Sectional Titles Amendment Bill: Department briefing; Pretoria University Veterinary Science: briefing

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Meeting report

AGRICULTURE AND LAND AFFAIRS: PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
12 April 2005
SECTIONAL TITLES AMENDMENT BILL: DEPARTMENT BRIEFING; PRETORIA UNIVERSITY VETERINARY SCIENCE: BRIEFING

Chairperson:

Mr N Masithela (ANC)

Documents handed out:

University of Pretoria briefing on veterinary science
Faculty BSc Veterinary Biology: Student Admission Policy and Procedures 2006
Faculty Summary: Recruitment initiative with Regard to Designated Groups 2002 - 2005
Faculty Student Numbers By Race And Gender
Faculty overview and leadership
Faculty of Veterinary Science introduction
Faculty Diploma in Veterinary Nursing: Student Admission Policy and Procedures for Admission 2006

Sectional Titles Amendment Bill [B10-2005]
Presentation on Section Titles Amendment Bill [B10–2005]

SUMMARY
The University of Pretoria reported on their veterinary science faculty and the state of the profession in the country. They highlighted serious problems of sustainability and possible implications for disease control. Funds were inadequate for training and the profession was not considered to be an attractive career for young black people, partly because of remuneration disparities with the medical profession. Lack of human resources in the training of postgraduates needed to be addressed. The perception that vets only treated small animals was in contradiction to the very critical role that vets played in ensuring food security and safety in the country. Various issues around changing the training and funding systems were proposed.

The Department of Agriculture and Land Affairs then briefed the Committee on the Sectional Titles Amendment Bill [B10-2005]. The Committee agreed that they should send out a public notice inviting further comment and contact relevant bodies without conducting full public hearings. The Committee would thereafter consider finalising the Bill.

MINUTES

University of Pretoria submission
Mr Mogotlane, Vice-Principal of the University of Pretoria, said veterinary science concerned food issues, something most people did not associate with the profession. Veterinary science as a career path was vitally important to the welfare of the country. Food security and food safety were linked and partly dependent on the veterinary profession. Moreover, the Minister of Health had indicated that good nutrition was an important weapon in the fight against the AIDS pandemic.

The implications of animal diseases such as "blou-oor varksiekte", equine flu and foot and mouth disease were serious and with that came the need for people in this discipline. South African vets had been recruited when the UK had experienced its outbreak of foot and mouth disease. Adequate protein was an essential part of daily nutrition and veterinary science ensured safe and healthy protein. The discipline had connections to various government departments such as Trade and Industry, Science and Technology, Sports and the Defence Force. The University was involved in an outreach programme and had links with the University of Mozambique and other universities in the SADC region. The veterinary science degree was expensive and the University of Pretoria had made many bursaries available to students. Unfortunately, bright students inevitably chose to study medicine instead.

Professor Kriek raised a number of pressing issues around human resources, funding and the sustainability of training. The University of Pretoria was the only faculty in the country that offered veterinary science. He said veterinary science was responsible for the global health of animals and human beings. There persisted a universal perception, however, that vets were pet doctors, whereas this was only part of their work. The issue of food was especially relevant in Africa and the vet in public practice had a vital role to play in ensuring sustainable food supply. In South Africa there were 2500 registered vets of which 70% were in private practice and of which 70% dealt with small animals. There were 150 specialists registered with the Veterinary Council. These specialists were accepted internationally. Vets in public practice worked for the government and were involved in surveillance, diagnostics, certification, epidemiology and import and export control. Vets were involved in policy development and in public health. They were found in academia, parastatals, the Agricultural Research Council (ARC), the Medical Research Council (MRC), the National Research Foundation (NRF) and in NGOs. They were employed in the food and pharmaceutical industry. Vets were also involved in the control of zoonotic diseases, which were diseases that could be transmitted from animal to man.

Professor Kriek talked about the unique challenges and critical roles played by veterinarians in the developing world. At present a lack of financial and human resources raised many problems and decentralisation had caused a difference in standards. Inadequate surveillance and numerous vacancies had decreased the functionality of public practice.

There had been a decline in the capacity of the Onderstepoort Veterinary Institute (OVI) and an overall decline in research. A report to the Minister listed lack of human resources, laboratory apparatus and infrastructure, and the difference in norms and standards between the National and Provincial Departments of Agriculture. The sustainability of the current system was doubtful and would impact on the country’s acceptance of certification by the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

Professor Kriek said the remuneration of vets in comparison to doctors was very low and therefore was not attractive to students. Despite current perceptions that the education of a vet was more expensive than that of a doctor, this was not the case. The subsidisation of veterinary degrees was less than the subsidisation for medical degrees. The current curriculum had to be expanded, as a newly trained vet could not cope with the sophistication of the farming world. The University could not sustain veterinary training at the current rate of income and expenditure. The 2001 income was R49 million and expenditure was R91.5 million.

They had received R16 million from government, leaving a deficit of R26 million. A change in the system of funding in subsequent years had lead to the department receiving 22% less. A deficit of R52 million in 2004 made it clearly unsustainable for the University to continue training, unless the funding system was adapted and a possible sub-allocation for administration and research was granted. The University was negotiating for an alternative source of funding in order to refurbish Onderstepoort and to fund further research.

Discussion
Dr A van Niekerk (DA) said it was obvious that the faculty needed better facilities and funding. He asked whether the OVI was still viable, since it seemed that various departments had closed down or were in the process of being closed down, and whether the University might not take over this function.

He asked if there was a threat of alien diseases and whether foot and mouth disease was under control. He asked for a proposal to solve the problem of disparities between local and national government departments in certification standards.

Mr B Radebe (ANC) asked if the faculty had made a presentation regarding the disparity between standards to the Department of Agriculture. He asked for the number of students, researchers and the projections in this regard.

Professor Mogotlane said that it was a misperception to think of the University as a bastion of the white apartheid era. It was unfortunate that the relationship, which had existed previously between the University and the government, had summarily ended with the change over. Yet the University was a true African institute with 40 000 students, of which 40% were black. The remuneration of vets was five times less than that of doctors. The reason for this was put forward as scarcity and yet vets were far fewer than medical doctors. He said vets should be valued equally.

Professor Kriek said the viability of OVI had been assessed and a report had been compiled and sent to the Department of Science and Technology and to the Department of Agriculture. OVI was a cohort of three independent institutions, Onderstepoort Biological Products and the University of Pretoria. It had in excess of 60 researchers. It was true that certain departments were closing down. There was co-operation and interaction between the University and OVI on an ongoing basis, but the two institutions had different core functions. He said the problems could be resolved if the recommendations in the report were acted upon. These pertained to human resources and management, which he was not at liberty to elaborate upon in this forum.

Professor Kriek said the country ran a risk of Avian Flu infection of the H5V1 strain. This had infected poultry in the East and had been transmitted to humans of whom there had been about 150 deaths probably as a result of direct contact. The virus could skip into other species, which would make it more infectious, but this had not happened as yet. Foot and mouth disease had already cost R80 million to eradicate in Limpopo. The integrity of the western fence of the Kruger National Park had to be maintained to stop the disease from crossing over the border. The country did not have the human resources to cope with this disease, if it were to spread throughout South Africa. The level of awareness about the disease had to be maintained.

Professor Kriek said the problem had been raised regarding Provincial and National disparities and was now in the political domain awaiting resolution. They had compiled an integrated recruitment framework document where issues regarding human resources had been addressed.

Professor Mogotlane said that a draft proposal for a meeting had been forwarded to the Department of Education addressing issues around training. This process had been repeated twice more, eliciting no response to date.

Professor Kriek said currently there were 550 undergraduates of whom 9% were black or Indian. There were 150 postgraduates, of which about 35% were black. There were 100 academic staffmembers, of which fifteen were black people.

In 1973, there had been a split between the faculty and the OVI, leading to the research element at the faculty being relatively poor. This continued during the eighties. Following amalgamation the bias in training shifted towards addressing the broad needs of the country rather than focussing on small animals. The emphasis on research also increased. Research output had increased to the extent that it now had a greater output of research papers than the OVI. They had two researchers who had research ratings of international standard.

Ms B Ntuli (ANC) suggested that the Departments of Education and Science and Technology address the deficiencies in the training. She asked what barriers restrained post-graduates from becoming specialists. She suggested that the University address the issue of training duration and quality themselves.

Dr E Schoeman (ANC) said the Departments of Education and Science and Technology had a responsibility to provide funding. It was obvious that the focus on small animals needed to shift to the focus on food and health. A programme should be instituted to manage such a shift in emphasis. Possibly two parallel courses could address the issues around duration of training and the lack of sufficient focus.

Professor Kriek said the Veterinary Council decided on the curriculum, which could not simply be changed by the University, as the Council was responsible for registration. Changes in curriculum necessitated an amendment to the Veterinary Act. He said the Veterinary Council posed the main barrier, as they consisted mainly of vets that were not sympathetic to the needs of the country and were mostly in private practice.
It required the political will to change, which could only be brought about by the Minister of Agriculture stating the requirement that vets were needed in other areas. At present there was insufficient capacity to deal with certain governmental requirements like surveillance. These needs were met only through overseas alliances with other Universities. Post-graduates needed more specialisation in the fields of bacteriology, virology and epidemiology in order to complete their training.

Public practice remained an unattractive career path, suffering from negative perceptions, lack of promotion, recognition and remuneration. It required highly intelligent and committed people to complete the training and it had to have more to offer them at the end of the day. Vets should be used strategically as they had been trained at great expense. They should not be used where para-veterinary training would suffice to do the job. These were problems, which had beset the profession worldwide, but the US had managed to turn it around. It would take several years to do so in this country, if recommendations were acted upon and the disparities in remuneration were rectified.

Mr Masithela said the Committee could address the problem from a legislative framework. He suggested a joint meeting with the Veterinary Council, the Minister, together with the Portfolio Committees on Science and Technology and Education. This Committee would lead the initiative. He suggested the University embark on an aggressive advertising campaign in order to attract the number and calibre of people required to improve the situation. A shift in training should be overseen by the Department of Education. The Committee would propose the integration of Provincial and National standards for certification to the Department of Agriculture.

Department briefing on Sectional Titles Amendment Bill
Mr Ogunronbi of the Department of Land Affairs said the proposed amendment Bill aimed at improving the clarity of the principal Act. Six amendments were proposed:

- A change to Section 1 was made in order to make the definition of the "exclusive use area" all encompassing by removing the reference to Section 27A;
- The proposed amendment to Section 2 was an increase from five to ten percent for the participation quota;
- The amendment to Section 3 sought to oblige a developer to register extensions, making him liable for the payment of levies;
- Amendment of Section 4 extended the rights of exclusive use of parts of common property;
- The fine set out in the current Section 5 would be changed to an inclusion of imprisonment for a period not exceeding two years in line with the Adjustment of Fines Act. This had been considered appropriate, as presently the fine of R1 000 was not acting as a deterrent and was regarded as a bit of a joke; and
- Section 6 would no longer hold owners liable for debt against a body corporate if they had paid their levies prior to a judgement.

Discussion
Mr Masithela asked why the proposed penalty was for two years and not five years. Mr Ogunronbi responded that this was the proposal the board had received. This was considered reasonable and an effective deterrent. There was no scientific basis for this and if the Committee chose to change it, it was in their hands.

Mr Radebe said the number of years chosen must have been arbitrary, since it was commonly known that the penal system in South Africa meant that sentences were effectively halved.

Mr Dlali said he was not satisfied with the reasoning behind this figure.

Mr Masithela asked whether it was legal or constitutional to institute a sentence of five years.

Mr M Ngema (IFP) asked how the change to 10% in Clause 2 would save time and money.

Mr Ogunronbi said that this referred to the participation quota, which was too low to warrant the expense of each mortgage holder consenting to the registration of the sectional plan extension.

Mr Masithela asked whether local government had been consulted and how other stakeholders had commented on the amendments.

Mr Ogunronbi said banks, land surveyors, the South African Properties Association, the Council of Architects and the Department of Housing had all been consulted and had agreed to the amendments. Local government had not been consulted.

Mr Masithela asked Members whether public hearings were warranted.

Dr van Niekerk asked whether the amendments addressed all problems experienced with the Act and whether public comment could be garnered without going the public hearings route. Mr Dlali agreed.

Dr Schoeman said that SALGA was not among those who had been consulted and perhaps there were other interested parties. Without resorting to public hearings, public comment could be invited.

Mr Masithela said he would send out a public note inviting further comment, whereupon the Committee would consider finalising the amendments.

The meeting was adjourned.

 

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