The Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (DALRRD) briefed the Committee in a virtual meeting on the amendments to the Agricultural Product Standards Bill, which included re-definitions and substitutions that would improve clarity and strengthen the meaning of the Bill.
The presentation addressed the weaknesses of the Bill, as well as the solutions, respectively. After providing the Committee with an up-to-date report on progress, the Department gave details of the amended sections and their purpose.
Members asked questions about the costs involved, the Department's capacity to implement effective monitoring, and the extent of the engagement with traditional leaders on the Bill. The Minister accepted proposals from the Members. The briefing was well-received by the Committee, and praised for being progressive.
The meeting concluded with Members being given details of the Committee's oversight visit to the Northern Cape at the end of July.
The Chairperson opened the meeting and provided apologies for the absence of Deputy Ministers, Nokuzola Capa and Mcebisi Skwatsha, and asked if there were other apologies. None were provided. She said that Ms L Bebee (ANC, KZN) would be late, as she was in another meeting, and requested that the agenda be displayed. After reading through it, she asked for a mover for its adoption.
Ms C Visser (DA, North West) moved, and the Chairperson seconded.
Ms M Mokause (EFF, Northern Cape) interjected, saying the Chairperson was “out of order," explaining that one could not second a motion while being "the referee."
The Chairperson responded that she merely wanted to move things along, as everyone else had been quiet. She wanted to get to the important details of the meeting. She then gave the floor to the Minister.
Ms Thoko Didiza, Minister of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (DALRRD), said the legislation was a technical amendment to strengthen existing legislation and clarify matters as the industry interfaced with the DALRRD. Certain definitions were to be added and others substituted. The amendment would also provide product audits for management control systems and make provision for setting tariffs by assignees. The Bill made provisions for the Minister to make regulations for auditing, management control systems and related matters. She said the Bill dealt with those technical definitions and would improve agricultural products by ensuring the standards were understood by everybody.
Agricultural Product Standards (APS) Amendment Bill
Mr Billy Makhafola, Director: Food Safety and Quality Assurance, DALRRD, said the APS Amendment Bill had been passed by the National Assembly and sent to the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) for its consideration. Certain shortcomings and weaknesses have been identified in the APS Act, such as the:
- Definition of “management control system;”
- Auditing of the management control system; and
- Setting of fees by assignees.
Measures introduced to solve shortcomings/ weaknesses included the insertion of new, and substitution of existing, definitions, inter alia “audit”, “management control system” and “sell,” provision for auditing of management control systems, and active participation by affected stakeholders in the determination of fees for assignees.
(Up-to-date processes to be found on pages six and seven of attached document).
Mr Makhafola described the amended sections and their purpose.
“Audit” means an examination of the management control system.
Definitions for “Department”, “Director-General” and “Minister”, “Management Control System”, “sell”.
Amendments to sub-section 3, paragraph (a) for more clarity.
Insertion after subsection (1A) of the principal Act, which discusses fee calculations and when they come into effect.
Substitution for heading [inspection].
Substitution in sub-section 2 for paragraph (c).
Substitution in sub-section (4) for the following sub-section.
Insertion in sub-section (1) after paragraph d.
Substitution in sub-section (1) for paragraph (g).
See attached for full presentation
The Chairperson thanked Mr Makhafola and opened the floor to the Committee for questions. She remarked on the Bill being familiar with the Committee, as it had been with them for some time.
Ms L Bebee (ANC, KZN) asked what the cost implications of the Bill were, and if the DALRRD would ensure that the cost was not too heavy for emerging farmers while enabling them to access the market. Had the DALRRD looked at the Bill to ensure vulnerable farmers were covered once implemented? She asked for more information, if the answer was yes. She asked how the Department planned to verify the authenticity of important organic and free-range products.
Ms W Ngwenya (ANC, Gauteng) asked how the DALRRD would monitor compliance after passing the Bill. Had the Department noted any future problems associated with the Bill, and if so, what were they? Could the Department tell the Committee if they had enough budget and personnel capacity to handle the added responsibilities of the proposed amendment? Had the Department engaged with traditional leaders during the consultation process. and what had their reactions been? If not, why did they not consult with them?
Ms M Mokause (EFF, Northern Cape) recalled that food production marketers had been consulted during the process. She asked if these marketers had raised issues with the Bill due to the economic decline of South Africa. What would greatly affect their production once the Bill was passed? Did the DALRRD have mechanisms in place to ensure proper implementation, and would they monitor for discrepancies?
Minister Didiza called on Mr Makhafola to answer the questions. She would then follow up once he had answered them.
Mr Makhafola responded on Ms Bebee’s and Ms Ngwenya’s questions on the cost implications and compliance, and said there would not be any extra cost. The staff capacity was adequate and merely a question of reorganisation. The DALRRD was already inspecting products and the change would affect products with labels and claims such as “organic.” He noted the existence of private companies investigating the compliance of those claims, but the standards to which they claimed to adhere, were not made public. He said the amendment would add one minimum regulation implemented through the Departmental inspectors or the assignees with the necessary competence to maintain confidence in the products. Audits would not happen every time the product was sold. The food production companies in question should be visited once or twice a year to ensure the controls and principals are present. He added that the cost would not be much. Every affected person would know the fee because they would be consulted.
Most farmers had organic and free-range produce, and the Bill would provide a centralised system of compliance with the minimum regulations. The inspection fee would be published, but the inspection frequency would probably be once a year. However, the minimum regulation would apply to everyone, not just the distinguished few who could afford the premiums of private certification bodies. The inspection would take place only once claims were made. Claims like grass-fed, free-range, Halal and organic, would have access to the market via the regulatory body, and the cost benefit would make up for the fees.
Answering Ms Bebee’s question on claims of imported products, he said they had an equivalency trade. He explained that just as those trading partners inspected South African production claims, the same was true for imported products. All imported products were on a database, so inspectors could be sent to those countries to inspect controls and regulations.
He added that during consultations, the common concerns were clarity, and the Bill had undergone scrutiny and refinement. As many comments as possible were taken into consideration, and, more than anything, it was accepted by the affected community.
Addressing Ms Ngwenya’s question about consulting traditional leaders, he said their road shows covered all nine provinces. Instead of directly consulting the traditional leaders, invitations were extended via advertisements in print media such as the Government Gazette. He suspected the traditional leaders had sent some of their people to attend the road shows.
Minister Didiza felt the need to explain that the Department had not consulted the traditional leaders’ institutions.
The Chairperson asked if not consulting the traditional leaders might result in an obstacle for the Bill. She commented that the leaders might raise concerns that they were not consulted when the public hearings were held.
Minister Didiza said they did not anticipate any problems from the traditional leaders. However, they could engage the National House of Traditional Leaders during the implementation process through the public hearings of the NCOP.
The Chairperson asked the Committee if they had any clarity-seeking questions.
Mr A van der Westhuizen (DA, Western Cape Legislature), referred to slide 11 of the presentation. Alongside the definition of “sell,” he enquired about use of the word “person’’ on this slide and slide 12. Agricultural products were sold not only to people, but also to juristic persons, shops, companies, etc. He asked if the amendment to the definition of “sell” should not also extend to juristic persons, shops, etc.
Mr Z Mkiva (ANC, Eastern Cape) said that the traditional leaders had a good working relationship with the office of the Minister, and that there was a scheduled interaction between the leadership of the Congress of Traditional Leaders of South Africa (Contralesa). This would be an opportune time to inform the attendees of the Bill. He added that he was at the centre of the institution of cultural leadership, and did not foresee any problems with the traditional leaders. It was always a good idea to inform the leadership that there was ownership when bills were implemented. He recalled how the Spatial Planning and Land Use Management Act (SPLUMA) was rejected because there was no prior consultation with traditional leaders, as they had felt undermined. The Minister had a good working relationship with them, and would appreciate a briefing on the amendment and technicalities. He concluded by saying that the amendment was progressive and should be welcomed.
Minister Didiza asked Mr Makhafola to respond to the question by broadening the definition of “person”.
Mr Makhafola said the definition of "person” appearing under “sell’’ did include natural and juristic persons. That was why the addition of “any person” referred to natural and juristic persons. If it did produce interpretation errors, it would not dilute the meaning of the amendment.
Minister Didiza interjected that they would accept Mr Van der Westhuizen’s proposal, as they could add in parenthesis that it could be a natural or juristic person, so that the interpretation would be clearly understood whenever the word was used in the Bill.
The Chairperson thanked the Minister and wanted to share a word with her before releasing her. She said that the meetings benefited a lot from the political input from the ministers, and the Committee appreciated her presence. She invited the Minister to speak before leaving.
Minister Didiza thanked the Chair and the Committee, and expressed her gratitude for the opportunity to present the amendment. She hoped they would engage with her and her team if there were any issues. They did take advice on some of the matters, as seen during the meeting, and recognised and respected the need to appear before the Select and Portfolio Committee as much as possible. The only concern was when there was a clash, describing how she and Mr Makhafola had to be excused from a briefing to the Portfolio Committee on the performance of the entities for quarters three and four to attend this one. She would engage with both Chairpersons when there was a scheduling conflict to create space to attend both Committees. She reiterated her thanks for the opportunity.
The Chairperson said the issue of clashes was important. The Chairpersons needed to consult their programmes so that this did not reflect negatively on the absentee Ministers.
Lastly, she said the Committee Members had expressed their unfamiliarity with Deputy Minister Capa, as she had not once attended a Select Committee meeting and it was the first time they had received an apology from her. She praised Deputy Minister Skwatsha for being present at most meetings, and asked that DM Capa attend the next meeting to introduce herself to the Committee.
Minister Didiza said she noted the issue and would engage with DM Capa.
Adoption of Minutes
The Chairperson asked if the Members had received the Committee's minutes.
Ms Ngwenya responded that they had received them.
The Chairperson continued that some Members had received the minutes, but others’ emails "had been hacked.” She wanted to know if they had received the minutes on time.
Ms Bebee confirmed that they had received the email on time.
The Chairperson welcomed Mr J Nyambi (ANC, Mpumalanga) to the meeting.
She went through the minutes and asked if any Members wanted to make corrections. When no one responded, she said it appeared no one had any issues.
Ms Bebee moved to adopt the minutes, and Ms Ngwenya seconded.
The minutes were duly adopted the minutes.
Oversight visit to Northern Cape
Ms Mokause asked about a briefing on the oversight visit to the Northern Cape.
The Chairperson responded that they were having a briefing on the oversight on Northern Cape from the 26 to the 31 July. The first day of the briefing would be in Kathu, where the mine general managers would deliver a presentation. She recalled the previous occasion when the Committee had raised issues in Kathu, and they were now due to receive a response. All the mines in Kuruman would present and the Committee would engage.
On the second day. Transnet would engage in the matters of trucks travelling with heavy loads of minerals. Mr Mkiva would be there with Transnet, where they would answer all the questions raised on previous occasions. Then the Committee would be in Kuruman and Khumani. The following day they would attend the South32 mine, where they would meet with the Department of Environment on the issue of pollution. The last day would be spent in Camden village, where traditional leaders and former and current Communal Property Association (CPA) members were in opposition. She added that before they leave Kathu, they would have a presentation from the Department of Community Development about all the CPAs in the Northern Cape.
She hoped the Members would avail themselves for the briefing on the oversight. It would be the beginning of their constituency period, and even though they would have many matters to attend to, that was the week they requested.
She asked that each of the Members brief their provincial offices on the amendments to the Bill, so it could be implemented as soon as possible. Once the provinces were on board, it would be easy for DALRRD to move on to the public hearings. Even though provinces could attend public hearings of their own choosing. It was important that they were briefed so that the final mandate was understood to come from the communities, and not only the Committee Members.
She referred to the previous Bill that had been presented to the Committee, and asked the Members to brief their respective provincial offices. The bills were important for the country, and their offices needed to help their legislators to allow them to proceed to public hearings.
The meeting was adjourned.
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