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Taking Parliament to People, and People to Parliament
The aim of this report is to summarise the main events at the meeting and identify the key role players. This report is not a verbatim transcript of proceedings.
ENVIRONMENTAL AFFAIRS AND TOURISM PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
21 September 2001
NATIONAL PARKS AMENDMENT BILL:CONSIDERATION
Chairperson: Ms G. Mahlangu
Documents handed out:
S.18 of SANPARK ACT 57 OF 1976: Exemptions from taxes, duties and fees, and duty to obtain certain licences (Appendix "1")
National Parks Amendment Bill [B 38-2001]
The Committee discussed the logistics of members taking part in the World Tourism Day celebrations in the Eastern Cape, Waste Summit in Pietersburg and the Parliamentary Debate. The main agenda for the Committee was the National Parks Amendment Bill which provides tax exemptions to national parks. The Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism made a presentation on the amendment Bill and Committee Members were given an opportunity to comment and ask questions. The Committee agreed to pass the legislation in principle but stated that it would look at the amendments in greater detail in future deliberations and possibly with the participation of other parties.
Ms G. Mahlangu (ANC), in her capacity as Chairperson, opened the meeting and stated that the main agenda for the meeting was the National Parks Amendment Bill. Prior to proceeding with the agenda issue, the Chairperson declared that there was a need to clarify the participation of Committee Members in upcoming events.
Logistics: World Tourism Day & Parliamentary Debate
The Chairperson stated that the theme for World Tourism Day was "Tourism, Peace and Dialogue Among Civilizations" and would take place in Iran. She stated that the theme for the South African Tourism Day was "Transformation of Tourism into a Tool for Real Empowerment of South Africans Previously Excluded from the Economic Mainstream". She stated that the wording of the theme was in the process of being shortened.
The Chairperson stated that the Portfolio Committee had obtained a window for debate in Parliament on 26 September 2001.
Ms J. Semple (DP) stated that if the Committee had obtained the slot for the debate with difficulty, why was the debate not scheduled for the actual World Tourism Day on 27 September 2001 instead of a day earlier.
The Chairperson stated that there were problems of timing. The Committee had been given primetime on the 26th of September to give the debate more prominence. She stated that she would attempt to get a better slot for the debate in Parliament.
Ms Semple stated that there was a Tourism Day celebration in the Eastern Cape and said that there seemed to be a confusion regarding the timing.
The Chairperson stated that the Tourism Day celebrations were scheduled for Wednesday, 26 September 2001. She stated that the Committee would follow up and attend if possible. She added that some Members would be at the Waste Summit in Pietersburg and added that the Committee also needed to send members to participate in the parliamentary debate.
Having sorted out the logistical issues of participation in the various events, the Committee proceeded to look at the main issue on the agenda.
National Parks Amendment Bill
Ms T. Mkhwanazi, Minister's Special Legal Advisor for the Department, began the presentation by thanking the Committee for the opportunity to present the Bill. She stated that she would provide a picture of what the legislation would look like if it were passed. To illustrate why the amendment was needed, she began by looking at the requirements in the old Act. She displayed Section 1 of the Value Added Tax Act of 1991 (the VAT Act) and looked at the qualifications to be identified as an "association not for gain". She stated that the statutory requirements that must be complied to were that the entity: may not be carried on for profit, could not have shareholders, was prohibited from transferring assets except if it was for the payment of services to the entity, and, upon liquidating, entity assets had to be transferred to another entity with similar objects.
Ms Mkhwanazi then proceeded to why this was the only Bill included in the amendment. She stated South African National Parks (National Parks) had a profit margin but its revenues were used to fulfill the objects of the National Parks. She added that the National Parks was compliant with all the requirements for qualification as an "association not for gain". She stated that as the legislation currently stood, National Parks did not appear compliant. The National Parks had been defined as an enterprise because it did not completely comply with the criteria for qualification as an "association not for gain" as set out in the VAT Act. She added that the amendment would allow the National Parks to stop paying the VAT on any donations or sponsorships it received. The amount of money National Parks would save was not trivial and added that the money could be put to better use. In considering the amount of revenue the Government would lose, she stated that the exemption had been in place since 1999 on the condition that the amendment be made. According to Ms Mkhwanazi, since the exemption had been given for some time now, Parliament would not be losing any additional revenue.
Ms Semple asked what actual amount was being saved.
Mr E. Soma, who accompanied Ms Mkhwanazi to the briefing, stated that the amount of VAT paid varied because the amount of revenue fluctuated. He added that the problem had been identified in 1999 and exemption was instituted. Mr Soma said that revenues ranged from R10 to R20 million of which fourteen percent went to VAT payments.
Mr E. Moorcroft (DP) stated that nobody with the interests of National Parks at heart would reject the Bill. His only concern was the technical accuracy of the Bill. He asked if Section 18(3) of the SANPARK Act, which had been distributed to Committee Members, was to allow for discretion.
Ms J. Chalmers (ANC) commented on the criteria that would enable some people to access the income tax deductions.
Mr J. Le Roux (New NP) asked if qualifying the Sanpark as a not-for-profit entity might pose problems in the future. He stated that zero rating donations might be an alternative.
Mr H. Smuts, from the State Law Advisor's office, stated that alternatives had been considered and added that the amendment would not have any long-term effects. He stated that the amendment was a long-term solution to exempt the National Parks from continually asking for exemptions.
Ms Semple asked why the donations were not made tax deductible to encourage people to donate.
Ms Chalmers expressed support for making donations tax deductible and added that there had been confusion with other entities regarding if and under what circumstances donations were tax deductible.
Ms Mkhwanazi stated that Finance Department would be asked to clarify the criteria used in granting exemptions to donations.
Mr Le Roux said that problems might arise in case the National Parks made huge profits. He asked what would happen then.
Ms Mkhwanazi stated that the governance and spending of the National Parks was governed by legislation and added that all money had to be used for the purposes of the National Parks' objectives.
The Chairperson suggested that, for today's purposes, the legislation be accepted as presented and clear. She stated that there would be a possibility of including other parties in future meetings to get clarity on issues that were outside the capacity of the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism. She stated that it seemed as though the Committee agreed to pass the legislation in principle but that it should be looked at next time.
Ms Semple asked a question on Section 18(4) of the SANPARK Act which referred to firearms and ammunition.
Ms Chalmers asked who had the licences for firearms and ammunition as in Section 18(4) of the SANPARK Act.
The Chairperson stated that the Committee would debate and vote on Section 18(2)(A) of the SANPARK Act at a future date.
Having concluded discussions on the National Parks Amendment Bill, the Chairperson raised the issue of Committee Members being absent from meetings without giving notice. She stated that attendance regrets would be sent to the respective Chief Whips.
The Chairperson stated that the Committee should follow up a previous suggestion to submit a report, regarding the upcoming World Summit on Sustainable Development, to Parliament to bring it exposure. By submitting reports to Parliament, the Committee would raise interest in the Summit and its content issues. She stated that the primetime slot for the parliamentary debate would give the Committee an opportunity to bring these issues to the forefront of all Members' minds.
Ms Chalmers stated that she had attended the International Whaling Commission's Conference and would be filing a report with the Committee.
The Chairperson stated that the report would be considered by the Committee and submitted to Parliament.
Ms Semple stated that, since the primetime slot for the Parliamentary Debate would focus attention on the issues of the Summit, it should not be changed.
The Chairperson stated that she had to meet with the Finance Department to work out discrepancies in the Committee's finances and the meeting was adjourned.
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S. 18 of SANPARK ACT 57 OF 1976 Exemptions from taxes, duties and fees, and duty to obtain certain licences
(1) No rates or taxes of any kind shall be levied on any land or building situated within a park which is vested in the State, or which is made available for a park under section 2B (1) (b) and which is not utilized by the owner thereof, and occupied by the board or by an officer or employee.
(2) The revenue of the board shall be exempt from any tax on income.
"(2A) Upon the winding-up or liquidation of the Board it shall donate or transfer its remaining assets, after satisfaction of its liabilities, to some other society, association or organisation with objects similar to its own."
(3) The Board shall be exempt from the duty to obtain any licence which is required, under any law relating to licences, for the carrying on of any trade, and to pay any licence duty or fee in respect of the carrying on by it of any such trade.
(4) Any officer or employee may, without holding or without the board holding any licence or permit issued under the laws relating to fire-arms and ammunition, be in possession or custody of any fire-arm or ammunition which he requires for the performance of his duties.
(5) Notwithstanding anything to the contrary in any other law contained, no transfer duty, stamp duty or any other charges or fees imposed by statute shall be payable in respect of land acquired in terms of section 3A (1) or (2) for the purposes of a park.
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