Department Programme for 2001

Water and Sanitation

15 March 2001
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Meeting report

PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE ON WATER AFFAIRS AND FORESTRY

WATER AFFAIRS AND FORESTRY PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
16 March 2001
DEPARTMENT PROGRAMME FOR 2001

Chairperson: Rev P Moatshe

Documents handed out
Strategic Plan for Chief Directorate: Forestry
Strategic Plan 2001/2002: Water Affairs
(email
info@pmg.org.za for these documents which are awaited from the department)
National Forest and Fire Laws Amendment Bill [B14-2001]

SUMMARY
The Department of Water Affairs and Forestry discussed the National Forest and Fire Laws Amendment Bill [B14-2001] and the Department's programme for the year.

MINUTES
National Forest and Fire Laws Amendment Bill [B 14- 2001]
Dr J Mjwaha (Department of Water Affairs and Forestry) read through the Bill amending the provisions of the National Forests Act 84 of 1998 and National Veld and Forest Fire Act 101 of 1998. (See Appendix for Memorandum of Objects)

Discussion
Mr G McIntosh (DP) stated that the Department of Agriculture was tasked with controlling veld and forest fires. He asked if the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry collaborated with the Department of Agriculture in controlling these fires.

Rev M Chabaku (ANC) said that the Department's presentation on the Bill was of great interest. She drew the analogy of the extensive destruction of indigenous forests in South America for commercial purposes with little concern for the aftermath once the trees have been felled. She asked if there were any specific provisions in the Act to guard against destruction of indigenous forests in this regard.

Mr H Combrinck (IFP) asked how the Act would affect the people who make a living out of selling carved wooden ornaments. He said that there needs to be a balance between economic activity and a concern to protect indigenous trees such as "Umthombothi".

Mr A Mvemve did not indicate whether the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry collaborated with the Department of Agriculture in controlling veld and forest fires. However, he replied that the Fire Brigade Services Act was the only legislation dealing with industrial, domestic and structural fires. Currently there is no legislation dealing with mountain, and forest fires. The Fire Brigade Services are of the view that they cannot be involved in fighting veld and forest fires. Consequently, farmers rely on the provisions of the Fire Brigade Services Act to control fires in agricultural lands.

Secondly, he replied that the Act is very strict in protecting indigenous forests. It is much stricter than for plantations and other exotic trees. Thirdly, the Minister published an exemption more than a year ago that lays down strict conditions relating to the amount of wood that the communities could fell. This exemption has to this end not been contravened by any community which indicates that their economic community would not be affected by it.

Dr J Mjwaha added that the Department has not taken this issue of protection of indigenous forests lightly. He affirmed that the Department had since 1998 allocated a budget in the sum of R60 million towards the protection and preservation of indigenous forests. Furthermore, there are a number of programmes that have been instituted to address the matter. One such approach is a strategic forest management, which has been initiated with communities to manage and protect indigenous forests. Thus the Department is investing its resources in protecting these national resources.

Prof. H Ngubane (IFP) asked if these strategic programmes also include the protection of indigenous forests from outsiders who use them for herbal use for commercial purposes. She also asked if there are any programmes that have been designed to teach people about management and administration of indigenous plants and forests.

Ms M Ngwenya (ANC) asked if these regulations would form blanket regulations for the rest of the country.

Rev Chabaku asked if there was any tutorial guidance given to the communities on how to control forest fires.

Mr McIntosh enquired about the amendment to section 28 of National Forests Act noting that the termination of a contract is a radical step. He asked if this was to allow for old outstanding contracts that were interfering with the process of privatisation or the selling of forests to communities.

Mr M Mokoena (ANC) said that the Memorandum to the Bill mentions Safcol to have been the only stakeholder to be consulted when the Bill was drafted. He asked if the Department was satisfied that Safcol represents the majority of persons to be affected by this legislation. Secondly, he asked about the amendment of section 7 of the National Forests Act which prohibits any person from cutting, disturbing, damaging or destroying any indigenous, living tree in a natural forest except in terms of a license issued or an exemption published by the Minister. He asked if traditional healers are bound by this section in a sense that they also have to obtain a license to harvest certain plants and herbs.

Mr R Nyakane (UDM) said that he appreciated the Department's intensified programme of protection and preservation of indigenous forests but wished to ask if there was any programme for the establishment of additional indigenous forestry. Contemporary population growth has far exceeded supply. Secondly, he asked for some clarity on the interpretation or definition of the term "indigenous forestry". He also asked if the highly commercialised bluegum trees formed part of indigenous forestry.

Dr Mjwaha replied that the common thread that emanated from the majority of the question was protection versus use. He stressed that the Department had established new policies that recognised the people and communities role in forestry management. He indicated that the Department had to balance the rights of persons to practice their traditional values against a need to ensure that the protection of indigenous forests occurred within a legal framework. Formal agreements called community forestry agreements will be concluded between the state and the communities regarding the utilisation of indigenous forests. Provision had already been made in the legislation to this effect. Agreements of this kind would be reduced to legal documents.

Secondly, Safcol is not the only stakeholder to have been consulted before the drafting of the Bill. Among the other 10 -15 organisations that were consulted before the drafting of the Bill included both governmental departments and non-governmental organisations.

Thirdly, in reply to Mr Nyakane's question, the Department has designed programmes through which indigenous forest resources will not only be protected but also extended.

Ms J Vilakazi commented that too much protection of natural resources may be a problem since most of the natural resources are natural and God given. She also added that the law should not impose too stringent a requirement of protection to these resources especially to people who live in the remotest parts of the country and use these resources for their livelihood.

Mr M Gininda (ANC) opined that the whole issue is about the enforcement of the law which he said was important. He asked if the Department had a legal programme to ensure the enforcement of the law to curb the deforestation in South Africa. He also asked if there are any programmes to educate the people that the trees are as much a part of the environment.

Ms B Thompson (ANC) asked about the linguistic construction contained in clause 2 (b) of the Bill that the Minister "may" issue a license …" She opined that the word "must" ought to have been employed. She asked for the reasons that could prevent the Minister from issuing a license.

The Chairperson also asked what is being done to educate the masses about this important issue (preservation). Are the Committees aware of what is being done? What data does the Department have in so far as the previously disadvantaged people accessing the plantations, not only the indigenous trees?

Dr Mjwaha replied that the Department does have programmes and data with respect to how the communities are effectively engaged in the management of forests. There is a policy contained in a document clearly setting out the terms of participatory forest management.

Regarding the issue of enforcement, certain programmes have been designed, such as drawing an inventory of indigenous forests, and enforcing the law regarding their protection. The Communities are also invited to be part of this process in that people from the civil society have been appointed as forest guards and are being trained towards this end.

Mr Nyakane asked what the Department has done in involving tribal authorities in nature conservation.

Ms Thompson noted that her question had not been answered.

Mr Mvemve replied that the Minister would have a right to refuse the grant of a license, for example, if a person were to apply for a license to fell indigenous trees to manufacture furniture. The Minister would clearly have discretion to consider each undertaking for which a license is sought.

Mr Mokoena further inquired if the provisions of the Bill would bind the traditional healers if it becomes law.

Mr M Muller (DG Dept of Water Affairs & Forestry) replied that all users are bound. This will be balanced with a need to protect indigenous forests where there is a wide scale exploitation of these trees or herbs.

Strategic Plan 2001/2002, Key Focus Areas & Strategic Objectives.
Mr Mike Muller, the Director General of the Department, presented the strategies for Water Affairs and Forestry.

Discussion
Mr S Simmons (NNP) asked Mr Muller how measurable were the activities that he had outlined in order to be accordance with the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA).

Mr D Maimane (ANC) based his question on forestry restructuring including the commercialisation of forests. He asked what implications would this have on the budget of the Department, the transfer of waterworks to municipalities and the implementation of free water. Finally, he asked what implications does the Revenue Services Bill have.

Rev Chabaku asked about what the Department is doing about the disposal of polluted water, especially in big industries and firms. She also asked about the number of the women involved since this has been a male led and male dominated society. This is in view of the fact that the Constitution requires equal not nominal representation.

Ms A Versfeld (DP) asked about the on water services and on the transfer of waterworks.

Mr Nyakane (UDM) asked if the people who have boreholes for agricultural purposes are included in the water licensing process. Secondly, he asked if the water institutions that Mr Muller referred to include Water Boards.

Mr Muller replied that that the PFMA requires the Department to put out measurable outputs. A document called the Draft National Water Resource Strategy would be produced and tabled and there would be no argument that there has been outputs.

Regarding the question on water services and on the transfer of waterworks he said that there would be a five-year programme that will involve many people at local, provincial and national government taking the large water schemes and transferring them to new local governments. With the implementation of free water, a free water programme is a large programme of activities with a team working with SALGA and the provincial and local government departments to support local government and plan its service provision and the budgeting for operation and maintenance of services. Regarding the disposal of polluted water, there is a large programme that the Department is working on to address the problem.

On the issue of whether boreholes drilled for agricultural purposes must be licensed, Mr Muller responded that he wasn't aware of the exact requirement. But if it was drilled for household purposes it does not have to be licensed. It would need to be licensed if the amount of water taken affects adversely affects the immediate community.

As there were no further questions from the floor, the meeting was closed.

Appendix:
MEMORANDUM ON THE OBJECTS OF THE NATIONAL FOREST AND FIRE LAWS AMENDMENT BILL, 2001
The National Forest and Fire Amendment Bill, 2001, is introduced for the purpose of
amending and effectively implementing the—
(a) National Forest Act, 1998 (Act No. 84 of 1998); and
(b) National Veld and Forest Fire Act, 1998 (Act No. 101 of 1998),
which were promulgated in 1998.

The National Forests Act, 1998
1. The definitions of ''State land'' and ''trust forest'' are not adequate. The amendment
of the definition of ''State land'' is proposed so as to allow for land transferred to
communities to remain a state forest in terms of a joint management agreement. The
amendment of the definition of ''trust forest'' recognises that the boundaries of state
forests have changed over time.
2. The present position is that only trees may be protected, but not their produce or
products. The Bill seeks to prevent people from freely dealing in produce or products of
protected trees or species.
3. The Act failed to take into account contracts between licensees and third parties. In
those cases the contractor should not be expected to pay an additional licence fee. A
further method of exempting people from paying licence fees is sought to be added, viz.
the Minister may refrain from fixing a fee.
4. The granting of mining rights in state forests is now made subject to the stringent
requirements of section 3.
5. Long-term supply contracts are terminable on a notice of five years. This does not
take into account renewable contracts. Now the five years includes the periods of
renewal. Once-off sales were overlooked and provision is now made for them.
6. The Minister may, in terms of the Act, reserve state land for forestry. However, this
land is currently under the control of different Ministers and other authorities. The
amendment sets out those authorities whose concurrence the Minister must seek before
he may reserve the land.
7. When regulations under the Act would come into effect has not been made clear and
has caused disagreement. The Bill seeks to rectify this by introducing a simpler and
clearer procedure. Tariffs may be levied for forest products or forest produce sold by the
Department. Further tariffs are now being introduced, viz. those for produce or products
sold by other organs of state and for services rendered by employees of the Department.
8. An error exists in the Act in that it states that Safcol does not own the forests in
which it operates. What was intended, was to say that it does not and cannot own the
land on which those forests stand.

The National Veld and Forest Fire Act, 1998
1. The Act provides for cooperation between fire protection associations, but only in
cases where fires cross the boundaries of those associations. This is too limiting and the
Bill now provides for such cooperation in all cases.
2. Fire fighting is a specialised activity and municipal fire officers can render a
valuable service in the event of forest fires. However, they cannot be compelled to
perform these functions, as the Act compels them to. So the Bill now makes provision
for the officers to make themselves available voluntarily. It is impracticable to require a
fire danger rating system to take into account all the matters mentioned in the Act as this
may not always be possible. The element of reasonableness is now introduced.
3. Similarly the Bill streamlines the procedure for the promulgation of regulations
under this Act.

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