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ENVIRONMENTAL AFFAIRS AND TOURISM PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
11 October 2005
ANNUAL REPORTS: DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENTAL AFFAIRS AND TOURISM; SOUTH AFRICAN NATIONAL PARKS; SOUTH AFRICAN WEATHER SERVICE; SOUTH AFRICAN TOURISM; SOUTH AFRICAN NATIONAL BIODIVERSITY INSTITUTE; GREATER ST LUCIA WETLAND PARK
Chairperson: Mr L Zita (ANC)
Documents handed out:
ENVIRONMENTAL AFFAIRS AND TOURISM PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
Slide show presentation of DEAT Annual Report 2004/5
Slide show presentation of SANParks Annual Report 2004/5
Slide show presentation of SAWS Annual Report 2004/5
Slide show presentation on South African Tourism 2004/5
Slide show presentation on SANBI Annual Report 2004/5
Slide show presentation on Greater St Lucia Wetland Park Annual Report 2004/5
DEAT Annual Report 2004/5 (www.environment.gov.za)
SANParks Annual Report 2004/5 (www.sanparks.org)
SAWS Annual Report 2004/5 (www.weathersa.co.za)
SANBI Annual Report 2004/5 (www.stlucia.org.za)
Greater St Lucia Wetland Park Annual Report 2004/5 (www.stlucia.org.za)
The Committee heard presentations on the Annual Reports for 2004/5 from the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism (DEAT); South African National Parks (SANParks); South African Weather Service (SAWS); South African Tourism; South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI); and Greater St Lucia Wetland Park. In general the Committee seemed pleased with developments and achievements in the area although various concerns were raised, in particular with relation to the issue of Black Economic Empowerment and tourism.
The following presentations were made:
DEAT Annual Report 2004/5 by Ms Joanne Yawitch (Deputy Director General DEAT: Environmental Quality and Protection)
SANParks Annual Report 2004/5 by Mr Sydney Soundy (Chief Operating Officer)
SAWS Annual Report 2004/5 by Mr Jonas Mphepya (Acting Chief Executive Officer)
Mr. I. Cachalia (ANC) asked to what extent a solution to elephant management could be reached and how international policies were adhered to.
Mr A Mokoena (ANC) commended the presentations but noted a problem with budget allocation and concern that local government was not mentioned at any stage
Mr M Moss (ANC) asked whether asbestos had been banned.
Mr D. Mabunda (CEO of SANParks) said there could be no certainty in terms of population displacement of elephants. He noted neighbouring countries Botswana and Zimbabwe have problems supporting elephant populations, stating the only current option for all was Mozambique but that if everyone uses this option it will not be a solution but only postpone the problem by a few years.
Mr P. Matlou (Deputy Director General DEAT: Tourism) said that a Tourism Act Plan should be completed by the end of November and pointed out that 89 million of the budget referred to by Mokoena was just for the operation of SA Tourism and that the total marketing budget was in fact 260 million, received from both government and other grants such as from the Tourism Council.
Ms J. Yawitch (Deputy Director General DEAT: Environmental Quality and Protection) referred to a recent secondary study which looked at particular areas of the country potentially exposed to asbestos such as those areas on the edge of asbestos mines or where asbestos had been used to build roads such as North West Province and Northern Cape. The study looked at the extent of contamination and clean-up costs. It also considered any necessary action such as the re-location of schools in these areas. The Initial Report was due to come out and will be shared with parliament as soon as this occurs. It was also noted that the Draft Asbestos Regulations were currently in Cabinet process and assuming these were approved these would soon be published. At this stage full briefing to Parliamentary Committee on these regulations provided for phase out plans to stop use of asbestos completely. Mining asbestos has been banned but these regulations take the phase out much further.
Mr D. Olifant (ANC) asked what number of elephants can be managed in particular parks. He also asked in reference to the campaign to get black tourists into parks, how the stated 33% increase was measured and what this meant in real numbers. He also said the SAWS presentation had been vague. He asked whether SA is ready to tackle a natural disaster on the scale of recent events such as the Tsunami, Hurricane Katrina and the recent Asian Earthquake.
Mr R.Nolzanga (ANC) queried whether tourist guides are adequately trained with particular reference to township tourism. She asked whether they can recommend B&Bs and other facilities where tourist may want to go in townships and if they are trained in a way that enables them to perform such duties.
Mr A. Mokoena (ANC) pointed out that his earlier question on local government had not been addressed and expressed concern that a recent National Heritage Site he had visited had been neglected.
Mr Cachalia (ANC) asked for clarification on rainfall enhancement.
Mr Moss (ANC) raised the question of disabled staff in DEAT. Moss also worked on the committee for improving working conditions for disabled persons which DEAT had previously been invited to address. He queried whether DEAT was serious about employing genuine numbers of disabled persons.
Ms Yawitch (Deputy Director General DEAT: Environmental Quality and Protection) stated that not having a uniform budges structure across DEAT and its provincial departments made it hard to assess under-funding across the country. As it was in the provinces that implementation happened likely under-funding was hard to analyse. She stated that the aim was to have a comparative base and that the inter-governmental fiscal review would start with amendment of budget structure accordingly.
Mr J. Matjila (DEAT Chief Director) spoke of the Tourist Guiding SMMEs 2010. He referred to when the business trust and government established the Tourism Enterprise Programme in the late 90s/2000 stating that the idea was to bring about enterprise development mainly for black enterprises. He noted a number of examples of small businesses growing as a result.
The area of tourist guiding was stated as one of areas particularly recognised for black people and referred to the emphasis on language training. As an example he cited a recent initiative to teach Chinese to black people, although admitted this had not been a great success but stated that 137 black people were currently being taught French and that the idea was to increase these numbers.
He also stated a priority was to ensure township tourism becomes one of the mainstreams of SA tourism. International tourism partners were being made aware of this.
Transport linkages into townships for 2010 was another goal and the Department of Transport was looking into transport. It was on the agenda at the National Tourism Conference and the Minister of Transport was hearing complaints in Prettoria last week.
He also noted International Airlifting as a problem needing further investigation as well as consideration of transport linkages with neighbouring countries to improve opritons for tourism.
Ms N. Jezile (Chief Operating Officer DEAT) stated that the issue of under-funded mandates was more an issue of the level of funding of local government. The question of how to get transfers to local government to be specifically used for issues DEAT was concerned with was currently under discussion. The definition of BEE was not broad-based in terms of a new definition applied. Some level of equity was not necessarily confirmed and would depend on the information provided. A need for this information to be further broken down in order to facilitate this was an area for future consideration. The question of how to retain people with disabilities was a serious matter and improvements should be reported in the next financial year.
Mr Soundy (Chief Operating Officer SANParks) recounted various marketing initiatives with both short term and long term objectives directed towards increasing numbers of black visitors.
Dr Mabunda (CEO SANParks) noted that ecosystems are in a continuous system of flux. As a result a particular number of elephants cannot be set by each park. In order to acquire a state of biodiversity each park wanted a variety of vegetation and species living in harmonious integration. There had therefore been a move from setting fixed numbers of elephants to a system of flux which looked at a range of indicators in order to assess how may elephants could be supported by that ecosystem. Examples included the potential impact of elephants on local communities e.g. diseases. He noted that this may imply intervention is targeted but stated that the question required a long explanation.
Mr E. Terblanche (Chief Specialist Scientist SAWS) stated that SAWS was the national custodian for climate data bases and that SAWS must therefore maintain a complicated infrastructure across the country. Although SAWS was not directly responsible for tsunami warnings it worked closely with organisations such as the National Disaster Management Centre and could therefore assure the committee that excellent infrastructure was in place to respond to such emergencies.
He cited three potential sources of a tsunami but SA was not at high risk due to the relative stability of geology around the continent.
He said mounting evidence of climate change and humankind partial responsibility had been met with a multi-pronged response by SAWS. SAWS monitored changes and emphasised adaptability to these changes on a seasonal basis in preference to long term adaptability. SAWS tried to quantify greenhouse gas releases and worked closely with other departments in national government and disaster management agencies to ensure action especially in rural areas. Recent SA research into rainfall enhancement had earned a prize from the World Methodological Association. This was a particularly important area as water was one of SA’s scarcest resources. In 40-45 years there would be less than 1000 cubic metres per person per year at the current rate.
Mr Mokoena (ANC) commended self-generated incomes as % of revenue in SANParks Annual Report but wanted to know more about the decline of occupancy. Although he appreciated a number of reasons may account for this he wanted to know a significant reason for such a decline.
He was also concerned with attitudes of staff as he had been appalled by rudeness on a recent visit.
Mr Moss (ANC) queried the opportunities provided for black people to have their own businesses, using as his example overnight places for accepting guests in national parks. Such opportunities were not adequate if the people provided them do not have the funds to take advantage. He noted that tourism was still heavily dominated by white people.
Dr Mabunda (CEO SANParks) noted the need to revamp in order to stay competitive and cited the example of Kruger National Park where superior accommodation offered for whites proved a challenge in terms of empowering black people. He noted the problem of start up capital and the need to look into a solution.
South African Tourism Annual Report by Mr Fundisile Mketeni (DD General DEAT: Biodiversity and Conservation)
South African National Biodiversity Institute Annual Report 2004/5 by Ms Kristal Maze
Greater St Lucia Wetland Park Annual Report 2004/5 by Dr Nolly Zaloumis (CEO)
[please refer to presentation documents]
The Chair began the discussion by stating that these presentations showed that a lot of good work is taking place in this area.
Mr Cachalia (ANC) said that the increase in tourism was encouraging. He noted the importance of foreign exchange and job creation but cited the problem of crime as a negative effect on tourism and asked what was being done to address this.
Mr Mokoena (ANC) said that he was impressed by the Sho’t Left campaign and the general increase in levels of tourism. He expressed concern that the number of African tourists cited were in fact tourists and not illegal immigrants and asked whether adequate linkage with the department of home affairs existed to counter this.
He also asked about BEE equity as opposed to ownership and expressed concern that any benefit was postponed.
The Chair emphasised the importance of BEE and Tourism as a critical issue. He also cited the need to incorporate other arms of government in reinforcing campaigns such as the Sho’t Left campaign. An example was making travel cheaper.
Mr Mketeni (Deputy Director General DEAT: Biodiversity and Conservation) said in response to the question on the impact of crime and security that in the last two years FAQs on the subject on the SA Tourism website had fallen from the top to tenth position and stated that terrorism had probably contributed positively to this. He stressed the dangers of complacency in this area however, and emphasised the need to ensure that key tourism spots were safe.
He assured them that African tourists were indeed African tourists as those who travel were those who could afford to and therefore are those who would go back. He recognised the problem of illegal immigrants but stated that in fact collaboration with the Department of Home Affairs had in fact turned up greater numbers of Europeans overstaying their welcome in SA, rather than African visitors.
He agreed that the issue of BEE and Tourism had been dealt with in a too slow and shallow manner. However, he pointed out that the biggest hotel chain in SA was in black hands. Despite this, there was a need for more opportunities and this committee should act as the watchdog, particularly in terms of engaging the private sector in terms of resources.
In relation to the coordination with other organisations of state in relation to Sho’t Left thanks were given to SANParks for providing cheap prices to children for example. Most of the private sector had made travel available but it was an area in which much more could be done.
Mr A. Zaloumis (CEO of Greater St Lucia Wetland Park) stated that a key goal of the programme was to shift the development path through redevelopment as BEE started from this redevelopment as SMMEs were integral to it. BEE should be measured by looking at economic ownership, employment and procurement.
Another critical issue was the cost of finance as empowerment was not possible without it. The government was working on this issue and how to provide greater access to finance. Activities in the park are broadening and this should encourage and facilitate new black economic entrepreneurs. New tourism SMMEs should develop and as industry grows, so should the number of local entrepreneurs.
Ms K. Maze (SA National Biodiversity Institute Representative) spoke of the responsibility of municipalities to integrate biodiversity through Special Development Frameworks. Work had been done on important areas but there was recognition that in addition to maps and guidelines as to the type of land use compatible with the aim of conserving biodiversity, there was a need to work with municipalities and provide ongoing support to build capacity. They were still in the research and development stages of this.
Ms R Ndzanga (ANC) commented on the success of the plastic bag campaign.
Ms Yawitch (DEAT) stated the reason for this was that plastic bags had been given a value to people and that the plastic bags themselves were now of a higher quality. She also raised the point that no one manufactures plastic bags in SA and all were imported. This was a potential area for development.
The meeting was adjourned.
[please refer to presentation documents]
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