The Committee continued its public hearings on the Industrial Policy, Forestry Action Plan and Forestry Charter.
The Bitou Municipality (Plettenberg Bay) was home to some of the poorest communities in the Eastern Cape, who had been disenfranchised and dispossessed over many years by the forestry industry. The Municipality, through its Baartman-Biko Environmental and Forestry Research Institute's programme, sought to promote restoration of indigenous forestry as a more effective means than conventional monoculture forestry of benefiting ordinary people whilst at the same time combating climate change. There had over the years been extensive damage through climate change, forest fires and by human activities, particularly those of the past colonialists and industrialists, who had introduced exotic and alien species that burned readily. Africa was losing forest at the rate of the equivalent of two football fields per second, although the forestry potential for carbon sequestration was huge. The Institute of the Municipality was seeking cooperation from the Department and investment from private entities. It also drew attention to the disjuncture between the definitions of alien vegetation and forests of the Departments of Mineral Affairs and Energy, Water Affairs and Forestry and Environmental Affairs and Tourism.
The Southern Cape Land Committee pleaded for support in its case against constructive removals of the community members it represented on account of employment insufficiencies occasioned by privatisation and other factors. A similar account was presented by representatives from the Eastern Cape. The Southern Cape Land Committee maintained that if they were allowed to remain, they would find opportunities for employment, whereas in the cities there was no employment for them, because of insufficient job creation
The Committee commented that it was unfortunate that a government decision had, unintentionally, caused so much poverty, unhappiness and social problems. Members asked if those disposed had filed claims to have their land restored to them.
The community of Dukuduku petitioned the Committee that the Government award it lawful ownership of the land that was their home. It wished to promote co-operation in the management of the forest and protection of the environment, develop the community's projects in agriculture to supply markets, work together with the municipality in the development of the area and participate in the programme of developing tourism which was taking place in the area. The Department of Water Affairs and Forestry assured the community that there was an ongoing process to address the problem.
The Committee accepted its responsibility to follow through. It noted the response of the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry. The Committee's further deliberations would be recorded in the report that the Committee would compile on the subject.
Public hearings on Industrial Policy, Forestry Action Plan & Forestry Charter
The Chairperson explained that the Committee, after the conclusion of the public hearings, would deliberate on the submissions received and document its recommendations in a report, to be submitted to the National Assembly. After adoption by the National Assembly, the recommendations would then be forwarded to all who had participated in the hearings. The Chairperson urged all participants to remain in contact with the Committee Secretary to ensure that they received the Committee's report.
Bitou Municipality (Plettenberg Bay): Baartman-Biko Environmental and Forestry Research Institute Presentation
Mr Albert Ackhurst, Conservation Scientist, Baartman-Biko Environmental and Forestry Research Institute, spoke especially about opportunities in community indigenous forestry. The Bitou Municipality had interests in common with the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry's forestry initiatives, and even with the commercial forestry sector. The integrated development plan of the Bitou Municipality, which included some of the poorest communities of the Eastern Cape, and those communities that had been disenfranchised by the forestry industry over the past two hundred years, represented many years of effort. Bitou Municipality was also an award-winning municipality, especially noted for its housing projects.
Mr Ackhurst said that it was important to consider Bitou Municipality's activities against the background of climate change: it was essential to adapt to the challenge of climate change in a way that was positive and benefited ordinary people. He believed this could best be done by the restoration of indigenous forests, especially through the Community Indigenous Forestry Units (CIFUs), in which indigenous forests were envisaged as a conservation economy.
Indigenous forests, alternatively known as natural forests, sustained real biodiversity systems, and were to be greatly recommended in preference to the monoculture forests of commercial forestry.
Global carbon trading markets had been worth $60 billion in 2007. With regard to trees and forests, the figures were slightly different, but the mechanisms were established to conduct such trading. With regard to capacity building, 28 new companies, comprising Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) and Broad Based Black Economic Empowerment (BBB-EE) firms, had been established. Half of a tree's dried biomass was carbon. The world was paying a number of dollars per ton of CO2 or CO2 equivalent. It had the potential to become a most viable industry. Growing trees and forests would mitigate climate change, by pulling the carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere and sequestering it into the biomass. At the present time the price of carbon was low at $6, because of insufficient confidence in this industry, but it was hoped this would rise to $15 soon.
Forests, which covered about one third of the total land of the earth, contained 70% of all carbon present in living things. Climate change posed a challenge for forestry through increased fires, increased flooding, increase in alien species, and increased pathogens.
Forests were more extensive in the northern hemisphere. The boreal forests of Canada, Scandinavia and Russia were the world's largest forest areas. These were followed by the temperate deciduous forests in Europe, Scandinavia, United States of America, and the Far East. The tropical forests were to be found in both the northern and the southern hemisphere; the latter contained the Afro-temperate evergreen forests and, in Australia and New Zealand, some areas of temperate deciduous forests.
Forests were of critical importance since they removed carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and stored it in biomass. According to data from US Space Agency NASA, a vast amount of biomass had been lost within the last 15 years. Early humans had begun the process of burning parts of forests for grazing purposes. However, in the colonial era there had been preoccupation firstly with logging the original forest, then with introducing exotic species and establishing industrialised timber plantations, which had devastated southern Africa's Afro-temperate forests. Forest had in many areas been replaced by scrub, or by fynbos. There was now only a fraction left of southern Africa's lung, and forest was being lost at the rate of the equivalent of two football fields per second. The forest lung represented 3 million square kilometres of opportunity. The tropics were good areas in which to plant forests, because growth was rapid; and therefore carbon could be sequestered easily.
Indigenous forestry presented an opportunity for ordinary people, not just corporations, to grow trees to earn a living, and had been integrated into Bitou's integrated development plan. The rationale for this initiative was to restore social and environmental equity. Community forestry sought to involve the community in replanting forests to achieve socio-economic redress, to create 'green collar' jobs, to promote biodiversity conservation and ecosystem services, to re-import carbon stocks and to improve water management.
It was necessary to overcome low confidence due to fire risk and premature harvesting, to clear aliens in order to plant indigenous forests and to avoid a potential future water crisis. However, the Department of Minerals and Energy (DME) definition included aliens as forest. It was commonly imagined that alien species removed carbon but there was a need to change this concept. The Institute believed that if the Department of Minerals and Energy and the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry (DWAF) were to confer on the issue, they could agree to a changed definition.
The worst problem for the poorest people in Bitou the hardest was that alien species, such as wattle and eucalyptus, burned every five to twelve years, thereby acting as a carbon dioxide pump 'setting the clock back to zero', and increasing habitat loss, substrate compaction, rampant fires, flooding, loss of water, wholesale carbon export, and poverty. However, indigenous forest burned hardly at all.
The potential for clearing aliens was more than 100 000 hectares in the Bitou area. The Department of Water Affairs and Forestry and the private sector were using much of this at present. The Institute had conducted research on how to employ people in this kind of work. The Institute had harvested seeds from the forest and experimented with ways of maximising their growth in a local privately funded community project run over a couple of years, but that funding had now ended.
Less than 74 000 hectares remained of the Southern Cape's 208 000 hectares of original indigenous forest. This suggested a potential area of up to 133 000 hectares for Community Indigenous Forestry.
The Baartman-Biko Forestry Research Institute had developed an Afrocentric indigenous forestry database, a method of field verification, and sustainable economic development business models. This had begun with a concept, followed by research, pilot project, scale-up, replication and roll-out. A seed bank had been developed to accelerate the propagation of trees, with a data trail from seed origin, germination, training and planting, with a unique co-ordinate address.
A local community project had been established. This involved planting indigenous forest and enabled the creation of jobs. This was f a pilot project whose size was 0.8 to 8 hectares and its land tenure status was private (self-funded). It featured an Energy Efficient Workflow Dynamic to assist the workforce by simple, but functional tools such as steerable handcarts with brakes, and an irrigation system whereby rain water was fed by gravity from a storage tank.
A community forestry nursery was associated with other BBB-EE SMMEs, which contracted with and sold to each other in a unique sustainable conservation economy, defined as a community indigenous forestry unit (CIFU). Many small businesses could flourish in such an environment, and individuals could develop themselves. Individual businesses within a CIFU required a full range of administrative and business support services to succeed. The Institute had developed apparently effective cash flow models. There were various other models in existence. The success of one such business led to the success of another. Start-up entrepreneurs required mentoring support in establishing new businesses. Indigenous forestry offered the prospect in Bitou of over 500 jobs over the next ten years.
Mr Ackhurst stressed again that the risk of fire in monoculture forestry far exceeded that in indigenous forestry, and indigenous forestry was much more water-conserving. Monoculture forestry currently had low profit margins and thus less scope to give employment.
Mr Ackhurst emphasised that a concerted effort by the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry, the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism (DEAT), and the Department of Minerals and Energy was needed to remedy the restrictions on definitions. The Institute believed that the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry could lead this initiative for a better future.
Mr M Sibuyana (IFP) asked if the Institute considered plantations not to be forests, and asked if trees such as pine trees and gums did not also sequester carbon.
Mr Ackhurst said that the difference between the two different kinds of trees was a biodiversity issue. Certain natural processes made use of indigenous forests, whereas those same processes did not make use of a monoculture commercial timber stand. In indigenous forests, the natural processes of, for example, animals and birds disseminating seeds in their excrement were an integral part of the environment.
Mr Ackhurst added that indigenous forests sequestered much more carbon than plantations or conventional commercial forests. This was because when plantation forests were harvested, the carbon sequestered was considered lost back to the atmosphere.
Mr J Arendse (ANC) said that it was well known that indigenous forests grew much more slowly than plantation forests. Therefore in terms of finding financiers, plantation forests were more attractive to financiers, who might well be reluctant to come forward to fund indigenous forestry projects such as the Institute's.
Mr Ackhurst said that indigenous forest did not compete with monoculture and they did grow more slowly. There was experimentation on ways of accelerating the growth of indigenous trees. Trees competed for the forest canopy. Whereas in plantation forests, it was the practice to thin out stems, this was not done in indigenous forests. It was important to counting the carbon sequestered, not the rate of growth.
Mr Arendse asked if Mr Ackhurst's input was to solicit financial assistance from the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry.
Mr J Combrinck (ANC) wanted to establish the percentage difference between areas of indigenous trees and plantation trees in the country.
Mr Combrinck also asked for verification of the source of the Institute's funding for its work, and if the Institute was lobbying the Committee to ask the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry for funds.
Mr Ackhurst said that the Institute was not soliciting financial support from the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry. However, it was asking for co-operation. It was also seeking investment from private entities. Organisations in South America had asked it to develop projects for them based on its own mechanisms. The Institute had invited scientists from around South Africa, and consulted Cape Nature and the National Parks to provide input.
Mr Combrinck noted that the Committee had seen on a recent oversight visit the continued planting of the 'wrong' trees. He asked why growers had planted such trees until now, and if growers planted such trees specifically in the belief that such trees were more lucrative. He asked if Forestry South Africa could help later with a response.
The Chairperson observed that, procedurally, Forestry South Africa was 'protected'. They did not have to answer.
Mr M Swathe (DA) asked to what extent fruit trees, which many people favoured over indigenous trees for planting in their home gardens, could sequester carbon dioxide.
Mr Ackhurst said that the organisation Food and Trees for Africa sought to plant fruit trees for local communities. The problem with fruit trees was that without artificial irrigation they tended not to thrive, whereas indigenous forests depended entirely on rain. Fruit trees also needed care and attention such as pruning. The input costs and opportunity costs in indigenous forests were, on the other hand, much simpler.
Mr P Ditshetelo (UCDP) asked the extent of South Africa's share in the $60 billion market, and its impact on the lives of the people.
Mr Ackhurst responded that the market share was very low at the present time. Not even 10% had gone to biomass growth and afforestation programmes. The market was very small at the present time. However, it affected people's lives and they were anxious to obtain a better share of those market mechanisms at the present time through that policy. The United Nations was looking at bringing more in the direction of policy alleviation, indigenous forestry and protection of indigenous forests.
Mr Arendse said that he had not heard Mr Ackhurst refer to harvesting. He asked if Mr Ackhurst had borne in mind the faster growing time of plantation forests, and the differing legislation governing the two different sectors of indigenous forestry and plantation forestry.
Mr Ackhurst replied that sustainable harvesting in indigenous forests, as suggested, was possible but that it took 25 to 30 years. Moreover, those trees would be discounted from the carbon sequestration calculations and reckoned on a market basis. The legislation for such harvesting was different. The Institute was working with the National Parks and Cape Nature to obtain permits for such harvesting, although, at the present time, the Institute was not venturing such harvesting. However, it was felt that it had to be entrenched in the legislative framework in anticipation of future needs.
Mr B Mosala (ANC) asked what challenges accompanied premature harvesting.
Mr Ackhurst said that the challenge of premature harvesting was that people would come and cut down the trees before they were mature (at least 25 years old).
The Chairperson asked if the Institute had taken into its discussions small and upcoming community organisations. She felt that there were numerous difficulties for those wishing to enter the forestry economy, which seemed to be dominated by bigger players. Smaller players seemed to be confined to operating tractors only. She asked for clarification.
Mr Ackhurst replied that there had been discussions with local communities on how to enter the market. This was not easy, since people had to be trained and there had to be community discourse.
The Chairperson asked Mr Ackhurst to explain his concern with the legislative and policy aspects of the apparent difference between the Department of Mineral Affairs and Energy and the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry in the definition of what constituted a forest.
Mr Ackhurst replied that the Department of Minerals and Energy's definition was internationally registered. For the Department of Minerals and Energy, even alien plants higher than two metres, having a canopy extent of more than 30%, and growing on an area of more than 0.05 hectares in extent (as small as a tennis court) would constitute a 'forest'. The Department of Water Affairs and Forestry had a different view, holding that alien plants were illegal. This disjuncture between departments was unfortunate.
The Chairperson said that there would be no time available for any follow-up questions. She asked Mr Ackhurst to provide a proper formulation of the last point in his presentation and forward it to the Committee.
Southern Cape Land Committee Submission
Ms Ina October, Secretary, Southern Cape Land Committee, said that her organisation was a forum representing forest inhabitants. Problems arose as workers were employed to work in a certain forestry area, and were required to build their houses close to their workplace so that in case of forest fire they would be able participate in fire fighting. There had been negotiations around the housing situation, in which they negotiated with various forums and forest villages. This was how the forestry indaba then became a regional forum that represented 16 forestry settlements.
Ms October spoke of relocation to urban townships. Many people were forced to relocate to other areas because there was not enough work for all of them as a result of the privatisation. This relocation had a negative effect on the community. Many members of the community were obliged to go and live in the peri-urban areas, with negative effects on the families because they were separated. There were also many women who had been left on their own without protection and without work. There was also drug abuse in the community. A man walking a great distance to his new work place had been run down by a motor vehicle. If the opportunity arose for these people to move back to the forest, they would do so.
Ms October said that the uncertainty about accommodation was one of the negative effects of the relocation. Another negative effect was that certain schools in the area had to be closed. This forced pupils to travel long distances to alternative schools. Because the pupils had to spend much time travelling, they had a backlog of schoolwork and were not able to keep up with their colleagues who lived in the city areas.
Ms October said that there had also been a problem with transfer of homes. It was mentioned that when white workers retired, they had homes in which they could live. Non-whites were simply loaded onto trucks and dropped off next to the road without any accommodation whatsoever. The Indaba felt that there should be equality for all. There had been negotiations about a transfer of houses and title deeds, but this had not been settled yet. The group had approached the Department of Land Affairs, so that their forum might become a legal entity.
There were some opportunities in the area for employment, for example, a well-known hiking area. There was also a factory that manufactured uniforms for people. However, these opportunities needed to be developed.
The recommendations made were, firstly, that that the Minister of Water Affairs and Forestry should meet with the Land Committee, and secondly that the indigenous forest be transferred to the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry. Thirdly it called for pressure to be put on the Knysna municipality so that the steering committee could continue with its work. They also mentioned the problems that they had with a private company in the area whose employees lived on its premises and were in need of basic services.
The Chairperson asked Ms October to clarify the private company issue and the transfer of indigenous forests.
Ms Ntombomzi Sixolo, Community Development Officer, Southern Cape Land Committee responded that there were many people involved and they had established a steering committee to deal with the matter of the land. The land was transferred to the municipality. Some of the housing was transferred to the land, and some to the trust. Because of the slow process, the trust had to manage the whole community. The total transfer had not taken place.
The Chairperson said that quite a number of other areas would be covered by the entire document that the Indaba would be submitting to the Committee.
Mr Ditshetelo said that the original concept for the project may have had very good intentions, but the challenges had outstripped the good intentions. He asked if they should go ahead with a project for which there were so many challenges yet seemingly no solution. He asked if the Land Committee saw some rehabilitation aspect to this challenge.
Mr Mosala said that the problems cited had included the closure of schools, and pupils having to walk long distances. He wondered if, besides asking for a meeting with the Minister of Water Affairs and Forestry, the Committee had entered into any discussion with educational authorities. It would be very unfortunate if innocent children had to suffer.
Mr Sibuyana asked if the removals had been partially a response to the problem of drug abuse, and if non-drug abusers had been removed along with drug abusers.
The Chairperson said that it was sad to hear that it was a government decision that had, unintentionally, caused so much poverty, unhappiness and social problems. People had not been forced to move because they were using drugs.
Mr Swathe, with reference to the forced removals, asked if those dispossessed had filed claims to have their land restored to them, and if they were thinking that the Committee could assist them.
The Chairperson, speaking generally, she said that she did not like what she was hearing about privatisation, and emphasised that she opposed privatisation because of its effects. She asked the Indaba to give a list of all matters and all the villages affected, so that the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry could respond in detail.
Ms October and Ms Sixolo thanked the Committee for the opportunity to present the Indaba's case. This situation was an emergency. The settlements where the inhabitants used to live were known for their rules and order, and inhabitants were able to plant their own vegetable gardens, unlike in the cities. The cities also had problems of illness and other social problems. They asked why the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry should spend more money building houses when the people already had houses, in which they ought to be permitted to remain. If they were allowed to stay there would be opportunities for employment, and they could earn a living, whereas if they moved to the cities there was no employment.
The Chairperson thanked the members of the Southern Cape Land Committee, and the Forestry Indaba. She noted that the Committee was disappointed that the recommendations from its oversight visit had not been implemented at all.
Dukuduku, KwaZulu-Natal submission
Mr Ncube, from Dukuduku community, KwaZulu-Natal, thanked the Chairperson for the opportunity to present and give an account of the concerns of the community of Dukuduku. The Dukuduku forest was located on the north coast of KwaZulu-Natal, and had been inhabited since the 17th century. The inhabitants had been victimised both by the apartheid government, and later by the democratic government, and subjected to removal from the forest. The people were first removed in 1964 so that the land could be redistributed to the soldiers who had participated in World War II. In 1973 government removed people in order to establish the forestry industry. In 1979 there were further removals with the intention of establishing a military base. In 1998 government departments of the present democratic government continued to remove people with the intention of using the land for different purposes, more especially to enhance tourism. All these removals were coupled with the demolition of homesteads, and the confiscation of livestock, the death of people, and the extinction of the dignity of African people.
The request presented to the Committee referred to an application in 1998 to the Land Commission in order to stop this victimisation. The result of this application was actually to worsen the situation. The victimisation continued. The community's local produce such as bananas was no longer accepted in the market. The community's sugar cane was barred from the sugar milling industry. Agriculture was the community's means of livelihood, as there were no other employment opportunities for the community in the province. Projects were not awarded to the community. The local municipality did not bring development to the community. The schools that had existed in the area did not receive any teachers from the government. St Lucia Wetland Park Authority did not allow the community to use the natural resources found in the area without payment. Its livelihood was dependent on the natural resources found in the forest, and it was not given the opportunity to participate in the discourse to find a solution to its concerns, and the victimisation still continued.
The Community therefore wished to seek assistance from the Committee in its request to the government to award lawful ownership of the land. The community wished to work together with other stakeholders in the management of the forest and protection of the environment, develop the community's projects in agriculture to supply markets,; work together with the municipality in the development of the area, participate in the programme of developing tourism that was taking place in the area, and be trained in all areas in which the community was going to participate. The community also wanted the government to subsidise it in resources to improve the project. All these interventions would restore the community's dignity, and the community would be able to use the land to improve the lives of its members.
Mr Sibuyana asked a question in isiZulu about land restitution.
Ms Maine wanted clarity on the matter of schools, to be sure that all the information was correct before the matter was further deliberated.
Mr Combrinck asked the interpreter if a written translation of Mr Ncube's submission could be provided.
The Chairperson said that it had already been agreed that a written translation should be provided.
Mr Ncube responded that he had taken over from recently from a predecessor who had been handling the application, and who had died. There had been acknowledgment in the Government Gazette that the area belonged to the community. After the notice that certain boundaries of that land fell within the area that the community was supposed to own, Government promised that the request would be gazetted. Mr Ncube was then requested by local sugar cane farmers to have a meeting with them. They first wanted to know if the community intended to remove the sugar cane farmers from the land, and if the community were demanding money. Mr Ncube had told them that both parties should wait for the Government to finalise the process. It was not the community's intention to evict the farmers but rather to find ways in which both could benefit from and work with each other.
Mr T Malatji, Chief Director, Department of Water Affairs and Forestry, responded that there was an interdepartmental process. All role players, including the municipality and the community itself, were involved. There had also been a submission to Cabinet. In short, there was an ongoing process to address the problem. The Department was sure that Mr Ncube was aware of the attempts that Government was making to solve the problem.
Mr Ncube replied in isiZulu, but without the benefit of the interpreter.
The Chairperson said that it would be necessary to end deliberations on Mr Ncube's presentation at that point because of time constraints around Mr Ncube’s travel. However, the Committee accepted its responsibility to follow-through. It noted the response of the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry. The Committee would record its deliberations in the report, and Mr Ncube could rest assured that the Committee would be following up.
Forestry Indaba Ward Committee, Eastern Cape Province Submission
Mr C May, Ward Committee member, Forestry Indaba, gave a narrative similar to those of the previous presenters, saying that comparable events had befallen the respective communities because of the transfer of land. Mr May explained what was happening currently to his community. They were busy with projects, and they had been told to sell their animals. However Mr May had said that another community, the Mountain to Ocean community, were permitted to keep their animals, whilst his community had been obliged to slaughter their animals, and had observed some other people being given access to land to which they considered they themselves had rightful access. Mr May's community was seeking assistance to meet with the Minister. They had tried to meet with the Minister in May 2007. They were especially concerned about the payment for services. They were very frustrated after numerous attempts to get people together. In essence the presentation was a shorter version of the scenario presented by the previous groups.
Mr Arendse asked the community if they were not concerned about their electricity account since they had not paid for electricity (before the Minister had given the land to the municipality. He also asked to whom the account was to be paid. Furthermore, he asked if the community had any idea who owned the land on which they had grazed their animals.
Ms E Lishiva (ANC) asked who had given instructions that they should sell their animals.
Mr May responded that the community’s elders had told them that they must sell their animals. However, certain white people who worked for Mountain to Ocean (MTO) also owned cattle. These white people used to receive accounts from MTO, but they no longer received them. The land belonged to MTO.
Mr Combrinck asked the community if it had an agreement with MTO to farm there
Mr L Sam, Ward Committee member, said that Mr May had joined the Indaba only two years previously, so he did not have much knowledge of what happened in that place. The workers had had to obtain permission from the forest owners to let their animals graze there. Thereafter the permission was revoked.
The Chairperson said that, bearing in mind that Mr May had joined the organisation only recently, it was the Committee’s right to obtain more information from the organisation for the purposes of the Committee's report and its recommendations. The Chairperson asked that all contact details be given to the Committee for its records. If the community’s representatives would provide more information, the Committee could keep in contact.
Mr May said that for many years the land had belonged to the State. In 2004 the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry had a meeting with the Indaba in George, and the Department asked the Indaba who had signed the document stating that they could have only a limited number of animals grazing on the land. The Indaba noted that the document was not signed. One had to ask how an unsigned document could form the basis of what was now happening.
The Chairperson said that she understood Mr May as saying that, notwithstanding the private sector involvement, the land still belonged to the State. The Indaba had asked for a meeting, and had asked to be told in terms of what arrangement an individual could possess only one animal, and the rest must be disposed of. According to the Indaba, there was no finalisation on that issue. It was possible that they were operating under something that applied prior to 1994. It was surely a law that neither Presidents Mandela nor Mbeki had signed.
The Chairperson said that the Committee was now coming to a close in receiving submissions, and had been able to obtain a snapshot from different role players, which would assist the Committee in its deliberations to try to ensure that forestry could help economic development from the perspective of everyone in the country. The Committee was obliged to see what more could be done for forestry communities.
The Committee believed that policies implemented should not have any detrimental or negative effect on people. If they did, then the policies should be reversed. This was the purpose of a broad-based black economic empowerment for all. The intention of the industrial policy and the forestry action plan was the same. The Committee would deliberate on these submissions, and consider whether it had sufficient information or still required more, and what other oversight it should undertake. The Committee would find the time to deliberate on everything that it had received, including the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry's strategic plan and budget, their challenges and successes over the past five years and what they envisaged for the current year.
The Department of Water Affairs and Forestry Responses
Mr Tshepo Malatji, Chief Director, Department of Water Affairs and Forestry, said that the previous day's presentations from Sawmilling SA and Forestry SA came from organisations trying to work in the same field as the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry, although they represented different constituencies. The Department appreciated the relationship with them although there were areas where improvements could be made.
It was important to work together to benefit all individuals and communities affected, especially the communities mentioned in the Bitou Municipality presentation. The Department sought to promote both indigenous forests and monocultures. The Department wanted to work closely with Bitou to ensure that indigenous forests were supported as well as plantations. Bitou had a good idea of how to take the planting of indigenous forests forward.
The Department was also working with Sawmilling SA, although that organisation was still very new, to ensure that the rural communities would also benefit from the sawmilling industry. The Department had had a working relationship with Forestry SA for some considerable time.
The presentations by the Southern Cape Forestry Indaba Association and the Eastern Cape was mainly about the villages and SAFCOL former workers, and their future. Although the Government wanted to transfer the forestry areas to municipalities, some municipalities were not prepared to take them over because of the distance for service provision. The Department was engaging those communities but was not previously aware of the Southern Cape Forestry Indaba. He was pleased that now there was an organisation with whom to engage as representative of all the villages. The Department promised that it would meet with them as soon as possible and receive their concerns.
The communities had raised important issues, such as those of schoolchildren, arising from the Government's policy in relocating villagers. As the Chairperson had mentioned, it had never been the aim of Government to cause social problems, such as those faced by the schoolchildren, while trying to address economic issues.
The Dukuduku issue had been dealt with while Mr Ncube was present and the answer would not be repeated.
The Department had, the previous day, answered a Member's question on the consequences and benefits of privatisation. The process of privatisation was meant to benefit communities. As mentioned the previous day, the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry was conducting a study to review privatisation and consider the restructuring of state entities in a manner that would benefit communities. It was important to ascertain how communities could benefit from category B plantations. It was important to make sure that mistakes made with category A plantations did not happen again.
Dr Themba Simelane, Director: Policy and Strategy, DWAF, noted that in its policy the Department was driven by the Government agenda. There was a very strong commercial presentation from Sawmilling SA and Forestry SA, but it was only today that one heard the other side of the story. He was impressed by what he had heard from the Bitou Municipality. Commercial forests contributed R14 billion to the economy and were very important for jobs. But what had been lacking in forestry had been quantifying the other side and the livelihoods derived from the sector and from the indigenous forests. Some studies had shown that the benefits from indigenous forests were much greater than those from the commercial. While the benefits from indigenous forests were substantial, if there were no policies to support the benefits to communities of the indigenous forests then it was essential to formulate such policies. It was important also to focus on climate change.
The Forestry Charter was a negotiated strategy that covered the commercial side. It was a transformation charter, in that it had targets for 50% participation by women. With the implementation of the Forestry Charter, much growth would be obtained in the formal sector. It covered the skills and the challenges in the sector, and the financial and resources strategy. It furthered the Government's objective of transforming the economy and moving from the second to the first economy. His plea to the Committee was to ensure that the Department secured the resources and support to ensure that the Charter would be implemented. Forestry however, as the Bitou Municipality was saying, was not only about the commercial side, but also the social side. It was important to meet the climate change challenge because Bitou's approach was quite novel compared with the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry's existing approach.
Mr Arendse said that when one spoke of advocacy, it was necessary to have all the necessary information. He called for that information to be made available to the Committee to assist with advocacy.
The Chairperson was sure that that should be in order.
The Chairperson said that the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry had not responded to Bitou Municipality's concern over policy. All participants, at today's meeting, and that of the previous day, should be alert to the likelihood that the Committee would request more information to assist the Committee in compiling its report.
Ms T Carroll, Director, Department of Water Affairs and Forestry, said that the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry was aware that the alien legislation was not consistent. DME had a definition that allowed for the counting of alien vegetation as contributing to carbon sequestration. There was a need for the concerned departments to collaborate to make the legislation work.
The Chairperson said that there was a need for the applicable legislation to be amended and the Committee would have to take that into consideration when it deliberated on its report. Alien species had to be seen in the context of the urgent need to conserve water resources. The Department of Water Affairs and Forestry was on record now as responding to the Forestry Indaba. She asked the Indaba to supply the Department with a copy of the letter that the Indaba had sent to the Minister. The Committee would appreciate a follow-up from the Department in that regard. She trusted that this would be of assistance to the Department in its implementation, and that the Committee would continue in its quest to ensure that forestry received the attention that it merited.
The meeting was adjourned.
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