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WATER AFFAIRS AND FORESTRY PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
11 August 2005
FORESTRY AMENDMENT BILL: HEARINGS
Documents handed out:
Forestry Amendment Bill [B24 – 2005]
Parliamentary and Department Legal Advisors gave the Committee input on the procedure of adopting this Bill. The Joint Tagging Committee (JTC) would decide whether the Bill was section 75 or section 76 Bill. Members did not adopt the Bill after discussing it clause by clause as the Bill still had to be referred, and the Committee decided to await a response from Parliament on this. They would expect a response from the National House of Traditional Leaders thirty days from the date of referral.
The Department Legal Advisor then clarified issues including the payment of monies to Ingonyama Trust, deregulation of the wattle bark industry, the consultation of rural communities, and broader property rights. Members were concerned about the accountability of Ingonyama Trust’s financial management and internal control systems. They prioritised discussion of warning communities about fire dangers timeously, deregulation of the wattle bark industry, and consultation with rural communities.
The Chairperson said that the Joint Tagging Committee (JTC) would decide whether the Bill was section 75 or section 76 Bill, and whether it should be sent to the National House of Traditional Leaders.
Legal Advisors’ briefing
Advocate Madiba, Department Legal Advisor, explained that the Ingonyama Trust had complied with the Public Monetary Fund Act (PMFA) and was accountable to Parliament. Media channels should be used to widely publicise a fire danger rating warning to all communities. Deregulating the wattle bark industry should incorporate the principles of the World Trade Organisation (WTO). Traditional leaders did not always consult or represent the interests of the rural communities.
Ms R Mosiane, Parliamentary Legal Advisor, clarified the property rights issue in terms of needing a license to cut down trees on private property.
Mr D Maluleke (DA) felt input was needed from traditional leaders. Mr J Arendse (ANC) felt that the Committee should wait until the Joint Tagging Committee and the traditional leaders had given their input before deliberating the Bill any further. Mr I Mogase (ANC) concurred.
Mr M Sibuyana (IFP) wanted to know whether Mr I Tembe, Chairperson of the Regional Tembe Traditional Authority, had represented traditional leadership at the last Committee meeting. The Chairperson explained that the JTC had no impact on the deliberations of the Committee. The traditional leadership had thirty days to consider the Bill before it came back to the Committee. The Committee therefore did not have to wait. Mr F Jenkins, Parliamentary Legal Advisor, concurred with the Chairperson.
Mr Arendse felt that thirty days was ‘problematic’ and that the Committee needed to finish deliberations that day. The Chairperson said that thirty days would take them into mid-September. The Committee was obligated to deliberate the Bill. Mr Sibuyana called on Members not to be too hasty as consultation was needed from people affected by the Bill. Mr Maluleke concurred.
Mr V Mabuye-Khulu (ANC) said that the Committee should not question whether Mr Tembe represented traditional leadership. Ms M Manana (ANC) felt that legal input was needed from the State Law Advisors and the Department. The Committee should conclude their deliberations after consultation with the National House of Traditional Leaders. The Chairperson concurred.
Mr Maluleke asked whether there were any lease agreements with Ingonyama Trust. Did the Trust meet financial management criteria? Advocate Madiba responded that there were lease agreements on Ingonyama Trust’s land and that all monies went to Ingonyama Trust.
Mr Arendse said that Ingonyama Trust was a public entity whose funds were governed by the Public Finances Management Act (PFMA), and the Trust was audited by the Auditor-General. Would the Auditor-General not point out weaknesses and make recommendations? There was thus no need for the amendment from the Department. Advocate Madiba explained that Ingonyama Trust was a state institution that complied with the PMFA but did not fall under the Department. It was accountable to Parliament and not the Minister directly. Mr Arendse supported the amendment.
Mr Mabuye-Khuku said that the Minister of Land Affairs was the principal minister to Ingonyama Trust and not the Water Affairs Minister. Mr Jenkins, Parliamentary Legal Adviser, explained that any landowner was subject to the Land Restitution Act. Trusts paid out to beneficiaries and fulfilled administrative purposes, and were widely used in South African law. Ingonyama Trust needed strong control mechanisms and not fuctionality duplication by the Department.
Ms Manana mentioned that the Department had said that there would be no new trust and that Ingonyama Trust could administer the money. She was concerned that if this happened, the Minister would have no power.
The Chairperson stated that the Ingonyama Trust was governed by the Section 27of the National Forestry Act. The Treasury had said that the Trust should be made accountable for the money. Mr Maluleke said that the trust should be called an ‘escrow account’ because it kept the funds of others.
The Chairperson said that the amendment of Section 10, Clause 10 should not create difficulties to the obligation of the Constitution. Mr Jenkins concurred because the language issue was an important constitutional obligation.
Mr Jenkins felt that deregulation would increase competitiveness. Trade practices like price fixing were in conflict with the Competition Act. Regulation from government would not be conducive to free trade, although free trade sometimes harmed small businesses. The Chairperson said that the amendment did not cause the Minister to oversee collusion between growers and manufacturers. The Department reported that the Competition Board supported the clause amendment.
Mr T Malatji, Department Senior Manager: Forestry Regulations, admitted that even though they had held public consultations, these consultations had not included affected rural communities. He proposed that they engage with the National House of Traditional Leaders as representatives of the rural communities to ascertain feelings and concerns. They needed guidance from Parliament on this issue.
Advocate Madiba concurred. The Chairperson said that this issue of consultation would not have arisen if the Department had taken up the Committee’s proposal in May. Advocate Madiba apologised on behalf of the Department. Mr Mabuye-Khulu emphasised that rural communities should be consulted, because experience had taught that they had their own structures. They should not only consult the traditional leaders.
Mr Maluleke felt that the State Law Advisor had given a vague explanation on the property rights issue. Ms R Mosiane responded that there was a limitation on how private property was used. The Minister decided on whether certain plants were protected.
Advocate Madiba responded that the Minister would be judicious in her declaration of protected trees. Mr Jenkins added that the amendment made the Act less severe in terms of the Minister exercising power over privately owned land.
Members then made other minor, technical amendments to the Bill. The Chairperson felt that Members were satisfied with deliberations on the amendments. They did not adopt the Bill clause by clause as the Bill still had to be referred to the Joint Tagging Committee and the National House of Traditional Leaders. They would await a response from Parliament. The future date would be communicated to the Members. Mr Jenkins added that they would await the response from the National House of Traditional Leaders thirty days from the date of referral.
The meeting was adjourned.
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