Report on Property Rates Tour & Deliberations on Disaster Management Bill

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Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs

17 September 2001
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Meeting report

PROVINCIAL AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE

PROVINCIAL AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
18 September 2001
REPORT ON PROPERTY RATES TOUR & DELIBERATIONS ON THE DISASTER MANAGEMENT BILL

Chairperson: Mr Y Carrim and Mr B M Solo

Documents handed out:
Disaster Management Bill [B58 - 2001]
Summary of Concerns with respect to the Disaster Management Bill
Summary of submissions on Bill
Brief Report on Property Rates Study Tour of the United States, July 2001

SUMMARY
The committee was briefed by Mr Y Carrim on the study tour to the United States of America by the Portfolio Committee in July. Mr Carrim then outlined the programme of the committee from now until the end of the year. He allowed the committee to look at the summary of concerns from the different submissions compiled by Professor E. Halloway. Some of the concerns were accepted and different changes were made in the Bill. It appeared that the committee had difficulty in distinguishing between framework and policy and need more clarity on the two concepts.

MINUTES
Report on the US study tour, July 2001
Mr Carrim explained that the study tour took place in terms of the bilateral agreement between the United States of America (USA) and the department. The department wanted to get a sense of the property rates system in the USA and see what lessons could be drawn from them. He said the study tour was very successful and valuable.

The property rates system in the USA is centred on what he termed "unfettered expression of market principles". He added that in the USA they use the property rates system to encourage the productive use of land.

For example the system discourages putting up a two-story building where there could be a ten-story building. It is argued that this person should be charged property rates based not on the fact that he has a two-story building, but on the potential he has to build a ten-story building. This is a way of compelling people to use land in a particular way and develop it.

[For more details on the study tour report please find attached document.]

Mr Carrim (ANC) told the committee that this week they are reviewing the whole parliamentary programme. Parliament wants all the legislation to be passed by the end of October, not the 15th November as previously understood. Apparently the reason is that committees have to play a much more direct role in the Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) budget process. He said he believed this should be the case. From the 1st November they will start looking at next year's budget. He said the Disaster Management Bill has to be passed by the 10th October 2001. He urged members now to be more focussed and directed on what should be changed in the legislation.

Disaster Management Bill- Discussion
Mr B Mkhaliphi (ANC), newly appointed chairperson of the Select Committee on Local Government and Administration, said he does not see how the Bill fits into the Integrated Development Plan (IDPs) of the municipalities.

Mr Carrim agreed with Mr Buti that disaster management should also look at the IDP. That should be included in the Bill.

Mr Mkhaliphi commented that the committee should not focus on risk reduction as if risk is something desirable. He said they should rather focus on risk elimination.

NCOP consideration of Bill
Ms S Botha (DP) (NCOP) asked when the Select Committee would meet and deliberate with the Department on this Bill, because she thought that would be a joint meeting of both the Select and the Portfolio Committee.
Mr Carrim replied that because there was no chairperson of the Select Committee the powers that be in Parliament suggested that they should sit jointly to discuss the Bill. But according to parliamentary rules this was not appropriate because this is not a joint Bill, however, they wanted to do it because it would save time.

Ms Botha argued that risk management has a lot to do with insurance, which she believed is a field of its own, and she therefore wanted to know how the committee was going to introduce the issue of insurance in the Bill.

Mr R Southgate (ACDP) said that the question of whether it should be a joint meeting or a meeting of the Portfolio Committee only would create some problems. For example the issue of insurance in the bill had already been dealt with. He pointed out that Select Committee members had not been present in previous meetings.

Mr Carrim replied that previously the Select Committee chairperson at the very least attended almost 100% of Portfolio Committee meetings when he was not busy. What would happen then is that the Select Committee chairperson would brief his committee on what was discussed. In this case Mr Mkhaliphi was appointed after the public hearings and this meant that his committee could not be brought on board in the first deliberations on the Bill.

Secondly, he said in the ANC they have one study group with the Select Committee and in the previous day they have exhausted all the issues. He said that there would definitely be no such questions emerging from the ANC side.

Mr Mkhaliphi told the committee that on the NCOP side, in trying to bring them on board with what was happening, the Summary document was distributed to them the previous Friday afternoon together with an invitation to this meeting. He was trying to clarify to the committee that although he has just been appointed, he has tried to update his committee on the current state of affairs.

The chairperson felt that Mkhaliphi had fairly explained this and members should understand the circumstances and the effort made to ensure that everyone is brought on board.

Drought and Disaster Management
Mr A Lyle (ANC) questioned Mr Buys on why so much emphasis has been put on the disaster caused by floods and fire, while nothing is said about drought. Coming from an extremely rural area himself he explained that during drought in these areas it becomes a crisis and even children drop out of school.

Mr Buys replied that this is why in the definition they have particularly focussed on the typical disaster management. People sometimes talk of slow onset disasters, which is typically a drought and then there are floods, fire and so on. At the moment they are in close cooperation with the Department of Agriculture and Land Affairs which has satellites that are used to sense potential drought before it occurs.

Ms Botha said that the Department of Agriculture decided a few years ago that drought is not a disaster because it is something that one can plan for and as a result it would not be covered by any disaster funding. To her this seemed to be a contrary opinion.

Mr Buys responded that they looked at drought not from a perspective of assistance schemes but as an event that could affect people's lives, property and the economic well being of the country. They do not want a situation where the Department of Agriculture would look at problems affecting farmers and drought in isolation.

Mr Carrim commented that with the old system the Department of Agriculture argued that farmers tend to rely too much on disaster relief and do not take precautions to plan for drought. That is consistent with what is said on the Bill that "if a municipality does not make the most basic minimum plans to prevent disasters and reduce risks, it cannot rely on the government to bail it out". But in the new system the point was again raised with the new government being more sympathetic to the difficulties that certain farmers had, hence they want to be more flexible.

Ms Botha said she was interested in the definition, which says 'disaster means … a human-caused occurrence which (a) causes or threatens to cause (i) death, injury or disease'. Does this definition also include animals or is it only referring to human beings?

Dr Bouwer replied that disease is disease whether it affects animals or humans, for example foot and mouth disease affects animals but is also dangerous to human beings. The word disease is wide enough to accommodate both animals and human beings.

Dr Bouwer said the comments made by Mr Sharpe in the document refer to the old form of expressing oneself. To a large extent the comments reflect old approaches of drafting legislation.

Mr Carrim remarked that any document must have a letterhead, it must have a name, contact details of the person or organisation who wrote it, otherwise if it is like this document it will not be taken seriously. He was referring to the summary document that was presented to the committee. Whilst the document is impressive, it does not seem to be clear how legislation is dealt with in terms of choices of words.

Functioning of the Bill
Mr Carrim said somewhere in the document it is said that the Bill does not specify how often the Inter-governmental Committee shall meet and Sharpe proposes that it should meet at least twice every 12 months. When asked what for the Department's response Mr Buys replied that the Department would look at it.

Mr M Nonkonyana (ANC) commented that in Clause 3 of the Bill it is said that "This Act is administered by a Cabinet member designated by the President", and he thought this sounded a bit ambiguous.

Dr Bouwer responded that the generic reference to cabinet member means that the President may appoint any cabinet member. He said the problem is that when the Bill was drafted it was uncertain as to where the functions of disaster management would be located. So they had to find a way of defining which one of the cabinet members would be responsible for the administration of the Act.

He indicated that there is a possibility that the functions of this Bill should stay with the department of Provincial and Local government. The proposal is that clause 3 of the Bill should be changed to be able to allocate responsibilities of this legislation to the department.

Mr Carrim said in his personal view he would suggest the functions be located in the Presidency. But the practical problem is that the Presidency is overburdened. He suggested that the department should not take a decision now.

Relationship between Policy and Framework
Mr Carrim said if a person asks what is the relationship between a policy and framework, how would the department respond to that. For instance there is a policy in the white paper and a framework in the Bill, what is the relationship?

Mr Buys replied that there might be differences of opinion on that. He said he believes that the white paper is eventually overtaken by legislation. A white paper is an interim policy statement that eventually becomes law. The framework as it is in the Bill will be the guideline in terms of law and in terms of what should be done and what should not be done.

Dr Bouwer said what he has identified in the Bill itself is that there is no consistent use of terminology in this respect. For instance there is a disaster management framework in the national sphere, and then policy in the provincial sphere. But in some instances it is linked to the national, provincial and municipal disaster framework. Since there is no consistency, maybe that needs to be changed. He suggested that the framework should be used in the entire Bill.

Mr Nonkonyana suggested that perhaps the intention is to empower the Minister to prepare some guidelines in terms of regulations.

Dr Bouwer replied that to a large extent the practicality is that they have two instruments, they have a framework/policy and then a plan. In order for a plan to be operationalised something must inform that plan. That is why the department came up with the framework/policy approach. In the chapters that deal with provincial and municipal sphere of government they use policy.

Ms M Lobe said she is worried that they already have an existing policy framework, that is, the White Paper. What will the relationship between the existing policy framework and the one proposed in the Bill be? It appeared as if they would have two different policies focusing on the same thing.

Mr Smith said looking at the word framework in clause 6 it is clear that the framework is no more than a policy. It is clear that the two can b e used interchangeably, for instance policy or framework or policy framework. He said he does not have problem with that as long as it is used consistently.

Mr Carrim agreed with Bouwer that the word framework should be used in the entire Bill.
He also suggested that they should accept the term 'prescribe' and have a new 5(1)(b) that will say, "when the Minister prescribes a national disaster management framework he/she must also take into account views from the public", not only from the Inter-governmental Committee. Dr Bouwer agreed that they would look at these recommendations.

Inclusion of indigenous knowledge in the Framework
Ms Lobe said to her the framework would be a coherent, transparent and inclusive policy. She added that the issue of indigenous knowledge should be included in order for the coherent policy to guide the framework.

Prof. E Halloway said with respect to the framework which speaks primarily about the involvement of indigenous knowledge, clause 17 talks about information and knowledge and may an opportunity emerges whereby indigenous knowledge could be part of the information that should inform thinking around the process. She said they should separate the people from the knowledge and both should be represented in an appropriate section.

Dr Bouwer said he had difficulty in grasping the distinction between knowledge and participants. He said this is a good proposal to include reference to traditional leaders in 17(f).

Mr Khompela (ANC) said it is important that the framework should encourage and recognise indigenous knowledge systems in reaction to any disaster that might occur. He thought the department has responded very well on that.

Mr Carrim said the issue of the framework seems not to be clear to members, he added that the framework is meant to provide the broad elements of an approach, it is not meant to factor in things as members seem to be suggesting. By mentioning traditional leaders it does not mean that they incorporate indigenous knowledge. He added that they heard what Prof. Halloway was saying but they still need to meet their study groups.

The meeting was adjourned

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