DFFE & entities APPs; Trade and killing of animals and organised crime at KNP, with Minister and Deputy Minister

Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment

18 April 2023
Chairperson: Mr P Modise (ANC)
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Meeting Summary


Environmental Affairs

iSimangaliso Wetland Park Authority




The Committee met on a virtual platform to consider the annual performance plans of the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and Environment, and two of its entities -- South African National Parks (SANParks) and the iSimangaliso Wetland Park Authority. It also received a briefing on the involvement of organised crime in killing animals in the Kruger National Park.

The Organised Crime Observatory for East and Southern Africa, Global Initiative Against Transnational Organised Crime --  a project funded by the European Union -- outlined the crime trends in South Africa that impacted the poaching of animals within the Kruger National Park. A study by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF)/United States Aid for International Development (USAID) indicated in 2021 that participants said they saw no benefits from conservation. The study described poverty, inequality and unemployment as drivers of crime, and communities were tarred as poachers and were subjected to heavy-handed anti-poaching operations. Recommendations were presented to the Committee on actions that could be embarked on to improve the situation.

The Department informed the Committee how seven government priorities were aligned to the departmental outcomes to obtain a capable, ethical and development state, to ensure economic transformation and job creation, to prioritise education, skills and health in the Department, to prioritise spatial integration, human settlements and local government, and to prioritise a better Africa and better world. Detailed targets were presented by the Deputy Directors-General responsible for the Department's programmes.

Matters raised during the discussions included the high vacancy rate within the Department, the training provided to the local government sphere, the oceans economy master plan, and the projects funded by international donors.

SANParks indicated they were still in the recovery stage after Covid, but were now on a growth trajectory. They outlined how they would link with government programmes to strengthen their efforts towards tourism recovery and growth. The new chief executive officer was introduced, and briefed the Committee on the entity's outcome goals.

During the discussion, SANParks was requested to provide a comprehensive response to the earlier report on organised crime and poaching in the Kruger National Park. Members discussed the working relationships with other entities to address the crime and the accommodation of staff within the Park. The impact of climate change and how it had been considered for planning was also raised.

iSimangaliso reported that implementing the St Lucia Mouth panel of experts' report recommendations and action plan would continue to make a dent in addressing unemployment through the environmental protection and infrastructure programmes, as it was in a poverty node and struggled with high unemployment in the area. Over the past three years, they achieved 100% of their set targets and were on the same trajectory for the current financial year.

iSimangaliso's relationships and interactions with the surrounding communities were discussed, as well as land encroachment issues. Due to the absence of the CEO, it was agreed that a number of questions be responded to in writing.

The Committee adopted the draft report on its Knoflokskraal oversight visit, and also approved its second term programme.

Meeting report

The Chairperson opened the meeting and welcomed all present. He advised Members that the Office of the Auditor-General (AG) briefing had been postponed until later in the term.

Committee's draft second term programme

The proposed draft programme for the period 18 April to 15 June 2023 was adopted with the following additions, as proposed by Mr D Bryant (DA):

  • Long outstanding discussion around the Animal Welfare Bill, which should be done in joint discussion with collaborating committees.
  • Scientific activities in Antarctica, with reference to the trip undertaken by the Minister.

Appropriate dates and times for the additional items and the postponed briefing by the Office of the Auditor-General would be communicated in due course.

Trade and killing of animals and organised crimes in Kruger National Park

Mr Julian Rademeyer, Director, Organised Crime Observatory for East and Southern Africa, Global Initiative Against Transnational Organised Crime --  a project funded by the European Union -- briefed the Committee on the crime trends in South Africa and the area around the Kruger National Park (KNP).

He said that the KNP was not an insulated wildlife paradise. Its struggle mirrored SA’s struggle against organised crime. The Park existed in a rapidly urbanizing landscape where criminal economies and

violent local and transnational networks were embedded and evolving. There was deep-seated inequality, and crime and corruption profoundly impacted the greater KNP region and the people who lived in it. Organised crime posed an existential threat to communities along the Park's western, southern and eastern boundaries.

He pointed out that alternative forms of governance were required, as 2.9 million people live within 50km of the KNP's boundary fence, where the average unemployment stood at 46.5%. The Park’s aesthetic beauty had little relevance to many living along its borders. A study by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF)/ United States Aid for International Development (USAID) indicated in 2021 that participants said they saw no benefits from conservation. The study described poverty, inequality and unemployment as drivers of crime, and communities were tarred as poachers and were subjected to heavy-handed anti-poaching operations.

Numerous factors had an impact on the area. These included 15 years of low-level conflict, which included wars of independence in Angola and Mozambique, the bush war in Rhodesia, and the Lebanese civil war. There has been a 75% decline in the white rhino population between 2011 and 2020. Over the past decade, the militarised strategy adopted in the Park had been largely unsuccessful, with an enormous psychological and physical impact. There had been a severe breakdown in trust, staff cohesion and professionalism in the Park. He said corruption posed a greater threat than poaching. The KNP staff were exposed to criminal actors inside and outside the Park, and a refreshing openness and a renewed drive were required to root out corruption and rebuild the Park.

Mpumalanga’s violence and geographic position set it apart from other areas. This included cash-in-transit heists, automatic teller machine (ATM) bombings, kidnappings, hijackings, extortion, illegal mining and poaching. Criminal syndicates with tentacles in a range of criminal markets were the key corruption enabler in a province besieged by a litany of scandals and assassinations.

Mr Rademeyer suggested that the responses to the situation should be adjusted, and short-term reactive policing tactics must be replaced with a long term strategy and targeted investigations. Targeted investigations must identify the high-level actors and the markets that cause the greatest harm. It was important that critical financial investigations and intelligence functions be built in the South African Police Service (SAPS), but strategically in the Directorate of Priority Crime Investigation (DPCI), which had demonstrated their ability to make inroads into organised crime. It was essential that high-level actors be prosecuted and the morale, professionalism and trust amongst staff and rangers must be rebuilt. It was also important to ensure the protection of whistleblowers, investigators and prosecutors.

Long-term commitment was vital from political leadership, SANParks and its board, to address corruption

transparently, fairly, swiftly and consistently. Transparent and fair integrity management must be implemented and professionalism, trust and motivation must be rebuilt by embedding core values at the leadership level and among staff. It was important to improve internal communications. Possible amnesties for low-level actors should be considered to succeed in strategic, targeted investigations and the prosecution of high-level actors. It was essential that safe spaces and an independent whistleblowing mechanism be created.

See attached for full presentation


Ms A Weber (DA) said she was of the opinion that the whole of Barberton was corrupt. She asked if it was known what the real number of rhinos in the KNP was. She understood that there had been life threats against police and rangers, and wanted to know who was funding the counter-action and investigations. She asked if cross-border crime was a contributing factor to the situation in the Park. In light of the fact that the Skukhuza station commander had been implicated, how fair did Mr Rademeyer think a trial and investigation in the area would be? Seeing that the economic conditions were causing vulnerability to poverty, she wanted to know how the community could be uplifted.

Mr D Bryant (DA) referred to reports about loadshedding, Eskom, the coal mines and rhino poaching, and wanted to know what the links between the "coal mafia" and rhino horn smuggling were. Was it possible to expand the heavy-handed anti-poaching operations? He asked if there was a breakdown between SANParks and the Kruger National Park and if so, what could be done about it. He also wanted to know what progress there had been in the investigation by Interpol and the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) into the links between South Africa and the Chinese criminal syndicates.

He also enquired about the availability of the WWF/USAID report.

Ms N Gantsho (ANC) asked, in light of the allegations against SANPark and KNP staff, if there was concrete evidence against these people and if they had been charged. It was evident that the issue was not simplistic and involved organised crime. It should, therefore, not only involve this Portfolio Committee, but also the full security cluster. She proposed that the committees and ministers in the security cluster should be invited to help address the matter.

Ms S Mbatha (ANC) said Mr Rademeyer had touched on local strategies. She asked him to expand on the use and involvement of local strategies and what was being done to ensure the buy-in of these communities. She also asked if the use of private security companies had been considered.

The Chairperson asked that, in light of the comment by Mr Rademeyer that poverty was playing a large role in people’s vulnerability to become involved in crime, what other neighbouring countries were doing to rectify and prevent this.  He also asked if this report and recommendations had been shared with the relevant structures, such as the SAPS, to assist them with their change in strategy.

Mr Rademeyer's response

Mr Rademeyer responded that the report had been shared with the necessary structures, which included SANParks, the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) and SAPS. He indicated that Zimbabwe had shown some successes, but they were still in crisis. The reality was that communities turned to gang bosses for survival, such as security, protection and loans. This resulted in a parallel economy being created similar to the gang communities in the Western Cape, and this was a matter of great concern.

He said that the impact on the economy in Barberton was visible. They had brought in external policing and implemented some other measures to try and resolve some of the problems. It was difficult for the community, because who could one turn to for assistance if the local police were corrupt?

The links to the coal mafia were evident, with cash-in-transit heists, coal syndicates and rhino poaching all interlinked. It was an organised crime eco-system, with a consistent shift between “markets”.

Mr Rademeyer indicated that it was not currently the right time to fill positions within the KNP, and suggested that this should be done only after stability had returned.

He informed the Committee that the prima facie evidence against the 16 people who had been arrested was quite overwhelming. This was supported by the fact that there had been no poaching for three months after the arrests were affected.

Follow-up questions

Mr Bryant followed up on the involvement of Interpol, and how the Chinese markets fed into the organised crime syndicates. He also asked if any senior political figures had been found to be involved.

Mr M Dlamini (ANC) asked why the report did not analyse vehicle theft and corruption in the health sector. He also asked why only one person, Mr Zuma, had been singled out by being mentioned in the report.

Ms H Winkler (DA) asked if there had been any response from any of the entities on the report to ensure some collaboration to address the matter.

Mr Rademeyer's response

Mr Rademeyer replied that the report was confidential, and that it would be best to refer all enquiries to SANParks.

He confirmed that there was a strong link between rhino poaching and the Asian markets, and that he had done some extensive research in this regard. Many allegations were going around regarding the involvement of high level politicians, but hard evidence was difficult to come by. He confirmed that vehicle theft was a problem, and that there had been involvement by at least one member of the SAPS. He indicated that there was a renewed willingness, especially from SANParks, to deal with the matter, but it would require political support.

The Chairperson reminded the Committee that the report by Mr Rademeyer had not been commissioned by the Committee and could not be changed by it.-- it was his report and his findings. He thanked Mr Rademeyer for his presentation.

Committee report on Knoflokskraal oversight visit

The Committee adopted the report with the following amendments:

  • On page 8, second last paragraph, the following sentence was added: “Concerns were raised by Committee Members on the incoherent and inadequate presentation and responses by the Human Rights Commission.”
  • Paragraph 7.2 was added on page 9: “The Committee recommends that a comprehensive report be demanded from the Human Rights Commission concerning the matter of Grabouw as a matter of urgency."
  • In the first paragraph under section 2.1, the following sentence was added: “A Member argued that homeless and landless people in the Western Cape and South Africa should find land anywhere and occupy it.”

Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment (DFFE) 2023/24 Annual Performance Plan and Strategic Plans

Ms Maggie Sotyu, Deputy Minister of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment, informed the Committee that the Director-General (DG) of the Department, supported by her Deputy DGs, would brief the Committee on the Department’s APP and strategic plan for 2023/24.

Ms Nomfundo Tshabalala, DG, DFFE, said the planning process had commenced last September, where the whole Department had started working very closely with the Minister and Deputy Minister. Bearing in mind that this was the last year of the current administration, it was important to ensure that the commitments made by this administration were delivered on. Proactively, the Department had also requested the AGSA to do a review and provide feedback to it. One of the comments had been the requirement of the departmental APP to align with the framework of the sector performance APP. They also enquired why the sector framework APP items did not appear in the departmental APP. Information to clarify the role of the Department had been provided to the AG.

The Committee was informed how the seven government priorities aligned with the departmental outcomes.

To obtain a capable, ethical and developmental state, it was important to ensure good governance, compliance with laws and effective financial management. The Department would strive for an adequately skilled workforce which was transformed and representative of South Africa's race and gender demographics (50% females in senior management service positions, and 2% persons with disabilities).

To ensure economic transformation and job creation, the Department would strive to grow the ocean economy in the context of sustainable development, and to ensure more decent jobs were created and sustained. Youth, women and persons with disabilities would be prioritised. In order to prioritise education, skills and health, the Department would improve the human resources capacity of the sector and mitigate threats to environmental quality and human health.

To prioritise spatial integration, human settlement and local government, 300 municipal councillors and/or officials would be trained on waste management, and 29 municipal cleaning campaigns conducted.

To prioritise a better Africa and better world, the Department would ensure a just transition to a low carbon economy and climate-resilient society. US$ 80 million had been raised from international donors to support South African and African environmental programmes.

The Department would aim to provide 944 beneficiaries with skills and development opportunities, and recruit 424 graduates to join the Department’s internship programme. It had targeted to issue 520 bursaries and train 3 510 officials in environmental compliance and enforcement.

Ms Andiswa Jass, Chief Financial Officer (CFO), DFFE, briefed the Committee on the budget allocations for the Department's nine different programmes. These were:

Programme 1: Administration - R1.21 billion

Programme 2: Regulatory Compliance and Sector Monitoring - R308.6 million

Programme 3: Oceans and Coasts - R496.8 million

Programme 4: Climate Change, Air Quality and Sustainable Development - R673 million

Programme 5: Biodiversity and Conservation - R2.081 billion

Programme 6: Environmental Programmes - R3.258 billion

Programme 7: Chemical and Waste Management - R634.2 million

Programme 8: Forestry Management - R586.7 million

Programme 9: Fisheries Management - R625.2 million

The total budget allocation for the Department amounted to R9.874 billion.

The Department was also aiming to receive an unqualified audit for the financial year.

Ms Mmamokgadi Mashala, DDG: Corporate Management Services, DFFE, informed the Committee that the Department had 3 646 active posts and 487 frozen positions, with a vacancy rate of 7.9%. The Department had a target of 50% for women in senior management service positions, and 2% for people with disabilities.

Ms Vanessa Bendeman, DDG: Regulatory Compliance and Sector Monitoring, DFFE, said that under programme 2, targets had been set to ensure the improvement of compliance with environmental legislation and environmental threat mitigation. The Department aimed to inspect 170 environmental authorisations for compliance, and to finalise 46 criminal investigation dockets handed over to the NPA for a prosecutorial decision. The target for the number of administrative enforcement notices issued for non-compliance with environmental legislation was 270. The target for the number of inspections conducted for verification of rhino horn and elephant tusk stockpiles was 65.

Dr Ashley Naidoo, Acting DDG: Oceans and Coasts, said that under programme 3, the outcome of threats to environmental integrity management and ecosystem conservation had the following targets:

  • The Department would aim to produce an annual consolidated water quality report for 40 priority areas in four coastal provinces.
  • A marine spatial planning (MSP) sub-regional plan would be submitted to the DG for approval to gazette for public comments (First Marine Area Plan).
  • Two draft marine protected area (MPA) management plans would be submitted to the Minister for approval (Southeast Atlantic Seamounts, and Southwest Indian Seamounts).
  • The revised African Penguin biodiversity management plan would be submitted to the Minister.
  • An annual monitoring report for four estuarine management plans would be produced -- Buffalo Estuary, Durban Bay, Richards Bay and Orange River.
  • A draft amendment document to the Antarctic Treaties Act would be developed.
  • A research report on additional oceans and coastal protection would be produced.
  • Twenty peer-reviewed scientific publications would be accepted for publication or published, including theses and research policy reports.
  • Three relief and science voyages to the SANAE Antarctic research base, Gough and Marion Islands, would be undertaken.
  • The 2022/23 annual science report card on key essential oceans and coasts variables would be published online.

Mr Tlou Ramaru, Acting DDG: Climate Change, Air Quality and Sustainable Development, said that under programme 4, one climate change mitigation intervention would be undertaken to facilitate implementation of South Africa’s low emission development strategy -- the draft Sectoral Emission Targets (SETs) that had been published for public comments. Two interventions would be undertaken to facilitate the implementation of South Africa’s climate change adaptation strategy. The Oceans and Coasts adoption plan had been developed and the final report on the risk and vulnerability assessment for five additional human settlement priority areas had been produced. With regard to the mitigation of threats to environmental quality and human health, the aims of the National Air Quality Indicator (NAQI) involved 15 ambient air quality monitoring stations reporting to the South African Air Quality Information System (SAAQIS) on meeting the minimum data recovery standard of 75%. US$80 million was to be raised to support international cooperation supportive of South Africa’s environmental/sustainable development priorities.

Ms Flora Mokgohloa, DDG: Biodiversity and Conservation, DFFE, said it was aimed to add 610 674 ha to the conservation estate. A status report on the implementation of improvement plans for six management authorities would be produced. Two interventions would be implemented to ensure conservation of strategic water sources and wetlands implemented. A national assessment report on the linkages between migration and desertification, land degradation and drought would be submitted to Cabinet for approval and implementation

High Level Panel (HLP) recommendations and interventions on biodiversity conservation would be implemented. The programme of work for the White Paper on Conservation and Sustainable Use of Biological Diversity must be approved for implementation, to revise the National Biodiversity Economy Strategy (NBES) for submission to Cabinet for approval.

Three biodiversity economy initiatives would be implemented, with 800 jobs being created, 400 biodiversity beneficiaries receiving accredited training, and 3 000 heads of game donated to previously disadvantaged individuals (PDIs) and communities. Five benefit sharing agreements would be approved. Five state indigenous forest management units would be mapped, and 300ha of state forests would be rehabilitated by clearing alien invasives.

Ms Nonhlanhla Mkhize, Acting DDG: Environmental Programmes, said 35 477 full time equivalent (FTE) jobs and 71 035 job opportunities would be created. The target was that 70 066 ha would receive initial clearing of invasive plant species, and 532 100 ha would receive follow-up clearing of invasive plant species. Also, 115 wetlands would undergo rehabilitation, and 2 116 km of accessible coastline would be cleaned.

The wildfire suppression target had been set at 90%, and 23 (ten constructed and 13 renovated) biodiversity economy infrastructure facilities would be constructed or renovated. Twenty-one (ten constructed and 11 renovated) overnight visitor and staff accommodation units would be constructed or renovated.

Ms Mamogala Musekene, DDG: Chemicals and Waste Management, said one chemicals management legislative and regulatory instrument would be developed, namely, the mercury regulations that would be published for implementation. They would aim to decrease hydrochlorofluorocarbon (HCFC) consumption by 50%.

One waste management legislative and regulatory instrument would be developed, namely, the extended producer responsibility (EPR) fee structure for portable batteries, oils and pesticides submitted to the National Treasury for concurrence. It was targeted to divert 2 481 000 tons of paper and packaging, 47 000 tons of E-waste, and 14 771 tons of lighting waste from landfill sites. It was also targeted to process 28 945 tons of waste tyres.

Three hundred municipal councillors or officials would be trained in waste management, and 29 cleaning campaigns would be conducted.

Ms Pumeza Nodada, DDG: Forestry Management, said the Department would have 1 800 ha of temporary unplanted areas (TUPs) planted, and 2 100 ha under silvicultural practice -- weeding, pruning, coppice reduction and thinning. They would aim to refurbish the Wolseley, Rusplaas and Qwaqwa nurseries. They would also plant 150 000 trees outside the forests' footprint.

Ms Sue Middleton, DDG: Fisheries Management and Marine Living Resources Fund, said the Department would submit the Aquaculture Development Bill to Parliament and aimed to implement the National Freshwater (Inland) Wild Capture Fisheries 2023/24 action plan 100%. Their target for the number of inspections conducted in the six priority fisheries -- hake; abalone; rock lobster; line fish, squid and pelagic -- was 5 500. The targeted number of verifications of right holders conducted was 290. They would aim to implement four key deliverables from the annual national plan of action (NPOA) for sharks, and develop the draft national West Coast Rock Lobster (WCRL) strategy. They would allocate fishing rights to all declared small-scale fishing cooperatives in the Western Cape. The Department would target to implement 100% of the Integrated Development Support Programme 2023/24 action plan to support small-scale fishing cooperatives.

(Further target adjustments for the 2024/25 financial year details available in slide presentation)

Ms Tshabalala said the budget for the 2023/24 financial year was R9.87 billion, which would reduce to R9.57 billion in the 2024/25 year, and increase to R9.78 billion in 2025/26.


Ms Winkler asked what the waste management training for the 300 councillors and officials entailed. She asked if the 487 frozen and 291 vacant posts impeded the work of the Department, and when these positions would be filled. She felt the compliance budget was small, so she wanted to know what the Department was doing about compliance and adherence. She asked how many dockets were outstanding at the NPA. She wanted to know if forestry management aligned their programmes with climate change, and if their programmes took that into consideration.

Ms Gantsho asked which projects under programme 4 would be supported by international funding. She asked if the biodiversity projects in programme 5 would benefit previously disadvantaged individuals and communities, and what strategies would be employed to ensure the sustainability of this programme. She also asked what the timeframes were around filling the 291 vacant positions.

Ms Weber asked what criteria were used to identify the councillors that would be trained under programme 5, and if there had been an improvement where councillors had been trained. She asked if it was envisaged that all municipalities would be trained, and who was paying for this training initiative.

She asked if there was a detailed budget for the US$80 million in order to identify where this money would be used. She raised a concern that there was so much training being conducted while there was no budget for filling vital positions. What were the expenses for external audits, and when would the outcomes of such audits be available? She was concerned that there was no mention of dealing with disposable diapers, which was one of the largest waste challenges that had to be dealt with. She asked how Kendal power station reported on its emissions, as it was one of the largest polluters. Have any notices been issued to any of the power stations in any of the high priority areas?

The Chairperson acknowledged that the Ocean Economy plan was a multi-stakeholder plan, and asked how it would be ensured that all stakeholders contributed to the success of this master plan. He noticed that a number of departments had been consulted in compiling the department’s APPs -- did this mean that there would be a higher success rate in reaching the set targets?

Ms Tshabalala asked that the Department respond in writing on the Kendal station, as the response would require a lot of detail.

DFFE's response

Ms Jass indicated that final documents would be submitted to the Auditor-General by 31 May, and it was aimed that the audit by the AG would be completed by 31 July.

Ms Mashala informed the Committee that the vacancies were not all in one area, but spread across the Department. There was a balance between vacancies and new employees as people were appointed and left the Department. It prioritised core functions and senior management when vacancies were filled.

Ms Bendeman acknowledged that compliance had one of the lowest budgets. They were in the process of compiling a compliance and enforcement strategy, as this would assist with motivating and utilising additional resources. All the mentioned cases were currently with the NPA, but progress at the NPA was very slow. The Department was also working with the other respondents on the eThekwini matter, and working toward solutions and ways to bring them into compliance, as it was a matter of concern to the Department. This had been raised as part of the compliance and enforcement initiative.

Mr Naidoo indicated that the water quality programme had been running for two to three years. The purpose of these programmes was to test and monitor the quality of water flowing into the estuaries. Thirty of the 40 sites had been established. It had been taken into consideration that flood damage was masking some of the problems experienced by eThekwini.

Ms Mokgohloa told the Committee that the biodiversity programme would benefit around 400 previously disadvantaged individuals.

Ms Musekene indicated that the training was needs-driven. Local government had waste management forums, and needs were determined and communicated through these forums. Training included a wide range of topics, including integrated waste management. Waste management worked with a number of other departments to ensure the correct training was provided for specific needs and also to guide in terms of usage of grants for equipment. Training was conducted in collaboration with the South African Local Government Association (SALGA), and was classified as “on the job training”. Waste collection was challenging in some areas, and nappies were part of collectable waste. Different projects, including the promotion of re-usable towel nappies, had been embarked on.

Ms Mkhizi said the Department was part of the local government support strategy, and training was provided in a number of areas that fell within their area of responsibility, as well as climate change and conservation. Local government support officers were available and were supported by youth to ensure they executed their mandates.

Ms Nodada said that forestry management worked very closely with the climate change branch to ensure projects considered all factors.

Ms Tshabalala said the Department worked very closely with the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE) on a number of issues.

The Minister had indicated that some of the foreign funding was located in the Office of the President. However, after the agreement was signed, the Just Energy Transition Investment Plan had been handed over to the Climate Change Commission to facilitate public consultation.

She said that the US$80 million had been obtained through a number of bilateral agreements involving Germany, Flanders, and multilateral finance agreements. There were continuous engagements with the donor entities to monitor the use of the funds by accredited entities.

Ms Tshabalala informed the Committee that there was a ceiling regarding staff costs, so it was impossible to use money allocated for training to fill vacant or frozen positions.

SANParks 2023/24 APP and Strategic Plan

Ms Pam Yako, Chairperson, SANParks Board, introduced Ms Hapiloe Sello, the newly appointed CEO of SANParks, the Acting CFO, Ms Rebecca Pillay, and Mr Oscar Mthimkhulu, Managing Executive (ME), Kruger National Park.

She said SANParks was still in a recovery stage after Covid, but they were in a growth trajectory. The presentation would outline how SANParks linked with government programmes. They wanted to strengthen their efforts towards tourism recovery and growth. The Department had contributed towards additional infrastructure development and maintenance.

Ms Yako said they shared concerns over organised crime as discussed during Mr Rademeyer’s session. She requested that they be awarded an opportunity to provide a comprehensive report in response to Mr Rademeyer’s presentation.

Ms Sello briefed the Committee on the broader outcome goals of SANParks. These included:

  • Sustainable biodiversity and cultural heritage across land and sea delivering benefits for the people of South Africa and the world, now and in the future;
  • Improved diverse responsible tourism;
  • Sustainable socio-economic transformation programme that ensured delivery of benefits to the land claimants, historically disadvantaged communities and the people of South Africa;
  • Sustainable and transformed organisation through revenue, people, systems, business processes and infrastructure.

Under goal 1, SANParks wanted to add 7 000 ha to parks to expand protected areas in line with the National Protected Area Expansion Strategy (NPAES) and the SANParks land inclusion plan. They aimed to assess 20 national parks and meet an 80% Management Effectiveness Tracking Tool (METT) score to ensure effective and efficient management. They would develop a policy support implementation plan on elephant, rhino, lion and leopard related to the outcomes of the High-Level Panel. SANParks aimed to rehabilitate an initial 25 200 ha of degraded land and 7 200 m³ of wetlands.

In order to reduce climate change vulnerability and improve climate change resilience, SANParks would compile climate change assessments on two national parks, including climate change adaption management plans in two national parks, and complete priority actions for climate change adaptation identified for two national parks. They would also aim to implement 90% of the annual green energy implementation plan. To develop a framework towards the improved management of cultural heritage, SANParks would assess cultural heritage resources in two national parks and would implement 90% of the annual cultural heritage action plan.

To sustain the population of species of special concern, and monitor and increase them, SANParks aimed to increase the rhino population in identified core rhino areas in the KNP at greater than 1% per annum, and to increase the rhino population in the other six rhino parks by 4%. To reduce the wildlife crime in national parks, they planned to reduce the number of rhino poached in the KNP to less than 120 and in other rhino parks, the number of rhinos poached to fewer than five animals. They also aimed to reduce the number of elephants poached in the KNP to fewer than 40 animals, and in other parks to fewer than four.

To reach goal 2 -- to improve diverse responsible tourism -- SANParks would like to improve the customer satisfaction index rating by 0.5%, increase the number of visitors to national parks by 11% from the previous year, improve accommodation occupation by 0.6% from the previous year, and have eight new and diverse tourism products i and six marketing interventions implemented.

Goal 3 -- a sustainable socio-economic development programme that ensured delivery of benefits to the land claimants, historically disadvantaged communities and the people of South Africa -- would be reached by delivering 600 animals to communities and individuals that were emerging game farmers. There would be 5 140 full-time equivalent employment (FTE) job opportunities created through the expanded public works programme (EPWP), and the creation of 5 160 jobs for youth, 4 580 jobs for women and 145 jobs for people with disabilities through the EPWP. 450 small, medium and micro enterprises (SMMEs) would be contracted through the EPWP, as well as 40% of all annual goods and services contracted to EMEs and 15% to QSEs for procurement below R1 million. 15% of procurement spent above R1 million would be awarded to exempt micro enterprises (EMEs) and 15% to qualifying small enterprises (QSEs). They would also target 80% of procurement to be spent on designated groups, and for more than 120 beneficiaries from targeted groups to be trained. More than 450 schools would access national parks for educational purposes.

It was planned that social legacy projects in six communities would be completed and that 30% of activities in the Qwaqwa Land Claim beneficiation package annual plan, and 30% of the activities in the Colcra -- Addo Elephant National Park (ENP) -- land claim annual implementation plan be implemented.

Goal 4 would be reached through R120 million of revenue raised through resource mobilisation, a 20% increase in annual revenue raised, and R4 million raised through wildlife sales. Transformation in human capital would be obtained by reaching 41% of women in management positions, 1.1% of people with disabilities employed, and 64% of black people as a percentage of management.

SANParks aims to receive an unqualified audit opinion and implement 75% of the approved internal audit plan; to implement 95% of the approved Enterprise Risk Management (ERM) maturity improvement and annual implementation plan with a maturity rating level 5 achieved; to achieve 95% implementation of the approved ethics maturity improvement and annual implementation plan; and 100% i of the integrated compliance, monitoring and reporting system developed and implemented.

SANParks had identified a number of strategic risks, such as inadequate financial resources to support their mandate; inadequate human capital due to insufficient capacity and capability and inefficiencies in business processes; the slow return of the tourism market; inability to deliver on tourists’ expectations, the evolving and escalating wildlife crime; and the effect of climate change on the organisation.

Other strategic risks were poor maintenance and infrastructure recapitalisation; vulnerabilities in the information technology (IT) environment leading to security risks; inadequate ICT capabilities; inability to adequately address stakeholders’ expectations; and slow transformation. Further key risk areas were identified, with risk mitigations presented for each area.

Ms Pillay informed the Committee that the projected total revenue for the 2023/24 financial year was R3.8 billion. Tourism income was anticipated to continue to improve gradually over the medium term expenditure framework (MTEF) period, mainly driven by the return of international guests. Exchange revenue would contribute towards 60% of total revenue, and non-exchange revenue towards 40%. Overall, total revenue had increased by 27% when compared to the 2022/23 budget. Included in the non-exchange revenue was an amount of R700 million that had been allocated from the DFFE towards maintenance.

The projected expenditure for the 2023/24 financial year was R3.4 billion, which was 14% higher than the previous year’s adjusted budget. The biggest cost drivers were human resource costs, which accounted for 44% of the total expenditure, and operational expenditure, which accounted for 41% The increase in expenditure was attributable mainly to an increase in maintenance costs and operational expenditure. Operational costs had increased due to the planned increase in the number of visitors and included commitments already contracted for. Maintenance costs had increased in line with the additional allocation from the DFFE.

See attached for full presentation


Ms Weber asked how the 11% increase in visitors compared to the numbers prior to Covid. She said that after the presentation on the Kruger National Park, it was evident that the biggest problem was security, but there were no security line items. Would it be possible to provide a breakdown of security expenses so that the Committee could make a comparison over time between budget allocations and successes in the parks?

Mr Bryant asked that when Ms Yako and SANParks provided their comprehensive response to the Rademeyer report, other parties and representatives be invited, such as the SAPS and the relevant Portfolio Committees, to ensure a holistic approach. He was of the opinion that the rhino poaching target should be zero. Regarding the budget allocations and vacant ranger posts, he asked if the budget provision was sufficient to appoint the remaining 82 rangers. With 86% of the staff residing outside the parks and a R10 million allocation for accommodation, would this problem be resolved?

Ms Winkler asked how many parks had been assessed for the impact of climate change, and if this vulnerability had been considered specifically concerning animal populations. She asked if the 1% increase in the rhino population was the only feasible growth. Concerning elephant poaching, where the target number was concerning, what had been implemented to address this matter?

SANParks' response

Ms Sello informed the Committee that the parks were 4.9% above the level of visitors in comparison to pre-Covid, and she was therefore satisfied that there was a recovery.

Ms Pillay said there was no ring-fenced amount for security, and that she would revert back to the Committee with this information. She would, in future, present the security amount separately and not as part of the different line items where they currently were allocated.

Mr Mthumkulu explained to the Committee that, as Mr Rademeyer had mentioned about the staff working conditions, he could confirm that the living conditions within the Park were not good. The budget, as indicated, was for essential upgrades of staff accommodation, especially for the essential staff that had to live within the Park. The staff budget allocation was based on prioritising the filling of certain positions, but it was not sufficient for the filling of all positions.

Mr Property Mokoena, Managing Executive: Parks, said SANParks had an energy efficiency strategy. The aim was to reduce energy costs of operations, and to replace fossil fuels with solar.

Dr Howard Hendricks, General Manager: Policy and Governance, SANParks, said they had done a comprehensive assessment of the impact of climate change. Part of the assessment included neighbouring communities, and the impact of droughts formed part of this assessment. Concerning the 1% growth of the rhino population in KNP, he said that other parks had a different target. They knew where the rhinos were, and they could make the assessment based on what was known to them.

Follow-up questions

Ms Weber asked who was paying for the 86% of staff residing outside the Park. Did they live there by choice?

Mr Bryant said it was disappointing that the budget was insufficient to fill the vacant positions. It was difficult for the public to accept that there was a low staff contingent and that so many animals were being poached.

Ms Gantsho asked what the progress around the accommodation was.


Ms Barbara Creecy, Minister of Forestry, Fisheries and Environment, reminded the Committee that the entity had provided R1 billion from the departmental budget to plug the shortfall, as the parks had not been able to self-generate. Parks had had to downgrade, and they were still in the process of recovery. There must be a balance between paying staff and the availability of an operational budget.

Ms Lize McCourt, CFO, KNP, said there were different salary structures for staff staying in the Park and staff staying outside the Park, as living expenses outside the Park were higher than inside. This compensated for housing and travel allowances. People staying in the park also had a different situation when they retired, as they then had to leave the Park. The Committee was reminded that the R10 million was not only for KNP allocation -- it was used for both upgrades as well as new accommodation.

Mr Mthumkulu said that the majority of the KNP allocation for accommodation was for upgrades.

iSimangaliso Wetland Park Authority 2023/24 APP and strategic plan

The Minister apologised on behalf of the CEO, as he could not attend due to a family bereavement. She requested that some questions be responded to in writing, as the CEO was the authority on estuary matters.

Inkosi Mabhudu Tembe, Chairperson: iSimangaliso Board, reported that implementing the St Lucia Mouth panel of experts' report recommendations and action plan would continue to make a dent in addressing unemployment through the environmental protection and infrastructure programmes. Youth unemployment, sector transformation and gender-based violence (GBV) strategy implementation would continue to be addressed through the Groen Sebenza internship programme and environmental protection and infrastructure programmes. The plan would continue to implement commercialisation as an approach to the entity’s own contribution to capital and operational expenditure.

Ms Qhamu Mntambo, CFO, iSimangaliso Wetland Park Authority, indicated that iSimangaliso was in a poverty node, and struggled with high unemployment in the area. Over the past three years, they had achieved 100% of their set targets, and were on the same trajectory for the current financial year.

iSimangaliso's strategic outcomes included improved socio-economic benefits and conditions for communities around the Park, and an adequately skilled and capacitated workforce which was transformed and representative of South Africa’s race and gender demographics. Compliance with legislation, effective financial management and key risks mitigated to minimise potential adverse consequences, were among other projected outcomes.

Ms Lungile Ntuli, Strategic Support Manager, said that iSimangaliso would aim to ensure efficient corporate support services, compliance with legislation, and effective financial management. It would aim for an unqualified audit opinion, with no matters of emphasis, to have 100% compliance with key statutory requirements, and to spend 80% of qualifying expenditure on broad-based black economic empowerment (BBBEE) majority black-owned suppliers.

To ensure an adequately skilled and capacitated workforce which was transformed and representative of South Africa’s race and gender demographics, they would submit the workplace skills plan submitted to the Sector Education and Training Authority (SETA) within the prescribed timeframe and ensure that 100% of the employee performance contracts were concluded. They also planned to have the ICT governance framework reviewed and approved.

To mitigate biodiversity threats and maintain world heritage sites, they would implement the Green Energy Programme strategy, the unauthorised land encroachment strategy and the biodiversity monitoring programme as per the action plan.

iSimangaliso would treat 75 000 ha of invasive alien plants, deploy 130 environmental monitors in the park, and 2 000 m3 of earthworks in wetland projects would be rehabilitated and 320km of coastline would be cleaned. They would also aim to achieve 100% of applications for developments in the buffer zone commented on, and feedback provided within the prescribed timeframe.

To become a world-renowned heritage park, they would attend to the maintenance of roads and fences, and would concentrate on marketing across all platforms. They aimed to have 180 paying visitor entries, and a result of generate over R25 million in revenue.

To improve the socio-economic benefits and conditions of communities around the park, iSimangaliso would convene and attend numerous meetings with the community, community leaders and government. They would support 55% of female beneficiaries, 30% of youth beneficiaries, and would create 550 full-time equivalent jobs.

They would also aim for 1 250 beneficiaries to successfully complete accredited training (NQF), 1 400 beneficiaries to successfully complete non-accredited training, and have 200 people participating in skills development programmes -- infrastructure, tourism, life guides and environmental monitors. One hundred people would be participating in rural enterprise programmes, 100 Groen Sebenza interns would be deployed, and ten new first year students would receive bursaries and be supported.

The Committee was briefed on the identified key risk areas and mitigation plans that would be put in place. These included loss of World Heritage site status, unstable stakeholder relations, financial unsustainability, inability to leverage on technology and abuse of systems and technology, a negative audit outcome, and incompetent, unskilled and inadequate personnel that resulted in an unsafe working environment.

Ms Ntuli said that total revenue was R349 332 440 for 2023/24, and R367 571 395 and R383 407 271 respectively, for the next two financial years. The Committee was briefed on the money available from grant allocations after deducting any management and project fees. The entity was grant dependent. The EPWP programme budget had decreased from R223.4 million in the previous year, to R171.9 million. This impacted the "Working for Water" project, whose funding had been reduced. Internally generated park revenue had been increased to R25 million, though they expected robust increase in their marketing as the public-private partnership (PPP) process had started on small capitalisation projects.

The Committee was informed that contractual costs could not be cut, which included maintenance, security, fire protection services, system maintenance and gate management, but they would investigate minimising the cost. Employee-related costs included ten vacant posts. The current budget was R49 million, compared to the 2022/23-year budget of R44.7 million.

The iSimangaliso Wetland Park Authority executive management and the Board attended the board strategy meeting from 5 to 7 of September 2022. During the strategy session, the Commissions met to discuss and came up with inputs and recommendations about the existing organisational structure. The Commissions had also identified critical positions and made proposals regarding certain positions in the organogram.

See attached for full presentation


Ms Winkler asked what progress had been made with the farms in the St Lucia area after the flooding and the Minister's subsequent engagements in the area. She also asked what the current status was between the park and neighbouring communities concerning land encroachment. What was happening about mining in the buffer zone -- had there been any further applications, and what was the status of the submitted applications?

Ms Gantsho asked what the purpose of the board strategy session had been, and what the outcome of the session had been. What was the vacancy rate currently, and how did the budget for employment of staff compare between the current and previous financial years?

The Chairperson said it was obvious that unemployment was a concern to everyone. It was therefore essential that entities should embark on poverty relief projects. He asked if there were non-conservation initiatives embarked on by the Park in collaboration with other authorities in the district.

Ms Ntuli said some of the questions, as previously requested, would be attended to in writing. The update on the engagement with the farmers would be responded to in writing. The Futululu land encroachment matter had been completed in court, and although iSimangaliso had won, they were still working with the community. They would also respond in writing about the additional mining applications, as she was not aware of any additional applications received. She indicated that the budget for staff had increased from R42 million to R49 million to address the filling of critical positions. Further employment opportunities had been created outside the Park -- for example, in Mtubatuba municipality, where cleaning and greening projects had been embarked on.

Ms Ntuli reminded the Committee that the land encroachment strategy had had to be devised due to the matter in Sodwana Bay, where community members were planning crop within the Park. This had been resolved. Thereafter a second matter had arisen in the south of the Park, and the matter was resolved in court. A detailed report would be provided to the Committee in writing.

The board strategy session had been about the five-year strategy and crafting the annual performance plan.

She requested that all other outstanding matters be responded in writing.

Inkosi Thembe confirmed that all outstanding questions would be submitted in writing, and emphasised that they were committed to improving in those areas where there was a need.

Minister Creecy commented that there had been a huge difference in her visit to iSimangaliso last year in comparison to this year. She was of the opinion that this was due to the good work done by the organisation in building relationships with the community and embarking on projects with them. They had also embarked on projects and initiatives providing working opportunities, and she was of the opinion that slightly older age groups should be targeted to assist the community. There was a much better community working relationship across the board.

The meeting was adjourned.                                                                                                                         

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