Forestry Laws Amendment Bill: hearings

Water and Sanitation

09 August 2005
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Meeting report

WATER AFFAIRS AND FORESTRY PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE

WATER AFFAIRS AND FORESTRY PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
10 August 2005
FORESTRY LAWS AMENDMENT BILL: HEARINGS

Chairperson:
Ms C September (ANC)

Documents handed out:
Department PowerPoint presentation
Department Explanatory Note on the Forestry Amendment Bill, 2005
Forestry South Africa submission (see Appendix)
Forestry Amendment Bill [B24 – 2005]

SUMMARY
The Department of Water Affairs and Forestry briefed the Committee on the Forestry Amendment Bill, which proposed to amend the National Forestry Act of 1998, the Veld and Fire Act of 1998 and the Wattle Bark Industry Act of 1960. The Department had amended the proposed Trust provision after broad consultation with interested stakeholders. The Department made minor, technical changes to the Amendment Bill (detailed in ‘Explanatory Note’). Members raised the issue of whether licensing was needed to cut down trees on private property and to harvest roots. The responsibility of indigenous forests was also raised.

Ingonyama Trust of KwaZulu-Natal then briefed the Committee about the conflicting positions between the trusts established by the Minister and the Ingonyama Act. Hence the Ingonyama Board wanted an amendment to clarify their position.

The Food and Allied Workers Union (FAWU) gave an oral submission. The union felt that institutions that held monies for communities should be accountable. They supported audits of those institutions. Tembe Tribal Authority also gave an oral submission. The traditional authorities supported Ingonyama Trust as the ‘motherboard’ of traditional authorities. The Department of Land Affairs needed to clarify the issue of settlement. The Land Commissioner had created ‘mini trusts’ in the areas. Tembe Tribal Authority viewed Ingonyama Trust as the perceived traditional authority and felt that the trust needed to clarify the process.

Forestry South Africa handed in a written submission. They had two minor suggestions to amend sections 27 and 53. They felt a comprehensive communication strategy of three media channels should be retained. They had no further concerns with what had been proposed by the Department.

MINUTES

Department briefing
Mr T Malatji, Department Senior Manager: Forestry Regulations, briefed the Committee about the three pieces of legislation that comprised the National Forestry Act of 2005. Due to land claims and tenure reform, there was a need to establish a Trust. Agreement had been reached with Treasury on the administrative mechanisms. There had been broad consultation with relevant stakeholders. Thus far, R56.1 million had been collected in rentals and held in a suspense account for land beneficiaries. Land ownership and identification had been processed through the Communal Land Rights Act, the Department of Land Affairs and communities. No claims would be settled in Mpumulanga, Limpopo and Eastern Cape until rightful claimants had been identified. The Department had made minor, technical changes to the Amendment Bill.

Ingonyama Trust briefing
Mr J Ngwenya, Board Chairperson, then briefed the Committee about the conflicting positions of the Ingonyama Trust board and the Department on the two trusts. Ingonyama Trust managed the land and the rental accrual on behalf of the beneficiaries. The Department owned state forests on Ingonyama land but governance of this land remained with Ingonyama Trust. The Department had established a trust to collect the rentals from this land. Ingonyama had no access to this money. Ingonyama thus managed the land but had been deprived of income generated by the land use. Ingonyama Trust proposed an amendment to section 5 and section 27(a).

Food and Allied Workers Union briefing
Mr M Pukwana, FAWU’s National Negotiator, briefed the Committee about the need for democracy and transparency in the land restitution process. The claimants were not the original custodians of the land. The union members were community members and knew the area well. The union needed clarity on the land restitution process from the Department and the Committee. They had no objection to the amendments if the intention was to regulate the forestry industry.

Tembe Tribal Authority briefing
Mr I Tembe, Authority Chairperson, briefed the Committee that the Ingonyama Trust was the only trust recognised by traditional authorities. About 10% of rental money collected by the Trust covered administrative expenses, while 90% was used by the community. They needed the Department to give clarity on the tender process, the issue of settlement and the creation of ‘mini-trusts’ by the land commissioner. They had a problem with there being more than one trust.

Forestry South Africa briefing
Forestry South Africa gave a written submission. They made two minor suggestions to amend sections 27 and 53. They felt strongly that a comprehensive communication strategy of three media channels should be retained to warn communities about fire danger. They had no further concerns about what the Department had proposed.

Discussion
Mr D Maluleke (DA) asked whether permission was necessary, in terms of the legislation, to cut down trees on privately-owned land. Mr Monyemoratho, Department Assistant Manager: Forestry Regulations, responded that all trees were protected irrespective of whether they were on state or private property. He conceded that this legislation was difficult to control.

Mr M Sibuyane (IFP) enquired whether a license was needed to harvest roots. Mr Monyemoratho stated that a license was needed to use the roots and leaves of trees, but there were some exemptions available.

The Chairperson requested a list of exemptions and regulations from the Department.

Mr Maluleke wanted to know where the rental trust invested the beneficiaries’ money. Mr Malatji responded that the interest accrued from the rentals was paid into the Public Investment Corporation. The interest and investments were then paid to the beneficiaries.

Mr Sibuyana asked whether consultation had taken place with the Ingonyama Trust Board in terms of the lease agreement that the trust be included in the amendment. The Chairperson responded in the affirmative.

Ms M Manana (ANC) said that the amendment gave the Minister authority as founder of the trust. She needed clarification on whether the Minister had the power to appoint and dismiss trustees. Mr J Ngwenya replied that the Minister of Land Affairs had the power to amend the Ingonyama Trust Act. However, the powers of the trust were limited to collecting rentals and distributing money to beneficiaries.

The Committee was concerned about the existence of two trusts, even though the two entities said that there were no conflict of interests. Mr Ngwenya explained that according to financial regulations of the Public Management Fund Act (PMFA), 10% of the funds covered expenses and 90% was paid to beneficiaries.

The Chairperson asked FAWU officials whether they had any objections to the amendments and clauses of the Bill. Mr Pukwana responded that if the intention of the Bill was to regulate the forestry industry, then they would support the Bill. He objected to the reduction of media channels used to broadcast news of fire emergencies. He would only support the amendment if proper information were relayed to communities.

Ms S Maine (ANC) wanted to know whether Ingonyama Trust should be the only trust. Mr I Tembe responded that it was the only trust as all traditional authorities fell under the jurisdiction of the Ingonyama Trust Board. However, the Land Claims Commissioner could also create trusts. He felt that the issue of various trusts should be sorted out. Mr Sibuyana and Mr Maluleke agreed.

The Chairperson felt that the issue of consultation with communities was important, and sought guidance from the Committee and the Department to process the Bill further. The Bill needed to conform to constitutional principles in terms of communication with communities.

Mr J Arendse (ANC) felt that the Committee could proceed with accepting the amendments. Mr Sibuyana cautioned that more consultation was needed with Ingonyama Trust and the traditional leadership.

Mr V Mabuye-Khulu (ANC) asked that the Bill be provisionally finalised and that the State Law Advisor prepare her response for the following day. Ms Maine agreed that they had already heard inputs from Ingonyama Trust and the traditional authorities, and now awaited input from the State Law Advisor.

The Chairperson requested that the Committee meet the following day to hear the inputs from the Department and State Law Advisor concerning community communications, the wattle bark industry, and how deregulation could be reconciled with the World Trade Organisation agenda.

The meeting was adjourned.

Appendix:

FORESTRY SOUTH AFRICA: MEMO
TO: SHEREEN CASSIEM
FROM: MIKE EDWARDS

DATE 28th JULY, 2005


Re: FORESTRY AMENDMENT BILL


Thank you for your letter of the 25th July 2005 advising me of the Public Hearings on the above-mentioned Bill and inviting my organisation to participate in the debate. This is greatly appreciated.


We have studied the proposals contained in the Amendment Bill and with only one or two minor suggestions, have no concerns with what is proposed. The minor suggestions referred to are as follows:


A NATIONAL FOREST ACT ( Act 84 of 1998):


(1): Section 27:


It is suggested that the proposed section 27 (8) be amended to read.


"The Minister may, after consultation with the Trustees"


(2): Section 53


It is suggested that the proposed section 53(2) (f) (ii) be amended to read


"access to State Forests for recreation after consultation with the Committee on Forest Access established in terms of Section 36 (3) (b) of the Act".


(B) NATIONAL VELD AND FOREST FIRE ACT (Act 101 of 1998):


(1) : Section 10


The issue of fires is of such serious concern to the Forestry Industry that more, not less, communication about fires danger rating is needed. A relaxation of a communications strategy as proposed in the draft amendment bill is therefore considered somewhat irresponsible. The important issue is to reach as many people as possible , as frequently as possible, and in there own language . Whilst circumstances will differ from region to region , as a general rule we would urge that "three" be retain, but with the rider that this be flexible according to circumstances .


To put in place an expensive fire danger rating system and to then not communicate adequately is short sighted.


If you consider it still necessary for me to travel to Cape Town to put forward the above-mentioned to the Portfolio Committee then I will obviously do so, but I am hoping that the above-mentioned will suffice. Please circulate our comments to members of the Committee.


Please let me know if I should attend the meetings.


Thanks and regards.


Yours sincerely


M.B.P EDWARDS

EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR

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