National Forests Act, 1998: Policy Review: Departmental and public submissions

Water and Sanitation

19 August 2008
Chairperson: Ms C September (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Committee heard some public submissions on the impacts of the National Forests Act and forestry in general. Mr Sinegugu Zukulu delivered a presentation to the Committee on the impact of timber plantations on eradication of poverty. He questioned to what extent they were so effective, noting that the majority of the benefit lay in export, but this was achieved at the cost of water scarcity, environmental impact, food scarcity, lack of biodiversity, and separation of communities. He said that more investigation was needed into their effectiveness and environmental impacts.  Mr December Ndhlovu, a human rights activist,  highlighted the effects of water scarcity as well as some of the negative effects of timber plantations. He too mentioned destruction of the indigenous habitat, as well as ecological damage done by the implementation of timber plantations.

SAFCOL said that certain provisions of the National Forestry Act (NFA) had been effective, but that other implementations might be necessary and that consideration should be given to areas where it could be improved. The Act covered an extensive range of issues, was very clear in its way of thinking and was specific in its actions. Ms Mbali Cele made a direct plea to the Committee about the scarcity of water and lack of water sanitation, especially in rural areas, saying that there was a need for further education of communities. Ms Zodwa Ndlovu noted that she had recently attended a seminar arranged by DWAF in which women were urged to become self sustaining through the implementation of small plantations in which they would raise small plants and then sell these back to the Department. She felt that this was a positive step. Ms Lindiwe Ntetha said that many people were ignorant on the preservation of forests, and urged that the Department should educate and train people to utilise the forests more fruitfully.

The Department of Water Affairs and Forestry then delivered a presentation on the National Forests Act, pointing out the content and import of each Chapter of the Act. The Department noted what had been achieved and the progress in certain matters. Finally it was noted that the Department wished to effect changes to the Act. These included a more inclusive definition for Natural Forests and Woodlands, the publication of protected trees to be effected every five years instead of annually, and amendments to bring the assignment provision in line with the Constitution. In respect of enforcement, the Minister should be empowered to issue a Directive, prescribe qualifications for Forest Officers and publish a list of admission of guilt fines. Finally there should be a focus on certification regarding the promotion and enforcement of Sustainable Forest Management.

Members raised a number of questions relating to the Department’s comments as against the submissions made earlier, in particular the allegations that forestry was having such negative effects, the allegations around abuse of the wage procedures, the lack of benefit to rural people and those living in the areas where the plantations were situated, when additional appointments would be made, and whether the Act addressed issues of climate change. Further questions related to the extent to which the Act addressed land reform, the cooperation between departments, work with local government on the concurrent water processes, and what provinces should be doing in the management of forests.

Meeting report

Impact of timber plantations and current legislation: Public submissions
Mr Sinegugu Zukulu: Submission on the impact of timber plantations 
Mr Sinegugu Zukulu, Researcher, Conservation Leadership Group, gave a presentation to the Committee on the impact of timber plantations. The presentation examined whether the plantations were effective in the eradication of poverty in certain communities. In this regard he questioned whether sufficient research had been done to prove the impact. He noted that the plantations could divide the communities, had an impact upon water shortage (citing the Mtuba as an example), the food crisis, and questioned for whose ultimate benefit the land was developed.

Mr Zukulu highlighted South Africa’s best rainfall areas, showing on a map the distribution of monoculture industrial timber plantations and feral black wattle invasions,  in relation to the natural forests in the country.

Mr Zukulu tabled the Mean Annual Run Off as per the Mariepskop Forestry station for the Klaserie River for the years 1935-1964.

He highlighted the ecological aspects of timber plantations. He noted that what needed to be taken into consideration was water conservation, the impact on underground water, the sustainability of water usage, and protecting the soil from erosion. Some further ecological considerations were the risks of fires, the need for biodiversity, the impact of the Communal Land Rights Act, grasslands for water and climate change.

Mr Zukulu went on to discuss the economic impact of timber plantations. He discussed hectares of gum plantation in relation to hectares on integrated farming. He said that the main benefit lay in export, but the real benefits of this accrued to a few. He displayed concern for the loss of water, biodiversity and wildlife. He said that timber plantations had an impact on jobs and salaries as well as on imported paper.

Mr Zukulu concluded his presentation by noting concerns whether the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry (DWAF) should not be a regulator rather than a promoter. He also noted that there were unanswered concerns about the environmental impact, and the real benefits of timber.

Mr December Ndhlovu Submission  
Mr December Ndhlovu, who described himself as a human rights activist,  delivered a short oral message to the Committee. He highlighted the effects of water scarcity as well as some of the negative effects of timber plantations. He spoke of indigenous plants that had been destroyed due to timber plantation, as well as ecological damage done by the implementation of timber plantations. He was concerned about the forced removal of people from their inherited land due to these plantations. With regards to the scarcity of water, he made reference to Free Basic Water and noted the provisions of the Water Services Act of 1997 and the National Water Act of 1998.

SAFCOL submission
Ms Linda Mossop, representative of SAFCOL, said that the current legislation was ten years old and that in that time there had been considerable success by the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry (DWAF). However, she said that there was a need to examine areas of the National Forestry Act (NFA) where other implementation was necessary. This would include examination as to where more budget or further resources needed to be allocated.

Ms Mossop said that the National Forests Act (NFA) covered an extensive range of issues, was very clearly set out, and was specific in its actions. She said that South Africans in the field of Forestry were able, through this Act, to engage with colleagues on an international level. She added that many foreign students had come to South Africa to study the NFA.

She noted that the NFA had had several recent successes, with DWAF as its regulator. Some of those successes were the constitution of the yellowwood trees, the declaration of trees and areas by sector and the declaration of champion trees.

She added that the successes had been highlighted in the media and that that had helped to inform people about the NFA. This in turn had made the NFA a tangible piece of legislation. She said that the NFA offered several possibilities and that it was up to South Africa to utilise it to its full advantage.

With regard to the Community Forestry Provisions in the NFA, she said that in some areas there was a need to look at a shift in emphasis in order to develop the bigger developmental issues.

She referred to Section 5 of the NFA, and said that a provision was made for the promotion of research by DWAF. She said that more research was indeed necessary, and that it needed to be action-oriented research that dealt with socio-economics, which must develop a relationship between people and trees. She said that this nurturing relationship was imperative, especially in rural developments.

She then referred to Chapter 4 of the NFA and said that the Act was offering another possibility when dealing with community forestry. She said that the NFA made allowances for the Minister to make finance available for community forestry and other forms of forestry. However, she noted that there was further a need to ensure that this must be complementary to other developmental funding.

Land reform on forestry land was another huge issue and that SAFCOL was hoping to assist those new land owners whose right had been recognized by land reform. She said that many land owners who had had their land returned to them did not necessarily have the forestry maintenance skills but that SAFCOL could provide the tools and mechanisms that they needed for the continuation of forestry on the restituted land.

She highlighted the assistance mechanisms that were highlighted in the NFA. She said that the dissemination of information regarding the assistance mechanisms in the NFA needed to be regulated urgently. She noted that these assistance mechanisms pertained to assistance for recovery from fires, as well as assistance with training, advice, management, and other issues.

She said that SAFCOL could supply seeds and plants so that land owners could move forward.

She made reference to Chapter 5 of the NFA pertaining to institutions. She commented that the NFA Advisory Council needed to be more visible in its action.

She referred to Chapter 6 and emphasized the importance of the raising of awareness.

She noted DWAF’s amendments to the Act after 1998, and commended the Department for its achievements.

Ms Mbali Cele, for Women’s organisation in Kwazulu Natal, submission.
Ms M Cele from the Women’s Organisation in Kwazulu-Natal delivered a short speech in Zulu, which was interpreted into English by the parliamentary interpreter.

Ms Cele made a direct plea to the Committee about the scarcity of water and lack of sanitation. She noted that there was no education around water sanitation.  of water. She said that there was a dire need for households to be educated and trained with regards to water preservation.

Discussion
Mr K Moonsamy (ANC) referred to the comments of Mr Zukulu, and said that the land must surely benefit all people. He added that many who were from a previously disadvantaged background were still not benefiting from land, as they still had been unable to take possession of it. He said that government needed to put in more effort.

Mr Moonsamy further spoke of global food shortages and said that South Africa needed to focus on utilising the land for food, as opposed to complaining about food shortages.

Mr Moonsamy said that exports from timber plantations were important, but that this should not cause detriment to the needs of our people.

Mr Moonsamy emphasised the importance of the development of timber in South Africa and added that the building of dams was also necessary, as South Africa was a country with scarcity of water..

Mr Moonsamy then referred to Ms Cele’s submission, and her comments on water scarcity. He wanted to know to extent people had been receiving their constitutional right of access to Free Basic Water (FBW).

Mr Moonsamy also referred to Ms Cele’s comment on the lack of education with regards to water sanitation and preservation. He said that DWAF had extensive water literacy programmes and wanted to know why those programmes were not reaching all people.

Mr M Swathe (DA) referred to the Mr Zukulu’s  presentation. He wanted to know if the timber plantations were really serving the people. One of the questions being asked was whether the National Forests Act was really having a real and positive effect on people living in the rural areas. He displayed concern that Mr Zikulu was viewing the NFA and the implementation of timber plantations in a negative light.

Mr Swathe displayed concern towards Mr Ndhlovu’s comment on water scarcity and noted that FBW was a constitutional right. He wanted to know if the people who were receiving land had been utilising the land productively.

Mr Swathe then referred to Ms Cele’s comment on water scarcity. Mr Swathe wanted to know if there was a direct link between the water shortage and implementation of the plantations.

A Committee member were concerned that due to the scarcity of water and the non-benefit of land owners, timber plantations were not effectively eradicating poverty. Many people, especially women who were in charge of households, were still faced with huge problems pertaining to the scarcity, sanitation and literacy of water. There was certainly a need for effective training on water preservation and sanitation for these women in the rural areas.

Mr J Arendse (ANC) referred to Mr Zukulu’s indication of the negative connotations around forest plantations. He said that the speaker had inferred that there should not be any forestry, and that he had given a long list of why it was harmful to the environment. Mr Arendse asked if perhaps, rather than saying that there should be no forests, attention should not rather be paid to where these forests were established. More specific comment should be directed to this issue.

Mr Arendse referred to Mr Ndhlovu’s submission and noted that there had been an allusion that it would be better to take the land devoted to forestry and rather cultivate it for food. He noted that the plantations were huge, and that they had created many jobs. In the event that the plantations were to be removed, he asked Mr Ndhlovu how he would suggest that the consequent loss of jobs should be handled.

Mr Arendse asked SAFCOL what role it would play in relation to government’s objectives.

The Chairperson highlighted the current objectives of the Act. She said that it spoke to sustainability, management and development of forests for all, not just for the benefit of some. She noted that it was imperative to seek redress for the disadvantaged. She also noted the links between water management and forestry. She asked if the Act already spoke to new economic activities pertaining to forestry products. She said that it was necessary to consider those areas where there was no water at all. The Department had been working with water projects but that there needed to be more improvement. Although DWAF addressed issues pertaining to tap water, and held some education programmes around that, there had not been proper addressing of the issue of dirty flowing water, nor the question of livestock being dependent on such water. 

SAFCOL responded that it was working with land claims commissioners in Limpopo Province and Mpumalanga. SAFCOL agreed that there was a need for further amendments to the Act to create further success. The current Act was, however, still sufficiently all-encompassing that it would allow extensive activities. There may be needs that were already catered for in the NFA, and the legislation merely needed to be applied properly. In regard to the implementation of new activities, strategic plans would have to shift, as well as Medium Term Expenditure Framework funding, and the necessary resources would have to be noted and found.

Mr Ndhlovu responded to Mr Arendse’s questions by saying that he felt deeply concerned that the plantations were not alleviating poverty. He noted that two companies were exploiting forestry workers by paying them less than R1 000 per month.

Mr Zukulu said that he was yet to find a community that was better off after the implementation of forest plantations than it had been before. He noted that the problems experienced were overwhelming, as he had outlined in his presentation. He spoke of crops that took years to mature and asked how people were supposed to sustain themselves in the interim. He highlighted the significance of forest fires and the detrimental effect that these had on livestock. He said that fires stripped livestock of their food and that many had been killed in road accidents as they went in search of food alongside roads.

He said that the idea of communal land probably seemed very attractive to companies like Mondi and SAFCOL,  as they did not have to buy the land but only sign a deal with the community in question. He was also concerned about the reclaiming of land that was currently under plantations.

Ms Zodwa Ndlovu submission
Ms Zodwa Ndlovu noted that she was speaking in her personal capacity, and thanked the Committee for inviting her to speak. She had attended a meeting on 19 July 2008 when the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry spoke of the need for women to become self-sustaining. DWAF had given the women the opportunity to plant small plantations, and then sell the plants, once nurtured, back to the Department. The selling of these plants had helped sustain them. Ms Ndlovu said that in Kwazulu Natal there was a lot of poverty and appealed to the Committee that more effective training should be given. She was outspoken about the protection of inherited forests. She concluded that there was a great deal of land that could be utilised.

Ms Lindiwe Ntetha submission
Ms Lindiwe Ntetha of Ladysmith, speaking in her personal capacity, noted that DWAF had made a huge difference to the lives of people in Ladysmith. She said that many people in her area had been evicted from the forests in which they had grown up. However, many were ignorant of issues around the preservation of forests, and she made a heartfelt plea to the Committee for DWAF to educate and train the people to utilise the forests more fruitfully. She added that this would be more useful than merely receiving financial assistance.

She added that many of their homes were thatched and that the existence of the forests had largely helped in that regard.
 
The Chairperson made Ms Ntetha aware of the fact that it was not in fact the Department, but Parliament, who had invited her to Parliament so that the voices of women could be heard, especially in Women’s Month, when Parliament wished in particular to have women legislation, possible changes and how the current legislation had helped them thus far.

Department of Water Affairs and Forestry (DWAF) Submission
Dr Shibu Rampedi, Deputy Director General, DWAF, spoke on behalf of the Department on the  National Forests Act. She said that her presentation would set out the current provisions of the Act, and discuss also the White Paper.

Dr Rampedi noted that the Preamble to the Act noted that everyone had a constitutional  right to have the environment protected for the benefit of future generations. The importance of the conservation of natural forests and woodlands was noted, as well as the importance of the economic role of plantation forests. Plantation forests needed to be managed appropriately and the State’s role pertaining to forestry needed to change. Dr Rampedi also said that the huge benefits of forestry had been unfairly distributed in the past.

Dr Rampedi went on to discuss the White Paper on Sustainable Forest Development in South Africa, 1996. She included the restructuring of the forestry function in government, the reformation of the Forestry Act of 1984, the establishment of the National Forestry Advisory Council (NFAC), the achievement of progress in the domestic beneficiation of products and the initiation of community forestry projects.

Dr Rampedi highlighted the provisions of Chapters 1 and 2 of the Act, noting that the Minister was given the power to set criteria, indicators, and standards for the assessment and enforcement of sustainable forest management, as well as to create incentives, with the advice of the Committee for Sustainable Forest Management (SFM).

Chapter 2 obliged the Minister to ensure the relevant research and monitoring of the management of forests. She added that the Minister had to report to Parliament every three years on results obtained.

Dr Rampedi discussed the progress that DWAF had made on Chapter 2 regarding Management, Research, Monitoring and Reporting of SFM. DWAF had developed criteria and indicators of SFM and had gazetted the document for public comment. DWAF had also used these criteria and indicators as an assessment framework. A State of the Forest Report 2006 had been submitted to Parliament in 2007. A draft research and development strategy had also been developed.

Dr Rampedi then moved to the provisions of Chapter 3, which pertained to the prohibition of destruction of natural forests, declaration of protected areas, protected trees and measures to control and remedy deforestation. She discussed the progress in this regard, including the declaration of protected areas at Kathu Protected Woodland and De Hoop Protected Area. She further said that licences were provided for and the business process had been established and implemented. The list of natural forests had been published in the Government Gazette.

Dr Rampedi then described the provisions of Chapter 4, relating to use of forests, noting that these included recreational, commercial and community usage. Part 1 dealt with access for recreation, Part 2 dealt with the granting of rights to utilise State forests and Part 3 dealt with community forestry. She noted that progress had been made, and that guidelines and maps had now been produced for all State Forests. In relation to Part 2, DWAF had four lease agreements in place. DWAF was in the process of establishing a Trust for the management of lease rental money. In regard to Part 3, it had developed a Model Constitution and format to aid communities. Communities could use the document to engage in management agreements with the Minister pertaining to State forest land. This document defined all relevant information that needed to be included, as well as the legal mechanisms that had been made available to communities.

Dr Rampedi then moved to Chapter 5, noting that this comprised institutions, dealing with the National Forests Advisory Council, which had now been established, the National Forest Recreation and Access Trust and the Panel of facilitators, mediators and arbitrators. She noted that during the 1999/2000 financial year, the National Hiking Way Fund had been dissolved and R1 669 293 had been transferred from this fund to the Trust. The Advisory Council (NFAC) had submitted proposals to the Minister regarding projects. The balance held in the Trust in March 2008 was R3 784 688. DWAF had been enabling provisions with regards to the panel of facilitators, mediators and arbitrators.

Chapter 6 pertained to administration of the Act. Dr Rampedi made reference to the progress that DWAF had made relating to the general powers and duties of the Minister and Director- General. She also highlighted the progress with regards to Chapter 8.

Dr Rampedi then noted that the DWAF had reviewed the Act and had considered possible amendments to it, which still had to be considered by the Minister. These included proposals that: - The definition of Natural Forests and Woodland needed to be clear and inclusive
- The Protection of Trees publication in the Gazette needed to be done every five years as opposed to annually
- The assignment provision in relation to administration needed to be brought in line with the Constitution
- In respect of enforcement, DWAF should provide for the Minister to issue a Directive, prescribe qualifications for Forest Officers and publish a list of admission of guilt fines
- There should be a focus on certification regarding the promotion and enforcement of SFM.

Discussion
Mr Arendse made reference to definitions in the Act, and said that there had always been a problem in the definition of “a forest”. He added that DWAF had dealt with commercial plantations as well as forestry.

Dr Rampedi said that the NFA included plantations as a type of forest, and that it its definition had to be internationally recognised as South Africa was going to be subjected to globalisation.

Mr Arendse said although DWAF had stipulated that forestry comprised a mere 1% in totality of South Africa’s land, it appeared, from the submissions made this morning, that even this 1% had severely negative connotations. The Committee was therefore concerned that if the 1% could cause so much damage, all the more damage would be caused by increasing the plantations.

Dr Rampedi said that the submissions were thought provoking, but that forestry plantations took up a mere 1% of the total surface of South Africa’s land. She said that through this initiative, 150 000 people had been employed, and that forestry had generated an annual income of 15 billion. She would therefore question the implication that the 1% was causing negative impact, but would follow up on the impacts to which Mr Zukulu had referred.

Mr M Sibuyana (ANC) displayed concern towards the people who were not benefiting in the rural areas. He wanted to know if DWAF was aware of all forestry shareholders. He was concerned that most shareholders did not live in the areas where forestry plantations were being implemented, and that the poorer communities were not benefiting.

Dr Rampedi said that she could not currently respond to the issue of who the shareholders were and that it was a challenging issue.

Mr Sibuyana spoke of game lodges where employees received less than R1000pm.

Dr Rampedi said that all complaints had been noted and would be dealt with accordingly.

Mr Swathe wanted to know when the additional appointments as noted by Dr Rampedi were going to be made.

Dr Rampedi said that the appointment of extension officers was underway.

Mr Moonsamy referred to DWAF’s presentation on the Preamble, and noted that DWAF had spoken of certain allocations that had not been utilised, and wondered why this was so.

Ms X Makasi (ANC) wanted to know who identified beneficiaries. She said that DWAF needed to intervene with regards to the poor salaries of forest plantation employees.

Ms D van der Walt (DA) displayed concern towards the issue of climate change, and made reference to a previous Committee request for a joint meeting with Departments of Agriculture and Land Affairs and Environmental Affairs and Tourism, to address issues on climate change. She was however concerned that the Committee was running out of time. 

Dr Rampedi said that the NFA did not address the issue of climate change and economic development. However, she noted that with regards to economic development, the involvement of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) was necessary.

The Chairperson wanted to know if the NFA had assisted with land reform processes.

Dr Rampedi noted that the DWAF had been working with the Department of Land Affairs with regards to the dispensing of funds, but that no progress had been made. She added that DWAF were doing their own verification and then reporting to the Department of Land Affairs so that proceedings could ensue. DWAF had requested that the Minister appoint trustees who would assist with the accessing of the funds after the confirmation process. Dr Rampedi had no comment pertaining to land reform but noted that currently 70% of the land was under claim.

The Chairperson also wanted to know if the NFA was of economic benefit or assistance and if it had made any provision for climate Change.  
 
Ms Van der Walt (DA) asked what the process was on working with local government in ensuring the concurrent registration processes of water.

Dr Rampedi noted that the water use licenses were subject to the National Water Act and that DWAF was in the process of dealing with these accordingly.

Ms van der Walt said that services were already a problem, and asked if the local government structures had the capacity to take over the function efficiently.

Dr Rampedi responded that in terms of the Constitution, the management of indigenous forestry was a concurrent competency. She added that provinces should be doing more in the management of forests. She said that DWAF had delegated responsibilities and was looking at what could be done in Mpumalanga to give provincial government more say in the management of forests. Dr Rampedi made reference to the White Paper on local government. She noted that DWAF had been proactively involved in the review of the White Paper on Local Government.

The meeting was adjourned.

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