered as the mechanism to centralize the just transition implementation and that a study would be implemented in this regard. She asked whether it would not be appropriate to first conduct a study to determine the appropriateness of designating the Presidential Climate Commission (PCC) rather than the other way around.

Responses

Mr Nkuna said that the issues raised as binding constraints were not new and this caused worry because work on the fourth biannual report of the Department has already commenced. He added that it was clear that the next report would be a repetition of the same issues raised. These issues had been raised consistently and were now escalated to the Minister. There are also challenges that arise from the horizontal configuration of the state but there are also vertical challenges. He added that the Department took the matter seriously and asked everyone to pay attention to how the structure of the state, at some point, becomes a constraint. He added that they agreed with the Department on most of the issues that have been raised and that these may be specific issues that require further interrogation.

On the PCC, he said that the issue had been raised in a prior engagement with the Department because the PCC also came to them and there are things that they were committed to do to help the PCC when it comes to monitoring and evaluation. There is work that we are doing on our side and the department is also coming into play.
 
He said they were also very interested in the issue of waste economy for the reasons that have been stated by the Members and that there was improvement that still needed to be done as there is also a dimension of job creation. He added that this was a master plan and if it is not ready at present, there is a probability that the current term of the administration may end without any jobs having been created. He said that they would continue to engage with the Department and asked that the Committee do the same and follow up on these kinds of interventions. He said that their view was clear and that the master plan should be expedited and targets should be set and agreed upon in terms of the jobs to be created. Thus far, the reports were based on finalisation and not the core issue of job creation. He mentioned that they would continue to monitor and engage with the Department to make sure that it is expedited.

Mr Nkuna explained that they were not receiving information from the Department, only to rehash it to the Committee. They partly receive reports from departments, including annual reports, and their responsibility was to consider the reports and verify the information by seeking evidence which could be in the form of documentation or infrastructure.

He agreed that objectives which had not been achieved, at present, were more likely to not be finalised by the end of the five-year term.

DPME was working on the mid-term review of the current administration, to identify issues, activities or interventions which can be accelerated in order to achieve them before the end of the current term. He added that they were currently looking at the APP to determine its efficiency.

On special transformation at the national level, he explained that the special development framework done after extensive consultation with various stakeholders within and outside government, had been finalised. What was outstanding was translating the framework to provincial and local special development frameworks. Special development plans had become highly contested in the KZN space, including the role of traditional leaders now that the special development plans were being moved to the precincts from the land affairs department. He said that it was therefore vital to pay attention to areas in South Africa that are risk averse so that the municipal special development framework could be translated into special development plans in spaces that are challenged.

Mr Mdlalose indicated that the DG had answered most of the questions.

On Mr Singh’s question about the waste management low target, he mentioned that is was an error to indicate that if the sector sets a low target, this meant that the industry is not allowed to grow. In terms of the demand and supply of waste recyclables, these need to be driven by the sector targets.

On the issue of working with water and the specific training for the programmes, he said that with the emerging challenges faced, the departments have been made aware. In the areas where errors have happened, the departments have been advised to come up with improvement plans to resolve those matters. As part of the work, an integrated approach is required. However, the efficiency and training focus tends to change with different department requests and these are subject to requests made to the DPWI. This then leads to the integration and synchronisation of government work both vertically and horizontally. He mentioned that the lack of progress on waste masterplan has been outlined and its importance raised. He added that the pollution issues in waterways were going to be resolved. He emphasized that the key issue was integration. For example, if there is a lot of waste generated by the Kruger National Park and is not properly managed, this would require an integrated waste management approach between the point where waste is generated to the point where waste is taken to be synchronised and aligned.

It has been indicated through the mid-term review, the issue of the improvement plans was to be part of the considerations to be sent to different role-players within the sector as some of the issues raised were not sitting squarely with DFFE.

The Chairperson asked whether the DFFE shared the same views when it came to the issue of binding constraints listed on the presentation. She stated that there was bound to be a pull in different directions when it has not been acknowledged that there is a problem. She asked on what the reaction was to this fact, and indicated for Ms Tshabalala to respond.

Mr Nkuna stated that they were in agreement on these constraints, and that the report had gone to Cabinet and the outcomes and engagements had been accepted. He added that there was to be a ministry-level meeting, which would be in place, to take these issues forward and added that the fact that the report had gone to the cabinet meant there was mutual agreement. He added that the bilateral which was held with the DG, resulted in an agreement on almost all of the points raised.

Ms Nomfundo Tshabalala, Director-General, DFFE, said she had been covered by Mr Nkuna. She also confirmed that they had had engagements and they had also followed up on all the areas that had been highlighted in the DPME’s report and identified the areas that require intervention. She added that they had shared their approach with the DPME and require this to be a close engagement, especially where there are dependencies from other sector departments.

The Chairperson thanked all the presenters and excused them.

The Committee considered and adopted its report on the Strategic Plan 2019/20—2023/24, Annual Performance Plans (APPs) 2022/23 and the Budget Vote 32 of the DFFE and its programme for the second term.

The meeting was adjourned.
 

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