Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment 2023/24 Annual Performance Plan; with Ministry

NCOP Land Reform, Environment, Mineral Resources and Energy

25 April 2023
Chairperson: Ms T Modise (ANC, North West)
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Meeting Summary


Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment

The Committee met with the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment to receive a briefing on the 2023/24 annual performance plan. The Committee was also scheduled to receive briefings from the Department’s entities, but the meeting was cut short due to connectivity issues and a few Members had clashing meetings and had to depart early. The Committee resolved to discontinue the meeting and Members would also send questions to the Department and the entities since they already had the documentation.

Members asked the Department about the lack of human resource capacity for audit functions, and what led to its qualified audit opinion; the impact of the budget reduction on various programmes of the Department; compliance of municipalities with landfill site regulations; authorisations; the role of Department on sewage spillages into the ocean; the impact of the reduced budget on water quality monitoring programmes; the role of the Department on the sustainability of plantations; filling of vacancies; aquaculture and the impact of floods in KwaZulu-Natal sewage infrastructure and water quality.

Meeting report

Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment (DFFE) Annual Performance Plan 2023/24
Ms Nomfundo Tshabalala, Director-General, DFFE, took Members through the presentation. The presentation covered, amongst others, the alignment of government priorities and DFFE outcomes; a summary of the 2023/24 budget; human resources information; a summary of the 2023/24 targets; provincial specific projects and its revised strategic plan.

[The presentation details the targets, strategic outcomes, and other salient details. Please see the presentation]

Members opted to receive presentations from entities after the discussion with the Department.

Ms C Labuschagne (DA, Western Cape) said that the shortage of human resources and lack of training of officials were previously cited as some of the reasons the Department received a qualified audit opinion in the past. Given the reductions in various programmes of the Department, she wanted to know how the Department will manage the budget reduction this year to avoid a qualified audit opinion.

Regarding compliance with landfill sites, much of the non-compliance of landfill sites is the issue of cost for municipalities, which is part of the problem. How many environmental authorisations are valid now, and what is the baseline for the Department? Does it include the authorisations for mining, oil, and gas?  

The 720 officials that are going to be trained in environmental compliance and enforcement – will they be officiated as part of the ‘Green Scorpions’ or are they going to be part of other sectors or departments?

What role is the Department playing in managing and assisting the impact of sewage going into the ocean? Due to the decrease in the budget, what would be the impact on the water quality monitoring programmes, specifically on sector monitoring and variation over the medium term?

Regarding climate change, how is the Department going to ensure the role of early detection systems in fighting climate change in informal and rural areas? She acknowledged that a lot of work had been done in district municipalities on adaptation strategies. But given that no disaster management plan for provinces exists, does the Department play a role in ensuring that Disaster Management Plans are in place and implemented in provinces? Are there any draft sectoral emission targets that will be published this year? Which sectors will be focused on?

On securing water sources, how long does it take for the Department to secure a site, and where is this going to be? With regards to wetlands, this is an area that a lot of provinces are increasingly being targeted by informal settlements, and how is the Department involved in addressing environmentally sensitive parts of the eco-systems being occupied by informal settlements in various provinces? What is the total area of state forests to be rehabilitated, and what criteria were used to determine this year’s target?

On invasive species, the hectares that are being cleaned – is there a maintenance plan to be kept clean, and where does the cost and responsibility for that fall? Does it fall on the Department, the provinces or the local authorities?

On clinical waste, it is well known that municipalities struggle to keep up with waste plans, costs and skills, but is there anything the Department can do more to make it more effective?

Regarding the 24 communities that are going to receive plantations transferred to them, is the Department confident that the communities have the necessary skills, resources, and knowledge to maintain these plantations? Is there a reliable monitoring system within the Department to monitor post-settlement support to the forestries, and is the same thing applicable to small-scale fisheries rights?

How many small-scale fishing cooperatives have been declared in the Western Cape? Lastly, she has been hearing about the Preservation and Development of Agriculture Land Bill for the past eight years, yet no timeframes have been imposed or met. She was sceptical about the submission and processing of this Bill before the end of this term as the Department targets.

Ms W Ngwenya (ANC, Gauteng) wanted to know about the specific programmes that will be supported by the $USD80 million donation raised and planned as the target for the years 2023 and 2024. Secondly, under programme seven, she asked about the targets and plans to build an alternative landfill site in Gauteng in the current financial year. The landfill sites are filling up very quickly in Gauteng and something must be done. Under the same programme, she also asked about the training offered to the councillors and officials, and if it was based on the needs of the municipalities or not, and if there are any forums in the provinces. If so, who is part of this forum? How often do the forums meet?

Lastly, under programme one, how will the Department prioritise filling the vacant posts at the senior management level, and how many have been filled in the last quarter? How many were planned to be filled in the current quarter? What are the timeframes for filling these vacancies?

Ms M Mokause (EFF, Northern Cape) said that the communities who have always relied on the sea for livelihoods, how is the Department going to accommodate them for the fishing rights or the small-scale process? How will the Department ensure that Aquaculture stats start playing a more meaningful role in addressing poverty alleviation and creating jobs?

Ms L Bebee (ANC, KwaZulu-Natal) asked, regarding programme three, to what extent has the impact of floods in KZN and sewage infrastructure affected the water quality programme in eThekwini? On programme two, she noticed this programme was allocated a lower budget for the current financial year, but she wanted to know what informed the lower allocation. Is it because the Department has not finalised the compliance and enforcement strategy? If so, what is the timeframe to finalise this strategy? If not, what are the reasons? Lastly, regarding air quality compliance, are there any notifications issued to any power stations for air compliance? If so, which power stations?

DFFE Responses
Ms Tshabalala responded that the major contributor to the declined budget of R9.8 billion in the 2023/24 financial year is that the Department received resources of about R700 million, which was mainly for infrastructure. It has been allocated to various entities including the SA Weather Services (SAWS) and SANParks. There will be a dip in the following year because the amount was allocated for one year.

Ms Andiswa Jass, Chief Financial Officer, DFFE, indicated the reason why the Department would receive an unqualified audit opinion in the past was due to the late conclusion of the audit, which was in December. This gave the Department little time to implement the audit action plan. In the 2021/22 financial year, the audit was concluded on time, allowing the Department to develop an audit action plan monitored throughout the financial year. It managed to implement most of the recommendations by the AGSA.

The main reason for the budget reduction in Programme Two is that, with establishing the Boarder Management Agency, some of the functions and resources have been moved from Programme Two to the agency, including the budget.

Ms Mmamokgadi Mashala, Deputy Director-General: Corporate Management Services, DFFE, said that, in the past quarter, having had over 291 vacancies that existed, the Department already advertised 95 posts and 35 have since been filled while others were still being concluded. The Department intended to advertise 60 posts in the first quarter. There were 45 vacancies on the SMS level, and 29 were advertised, while 16 were filled, with the remainder still being processed. The Department has targets that it prioritises quarterly.

Regarding the capacity within the CFO’s office, she said that this was prioritised as critical posts that the Department needs to fill as a matter of priority.

Ms Vanessa Bendeman, DDG: Regulatory Compliance and Sector Monitoring, DFFE, indicated that the compliance and enforcement strategy is something that the Department wants to finalise to ensure that it properly capacitates provincially as well as review the required resources for compliance and enforcement strategy. Once the strategy has been finalised, it will guide the resources that must be required. There are budgetary constraints experienced at the national and municipal level, but the Department is looking at the Strategy to guide how these threats can be addressed by the EMIs, notwithstanding the current human and financial constraints. The Department is still working cooperatively with provincial and municipal EMIs to support each other to take the work forward.

On non-compliance with landfill sites, she believed that this is a budgetary and infrastructural issue which is something that the branch on chemicals and waste also looks at in terms of how the Department can support and assist municipalities. Unfortunately, for compliance and enforcement, action is taken if there is non-compliance and look at training to improve compliance in these municipal landfill sites.

Regarding EAs, the Department’s system captures national and provincial environmental authorisations. She did not have the correct, but it is thousands. She will provide accurate figures in writing. Mining and oil are a mandate of the DMRE (Department of Mineral Resources and Energy), and they are not included in the authorisations.

A large percentage of the training programme is directed towards providing basic and specialised training to EMIs, which are the Green Scorpions. The rest of the attendees are from regulatory authorities that work in conjunction with the EMIs to combat environmental crimes. These will also include the SA Revenue Service (SARS) and the Customs and Border Management Authority.

Dr Lisolomzi Assaph Fikizolo, DDG: Ocean and Coasts, DFFE, said after the MPAs are declared, management plans should be developed and submitted to the Minister for approval. The Department develops these plans in conjunction with the management authorities, like Ezemvelo KwaZulu-Natal Wildlife. However, the Department does not have capacity for the implementation thereof but monitors the effectiveness of the MPAs jointly through the Advisory Committee. Therefore, concerns arise when management plans are being developed because they require the stipulated period of 12 with various stages and additional funding. Thus, the Department has been able to source this funding from a regional body and an NGO. It is progressing well in developing the marine protected areas, particularly Operation Phakisa Marine protected areas.  

Regarding water quality at discharge points (sewage plants), the development, design, and operation of these fall under the purview of the municipalities. The DFFE comes in at the monitoring of their function in two ways – there is the end of the pipe monitoring (the quality of what is discharged in the environment) and compelling municipalities to conduct weekly inspections and report monthly to the Department to review if they are compliant to the permit conditions. The Department also requests the municipalities to model before the permit is issued to look at how far, from the discharge point, the nature of dispersing is to decide how the process will be managed. This will also inform the impact assessment (the Marine and Environment Impact Assessment) – the kind of impact the discharge is doing on the environment. These are done annually. The recent floods in KZN created some problems in terms of access to some of the areas that stakeholders concerned were attending to.

Regarding water quality monitoring and concerns around the budget allocated to it, it is not with the integrated coastal management but with the specialist monitoring service which works with the Walter Sisulu University, where there is a national pollution laboratory with five areas of operation within the laboratory. Within the laboratory are lab services where the analysts are and previously disadvantaged individuals with good qualifications are the analysts. Within the Department, there are 34 young people employed to collect samples across the provinces at certain periods that would have been agreed upon by the Department and the Lab. Monthly reports and quarterly reports are submitted.

Mr Maesela Kekana, DDG: Climate Change and Air Quality Management, indicated that municipalities issue the power stations atmospheric licenses. There is a pending compliance case on Kendal, and it is handled by Nkangala District Municipality. Seven sectoral emission targets are set for the year in the energy, transport, agriculture, human settlements, trade and industry, and water and sanitation sectors.

The Department works closely with the South African Weather Services in implementing the framework for climate services. It promotes the rollout, amongst other things, like the early warning system in some areas.

Ms Mamogala Musekene, DDG: Chemicals and Waste Management, replied to say that, in 2020, the Department introduced extended producer responsibility regulations for the three waste streams which are currently under implementation – paper, packaging, electrical and electronic equipment, and lighting. We have seen that producers of these products have organised themselves and set aside financial resources to support the collection of these products at the end of life and further recycling. This helps alleviate the burden on the municipalities. The DFFE has also worked with the National Treasury and the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA) to review specific grants to ease the financial constraints faced by municipalities.

On alternative waste treatment in Gauteng, the DFFE has worked with Infrastructure South Africa for a programmatic approach to fund waste infrastructure. This approach prioritises compliance and ensures that DFFE can secure the commercial viability of alternative waste treatment. Some tariffs do not reflect the costs required to enable sufficient investment in alternative waste treatment. DFFE must work with municipalities to correct this tariff, but they must also attract funding from the private sector and from FDIs (financial development institutions).

There are district forums that align with the district municipalities where the designated waste management officers are meant to participate. These structures are meant to sit quarterly, and they report to the provincial Waste Management Forum, which goes up to the National Working Group, which is a Mintek structure that reports to Minmec quarterly.

Ms Phumeza Nodada, DDG: Forestry Management, said that Forestry Development and Forest Land Management and Core Settlement Support assist the communities in developing management plans where DFFE can identify what is required for those plantations to be sustainably managed. There is also a collaboration with the industry to support these communities with technical advice and funding where necessary to ensure that these plantations are sustainably managed. DFFE also works closely with the SETA responsible for Forestry and Manufacturing, where it can identify the skills required through the finding from the SETA, and the community get the training to manage the plantations.

Through Chapter Two of the National Forest Act, DFFE uses these standards and regulations to measure whether the plantations were sustainably managed. Through these standards, management plans are developed based on them so that, when DFFE conducts its monitoring annually, it can identify if there is progress or a decline in sustainability.

Ms Sue Middleton, DDG: Fisheries Management, responded that no small-scale cooperatives were established in the Western Cape. The success list has been published and the next step is the appeals process. Thereafter, the Minister will consider the appeals and once finalised, the process of setting up small-scale cooperatives will ensue. The prior step is to recognise small-scale fishing communities, which is a quick step. DFFE anticipates that it will recognise about 80 small-scale fishing communities in the Western Cape and then it will register cooperatives, between now and October. The DFFE estimates that it will be established about 60 cooperatives in the Western Cape.

Regarding the Preservation and Development of Agricultural Land Bill, the Bill was introduced during the Fifth Administration. It could not be completed and was revised in the current administration. Based on the requests from the industry, a further round of consultations was requested, and the Bill went through extensive public consultations, which has been concluded. The Bill is currently before the State Law Advisor for certification, and this is expected in the next two weeks. It will then be presented to Parliament.

In accommodating small coastal communities during the fishing process, DFFE was able to accommodate those who were worthy of fishing rights allocation. The last round of allocation was done in 2021 for traditional line fishing.

We need to be realistic concerning what the aquaculture sector can accommodate. By its nature, aquaculture projects tend to be capital-intensive and are not big job creators. The sector could rather be looked at to augment the decreasing fish stocks and assist with providing food nutrition and security. At this stage, expecting the aquaculture sector to be a huge job creator would not be realistic.

The DG indicated that any other outstanding questions would be responded to in writing.

The Chairperson experienced intermittent connectivity challenges. Members resolved to send questions to entities as the meeting was cut short due to connectivity issues, a few Members had clashing meetings, and the quorum was compromised.

The meeting was adjourned.


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