Draft Forestry Amendment Bill: briefing

Water and Sanitation

24 May 2005
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Meeting report

WATER AFFAIRS AND FORESTRY PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE

WATER AFFAIRS AND FORESTRY PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
25 May 2005
DRAFT FORESTRY AMENDMENT BILL: BRIEFING

Chairperson:
Ms C September (ANC)

Documents handed out:
Draft Forestry Amendment Bill Powerpoint Presentation
Draft Forestry Amendment Bill [B – 2004]
Explanatory Note on the Forestry Amendment Bill, 2005
Government Gazette
Department PowerPoint presentation on Lease Rental Trust
Veld and Forest Fires Act of 1998
Wattle Industry Act of 1960
National Forestry Act of 1998

SUMMARY
The Department of Water Affairs and Forestry briefed the Committee on the Draft Forestry Amendment Bill. It was a composite of three Acts: the National Forestry Act of 1998 which dealt with the sustainable use, management and protection of forestry; the Veld and Fire Act of 1998 which dealt with the prevention and combating of veld fires; and the Wattle Industry Act of 1960 which controlled the wattle bark industry. It was in the interests of Parliament to discuss the three issues, viz. fire prevention, the wattle bark industry and deregulation, and the establishment of a trust.

MINUTES

National Forestry Act briefing
Ms J Kock, Department Deputy-Director: Forestry Regulation, explained that the Draft Forestry Amendment Bill proposed amendments to three pieces of legislation: the National Forestry Act of 1998, the Veld and Forest Fires Act of 1998, and the Wattle Bark Industry Act of 1960. Various stakeholders, the National Treasury, Public Enterprise Deparment and communities had made representations around the amendments. In the first quarter of 2003, the Department had drafted the bill and presented it to Cabinet, who had approved the Bill.

The Department had decided to hold the Bill back to consolidate the issues raised. The issues had been presented to ‘focus groups’ affected by the provisions. In March 2005, the second draft of the bill had been submitted to Cabinet. A concern had been raised on how the Department and the National Treasury would interact regarding the Lease Rental Trust provision. The National Treasury would draft regulations of how the Trust would function. By Friday 27 May 2005, the Chief State Advisor would revise the Bill.

Draft Forestry Amendment Bill briefing
Ms L Garlipp, Department Senior Legal Officer, read out the minor technical changes to the Draft Forestry Amendment Bill (See document), which the Committee accepted without discussion.

Mr T Malatsi, Senior Manager: Forestry Regulation, discussed the main substantive amendment, being the establishment of a Lease Rental Trust. He reported that the Department had received R56.1 million in rental since the transfer of forests in 2001, until 2005.The rentals were paid into a expense account of the Department. This money was being kept for the ‘rightful owners’ of the land until such time that the Department could identify and pay rentals to these communities.

The Department of Land Affairs (DLA) dealt with land beneficiaries. Land claims totalled 25% of affected areas, and the rest was tenure reform. The Land Claims Commission funded Research Category 8 to identify communities adjacent to affected areas in Mpumulanga, Limpopo and the Eastern Cape. Consultants had assisted the Commission to research claims. The process had been completed in 2003. Some claims were at an advanced stage, and some had been gazetted. None had been settled in the affected areas. Even though R56.1 million had been paid for rentals for communities, the Department was unable to distribute the money until legal processes had been completed.

Talks had been held with the communities, the National Treasury, the DLA and the Land Claims Commission to establish a Trust to assist the beneficiaries before the monies could be distributed. The Department would manage the Trust (in agreement with the Treasury) and have it audited annually. The Treasury felt that the expense account was not meant for this kind of money. The Department had signed 70-year leases on the Trust lands.

Discussion
Ms M Gumede (ANC) wanted to know whether the communities were aware that the Department was collecting money on their behalf. Mr Malatsi replied that since 2001, the DLA and the Land Claims Commission had been engaged with the communities to identify rightful land claimants and to collecting money for them.

Mr I Mogase (ANC) asked how communities had organised themselves to receive the money. Mr Malatsi explained that the land claims process identified specific persons. If no person could be identified, a Community Property Association was established. To avoid unlawful payment of large amounts of money to illegal owners, no informal arrangements could be made. The Department needed to look at the transfer of funds to legal owners of the land.

Ms M Manana (ANC) queried whether reducing forms of media advertising and communication from three to one mediums would cause confusion. Ms Kock replied that there were 41 targetted regions in South Africa and not all had communication across three kinds of media. The proposal mentioned "at least one" and not "one" only. Mr M Muller assured the Committee that the phrase would be changed to ensure maximum coverage and reach.

Ms Manana questioned whether the three Acts would be combined to form one Act. Mr Muller explained that the principal Act would remain. The three Acts would be amended and clearly identified into separate Acts.

Ms September asked whether amendments to the Wattle Industry Act would affect growers and industry in terms of Black Economic Empowerment (BEE), and whether there would be sustainable future development of forestry to benefit the communities. She wanted to know about guarantees to safeguard the Trust money.

Mr Muller stated that the Trust fund’s management and distribution were ‘hot issues’. The advice from Members had been to hold formal hearings.

Mr M Sibuyana (IFP) and Mr J Arendse (ANC) asked whether the use of the land was protected once the land claim was settled. Mr Muller replied that the use of the land was negotiated and conditions set formed part of the award. A conservation area would remain a conservation area.

Mr S Simmons (NNP) enquired about the length of time before families received their money. Finality needed to be reached. Mr Muller replied that no date had been set with the Director-General of Land Affairs.

Ms D Van der Walt (DA) and Mr Sibuyana asked whether plantlife was as protected, such as indigenous trees in forests. Did the amendments prejudice the interests of the community? The wattle industry was a major source of income, job creation and community projects. Had the communities been consulted?

Ms Kock responded that 170 protected tree species had been identified in 1976. An updated list had been reviewed in consultation with communities and traditional healers. This had had been regazetted in September 2004. Communities needed licenses to use resources in a regulated manner.

Ms Van der Walt wanted to know who had paid the consultants on the research project. Mr Malatsi replied that the Department had funded the project to fast-track the process. Consultants had been managed by the DLA.

The meeting was adjourned.

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