National Forestry Bill: discussion

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Meeting report

AGRICULTURE, WATER AFFAIRS & FORESTRY PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
25 August 1998
NATIONAL FORESTRY BILL: DISCUSSIONS


SUMMARY
The Portfolio Committee continued deliberations on the National Forestry Bill, going through clauses 56 to 63.

DETAILED MINUTES
The Chairperson (Mr Abrahamse: African National Congress) announced that the Bill would be debated in the National Assembly on Friday, 28 August. As a result there would be a late afternoon session starting at five, and continuing on from the 2pm meeting.

The committee proceeded to cover clauses 56 to 63 before the meeting was adjourned at 11am. The main points of discussion follow:

Mr Schoeman (NP) referred to section 56, asking whether it was necessary to put the functions of the Director General in the Bill, as these would be included in his job description. He queried whether the functions should not be assigned to the Minister, who could then delegate these to the Director General. Judge Dodson, from the drafting team, replied that the drafters were aware of the committee's attitude towards this issue, and had removed all the references to the functions of the Director General that the Department had not thought were vital. This particular section dealt with section 20, which had been drawn up through consultation with the industry.

Mr Masala (ANC) and other members of the committee, expressed concern that in section 56 (1) d, would allow the Director General to delegate functions to persons who were not in an organ of state. Concern was raised that the system could be abused. The monitoring of such delegated activities was difficult. Judge Dodson responded that it was the responsibility of the person who delegated the function to monitor the situation. While the monitoring and control was an issue, the provision was vital in that, in addition to the delegation to private companies of state responsibilities, it also allowed for the state to delegate functions to communities.

Ms Mabuza (ANC) expressed a strong concern that the Bill would exclude people from having access to plants and animals in forest protected areas. The department understood the concern, and requested alternative solutions. Ms. Bethlehem noted the need for a balance between controlling the sustainable use of forests, and the need to allow communities access to forests. The system the Bill used was to prohibit people from using forests and forest produce, unless they had a license or were covered by a general exemption. The Portfolio Committee agreed to come back to the issue.

Concern was expressed by committee members on the provision for reward (one quarter of a fine) for the reporting by a member of the public on an offence under the act. The concern queried whether this would not be an incentive to people to fabricate evidence. Other concerns included the need for protection of witnesses, and the possibility that such a provision could lead to violence. The Department asked for guidance from the committee, as the clause was included to try and encourage the communities to become a part of the control structures, and to return some of the money from fines to the communities. The committee agreed to return to the clause in the final deliberations.

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