Budget and Department Programmes 2001/2: briefing

Tourism

22 May 2001
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Meeting report

ENVIRONMENTAL AFFAIRS AND TOURISM PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
22 May 2001
BUDGET REVIEW

Chairperson: Ms G Mahlangu

Relevant Documents:
Estimate of Expenditures and Programme Objectives: Vote 26 (Budget)
"Impact of Tourism on the South African Economy" Report
Tourism Poverty Relief Programme" Report (awaited, email
info@pmg.org.za for documents)

SUMMARY
The Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism's (DEAT) budget proposal highlighted many aspects of policy change in reference to both the environment and tourism. The presentations were according to Department's eight Programmes: Administration, Environmental Planning and Coordination, Marine and Coastal Management, Weather Bureau, Tourism, Environmental Quality and Protection, Biodiversity and Heritage, and Auxiliary and Associated Services. Some linking factors between all the programmes were the Department's commitments to relieving poverty and creating more jobs. These were goals that had full support from the Committee and there were few objections to the Department's budget proposal.

MINUTES
Chairperson Mahlangu opened the meeting by sharing an encounter she had while trying to attend the African Travel Association's convention in Cape Town. Apparently, the organisation had refused her entrance, not knowing her position in Parliament and asked her to pay US$200 to enter. She did not attend the meeting. Later in the meeting, it was revealed that the African Travel Association was really an American operation trying to make money off of tourism in Cape Town. The conference continues all week in Cape Town.

Administration Programme
Director-General C Oliver started the presentation with an overview of the Department's vision. The aim of the DEAT is to lead environmental management and tourism in the interest of sustainable development for all. Oliver stressed the importance of two main goals that apply to the entire Department: 1) poverty relief and 2) job creation. He stated that there would be a 24% increase in this year's budget as compared to last year's, but that is to reflect the increasing significance and importance of the issues that this Department would face in the coming fiscal year. Such issues include the acquisition of land for the national parks, purchasing of control vessels to monitor coastline and offshore industries, and foundational support for the 2002 Earth Summit which is to be held in Johannesburg. He also gave an overview of the Administrative Programme costs of the Minister, Deputy Minister and of the Director-General himself.

Environmental Planning and Coordination Programme
Mr D Naidoo of DEAT spoke on aspects of monitoring environmental procedures, apprehending those who break environmental law and attempts to reform environmental law. Of particular interest was the effects of the National Environmental Management Act of 1998, which requires DEAT to compile Environmental Implementation Plans (EIPs) and Environmental Management Plans (EMPs) in order to provide a legal framework for environmental development. Naidoo noted a potential increase in funding for the compilation of EIPs and EMPs over the next few years. Naidoo also spoke about the 2002 Earth Summit and the Department's role as domestic facilitator in this international dialogue on sustainable development. The Department will be taking measures before the conference to create more interest within South Africa in discussing issues of domestic sustainable development.

Ms Mahlangu noted that Ms S Nqodi (ANC) will be the Summit representative from this Committee. There will be informational booths and forums set up by the Committee and further discussion over the Earth Summit will take place in next week's committee meeting. The total cost of the Summit for South Africa will be approximately R400 million.

Marine and Coastal Management Programme
Mr H Kleinschmidtt of the DEAT emphasised the importance of conserving the marine wildlife of South Africa as it has an important economic and environmental effect on the citizens. One area of specific interest is that of subsistence fishing. The Department plans for further implementation and increased job creation, particularly in the Eastern Cape where the amount of subsistence fishing is the highest. He noted that they have already received cooperation on monitoring subsistence fishing by the KwaZulu-Natal Nature Conservatory. There needed to be increased funding for vessels to monitor poaching of at-risk sea creatures such as abalone.

Ms L Mbuyazi (IFP) asked when the application process for the fishing licences will take place. Kleinschmidtt replied that the process will go into effect at the start of the next fishing season, in particular, when the rock lobster fishing season commences. It shall be phased in during the next six months.

Ms S Nqodi (ANC) asked about the role of provincial and municipal departments in reference to quota allocations. She referred to an example of a port in her province, Eastern Cape, that has suffered because of organised illegal fishing. Kleinschmidtt discussed Operation Neptune, the sea patrolling mechanism of the DEAT, and its formerly narrow scope. It plans on expanding its patrolling area to the entire coastline and sea areas of South Africa as opposed to just pushing the crime into different areas of the coastline.

Ms J Chalmers (ANC) asked how the money for poverty relief would be used and whether or not the Department would assist smaller businesses in community-based marketing. Kleinschmidtt responded that their approach to local funding hinges on a strong local structure based on NGOs and municipal governments. There was funding for smaller businesses to market their goods and services, however, he emphasised the need to create more tourism-based employment.

Mr M Moss (ANC) asked if there were any agreements with foreign countries in patrolling the seas beyond the close national borders. Kleinschmidtt replied that they had pending cooperation agreements from both Australia and France in patrolling the Southern Atlantic and the Western Indian.

Prof L Mbadi (UDM) wondered why the only Fishery Satellite Control Office was in Johannesburg and Kleinschmidtt explained that the office had to be situated in the area where most of the illegal exporting was taking place. Thus, the office was placed in Johannesburg International Airport.

Ms Mahlangu expressed her satisfaction at the thorough job presented by the fishing and marine section. She noted that this area, one which has a history of long, drawn-out discussions, left very little for the Committee to argue because of its conciseness and accuracy.

Weather Bureau
Since the representative from the Weather Bureau could not attend, Director-General Oliver presented on his behalf. He mentioned that the major issue with the Weather Bureau was its agentisation as a result of the South African Weather Bureau Bill passed in 2000.

Ms Mahlangu noted that the Bill had been amended and was waiting in the NCOP. The Chairperson said that she did not wish to mediate much longer over the Bill and desires quick agreement.

Tourism
Mr M Mosola of DEAT began his presentation on the Tourism Programme by explaining the situation involving the African Tourism Association meeting and the Chairperson. Apparently, the organisation is based in the United States and is mostly a marketing scheme to take advantage of the African tourism system. It costs US$200 to attend the meeting and the chairperson did not feel that it was a worthy cause for either her money or her time.

Mosola stated that there has been much progress in South African tourism in the past year. South Africa, under its Welcome Campaign, has penetrated many foreign travel markets (UK, USA, Canada), and is attempting to overtake its closest rivals in Southern Hemisphere travel, Australia and Brazil. It has also sparked the start of many more black enterprises, going from 20 in 1999 to 149 in 2000. Arrivals into the country have increased by 2.2%, generating more foreign currency. The focus for the oncoming year shifts to promoting domestic travel and tourism as well as promoting tourism in other foreign markets (Africa, Asia, Middle East).

As far as poverty relief is concerned, the Tourism sector has created over 20,000 jobs in the past year, 745 of them being permanent. Mosola has ambitious goals to boost this number to 870,000 jobs and 2,300 permanent jobs by the end of 2004. They will have their domestic tourism employment study completed by the end of July 2001.

Ms M Olckers (NNP) expressed her anger at the African Tourism Association for showing such disrespect to a person of such high position. She wanted to know what kind of criteria there was for the government in selecting small businesses to promote via overseas tourism. She also wanted to know what other small business projects the Tourism Board was working on.

Mr Mosola described the International Tourism Marketing Scheme which focuses on smaller disadvantaged businesses. The business must apply for the programme and demonstrate its consistency as the programme progresses. He pointed out that 70% of Tourism's resources are directed at rural areas. He gave two examples—the Peterson Memorial in Soweto and Kruger National Park in KwaZulu-Natal—both sites creating many jobs and expanding the economy of the local area. There have also been two trusts created in South Africa that have virtually cultivated their own tourism areas. Mosola invited the MPs to visit these sites.

Ms J Semple (DP) asked if the website for Tourism was still in the works. Also, she wanted to know more about the Circle of Sunshine project. Mr Mosola replied that the website is underway with a focus on e-commerce and easier access. The Circle of Sunshine, a word-of-mouth initiative to attract tourists is apparently working out very well for South Africa as demonstrated by the growing database of travelers to South Africa.

Ms S Nqodi (ANC) wanted to know how foundling businesses could access aid from the Tourism Department. Also, she requested that future international conferences, which attract much tourism, be held in other areas besides Gauteng, Cape Town and Durban. Mosola answered that small businesses are feeling much more comfortable in approaching the Tourism Board for assistance as evidenced by the increased number of requests. He also stated that host cities will most surely be rotated around South Africa and cited that the NDAWA's annual meeting would be moved out of Durban for another South African city to pick it up.

Ms I Luthili (ANC) asked about the type of assistance available to domestic tourism businesses and Mosola replied that the tourism board is assisting the small domestic businesses in marketing themselves throughout South Africa. He gave an example of the growing area of township tourism such as in Guguletu near Cape Town.

Environmental Quality and Protection
Dr M Tsengwa gave a Powerpoint presentation of the Environmental Quality and Protection Programme. She explained that the new chief director will take office on 1 June 2001. The Environmental Quality and Protection Programme has continued their strong campaign against various pollutants including plastic bags, tires, and emissions, particularly in the Durban area and in Gauteng. In the Durban South Industrial Basin, the Programme is focusing first on clean-up, then on litigating violators using their increased capacity.

Poverty relief has created 1,141 temporary jobs and 741 permanent jobs out of the Programme. There has been a focus on sustainable rural development. Issues of asbestos and waste removal have been major concerns in this sphere. Goals for the future include legal reform of various environmental laws, as well as doubling the job creation rate of the programme. She mentioned the Basel Training Center at Vista University where environmental specialists are trained to work on the programme.

Nqodi (ANC) asked what kind of controls existed for specific chemicals. She wanted to know if there was UN / international pressure on incinerators. Tsengwa replied that medical waste was being controlled by the Department of Health. Other chemicals were often handled by the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry, as well as by the provincial legislatures themselves. She noted that minimum standards for many chemical controls still remained to be set. She also stressed the importance of reforming laws pertaining to hospitals and other state organisations.

Ms Mbuyazi (IFP) asked for an elaboration on the Durban South Industrial Basin issue, a region within her province. Tsengwa described the seven-point plan to phase out toxic emissions from plants and factories near Durban. She noted that the plan is headed by the municipal government of Durban and was being assisted by the DEAT and the Department of Health.

Ms Semple (DP) asked if there was a hotline for the Environmental Rapid Response Unit, a mechanism used for reporting environmental emergencies or violations of law. Further, what kind of prosecution was there on air polluters or medical polluters? Finally, she made a request that Parliament consider creating a paper recycling program to cut down on waste.

Dr Tsengwa replied that a hotline for the Rapid Response Units was forthcoming. She hoped to have the line linked with the disaster unit of the Department of Provincial and Local Government Affairs. It would be operated from within the DEAT and legislated by the NEMA. Air polluters, as yet, are not being prosecuted enough, according to Tsengwa. She stated that the current law was an old one (the Air Pollution Act of 1965) and was very lax in punishing perpetrators. But she noted that with the increased capacity of the budget, a turnaround reform would be possible and increase the enforcement of stricter air pollution laws.

Biodiversity and Heritage
Ms M Mbengshae gave a brief presentation on the Biodiversity and Heritage Programme. She noted that the largest increases in the programme's budget would go toward the acquisition of land for developing new protected areas such as national parks. This would also improve rural economic development. There would be an expansion of conservation sites as well as creating new heritage sites. Expanded or new areas include the uKhahlamba-Drakensburg site, the Greater St Lucia Wetland Park, the Cradle of Humankind at Sterkfontein and Robben Island. She focused on the importance of ensuring the environmentally sustainability of these world heritage sites.

A representative from the National Botanical Institute presented briefly on the biodiversity conventions they sponsored. Those include the Global Taxonomy Initiative for Africa in Kirstenbosch and the Botanical Gardens Conference in Pretoria. He explained that the R50 million given to them last year was used primarily to maintain their nationwide gardens and for research development.

A representative from the National Parks explained how they were using their R53 million given by the DEAT. Much of the money was used to preserve the biodiversity of the flora and fauna in the parks. The rest of the funding comes from tourism profits. He noted that the parks are becoming more viable—lions will be reintroduced to Karoo National Park, black rhinos in a few other parks. He noted that the floods in Kruger National Park did present a funding crisis earlier in the year, but the situation was currently under control. Tourism seems to be up now and there are plans for a restructuring/staff reduction process in September 2001.

Auxiliary and Associated Services
Mr B van Schalkwyk presented on the Auxiliary and Associated Services Programme, which focuses primarily on managing research, travel and expansion concerning the Antarctic region and its surrounding South African islands (Marion and Gough). van Schalkwyk announced that three six-hour flights have already used Cape Town as a starting point and have successfully reached Antarctica. Many international research and expedition teams have asked to use Cape Town as a gateway to Antarctica. The continent is a key to weather forecasting, nature conservation, and eventually, commercialisation.

Several MPs asked questions about the two final presentations but due to a lack of time, the meeting was adjourned and the MPs agreed to ask their questions to the DEAT members over lunch.

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