SA National Biodiversity Institute, SA National Parks & Greater St Lucia Wetlands Park Annual Report


17 October 2007
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Meeting Summary

A summary of this committee meeting is not yet available.

Meeting report

17 October 2007

Chairperson: Mr L Zita (ANC)

Documents handed out:
South African National Parks Annual Report 2006/07
Greater St Lucia Wetland Park Authority Annual Report 2007 [available soon at]
SA National Biodiversity Institute Annual Review 20006/07 [available at]
South African National Parks Annual Report 2007 Presentation
Greater St Lucia Wetland Park Annual Report 2007 Presentation
South African National Biodiversity Institute Annual Report 2007 Presentation
South African National Biodiversity Institute Financials Annual Report 2007 Presentation

Audio recording of meeting

The South African National Parks, Greater St Lucia Wetland Park, and South African National Biodiversity Institute briefed the Committee on their respective 2006/07 Annual Reports. Each institution set out the goals in their 06/07 business plans and the extent to which these had been achieved, and summarised their other programmes, including training, and visitor figures. The National Parks noted that the amalgamation of the Qwa-Qwa and Golden Gate Park remained problematic, that no agreement had been reached and the Committee was asked for assistance in liaising with the MEC. The Greater St Lucia Wetland Park emphasised the upgrading of roads, amalgamation of the sixteen former areas, and improvement in infrastructure. The South African National Biodiversity Institute noted in particular the expansion of parks and the availability of the parks to more black visitors. Each of the institutions summarised their main challenges. 

Members raised a number of questions in relation to the mediation process in the Qwa Qwa issue, and the related problems. Further questions related to control of disease in the parks, the status of the various camps that were in the St Lucia park,  waste management policies, the botanical gardens in the Eastern Cape, and the possible solutions where no national parks existed in some provinces, and land rehabilitation programmes. Members expressed concerns over the transfrontier parks and the position of Zimbabwe. Queries were raised on special concessions or senior citizens, the fencing and the problems of elephants, Greening the Nation projects, benefits to the previously disadvantaged people in or bordering the parks, empowerment, and the training programmes. Alien vegetation removal, the issue of HIV and Aids, employment equity, climate change and biodiversity research and initiatives, funding and forums were also raised. Some suggestions were made for increasing numbers to the parks, and land claims issues in the St Lucia area were raised and clarified. Some questions were not answered by the entities, due to shortage of time.

South African National Parks (SANParks) Annual Report 2006/07 Briefing

Dr David  Mabunda, CEO, SANParks, noted that the goals were set and measured against the targets for each of the programmes. He tabled each of the goals (see attached presentation) and said that most of the goals for performance were achieved, but that under-achievements again included the amalgamation of the Qwa-Qwa Nature reserve into the Golden Gate National Park. He tabled the financial goals and financial performance, indicating that most of the goals in this area had been achieved. 

The forthcoming challenges include obtaining leadership in biodiversity and cultural diversity and cultural heritage management, as well the challenge of being a custodian of choice for protected areas.  In tourism the challenges were to become a nature based tourism destination of choice, and to enhance the reputation of SANParks.

With regard to people and conservation challenges these included cultural heritage, children in parks and the Imbewe project and park-based education, which were all relying on additional funding. Additional challenges included also  the land claims issues, and how best to protect from poaching by local and cross-boundary entities. Employee and visitor safety were also components.

Greater St Lucia Wetland Park Authority (GSLWP) Annual Report 2006/07
Mr Andrew Zaloumis, CEO, GSLWP, tabled the aims and medium term strategy for the St Lucia Wetland area, which included upgrade of the spine road, the N2 and the border posts. He stated that over the previous year the key performance target in destination marketing was achieved. In increasing the diversity of the accommodation in the park, limited funding was secured and treasury no longer favoured the principle of unsolicited bids..  There was an increase in the number of sustainable projects in the park, which included a small business programme.  The quality of the tourism service in the park had been improved and the infrastructure development and the implementation of black economic empowerment (BEE) in the workplace was well underway.

The programmes included land incorporation to increase the size of the buffer zone of the park, the rehabilitation of the formally commercially forested areas as well as the removal of alien plants. Land claims settlements, marine compliance, air quality management and the natural resource harvesting were all in the stages of completion.

The auditors had been satisfied with their assessment of the internal audit, and a clean audit report was obtained, with neither qualifications nor matters of emphasis. Park revenue had increased by 37% but operating costs had increased by 41% due to the increase in projects being implemented. The non cash deficit has increased from the previous year had declined. Total net assets were at the same value.

Mr Zaloumis said the going forward challenges included ensuring continued commercial development, tracking implementation of safety and security measures now being implemented by the SAPS and SANDF in the northern sections of the park and adjacent areas as this affected both communities and visitors alike, the effective implementation of land settlement agreements, expanding on research, management and interpretation of cultural heritage,  as well as resources to extend environmental education into 350 schools surrounding the Park.  The final challenge lay in implementing the new iSimangaliso brand.

At the Lubombo SDI level key strategic areas in the next year included continued upgrading of the roads and border posts, the roll back in the malaria control, as well as creating tourism routes, and improving the overall infrastructure, which would create a platform for further job creation.  He concluded that governments interventions had seen a significant growth in tourism in and surrounding the Park, with average occupancies being below the national average in 2000 when the Authority was established now being above the national average and a 59% increase in the number of establishments since 2000. Going forward focus by government is on the second economy outside the Park is required as while the Park determined that business done in the Park complied with governments BEE principles, it could not do this outside the Park.

South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) Annual Report 2006/7
Prof Gideon Smith, Chief Director: Research and Scientific Services, SANBI, stated that the key achievements for the past year included the further establishment and positioning of SANBI as a lead institution in Africa and the management home of bioregional programmes. Other achievements included  the execution of the African plant initiative, improvement of visitor and research facilities, and recordal of the highest numbers of visitors to date to the National Botanical Gardens.

The website updates had been very successful and skills and development workshops were successfully implemented.

The publications of “Vegetation Map of South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland” and the SA response to Global Strategy for Plant Conservation (GSPC) and the African plant checklist and website was launched this past year in February.  The launch of the new national botanical garden in Nieuwoudtville in this year included the world’s richest diversity of flowering bulbs.

SANBI’s vision and focus for the future was to ensure free and easily accessible information on biodiversity and the environment, to support the expansion of science capacity and to contribute to the effective communication of policy-influencing research results.

The core services and functions for the future included research on a number of fronts as well as analysis of the information. Outreach programmes and corporate services were to be implemented.

Key challenges for the forthcoming year included increasing the number of black visitors to parks, clarification on the roles and funding responsibilities for biodiversity research as well as for the future natural history collections in museums.  Sustained funding in a number of areas and the retention of staff in skilled areas were also to be addressed.

Mr G Morgan (DA) asked Dr Mabunda what resolutions had been met in the mediation process. He noted that there were significant consequences, including the poaching of animals and the increasing move of people to the park, as well as the fires that had occurred.

Dr Mabunda answered that the Qwa-Qwa and Golden Gate amalgamation had been coming for nine years and five embassies had been spoken to in this regard. The provincial and national departments would differentiate in certain aspects.  A number of initiatives up to CEO levels had been tried, but all political principals were agreed that these fell short of final agreement. The benefits of this amalgamation would include assisting in the conservation of the grasslands and the biodiversity footprint in this area. Poaching and the stealing of fencing was an ongoing problem, and now that a rest camp had been erected this needed to be protected.

Mr Themba Mabilane, CFO, SANParks, stated that there would always be a problem with people and elephants in the parks and learning to live together.

Mr Morgan also asked how the disease control was being managed and particularly if  emphasis was given to Anthrax outbreaks in the SANParks.

Dr Mabunda stated that the problems around disease control would always be present, as the climate had a lot to do with this. Disease control included the residues of the foot and mouth disease. Even though an outbreak had occurred in Zimbabwe it had been contained and isolated. Elephant management in this regard was very important. He commented that the influx of people in this region was becoming a problem and that it would be a problem that would have to be continually dealt with.

Mr Morgan referred to St Lucia and asked what the status of the police training camps in that region were, and if they had been removed yet.

Mr Zaloumis stated that three remained in the park. One of them was in the process of being knocked down and rehabilitated. The S A National Defence Force (SANDF) had indicated that it wanted to upgraded its listening post at Kosi Bay. The Park had done their own technical studies and where not necessarily in agreement on this..  The new sections of the South African Police Services (SAPS) camp at Island Rock had mostly been demolished, and the beach had been naturally eroded by Cyclone Gamede so the access to this area was difficult.

Ms J Chalmers (ANC) questioned Dr Mabunda with regard to the waste management in the Parks at the present time, particularly viewed in the light of job creation and recycling.  She also  asked how SANBI was looking at climate change, whether plant conditions were being dealt with and if there were any programmes. 

Dr Mabunda commented that waste management was high on the agenda and there was a recycling drive in the Kruger National Park and in other areas, including Table Mountain, working with companies in the City of Cape Town . These jobs would remain in the region even though not created by SANParks.

Ms Chalmers asked what was currently happening to the Botanical Garden in the Eastern Cape.

Dr Tanya Abrahamse, CEO, SANBI,  replied that in the Biodiversity plan there was a five-year priority plan that was very specific in its gardens expansion programme, and a strategic expansion approach in this regard was being done.  SANBI and SANParks had an opportunity to work towards having a grasslands garden and preserving grasslands together.  Niewoudtville was not a garden but a park of great biodiversity. The Eastern Cape was an area where at least three biomes met, and SANBI would like to work with existing parks to follow models.

Mr I Cachalia (ANC) asked about the rehabilitation program and its connection to the Departments of  Land Affairs and Water and Forestry. He commented on the biodiversity and the infrastructure in the park and the need to create opportunities for the local people in these areas.

Dr Mabunda answered that land rehabilitation, particularly of previous forestland, was being dealt with in conjunction with the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry, but the problem lay in lack of funds.  The funds were used for staff and there was none allocated to land care. It was important that in the areas where forestry was no longer operative, the land should be rehabilitated and taken care of.

Mr Cachalia asked which of the National Parks were the most successful with regard to visiting numbers.

Mr Cachalia asked whether the long-term economic implications for Zimbabwe with regard to the Limpopo Province connection in the parks was being considered and whether Zimbabwe was informed as all the processes were coming into play.

Dr Mabunda noted that with regard to the Gonarezhou project, nothing had happened,  however the greater Limpopo Trans frontier park was on track with Mozambique and the Limpopo Province and Botswana. Zimbabwe was kept informed.

Mr Cachalia asked if the staff at SANParks were sufficiently qualified, as also qualified to maintain the parks, and if the AIDS programme in the Park had been effective.

Mr D Maluleke (ANC) queried as to how the senior citizens were catered for in the National Parks Week or another special programme. 

Dr Mabunda replied that the senior citizens enjoyed a 40% discount during the off-season at all the parks and throughout the year.

Mr Maluleke asked about the fencing around enclosures and if it was possible to build a trench of water through the camp of the elephants. 

Dr Mabunda stated that in the Zoological parks fencing was an easier issue to deal with as smaller areas were contemplated. This also had to do with infrastructure and the ambience of the Parks and their structures.  The character and ambience of the Parks was not being changed. However, the increase in black middle class visitors required more upgraded facilities in the Parks.

Mr Maluleke asked if there was a programme initiated through local councils with regard to greening areas such soccer fields in the township areas.

Dr Abrahamse replied that the Greening the Nation project was being done, but was hampered through lack of unity in goals in regard to different organisations. The question was how to fit in the “Greening the Nation” project with the other projects that were already happening. Human capacity development was also a challenge in this area and there was a  need for all organisations to work together.

Ms B Ntuli (ANC) asked what benefit had been achieved in connection with Mozambique and how the previously disadvantaged people would benefit from the marketing and the long-term vision

Mr Zaloumis stated that the Lubombo Road was upgraded mainly on existing gravel roads reinforcing existing settlement patterns. As the road had been constructed so the economic potential could be better realised.  Significant development had occurred at KwaNgwanse (eMangusi). This was in part due to the border being opened with Mozambique and more trade could occur. In development of this area the goals were to assist in the alleviation of poverty and in line with the three countries heads of states vision at the launch of the Lubombo for visitors to be able to visit “three countries in one day”. This was now possible due to the development of roads, borders and malaria reduction. There had now been a positive growth rate in tourism and a tourism route was being developed.  The Park’s mandate is to ensure a balance between the conservation of the world heritage site values and development. Development was seen as very important. Contracts in the park used Department of Trade and Industry’s Black Economic Empowerment codes. Empowerment was looked at in terms of economic ownership and jobs, as well as jobs which include the contractual requirements of senior positions, and procurement in construction and during operation.

Ms Ntuli asked what stage the learners programme had reached at St Lucia.

Mr Zaloumis stated that 60% of the NQF1 learners found employment. Approximately 30% of graduates have gone onto do NQF4. This is a one-year programme.  There was also an innovative small, micro and medium enterprise (SMME) programme upskilling through actual business projects. Those on the programme would come out of it with their business skills improved. As members where aware the 400 odd crafters supplied Mr Price Home section. The challenge lay in diversifying to more than one purchaser and how to grow it bigger.  The second economy outside the Park was the next challenge.

Ms Ntuli asked SANParks what strategy was being used for the removal of the alien vegetation, and how this was being done.

Dr Mabunda replied that some alien invasive growth was possible to remove by pulling out plants, such as the black wattle, lantana and the guavas. However other alien invasive plants were water borne and more difficult to remove,  and newer aliens came in because of the catchment systems and as a result were more difficult to remove. Dealing with the alien invasive problem by job creation and keeping the species into a confined space was a better solution than applying chemicals to the problem.

Dr Abrahamse added that with regard to invasive species, SANBI was one of four organisations that were partners in the Global Invasive Species Programme.  SANBI’s approach had been on the eradication and removal of alien plants.  Integrated control structures needed to be put in place as well to ensure a holistic approach.

Ms Ntuli asked SANParks how the issue of AIDS was being dealt with, and what provisions there were for the families of those people.

Dr Mabunda said that in issues of HIV/AIDS SANParks would work with the Department of Health and through the regular health channels the families were assisted.

Ms Ntuli commented on the issue of employment equity, and asked  what was being done to increase the number of women.

Dr Mabunda commented that human resources balances were adequate at present, however more strategies were being looked at, so that human resources were better handled. More specialists were now employed.

Ms Ntuli suggested that the Wild Cards be given to staff at a discounted rate so as to begin encouraging them to purchase the card.

Dr Mabunda replied that staff members and public servants were given discounted rates and that it was encouraged for them to renew it themselves. They could certainly afford to pay for the Wild Card.

Ms Ntuli enquired of SANBI if there were greening strategies in place, as this could affect the climate change.

Dr T Abrahamse stated that there needed to be a unified approach with regard to climate change and biodiversity; and this would also involve research and a joint way of dealing with remedial measures. This would be a crosscutting process and the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism (DEAT) was leading on some points of knowledge. SANBI would be a part of that knowledge sharing.

Dr Smith added that research into climate change was only ten years old and that this meant that something needed to be done. The experiments looked at increased levels of CO2,  and its impact on the plants, and the increased levels of ultra-violet radiation. Control experiments had expanded into predictive modelling and an assessment of what effect these changes would have on the environment. This first included single species and then looked into the greater landscape, which SANBI was currently entering into. All approaches to climate change must be multifaceted and a strategy was being developed while informing all policy makers in this regard.

Dr Mabunda stated that Mapungubwe National Park was a growing park attracting more than 60% black visitors and as the infrastructure was developed more opportunities became available for benefit.  It was in an area where there was much poverty,  and the setting up of the park would aid growth in that area.

Mr Cachalia enquired as to whether voluntary testing for HIV/Aids was being done.

Dr Mabunda stated that voluntary testing for HIV/AIDS was done on the premises. All staff members were encouraged and a half day programme was devoted to “Know your status”.  The Wellness Programme for the staff would take over once testing had been done, and followed the process further.

The Chairperson enquired as to who was funding the Leadership for Conservation effort of SANParks and also asked if the Charter on this issue could be further explained.

Dr Mabunda replied that in African countries the approach had always been to have partnerships in Europe. Although the African Protected Areas Institute was started it never got off the ground because of funding issues. Now Goldfields and other companies had sponsored an initiative as set out on page 54 of the Annual Report. This was being done through a section 21 company that reported to SANParks, so that they could assist.

The Chairperson asked about the 50% compliance of BEE in the SANParks.

Mr Mabilane replied that it was difficult to source companies that had enough experience and resources to undertake the projects.  These projects required a huge amount of funds upfront and the small businesses did not have this facility. SANParks could not afford to subsidise in this instance either.  There was widescale need, and things were not running smoothly in the Tourism Enterprise Project as yet. The skills needed were also highly technical and the small enterprises did not necessarily have those types of skills.

The Chairperson asked if in the Qwa-Qwa and Golden Gate amalgamation project the Committee could be brought on board to assist.

Mr Mabilane replied that a number of interventions were made, but no solution was found. It had been suggested that perhaps the Committee and the MEC should meet to discuss this so that the differences could be resolved.

The Chairperson asked about the Park forums, and why there were not more forums, and he questioned if the staff stayed in the park.

Mr Mabilane agreed that Park forums were needed everywhere. However, there was only R4.6 million allocated for those,  and there was a requirement for management plans and consultation. Not enough could be done around park forums at this time.

The Chairperson enquired as to the employment of women in the parks, and why the number had not increased.

Mr Mabilane stated that the type of skills required were very specific,  and were C-grade level, which included ecologists.  The problem was occurring throughout the Natural Sciences and there were simply not enough skilled people in this regard.

The Chairperson enquired of SANBI about the types of visitors that they had received. It was also asked whether consideration had been given to organising joint trips organised by stokvels and churches.

Mr Mabilane replied that through government initiatives,  stokvels’ and churches’ black members would attend the parks, and often requested full service accommodation, which was in the process of being arranged.

Dr Abrahamse answered as to the measurement of black visitors. In the parks and in the gardens this was not able to be measured. However, it had been noted that mostly foreigners,  Afrikaans and English speaking local would visit the gardens. In Pretoria a chapel was erected and many black people would be married there. In the Lowveld garden in Nelspruit wedding pictures were taken and a package was developed for this.  Many people also felt alienated in the gardens as there was nothing to reflect black culture at all and this needed to be changed.

The Chairperson commented that he thought that they had done very well with regard to costs and income recovery.

The Chairperson referred to the fact that skilled people were leaving and asked if it was possible to have them remain longer in their jobs.

Mr Mabilane stated that the people who had been trained signed an agreement to work for a certain period of time but once this had expired they were allowed to move.  The high turnover resulted from insufficient remuneration, and further incentives should be offered.

The Chairperson commented that there was improvement in the GSLWP and what was the reason for this. He also asked why the National Treasury was unhappy about unsolicited bids, and what problems there were in this regard.

Mr Zaloumis replied that the success was due to governments enabling policy and the implementation of effective strategy resulting in many improvements to the Park. The main improvements had related to control of malaria and ensuring good regional road access. In terms of the park sixteen former areas of the park were now incorporated into one. A dedicated authority had been established to ensure a one stop shop. The economy and tourism of the area had grown and had also improved. National Treasury had two reservations with unsolicited bids; firstly, that if an unsolicited bid were put forward the bidding company wanted firsts rights of refusal; and that secondly this might not allow for adequate market test.

The Chairperson enquired as to the strategy for learners and SANBI.

Dr Abrahamse replied that not many people had been encouraged to go into conservation, and they had not achieved those qualifications, which was the first constraint.  The other point was that there was no knowledge of where the capacity lay in regard to conservation.  There was capacity in the provinces and in the big metros, and it was hoped that skills could be shared. There was overall a shortage of natural scientists,  because not sufficient numbers were encouraged to study the natural sciences and research.

The Chairperson enquired as to the millions of trees project and how this was being achieved.

Mr Mabilane stated that in the trees project a plan was in place to have an integrated approach and an approach to leaving desolate land to naturally rehabilitate.

The Chairperson enquired about Mapungubwe National Park, specifically in relation to Zimbabwe, and if there was collaboration .

Mr Mabunda stated that this new transfrontier park would re-unite an old area. The antiquity of the unification had been demonstrated by archaeological research and it was projected that this amalgamation would be complete in ten years.

Ms Ntuli enquired as to the land claims issues in the St Lucia area.

Mr Zaloumis stated that six land claims had been settled in this financial year and 75% of the Park’s previous land claim issues had been settled.  There remained still very difficult land claims to be settled as in the place of Dukduk, where there was an illegal settlement of 20 000 people and a land claim for this area by 400 people.

Challenges on the land claims were that business had to be done in a different way, involving three levels of the meaning of ownership, the issues around co-management and how to co-manage and keep effective management by a government agency over a resource like a park, as well as the question of beneficiation and what would happen over 20 to 40 years. Capacity building was a major issue.

Ms Ntuli enquired as to the fishing rights in the Kosi Bay area.

Mr Zaloumis stated that there were 70 000 people living in or adjacent to 5 or 6 km of the Kosi Bay park boundary,  and the problem would be making sure the value of the resource remained.

Ms Ntuli enquired if there were any challenges in working with other countries, and what  strategies could be developed.

Dr Cachalia asked as to what permanent jobs were created in the St Lucia area.

The Chairperson enquired as to what was happening with the Park in Pedi in the former homelands.

Dr Cachalia asked as to the challenges on the land claim issues in the Kruger National Park. He also asked about the capacity of the biomes in region and also asked if the National Biodiversity Plan was strong enough in these issues on provincial levels.

Dr Abrahamse stated that in respect of land acquisition, this was not covered in the model of the National Botanical Garden and there were no gardens in Northern Province, Limpopo, or the North West.  The obvious solution that would provide a window for people to see the vegetation would be to seek a local authority garden that was in need of funding and confer on it a National Botanical Garden status.

The meeting was adjourned.


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