WHO 2022 Optical Radiation and EMF Research findings as it pertains to SA, Isimangaliso & SAWS 2021/22 Quarter 3 & 4 Performance

Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment

23 August 2022
Chairperson: Ms F Muthambi (ANC)
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Meeting Summary


The Portfolio Committee met virtually to be briefed on optical radiation and electromagnetic fields (EMF) research findings pertaining to South Africa from a World Health Organisation (WHO) representative. It also received reports from iSimangaliso Wetland Park and the South African Weather Service on their performance in the third and fourth quarters.

The Committee Chairperson expressed scepticism over the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and Environment's (DFFE's) competency to deal with a presentation on EMF radiation exposure, and suggested that there were several other departments where such a presentation would be more appropriate. The Committee Secretary was asked to submit the WHO's presentation to the parliamentary researchers for analysis and summary, so the researchers could advise the Committee on how it could assist with this new research. The Committee also advised the WHO representative to approach and present its findings to relevant government departments.

Despite the three catastrophes that befell KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) -- the civil unrest, flooding and COVID-19 -- iSimangaliso Wetland Park had managed to achieve 92 % of its targets, and had also received an unqualified audit report. Members wanted to know why executives of Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife had missed some of the Park's meetings; how the Committee could intervene to help deal with the poaching and disasters that occur at Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife; how many land claims had been lodged against the entity to date; and what activities would form part of its commercialisation strategy.

A Member reported that the community had raised some concerns over lions attacking their cattle. He had had to raise the issue with the provincial Member of the Executive Council, and the matter was being taken to the Human Rights Commission for investigation.

The South African Weather Service (SAWS) performed at 80% and 88.8 % respectively, during the second and third quarters. The Committee asked how many weather stations were at risk of being vandalised and not operational, and how that would affect its operations; why were some of the radar facilities not functional; what lessons they had learnt from the KZN floods, and whether they were confident that they had the capacity to deal with such large-scale events in the future; what services did SAWS render for money, and were they paid to deliver some of the public services, especially for TV and radio broadcasts; what significant intervention had SAWS put in place to reduce the personnel attrition rate; and to what extent did load-shedding impact its ability to provide weather-related information?

Members also requested an update on the state of animal welfare in the country, and the procedures surrounding the submissions on the Climate Change Bill.

Meeting report

Committee matters
The Chairperson welcomed everyone to the meeting, and acknowledged the apologies received from the Minister, Ms Barbara Creecy, and the Director General (DG), Ms Nomfundo Tshabalala.
Ms Vanessa Bendeman, acting on behalf of the DG, asked to be excused from the meeting at 12h00.

Mr N Singh (IFP) moved the adoption of the agenda, and Ms C Phillips (DA) seconded.

The Chairperson asked the Committee to comment on its draft programme.

Mr Singh asked if there would be an official engagement on 30 August after the "Lions, Bones and Bullets" screening. Would the Minister and other Portfolio Committee Members be invited? Could they also get an update on animal welfare?

Mr D Bryant (DA) asked about the oral submissions for the Climate Change Bill. Would this be in a virtual format? How would this process take place?

The Chairperson said that because of the anticipated volume of the Climate Change Bill engagements, she advised that a Google account had to be created so that all the Committee Members could access all the submissions. She added that the Members needed to meet to strategise how they would approach the submissions on the Bill.
Ms Phillips raised her concern about the lack of updates on Animal Welfare. Could they get a report on the High Level Panel (HLP) from St Lucia's Estuary?

Mr Singh moved the adoption of the draft programme, and Ms T Mchunu (ANC) seconded.

Chairperson's remarks
The Chairperson said Parliament had directed the Committee to process the World Health Organisation (WHO) report on the optical radiation and electromagnetic field (EMF) research findings in South Africa.

The Committee would also be briefed on the second and third quarter performance and expenditure reports for iSimangaliso Wetland Park and the South African Weather Service (SAWS). Although this would not be a representation of the entities' annual reports, she believed that they would get a fair assessment of the entire performance when the Portfolio Committee engaged with them. They were expected to present to the Committee after the audit interventions. Whatever they were going to get from these two entities today would prepare them for the annual audit results.

The Chairperson said that the report from WHO was supposed to be sent to the Portfolio Committee that oversaw the Departments of Health (DoH), Science and Technology (DST) or Communications and Digital Technologies (DCDT). The DCDT was responsible for generating the EMF and associated radiation. The regulatory practitioners, such as the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA), should have been consulted, as they were expected to study, monitor, regulate and implement a national EMF, radiation exposures and protection standards. It seemed that this had not been the case.

She said the Acting DG and the Deputy Minister needed to ask themselves about the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and Environment's (DFFE's) competency regarding EMF radiation exposure. She also wondered if there was a perception outside that they were the ones who made things happen. That was maybe why things were sent to this Portfolio Committee, especially regarding this technical report. Why had a report of this nature from the WHO never been tabled before this Committee?

WHO on optical radiation and research
Mr James Lech, Doctoral Candidate from Amsterdam University Medical Centre, Department of Radiology & Nuclear Medicine: Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) Division, presented on optical radiation and research pertaining to South Africa.

He said that South Africa had policies for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) that aimed to increase the percentage of women in power. He argued that according to mitochondrial deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA), if the environment was not adaptable, women would be more susceptible to acquiring autoimmune diseases, thus decreasing their chances of being in leadership positions. He said that the leptin receptor in the brain was an evolutionary mechanism, so if the environment was not adapted, people would likely put on inflammation weight.

Attaching pipes through existing water pumps could be used to alter the electric potential energy of the water inside a pool, creating nanobubbles that clear harmful algae. The process also encouraged a healthy pond ecosystem.

Mr Lech said that he was hoping to get a report or feedback on the community's issues -- for example, the National Health Insurance (NHI) and lack of funding. Issues could be addressed at an individual level. He asked the Members of the Committee to go and try some of the practical methods he had mentioned in the presentation, because only by experiencing science could one begin to understand, and it became much easier to roll out the applications. For example, light bulbs using photon flux improved the grass around buildings, even under drought conditions. One did not need to plant 10 000 trees, which was labour intensive, but could introduce algae for carbon dioxide capture around buildings. Consumers needed to be taxed when they bought products from South African Breweries, but the brewery could implement carbon sequestration methods in their value change.

(To engage further with practical solutions that would make the environment more habitable, please consult Mr Lech's presentation).

Mr Singh asked Mr Lech how the Committee could be involved in making the environment a better place to live. He suggested that the parliamentary researchers analyse the presentation, meet with other affected departments -- especially the Department of Health -- and summarise the presentation into a report to highlight exactly what was required from this Portfolio Committee. He also asked about the impact of 5G on the environment as it pertained to the fourth industrial revolution.

Mr Bryant stressed that he had struggled to follow the presentation to see the specific reference to this Portfolio Committee. He asked Mr Lech which department was funding his studies, and what his specialisations were.

Mr Lech's response
Mr Lech said that 5G was an invisible light, and that its safety depended on how it was installed, monitored and configured. The impact of the bioadapation of 5G on the coupled and uncoupled DNA in terms of climate change was different. It was therefore important to develop treatment protocols for the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) because they would be highly exposed to 5G used in the military for a long period of time and the impacts would differ in terms of weight gain and treatment. He added that he had developed a teaching course to convey to medical students on biophysics which organs of the body were affected by different spectrums of radiation, the diagnoses and the treatments.

He said that any site in South Africa that wanted to install 5G transmitters would need to provide the name of the product, its output, the positioning and the angle, in accordance with the telecommunication laws. Using good technical solutions, the information would be consolidated into a 3D propagation model using a Geographic Information System (GIS) to avoid pseudoscience and harmful impacts of 5G.

Mr Lech said he was a diplomatic science officer, so he did not report to one government entity. His original funding was from the National Research Foundation. He had a very wide background in geography, computer science, information systems, animal welfare and business administration.

The Chairperson thanked the presenter, and said that the Portfolio Committee would proceed with Mr Singh's advice, and advised Mr Lech to approach other affected departments regarding his innovations.

iSimangaliso Wetland Park Quarterly Performance

Chairperson's overview

Prof Thandi Nzama, Chairperson of iSimangaliso Wetland Park Board, said that the entity achieved 92 % of its target, despite the three catastrophes of COVID-19, looting and floods it had been faced with. Strides had been taken to reduce the percentage of the off-target performance during the report compilation, and the entity had received an unqualified audit opinion.

Prof Nzama said that iSimangaliso had worked very hard to ensure that it executed its mandate by maintaining its World Heritage Site status and ecological integrity. The entity was working very hard to follow through with the implementation plan of recommendations of the ministerial panel of experts on breaching the mouth of St Lucia's estuary. The action plan had been developed, and currently, there was a lot of progress that required a lot of financing.

The entity had formed a task team to establish terms of reference for the social and ethics committee of the board, to engage closely with the local communities and strengthen the relationship between the entity and its stakeholders. There has also been progress in the implementation of the commercialisation strategy. Financial sustainability remained a top priority.

The presentation was delivered by the CEO, Mr Sibusiso Bukhosini, and the CFO, Ms Qhamu Mntambo.

Action plan

Mr Sibusiso Bukhosini, Chief Executive Officer (CEO), iSimangaliso Wetland Park, said that the entity had developed an action plan after they received a report from the panel of experts. The plan's focus was to ensure that tasks and activities were developed through the entity and other government structures, farmers and the community.

One of the key issues that had arisen was it still needed to be executed, and needed a budget estimated at R29 million. They currently had a budget of R1 million, and were engaging with the DFFE to come up with funding sources to kick off the implementation plan. They were also looking at engaging the DGs from the Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) and Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (DALRRD) to check how best they could assist with some of the activities outlined in the implementation plan.

The clearing of the reeds that stabilise the dunes had been ongoing, but was currently being disturbed by the inundation of water and an influx of crocodiles and hippos into the estuary. The entity had been unable to remove the sediments that blocked the water canal, especially outside of the Park, and that responsibility had to be transferred to the DWS. They were also engaging with the farmers, because they owned these canals.

Mr Bukhosini said they had agreed with a collective of stakeholders that special task teams would be developed to deal with different issues concerning the challenges faced by the entity. A provision had been made regarding the appointment of an estuarine ecologist in the budget adjustment, with the allocation of a certain amount of money to appoint this specialist on a five-year contract. They had also written to the SA National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) to second the appointment of an ecologist to iSimangaliso, and were awaiting their response.

He said that the estuary was currently open, and the entity had seen an impact on the vegetation inside the estuary that had been drying up. The water level and salinity issues were dealt with by Ezemvelo KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) Wildlife daily. He had gone to meet with the Dukuduku community, as they were largely affected, and had explained all the implementation plans, engagements and challenges faced by the entity. He had assured the community that they would get frequent updates on how far the entity was in terms of the implementation of the action plan.

The Park had obtained an exemption from National Treasury regarding commercialisation. The project team he had appointed had sent a report to his desk for approval of activities under R10 million. The advertising of activities such as diving, open game drive vehicles and boats would commence in September. They had written to the Minister for the larger amount of capital to let her know that they had completed all the required processes. They were in the process of appointing transactional advisors, and were also conducting feasibility studies.

The programme's progress for the third and fourth quarters was as follows:

Corporate support - 90%;
Biodiversity and conservation - 82%;
Tourism and business development - 100%;
Socio-economic and environmental development - 94%.

Ms Qhamu Mntambo, Chief Financial Officer, said cumulative total revenue amounted to R187.8 million to date. Operational expenditure had increased by R55.2 million due to additional grants received by the entity. Expenditure had been maintained accordingly throughout the quarter, and there had been no over-expenditure.

(For further information on the progress of the programmes, please consult the presentation.)

Mr Byant asked why the biodiversity and conservation programme was 12 % off-target. Which areas within the programme were affected? Did it have to do with the budget? Why were Ezemvelo representatives unable to attend the meeting on 21 December? What kind of reasons did they offer, considering that they had been informed earlier and had also agreed to meet? What areas of the fence projects would the R70 million in unspent grants target?

Ms Phillips asked Prof Nzama what action project plan she had been referring to. How many meetings have been held with the small scale and commercial farmers since the High Level Panel (HLP) report came out? Were the rangers in the estuary not trained to deal with crocodiles and hippos so that the job of clearing the invasive species could commence? How many hectares of alien invasive plants had been cleared? What had happened to the Head Office building?

She said that she was confused that Mr Bukhosini had said that he used an action plan from the HLP report to determine the actions that were required. Were they not supposed to know what needed to be done before drafting an action plan? Why did they need to use the R29 million for the implementation plan? She said the approximate quote for removing the sediment in the estuary was about R6 million, but nothing had been done. They had been sitting for six months after the HLP report was submitted to address a very critical problem in St Lucia, and there was physically no change. Was the sand level and the amount of sediment flowing into and out of the estuary measured? If they were being measured, where were they measured? What were the measurements?

How could the Committee intervene regarding poaching and the disasters at Ezemvelo? If they did not do anything, they would probably have no rhinos left and the communities might take the law into their own hands.

Mr Singh said the meeting that had been scheduled for 27 January with Ezemvelo was not held. Had any meeting taken place, considering that there was a new board at Ezemvelo as announced by the previous Member of the Executive Council (MEC)? To what extent did the DFFE play a role in ensuring that funding was available? He asked for a list of all the projects/entities/subdivisions that would be commercialised, and when tenders would go out.

The Chairperson commended the iSimangaliso Wetland Park team for the great job they had done, despite the challenges they were facing. They had improved their engagements with the surrounding local communities. She encouraged the team to enforce the law with compassion. What was the total number of land claims lodged against the Park as of June 2019, and how many claims have been resolved to date? How many were outstanding? Did the recent land claims around the Park have anything to do with the outstanding land claims?

iSimangaliso Wetland Park's response
Prof Nzama said that the action plan referred to was the one the CEO had mentioned in the presentation, and was based on the recommendations of the ministerial panel of experts. The implementation plan had been planned by the entity, and was presented to every stakeholder that was present. There was then an action plan which was an indication of what would be done and when. At this point, it was discovered that for the entity to really implement each recommendation, there would be a need to raise the R29 million.

She repeated that a number of meetings had been held with stakeholders who had included people and parks, small-scale farmers and small, medium and micro enterprises (SMMEs). The CEO also mentioned that some of the meetings were led by himself, where he went to engage with the local communities. All the stakeholders had been engaged in one way or another. The board had introduced a new task team, whose terms of reference had been expanded to engage with the communities, which was in line with the recommendations from the Ministerial panel of experts.

Mr Bukhosini said that small-scale fisheries had raised a concern of harassment and other issues regarding their operations. He had held two meetings with them to date to understand their frustrations and had committed to elevating their issues. He had held quarterly meetings with them and to date, they had had two meetings. Some of the issues raised were petty, such as access to the iSimangaliso Wetland Park through cards, but they were coming up with solutions to ensure that the practices of small-scale fisheries were not compromised unnecessarily.

He said that the west and the east coasts of iSimangaliso Wetland Park were originally managed by the Forestry Department, when the land management conducted at the site had created unnatural dunes. These dunes affected the landscape and the flow of water between wetlands. The Park had to create solutions to deal with these unnatural dunes. If one were to go to the eastern shores, one would appreciate the amount of water in that area due to wetland resuscitation through the management interventions of the previous administration.

He said there was a programme to assist the contractors at the wetlands in dealing with the security issues related to hippos and crocodiles. The conditions at St Lucia were unsafe, and they did not want to expose people to such dangers. There was a need to be very cautious. Although one could manage issues like hippos outside of the wetlands, it became very difficult for the contractors to manage hippos within the wetlands when working. He emphasised that work was done in the areas with low inundations. The number of hectares of alien species would be sent to the Portfolio Committee.

 Mr Bukhosini said that the head office building was currently under construction and would be completed in three to four months. He stressed that there were a number of issues to be done within the action plan, especially the ones that would require R29 million. Some of the issues included recording water quality, salinity, water levels, pH, nutrient levels, dissolved oxygen, tidal heights, flow speed and direction. Topographical surveys were required for the St Lucia estuary and uMfolozi river systems. The nature and source of sediments also needed to be looked into. Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife conducted daily records of water levels and salinity. The matter concerning the removal of sediments under the R6 million quote will be discussed at the next meeting with the farmers.

Interventions put into place by iSimangaliso Wetland Park included dehorning the rhinos and strengthening the relationship with the communities living adjacent to the Park. They did not have a problem with rhino poaching, and had very exciting pictures of rhino calves that showed the rhinos were at ease and were breeding. The rhinos had been removed from the western shores through arrangement with Siyaqhubeka Forests, because they were roaming into the forest, thus getting exposed to the poachers.

They also had serious problems with the visibility and availability of rangers from Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife due to the challenges they had at the moment. The entity was working very closely with Ezemvelo regarding the damaged fences, but the challenge was Ezemvelo did not have enough field rangers. He had spoken with the communities regarding the fence; honestly, the issue was poverty.

Unfortunately, they would never have work opportunities for the entire community, only for a certain small number, and the ones who did not get an opportunity revolted. He said the entity got support from the DFFE on job opportunities involving fence maintenance. They gradually enjoyed interventions from the traditional leadership to resolve some of the issues.

iSimangaliso Wetland Park could not resolve the issues at Umkhanyakude, but they could contribute to giving some community members opportunities. The entity would look into how the Portfolio Committee could assist.

The Restitution of Land Rights Act created an expectation that once one owned the land, one would be an equal footing core-manager with the conservation agencies. It also created an expectation that one fully understood the operations inside the Park. He said that other pieces of legislation did not create a situation that would meet the expectations of the Restitution of Land Rights Act. The Cabinet Memorandum of People and Parks, which was usually discussed at the national level, created an expectation of 60% to 40% -- if there were opportunities, 60% must go to the claimants or land owners, and 40% must be distributed to the broader community. The reality now was that in terms of the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA), one would not find any legislation favouring this 60% to 40% implementation. It then became an expectation not met by the entity and created hostility between the Park and the claimants.

He said there were big discussions around aligning the legislative framework of community beneficiation schemes. However, some executive managers from Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife were not there to engage with them, so a quorum could not be reached. They had tried to find out what challenges they faced on several occasions, but, unfortunately, could not have those scheduled meetings. He had met with the Acting CEO, who had said he would rectify the situation. They were now having quarterly meetings with Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife. They had caught up on the fourth quarter, and were now on the same path.

He said he would share the list of the activities around commercialisation with the Portfolio Committee. Their website in September would be buzzing with those activities. They met a number of stakeholders on 24 September, including the business fraternity, and he would outline the activities there. He had invited the finance sector and Department of Small Businesses Development (DSBD) to assist those who might require funding,

There were about 12 to 14 land claims, and the majority of them have been completed. Most had been concluded based on Section 32 (D), meaning that there were agreements regarding the negotiations between the parties concerned. Six of the land claims had been settled. The Mbela land claimant was sitting at 32D.

They had entered into co-management agreements, and the funds they paid were derived from the revenue accrued from the gate and concessions from the Park. The land invasion issue had nothing to do with the land claims -- local politics inspired it. People claimed that they were selling land at Futululu Park, and people had paid for those sites, only to find out that it was a scam. He added that where there were land claims in KZN, the hiccups were always with the Ingonyama Trust, which did not agree with the current law governing land claims. He said that the entity required the intervention of the Portfolio Committee to help them deal with the misalignment of the legislative framework around land claims.

Follow up discussion
Ms Phillips asked if the shortage of field rangers was a budgetary or administrative problem. How could this be rectified to protect the rhinos?

Mr Bukhosini replied that from the engagement with Ezemvelo, it was a budgetary problem. The Acting CEO from Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife had told him that when a field ranger resigned or passed on, they were unable to fill the vacancy because of the budget cuts. He had just told him that they had had a R300 million budget cut. He suggested that the Portfolio Committee should intervene for them at the national and provincial levels on how best the issue could be addressed.

Mr Singh said that he thought the Portfolio Committee must make arrangements with their counterparts at KZN. The community had raised some concerns over lions attacking their cattle. He had had to raise the issue with the MEC, and the matter was being taken to the Human Rights Commission for investigation. Because they were involved nationally in environmental issues, they needed to have a briefing with the Human Rights Commission, including their counterparts from KZN.

The Chairperson said it was high time they met with the new MEC at KZN to understand what was happening around Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, as whatever happened there affected the targets of iSimangaliso Wetland Park.

South African Weather Service quarterly performance
Ms Feziwe Renqe, Chairperson,  South African Weather Service (SAWS) Board, said that the entity had performed admirably during quarters three and four, achieving 80% and 88.9 of its targets in the respective quarters. SAWS ensured timeous dissemination of weather information to various stakeholders and users for decision making through Programme 1. Early warning systems and initiatives continued to be implemented and improved to safeguard lives and property.

SAWS had failed to generate a certain number of research outputs in the third quarter, but the missed target had not hampered the achievement of the annual target under Programme 2. In Programme 3 , there were two missed targets -- the availability of global atmospheric watch, and priority areas quality stations. Management continued to apply corrective measures to remedy the infrastructure challenges, including vandalism and electric power cuts affecting air quality stations entrusted to the SAWS.

Under Programme 4, SAWS continued to work on activities that created an environment conducive to high performance, career development and the retention of critical scarce skills. Given the fiscal challenges, generating revenue from multiple sources remained key to the survival of SAWS. The management had developed a revenue turnaround management plan as part of SAWS' commercialisation strategy to increase revenue and tap into other markets. The success of this plan would help increase its revenue to supplement government grant allocations.

Mr Ishaam Abader, CEO, and Mr Norman Mzizi, CFO, delivered a presentation on the entity's overall progress in the third quarter. The total actual revenue for the 2020/21 financial period amounted to R370.56 million, while the total expenditure was R308.79 million.

(Please consult the presentation for further details.)

Mr N Paulsen (EFF) asked about the weather stations at risk, and how that affected the operation of SAWS. It had been in the media a lot. How many of those weather stations were down?

Ms Phillips asked if the ozonesondes were similar to the radiosondes purchased. Which of the early warning radar stations that were implemented during 2009 to 2013 were still operational? Which were not working? Why were they not functioning? Could she have a list of air monitoring stations in Rustenburg? She would also like to visit these stations, as they were within her constituency.

Ms Mchunu asked what the fourth quarter liquidity ratio for SAWS was.

Mr Bryant asked if the SAWS was confident that they would have the capacity to predict other large scale weather events like they had earlier this year with the current systems in place.

Mr Singh asked SAWS what lessons they had learnt from the devastating floods in KZN regarding timeous early warning systems for areas prone to flood damage. Were they doing anything differently?

The Chairperson asked why the routine work of refurbishing and maintaining the radar infrastructure was not done in the past dispensation to meet the 70 % target of radar infrastructure availability. When was this target ever met? Why plan only 75 % availability of priority areas for air quality stations if they would not meet it? How could one ensure that one would not miss any practical information from those air quality monitoring stations? How could the infrastructure be made economically unfeasible to potential thieves or criminals? Why was the target for unregulated commercial revenue not met? What kind of air quality-related information did SAWS provide for money? Which entities paid for these services? What significant intervention had they put in place to reduce the personnel attrition rate, or was it because people could not simply resign due to post-COVID19 conditions?

SAWS response
Mr Abader said SAWS had various equipment that they used to measure weather. The fuss in the media had concerned the number of stations SAWS had, and the fact that there had been a drastic reduction in the number of stations. SAWS, in the past, had manual stations where a person literally had to go out and check the weather for that day and report back. The manual reporting stations had been replaced with electronic ones. The farmers and schools used to report via manual stations. There was a bit of unreliability regarding the information from the manual weather reporting stations. The data's frequency and quality were much better with the automatic electronic stations.

Regarding infrastructure, it was not only those manual stations that were used. SAWS also used automatic rain stations, radiosondes, satellite data and radar to obtain and predict weather conditions. They also had international obligations with the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO), and they had not raised any concerns in the past five years. SAWS met international standards in terms of weather prediction ability. They were one of the regional centres in Africa that did a lot of work from a climate change and weather perspective, in conjunction with the WMO. Their weather stations were monitored constantly. There were ten X-band, two C band and two S band radars. There were only two out of 14 that were not operational.

Mr Abader said that the list of stations close to Rustenburg would be given to Ms Phillips.

SAWS held a workshop with some of their Ethiopian counterparts on how SAWS could improve the dissemination of weather information. Numerous lessons had been learnt from the floods, including improving severe weather predictions and understanding the relationship between weather and planning. Because some of the devastation that occurred had been planning related, they would have to factor that into their future plans.

He said SAWS had converted capital expenditure into operational expenditure for the past two years. That money should have been used for routine work on some infrastructure. They also got money from DFFE to fund some of their initiatives.

He said that not all the air quality stations belonged to SAWS. They were looking to move some air quality stations into safer locations. It was difficult to make them economically unfeasible to avoid vandalism, but the plan was to move them to places where access to them would not be easy. He had engaged with the SAPS to check if these weather stations could not be declared National Key Points. The SAPS said they would conduct a security assessment on the stations and radars. Even if they were not declared as the National Key Points, SAWS would at least have a good sense of security in and around those sites.

Some air quality stations fell under provincial governance, and some commercial endeavours at SAWS assisted some entities in ensuring that their air quality stations were up and running. They were engaging a lot with Mpumalanga province, and were assisting them in dealing with their air quality stations. They charge and tender for these activities, just as the other entities tender for them. He added that the private sector carried some of these functions for the entities.

He said that the personnel retention rate was finance-related. They were innovative and used Sector Education and Training Authority (SETA) funding to pay for some of their training. They were in the process of developing a comprehensive employee value proposition with various non-financial elements to assist in preventing the loss of employees. Most of the technical skills of their employees were in demand in the private sector. Other skills were in demand internationally. They implemented bursary and employer recognition skills to improve the employee value proposition.

Mr Mnikeli Ndabambi, Executive: Infrastructure and Information Systems, SAWS, said that there were ten S-band radars, and all were operational. An S-band was not working at Ermelo because a transformer in the area had been stolen. There were two mobile radars called X-bands for distances shorter than 100 kms. They were not working and were being analysed by the manufacturer. Most of the air quality stations in Rustenburg were not under SAWS management -- only two were from SAWS.

He said that SAWS and the DFFE encouraged industry and certain municipalities to report to the SAWS Information System. They hosted the air quality information system, but it was up to industry to report there. The DFFE kept on promoting awareness and encouraged the affected industries to report.

Mr Norman Mzizi, CFO, SAWS, said that the liquidity ratio was 0.99:1, while the benchmark was 2:1. Basically, they were at 1:1.

Mr Peter Lukey,  SAWS board member, said that Ms Phillips must download the South African Air Quality Information System (SAAQIS) App, and she could get the closest weather statistician to her and their readings in real time.

Ms Zoleka Makongolo, Acting Executive: Corporate Services, SAWS, said that SAWS conducted exit interviews and used the information to develop the SAWS talent strategy that clearly articulated the employee value proposition and retention strategy. The strategies were presented to the employees, and SAWS continuously presented progress quarterly to the board.

Follow-up question
Mr Singh asked what the SAWS plans were to advertise and present pollution indices, especially in areas with serious pollution offenders, like Mpumalanga. Would it be possible to advertise publicly, so that the citizens would know what the pollution levels were in a particular area? To what extent did load-shedding impact the ability of SAWS to provide weather-related information? Did radio stations and public broadcasters pay SAWS, or did the weather services pay them to broadcast and advertise the weather?

Mr Abader said that the SAAQIS App provided information on the potential pollution hot spots and the pollution levels for various pollutants.

He said that some of the equipment would go down during load shedding, so SAWS had invested in an uninterruptible power supply and was looking at having battery backup. He added that when the power came back on, it interrupted some instruments' calibration and reliability. They had to recalibrate in some instances to fix some of them.

He added that there was no payment for the public services. However, they did have customers to whom they sold products and services, such as the insurance companies.

The meeting was adjourned.

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