Departments of Mineral & Energy and Foreign Affairs: briefing

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Meeting report

ECONOMIC AFFAIRS SELECT COMMITTEE
31 August 1999
BRIEFING BY THE DEPARTMENT OF MINERALS AND ENERGY AND THE DEPARTMENT OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS

Documents distributed:
Department of Minerals and Energy: Annual report
White Paper: a Minerals and Mining Policy for South Africa

SUMMARY
The Department of Minerals and Energy and the Department of Foreign Affairs briefed the committee on their structure and core business.

MINUTES
The chairperson, Mr Moosa (ANC), gave apologies on behalf of the Department of Trade and Industry, which was unable to attend, but would meet with the Committee by means of a video link-up on Wednesday 1 September at 11:00 in V227. A further meeting will be held on Thursday 2 September 6:00pm.

The chairperson stated that the only Bill he expected to be processed by the Committee in the next two months would be the Gambling Matters Second Amendment Bill, which was fairly urgent in light of developments in North West Province. The Bills relating to nuclear matters have not yet been processed by the National Assembly and the chairperson made known his intention to track those two Bills. He then invited

Department of Minerals and Energy: briefing
Ms Lefakane, the Director of Communications for the Department of Minerals and Energy, began her presentation by alluding to the transformation and restructuring embarked upon by the Department subsequent to the 1994 election. She mentioned that the Department had changed its name from Mineral and Energy Affairs to the Department of Minerals and Energy.

In terms of structure the Minister, Ms P Mlambo-Ncguka, and Deputy Minister, Ms S Shabangu, head up the Department. The Director General is Advocate S Nogxina. There are four main branches in the Department namely, Management Services, Mineral Development Branch, Energy Branch and Mine Health and Safety. A Chief Directorate and two deputies run each branch.

The Mineral Development Branch has offices in all of the nine regions. The regional branches aid in informing the public about regulations pertaining to industry, prospecting, registration of claims, land mineral capacity, land rights issues etc. The Energy Branch deals with liquid fuels and electrification and the Mine Health and Safety Directorate is concerned with educating the miners, dealing with health and housing issues etc.

Mr Raju (DP) interrupted the presentation to enquire as to whether foreigners were allowed to prospect.
Ms Lefakane responded by saying that foreigners were most probably not allowed to do so legally.

Mr Kolweni (ANC) added that nevertheless he had personally witnessed foreigners prospecting illegally.

Ms Lefakane proceeded with her presentation and commented on the shift from a focus on big business to one that benefits the man in the street. She said that the Department was not relevant only to big corporations, but was developing a community focus.

Legislation
With regard to legislation Ms Lefakane referred to the White Paper on Minerals and Mining Policy of 1998 which signified the immense changes occurring in the mining industry. She said that a working group is currently working on the alignment of laws in light of the white paper. Several laws are up for review including the Mining Title Registration Act of 1967. The national policy of redistribution and equity has necessitated a change in the Act to ensure that resources are fully exploited. Those who fail to mine on the land granted for that purpose would in future stand to lose the land. The Central Energy Fund Act is also up for review and the fund will be restructured at a later date. The Venda Land Control Act and the Bophuthatswana Land Control Act are now obsolete in light of the territory's incorporation into South Africa. Ms Lefakane indicated that the Electricity Act would also change, as will the Nuclear Energy Act.

Mr Moosa asked which departments Ms Lefakane considers to be sister departments to the Department of Minerals and Energy.

Ms Lefakane responded that the Department of Land Affairs, the Department of Tourism and Environment, the Department of Labour and the Department of Finance were all considered sister departments.

Mr Moosa asked what the relationship was with the Department of Public Enterprises.

Ms Lefakane related that there was an unfortunate overlap between the jurisdictions of the two departments when it came to the matter of the allegiance of parastatals.

Mine Health and Safety Branch
Ms Lefakane went on to discuss the Mine Health and Safety Branch. She said that for the first time the health, housing and education of the miners was being taken into consideration. The Mine Health and Safety Act of 1996 proposed the setting up of a Mine Health and Safety Council made up of the Mining Regulatory Commission, the Mine Occupational Health Advisory Committee, the Safety in Mines Research and Advisory Committee and the Mining Qualification Authority.

Amongst other things these bodies have attempted to phase out fanigalo, as it is thought that this hampers communication and thus increases the occurrence of accidents. Also the miners are being educated so as to facilitate career changes deemed necessary because of the state of the mining industry. AIDS and STDs are also primary targets of intervention. In addition to this 43 new inspectors are being trained to facilitate a culture of health and safety.

Mr Lucas (ANC) mentioned that because of conditions in the mines prior to 1994, many miners now suffer from health problems that prevent them from earning a living. He wanted to know whether the Act was retroactive in this regard.

Ms Lefakane said that the Act was not retroactive. Mr Moosa interjected that the rights guaranteed by the Constitutional framework of the new South Africa might very well afford such people compensation. Mr Moosa asked Ms Lefakane to furnish the committee with a copy of all relevant Acts.

Mineral Development Branch
With regard to the Mineral Development Branch, Ms Lefakane said that measures have been taken to improve the turnaround time for prospecting and mining applications. Environmental procedures have been put in place to ensure that miners do not leave gaping holes after mining operations. The implementation of the National Small-Scale Mining framework is unique world wide in that it promotes small-scale mining operations by mining entrepreneurs.

Mr Raju interjected by stating that such a provision was surely an extension of government's altruism as he viewed mining to be an inappropriate area for small- scale operations.

Ms Lefakane preferred not to use the term altruism and said that this provision was in pursuit of a better life for all.

Mr Kolweni supported the initiative because mining skills are not transferable. He mentioned that having worked in the mining industry does not prepare the miner for any other form of employment if they are retrenched etc. However, now these miners would be able to open their own mining operations.

Mr Conroy (NNP) felt that small-scale operations would not always be feasible. Gold mining for example requires a huge amount of capital.

Ms Lefakane responded that there were various types of mining, such as slate mining, in which small-scale mining was feasible.

Energy Branch
With Regard to the Energy Branch Ms Lefakane said that there were two models of electricity distribution under consideration, one favouring national distribution and the other proposing distribution through the municipalities. She said that the latter was most likely to be endorsed.

Foreign Affairs Department: briefing
The delegation included Ms Mohale, the High Commissioner to India, Mr Sooklal and Mr Lambrechts of the Department.

Ms Mohale addressed the committee on the role of diplomacy in pursuing South Africa's interests. She alluded to the forces of globalisation and the importance of South Africa's inclusion in economic blocs. She stressed the need for South Africa to form trade links with other countries, especially those in Asia, if the African Renaissance is to become a reality.

Mr Sooklal from the Foreign Affairs Ministry took the committee through the structure of the Foreign Affairs Department. The Minister and Deputy Minister head the Department. The Director-General is aided by 5 Deputy Directors -General, one for Africa, one for Asia and the Middle East, one for Europe and the Americas, one covering multi-lateral affairs and the last in charge of management. Under each Deputy Director-General is a Chief Directorate and Directors.

South Africa currently has 73 embassies, 14 consulates, a presence in 45 countries through honorary consulates and 78 non-residential accreditations. In addition to this there are seven foreign offices to international organisations such as the UN, EU etc.

Mr Moosa asked for clarification on the difference between embassies, high commissions and consulates.

Mr Sooklal replied that Embassies were South Africa's political representatives abroad. Those in Commonwealth countries were called High Commissions. Consulates technically fall under the embassies and have a more limited responsibility. Non-residential accreditation occurs when the ambassador to a country represents South Africa in neighbouring countries as well (in which he/she does not reside).

In the period 1994-1999 there has been a shift away from Eurocentrism and South Africa has increased their presence in Latin America, Africa and Asia, through direct or indirect representation. In these last five years South Africa has played an important role in the international community. Mr Sooklal alluded to the Minister's involvement in the DRC and the Lusaka Peace Accord. Such international involvement is an extension of South Africa's domestic policy and in the long run aims at promoting the creation of wealth and peace and security in South Africa. Mr Sooklal asked the committee to play a role in the formulation of South Africa's dynamic foreign policy.

Mr Lucas (ANC) asked about South Africa's involvement in democratisation of the UN.

Mr Sooklal replied that South Africa had made submissions concerning the democratisation of the Security Council. He pointed out that there was some opposition to the suggested democratisation.

Members then enquired about South Africa's intervention in Lesotho and its intentions in Angola.

Mr Sooklal responded that it had been SADC, of which South Africa is a member state, and not South Africa in its own capacity, that had intervened in Lesotho. He said that South Africa would continue not to act unilaterally but in accord with other SADC states.

In closing, Mr Sooklal suggested a workshop between the department, the select committee and the portfolio committee and other relevant players.

The chairperson responded favourably as did other committee members. The chairperson thanked Mr Sooklal for his presentation.

Administrative matters
The chairperson asked each member to submit their CV. He enquired as to how members wanted to proceed in the following weeks and if they liked the format of meetings that had been established.

Members approved the format and thanked the chairperson for being so inclusive. Mr Theron (DP) enquired about the member's role with respect to the provinces.

Mr Lucas (ANC) said that the members should use the committee as A platform from which to lobby for their province.

The chairperson concluded the meeting by suggesting that each member confer with their provincial counterparts and find out what the key issues were at a provincial level. He encouraged each member to utilise the upcoming provincial week to establish relationships with the provinces.

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