Department of Environmental Affairs & Tourism, South African Tourism & South African National Parks 2007/08 Annual Reports


27 January 2009
Chairperson: Mr D Maluleke (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism, South African Tourism, and South African National Parks briefed the Committee on their 2007/8 Annual Reports, which had previously been tabled in the National Assembly, and responded in depth to Members’ questions, which were many and detailed. SA Tourism was regarded by the Auditor-General as one of the most complex entities because it operated in 15 different countries and currencies, and as a result was always vulnerable to the exchange movements around the world. SA Tourism had achieved its seventh consecutive unqualified audit report, with no matters of emphasis. Members expressed pride in SA Tourism’s advertising. SANParks’ philosophy for managing the protected areas was a holistic approach to eco-systems which included the human population. SANParks’ objective was to maintain balance and peaceful co-existence. Land, SANParks considered, was the foundation of conservation, thus settlement of land claims was given much attention. SANParks still confronted poachers, but with some success, aided by technology such as microchips. The Department sought to position itself as the employer of choice, and SA Tourism had exceeded its target of 40% BEE procurement. The Acting Chairperson commended the Department for its ‘thought-provoking presentation on the budget’ and for sterling efforts on the anti-rhinoceros poaching programme. The Democratic Alliance responded favourably to the annual reports, but raised concerns that South Africa’s borders were insufficiently guarded to the detriment of the environment and conservation.


Meeting report

The Acting Chairperson welcomed Members and delegates to the Committee’s first meeting of the year.

Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism (DEAT) presentation
Ms Nosipho Ngcaba, DEAT Director-General, was accompanied by a delegation comprising deputy directors-general and chief directors of the Department, and the chief executive officers and chief financial officers of the public entities that fell under the auspices of the Department.

Ms Ngcaba’s presentation focused on the Department’s achievements against predetermined targets for each programme or branch, and a report on financial performance and audit findings (see document).

Additional comments she made was that the Waste Bill had recently undergone the full parliamentary process. In the current financial year, the Bill would be signed into law. Waste disposal was a function that the Department had taken over from the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry.

In respect of Environmental Impact Assessment applications the Department had set itself a target of 50% of all applications processed within stipulated time frames. The new EIA regulations came into effect in 2007.

The Department had achieved its target of establishing an effective compliance monitoring system. 877 environmental management inspectors had been registered and ID cards issued; this exceeded the target of 750. A 75% prosecution success rate had been the Department’s target, but it was gratifying to note that a prosecution success rate of 100% had been achieved.  An operational air quality monitoring system had been achieved in the Vaal Triangle. Two national priority areas had been declared. Ambient air quality standards had been gazetted. Guidelines and an implementation manual for air quality management had been established. With regard to agriculture and air quality guidelines, a workshop with the provincial stakeholders had been held in November 2007.

In programme of Marine and Coastal Management, the Department had achieved its target of three relief voyages to Antarctica and Islands. Stock estimate of horse mackerel surveys had not been achieved and had been postponed because of resource constraints. The Department had sought to have promulgated the Integrated Coastal Management Bill; it was currently pending promulgation. Boat-based whale watching and shark cage diving policies had been published for comment.  An aquaculture policy and guidelines had been developed. A site for an experimental abalone farm had been identified and a feasibility study commenced. The Department had set itself a target of eight regional and domestic memoranda of understanding on marine law enforcement. It had achieved ten domestic memoranda and one regional memorandum of understanding.  There had been a target of three SADC patrols, but only one patrol had been achieved because of fuel costs. Financial constraints in that financial year impacted on enforcement rather than on research work for the Department’s regional programme. 28 notices were served in respect of marine resources crime. This was more than the Department planned to achieve in that financial year. 1308 vessels had been monitored and 304 inspected. No consensus had been achieved with the industry on the Department’s subsistence fisheries policy, regarding which the Department had faced battles in court.

An integrated financial management system had been achieved for the Marine Living Resources Fund (MRLF). The Department had achieved a clean audit in the year in question because of the implementation of that system.

Ms Ngcaba said that the Department was committed to maintaining the augmentation of its technical capacity for financial management. With regard to Marine and Coastal Management (MCM), the Department had appointed a chief financial officer and other financial managers. The Department had previously engaged a number of consultants and outsourced the support that it had required.  Some of the consultants had been retained to provide the necessary financial technical expertise. Further training of staff in financial management was required to ensure integrity of the financial management systems.

South African Tourism. Presentation
Mr Moeketsi Mosola, SA Tourism CEO, summarised SA Tourism’s financial statements, quickly recapped SA Tourism’s objectives and delivery against the objectives, and challenges faced moving forward.

He made the following additional comments:
SA Tourism was regarded by the Auditor-General as one of the most complex entities simply because it was operating in 15 different countries, dealing with 15 different currencies, and as a result was always vulnerable to the exchange movements around the world.

Despite the above, SA Tourism achieved its seventh consecutive unqualified audit report, with no matters of emphasis. 

SA Tourism had exceeded its target of 40% BEE procurement to the extent of achieving 43% such procurement.

Members were reminded that SA Tourism spent most of its money in foreign currency. Of the money that it spent in South Africa, 43% had been spend for BEE procurement.

Members were reminded that SA Tourism was mandated by this House to contribute to sustainable growth of South Africa’s gross domestic product by ensuring that tourists spent as much money as possible on their visits to South Africa.

SA Tourism emphasised that it was in the branding business. People bought brands. SA Tourism sought to establish South Africa as a preferred destination for tourists.

SA Tourism sought to improve its internal systems to ensure that it was world class in all its activities. 

The economic environment was causing a slow-down of growth; when people were fighting for their homes, the last thing that they want to do was travel.  However, there was hope that it would pick up again slightly in 2010. Tourism to South Africa had really started to grow in 1990 [see slide: Foreign arrivals to South Africa, 1966-2008E]. This indicated that democracy and political stability was good for tourism. The significant growth was from the air travel market. The global economic situation suggested that the main growth in travel to South Africa would be from other African countries.

Overall spending by tourists had increased by about 33%, and this was remarkable.

SA Tourism had received many accolades.

The global economic turmoil had resulted in a R17 billion overall cut ordered by National Treasury. The situation is dire with present budget shortfall. SA Tourism might have to close some offices. Mr Mosola said that
World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) projected shortfalls in growth globally in the tourism industry’s GDP [presentation slide number 15].

2009 was expected to be a good year domestically for the travel business in South Africa; experience had shown that elections meant good business for tourism.

Mr Mosola said ‘I am not here to beg a budget’ but his aim was to give Members a fair picture of the actual situation.

2009 would be an important year for the tourism industry, because it was in this year that BEE reporting on progress over the past five years would be due. In October, the Department would be releasing a document to show what had happened. He was relying on Members to ‘name and shame’ those companies that had failed to comply and bring them to account for themselves before the Committee. South African Tourism expressed its deep appreciation for the support of the Committee.

South African National Parks presentation

Dr David Mabunda, Chief Executive Officer, South African National Parks (SANParks), said SANParks was coming to the end of a ‘the biblical seven years of plenty’ with the onset of a reduction of visitor numbers. It appeared to be the start of a worrying trend indicating the beginning of ‘seven lean years’. It had been decided therefore, not only ‘to tighten the belt’ but also ‘to embark on a weight reduction programme so that the belt fits, if it does fit’.

SANParks’ management philosophy, for managing the protected areas, was ‘a whole ecosystems approach’. SANParks was ‘really trying to strike a balance’. It was no longer managing species ‘for the sake of managing species’ but seeking to manage a whole ecosystem, people included; and managing the system ‘for desired outcomes’. This was the background to all the programmes that SANParks was reporting on.

SANParks’ objective was to maintain balance. It was important to see not only the elephants flourishing, but the rivers flowing and the vegetation thriving, and to see everything in peaceful co-existence.

For SANParks, pages 79-96 of the Annual Report were a focus of the presentation, and Dr Mabunda highlighted the predetermined key objectives in terms of SANParks performance.

As everyone knew, ‘land is the bedrock of conservation.’ Without land one could not practice the conservation business. Therefore SANParks sought to expand the conservation estate and against that key objective, SANParks had set itself performance targets. SANParks still faced a challenge with the incorporation of the adjoining marine protected area into the Addo National Park, and there were associated challenges concerning poaching in that area.

The Garden Route National Park was delayed in the period under review, but subsequently progress had been made.

Additions to parks had to be negotiated and were subject to goodwill of both the sellers and the buyers. It was always a challenge to acquire land.

It was most important to SANParks’ conservation programme to strengthen SANParks’ scientific knowledge base. Effectively a number of projects had been completed to this end, with links to other institutes and to universities. SANParks was vigilant about issues that were not apparent to the naked eye, such as the massive problem of dying crocodiles in the Oliphant’s River Gorge. It was as a result of SANParks’ monitoring programme that SANParks was able to detect that problem. Unfortunately, SANParks had not yet been able to find the cause of the problem and resolve it. Each park was required to have a set of indicators to warn of an impending problem in a particular area. It became easier to monitor developments that one might not otherwise have been aware of if there was a monitoring system. It was hoped to increase that to 100%.

The state of biodiversity report was a continuous programme of monitoring with baselines in the various national parks that SANParks was managing. In the period under review SANParks had succeeded in identifying 80% of what it called ‘worry levels’ or ‘thresholds of potential concern’.

SANParks’ had planned to take 90 000 learners for its environmental education programme. However, this target had been exceeded, with near to 140 000 learners receiving the programme. 
SANParks’ view was that if learners were successfully taught to respect the environment, its task would be much easier.

Conservation would not be doing its best as a natural practice if it did not also contribute to socio-economic development. This was a result of the protected areas system. Opportunities had been taken to create small and medium size enterprises – 285 against a target of 149.

Land restitution continued to be a challenge. Probably the Director-General would talk about that at a later stage.

The national awareness week programme for national parks had been run successfully. This time it had been taken to the different parts of the country, even where there were no national parks, just to create the necessary awareness of the parks.

It was during this period that the National Energy Efficiency Agency was established, and SANParks’ had outlined its own objectives.  SANParks was still waiting for the promised grant. The National Energy Efficiency Agency seemed to be suffering from amnesia and had forgotten the money which it had pledged. The programmes had been drawn up and were ready. SANParks did not want to put the Department under pressure.

SANParks was pleased to report a 7% growth in tourism, 3% above the target, and occupancy rates had increased in the period under review.  However, this might be the last time in a number of years that such a positive result might be reported, for the reasons given earlier.

Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism. Further remarks by the Director-General
Ms Ngcaba added some remarks regarding some of the topical issues about which Members had probably been reading about in the media.

Ms Ngcaba spoke about the poaching of rhinoceros, and the land claims in the Kruger National Park.

As many as 197 rhinoceroses had been hunted in 2007 during the hunting season. South Africa’s rhinoceros population was low, with 1 300 black rhinoceros, and some 13 000 white rhinoceros. The Department had some success in combating poaching. Microchip technology was assisting in the tracking of rhinoceros horns.

The Acting Chairperson thanked the Director-General for her ‘thought-provoking presentation on the budget’ and thanked Dr Mabunda for sterling efforts on the anti-rhinoceros poaching programme. This proved once more that ‘yes, together we can’.

Mr Gareth Morgan (DA) said that he was ‘certainly happy to approve the annual reports’. The Department and the entities that reported to it had for a while, with the exception of the Marine Living Resources Fund (MLRF), had been doing well; he was not sure whether the Marine Living Resources Fund was going to have its own presentation. It was a highlight of the Department’s achievements that the Marine Living Resources Fund had obtained an unqualified auditor-general’s report for the year under review. It was good that this Department had expended 99.9% of its allocated funds. It would be appreciated that the Committee was examining a reporting period that had ended ten months previously, ‘but of course, there are always things that are relevant nowadays.’

Since the Department had raised the matter, Mr Morgan asked about the rhinoceros poaching. It was very good news that people were talking to each other, but one had to ask whether South Africa’s neighbours were included in the conversation. It was fine to increase enforcement in the parks, but it was necessary to ask if the borders of South Africa were being sufficiently guarded. Last year, there had been a ‘very sensible’ moratorium on individual rhinoceros horns and presumably it was possible to police South Africa’s major ports and harbours very well. However, one had to ask if efforts were successful in stopping the transport of rhinoceros horns across South Africa, possibly for illegal export from other ports. There was a SADC protocol on conservation, and Mr Morgan asked if South Africa’s neighbours were enforcing it, since ‘that could be a loophole here as well’.

Mr Morgan said that a fascinating aspect of this day’s presentation, which distinguished it from previous presentations, and it was appropriate now to reflect on the past five years of the Committee’s work, was that five years previously one could not attend a portfolio committee meeting without hearing how wonderful South Africa’s peace parks were. ‘These were the greatest things; integration was happening; doors were opening; lodges were being built; you just don’t hear about it any more.’ Of course things were happening, but it did not appear on the Committee’s agenda. Mr Morgan said that, before the present Director-General was appointed, he, Mr Morgan, used to ask many questions on this matter.

Ms Nosipho Ngcaba’s responded that there had always been enthusiasm about the peace parks programme, and especially for conservation. It had been the Department’s sector contribution in respect of its involvement in the environmental programme of SADC, of which she said ‘basically, that has not died, but there are challenges’. The Department’s plans were indicated in its reports. The Department was still working with the neighbouring countries through the trans-frontier conservation programme and through the other programmes in which Marine and Coastal Management (MCM) was involved, such as patrols and a border co-coordinating committee led by the justice cluster. This committee involved the Department of Home Affairs, the police and even the Department of Foreign Affairs; and there was also for example a joint economic forum where the ministers of the economic cluster meet their SADC counterparts from time to time; and the Department had other joint initiatives in which it was involved through various structures.  However, regardless of what the Department had put in place, for example cross-border initiatives, the funds required had to be provided by South Africa, rather than by the neighbouring countries. Also the Department was not necessarily allowed to spend funds in those countries.  So there remained a need for greater capacity and technical support, and for financial availability of the neighbouring countries. The Department had been doing its best to play its part with the limited resources that it possessed in respect of both patrols and enforcement but it had been involved in initiatives that would contribute to economic prosperity within those countries. It was not as sustainable as the Department had thought it would be if it was just to spend money. The Department had held the previous year an investor conference which was rather to look at the infrastructure on the other side of South Africa’s borders in the Trans Frontier Conservation Areas (TFCA) programme. She said that, regarding the investor conference, the Department had received some contributions, but wanted Botswana and some others to contribute some resources, because their economies can afford such contributions. However, she said that she did not have to hand the details of which parties had paid and how much they had paid. 

The Department, on behalf of South Africa, was facilitating the process by which it could streamline the availability of information, whether this was legal information or information on the tax laws of the country concerned or so on. This was then packaged as an information pack to encourage and assist concerned parties to invest. The Department would be gratified to see investors committing themselves in the various parts of the trans-frontier conservation areas.   In respect of the conservation function itself, the Peace Parks Foundation had collaborated with SANParks and the Department in various initiatives. They have been paying the salaries of some technical experts to enable them to work in those countries and at some point staff who work in those protected areas; but this was difficult to sustain, because even the Peace Parks Foundation did not have ‘a bottomless cup’’ in respect of available resources. However, in spite of these difficulties, the Department ‘remained enthusiastic’ about these programmes and felt that it, and South Africa, were doing everything in their power within the resources and the capacity that they possessed.

Dr Mabunda responded to Mr Morgan’s question on SA National Parks by saying that SA National Parks had 139 learnerships. These were spread across the core functions of the National Parks. Insufficient accommodation was a limiting factor, as was an insufficiency of senior staff to guide the young people.  SA National Parks considered it important that participants in learnerships were provided with proper supervision, and was worried that there might be problems about obtaining more learnerships in the future. An adult education programme was improving the capability of employees to respond directly to tourists’ requests for directions, without having to go away and seek assistance from other employees; thereby giving tourists the impression that staff members were running away when asked questions. The entity appointed its own service provider, People Management Solutions.

Ms Nosipho Ngcaba added, with regard to learnerships, that the reason for the Department’s not meeting its targets was not the non-availability of learners, it was rather that learnerships had to be undertaken through a SETA, and it was difficult to find available accredited service providers. There were only a few such accredited service providers across the country that could provide the required training for learners. Furthermore, in order to undertake a learnership it was necessary to place the learner with a company, so that the learner could acquire experiential learning as well as theoretical learning. Such difficulties hampered the Department in its effort to meet its targets for providing learnerships. It was moreover necessary for the SETA concerned to have competence assessors to evaluate the progress of the learners and to ensure that service providers complied with the requirements.

Mr Morgan said that he had a great respect for SA Tourism. ‘I get a lump in my throat every time I see an SA Tourism advert on Sky News …; they are quite are quite phenomenal. I’ve always liked them, and I’m always proud to see them. It was sad to see that there are these shortfalls which are beyond your control. I wish you were making a budget speech because you deserve that money.’ He had to ask SA Tourism the same question that he asked the entity one year previously; this was his question on whether SA Tourism was improving its keeping of statistics of tourists  entering South Africa, ‘because I remain sceptical of the figures that are presented to us in  terms of whether they are actual tourists.’ Mr Morgan accepted that the nine or ten million people were spending money in South Africa and that this was a great bonus for the economy. But it was necessary to ask if all those represented in these statistics were spending that one night in South Africa that would make them genuine tourists. A year previously, SA Tourism had made it clear that it was not good enough at capturing statistics. When Mr Morgan had heard the Minister giving statistics the previous day, he felt constrained to disbelieve the figures. It would be a pity to miss opportunities for growth markets hidden underneath the current figures of nine or ten million visitors to South Africa a year because of a ‘fixation’ on these particular figures, since it was not at all clear just how many of those nine or ten million were strictly definable as tourists. He wanted to ask if progress was being made in this matter.

Mr Mosola responded to Mr Morgan’s question by saying that there had been a significant improvement in the quality of collecting the statistics concerned. To that effect the report had been presented to MINMEC and MIDTEC and StatsSA had issued the new definitions that the Department had been awaiting for several years. However, despite the common perception that statistics was ‘the dismal science’, the Department was actually very close in numbers, for example on how many people enter and leave the same day, and on how many people stay overnight. Based on their passports, it would be possible to determine how many were transitory visitors. ‘The difference is so insignificant in terms of overall numbers. We were quite pleased by that’. The Department was now confident that it was now working with ‘robust statistics’.  The new definitions were now making the different categories very clear. The Department now had figures for visitors from all over the world. However, the Department was still working on a four month period but hoped to reduce the unacceptably long time frame for compiling statistics. 

Mr Morgan asked thirdly, although he knew that they reported to the Department of Labour. He was becoming increasingly worried, and he knew that it related to Dr Mabunda, to the Director-General, and to SA Tourism; he was increasing worried about the performance of the SETA. Mr Morgan had a number of SETA employees talking to him, quietly on the side about the ongoing problems in that organisation. Some of those he would pursue through other channels. To give one example, he was surprised that more had not been said of the 499 remaining days to the 2010 World Cup.  There was some work that needed to be done on the SETA. If one examined that massive grant given by the SETA to a certain municipality in the Free State, very recently [City Press, Sunday, 25 January 2009 ‘last Sunday’], there was a massive problem with that happening. The SETA was supposed to foster tourist guides and tourist guide skills. There was a fundamental problem here; that grant that was given to district municipalities was questionable; municipalities had their own SETA anyway. ‘Why must they be getting money from the levies on hospitality, on gamers, on tourism and conservation? Because the big players are contributors – Sun International, Gold Circle - and all the 43 000 people who pay into that fund at the moment are not getting the benefit.’ The Free State was an important area for tourism, but one had to ask what happened when other district municipalities asked for the money. ‘It’s not a fair system, and there is a big problem going on here.’ Addressing Dr Mabunda, Mr Morgan said that he had heard good report’s of SANParks’ achievements in adult education, but there were massive concerns about whom SANParks chose as service providers. Mr Morgan’s main point was that value was not being added, and this affected everyone present. It was not actually about the Word Cup, it was about long term sustainability. ‘This organisation [the SETA] is not doing its work’.

Dr Mabunda responded to Mr Morgan’s question on SA National Parks by saying that SA National Parks had 139 learnerships. These were spread across the core functions of the National Parks. Insufficient accommodation was a limiting factor, as was an insufficiency of senior staff to guide the young people.  SA National Parks considered it important that participants in learnerships were provided with proper supervision, and was worried that there might be problems about obtaining more learnerships in the future. An adult education programme was improving the capability of employees to respond directly to tourists’ requests for directions, without having to go away and seek assistance from other employees; thereby giving tourists the impression that staff members were running away when asked questions. The entity appointed its own service provider. People Management Solutions.

Mr A Mokoena (ANC) said that he was ‘delighted’ to have listened to the presentation, especially the general presentation on the Department, and the presentations on SA Tourism and SANParks.  Most of the issues were familiar and common. When reassessing them in accordance with the format of the report, one noticed a number of challenges. Firstly, he was delighted, like his colleague, that the MLRF had undergone a turnaround. In turns of the audit, they no longer had an unqualified report. However, he wanted to know what the MLRF had got right, apart from following the suggestions of the Portfolio Committee all along. The point of his question was that one did not want the MLRF to suffer a relapse after their recovery, and then have to present themselves once again before the Standing Committee on Public Accounts. This question was asked with reference to the Portfolio Committee’s responsibility of oversight. It was not enough just to correct a cause for adverse comment in the previous year’s audit report. It was necessary to ensure that corrections and improvements were sustainable.

Secondly, addressing Dr Mabunda and the Director-General, Mr Mokoena said that the land question was very serious. Those Members who returned to the Committee in the new Parliament would have to give the land question special attention. It was not possible always to be looking over shoulders to follow up on land claims. It was necessary to bring the matter to an end once and for all. If amicable partnerships could be formed, as with a certain clan, then such partnerships should be formed. If there were disputes, the money should be found to pay out the people concerned. It was necessary to collaborate also with the land commission. There should be an integrated approach to the matter of land claims, instead of SANParks having to do everything by itself. The land commissioner should be involved. There might be some people who were making false claims.

Mr Mokoena said, on the question of the Trans-Frontier Conservation Areas (TFCA) programme, that cholera was affecting mainly humans. He asked Dr Mabunda whether the death of crocodiles was related to the dispensation of opening the parks, to the migration of animals, to the pollution of the water, and to the spread of diseases. He asked what control measures were in place to ensure that these Trans-Frontier Conservation Areas (TCFAs) did not become vulnerable. Those concerned had had good intentions to open all the parks. But there had been unintended consequences of these decisions.

In response to Mr Mokoena’s question about the death of crocodiles, Dr Mabunda said that the crocodiles were suffering from an inflammation of the fat of the tail that caused this fat to harden and thereby limit the mobility of the crocodile.  A crocodile that could not move was a crocodile doomed to die.  Movement and mobility were essential for the crocodile to catch its prey and to defend itself. The cause of the disease was unknown. While all seven rivers in the Kruger National Park had tested positive to cholera, cholera was not suspected as a cause; however, water pollution was suspected. Fortunately for humans, there were water purification systems. There was very thorough testing of the water, so tourists were not in danger. However, since borders were open, the reality was that parks could not be ‘islands from their communities’.

Mr Mokoena said that he would now ask ‘the germane question’ of the budget. He said that ‘we as Parliament have an obligation to bail out SA Tourism and SANParks because we are faced with the very important event of 2010’. SA Tourism and SANParks should not be put in a position where they would be forced to retrench staff, because of the ‘global economic crunch’ of which South Africa could not avoid the repercussions, but the upcoming 2010 World Cup was a ‘noble event’ and one could not countenance the possibility of all the visitors to South Africa hearing stories that certain offices were closed because of ‘right-sizing and down-sizing. It would be unforgivable.’ It was necessary to quantify how much money was needed to ‘tide over’ SA Tourism and SANParks until 2010 ‘to ensure that the wheels don’t come off, economically speaking.’ With regard to the next budget speech, it was to be hoped that there would be no need for a supplementary budget speech in September. So an urgent intervention was needed to bring to the National Treasury the needs of SA Tourism and SANParks so that Mr Trevor Manuel could include them in his budget speech as a ‘bail-out plan’.

Ms Nosipho Ngcaba replied that she had made presentations to the National Treasury. It was true that they had cut all departments because of the international financial crisis in order to enable government to continue to conduct its business but without augmenting its debt and increasing budget deficit, so they had to act responsibly and ask all government departments to make cuts. The Department had been asked to make significant cuts across the board. The Treasury made a particular demand that the Department must cut entities. The previous Friday, she had made a submission to the National Treasury and then the Treasury had agreed that the Department should not cut its entities but make cuts elsewhere in the Department. But that still left the entities with a challenge. The Department was thankful for the Treasury’s concession that the Department need not cut the financial allocation of its entities.

Mr Mokoena said that he had some more questions that were of a more peripheral nature, to which ‘yes or no’ answers would suffice, and he would, for the time being, leave them aside, in the interests of giving other Members sufficient opportunity to ask their questions.

Ms Nosipho Ngcaba said in response to Mr Mokoena’s question on land plans, the Department was co-operating with the land claim commissioners on the basis of a Memorandum of Understanding between the Department and the Commissioner. The Department had recently put into operation the Kalahari Trans-frontier agreement conservation areas. It had resulted in some increase in tourists from Botswana. Headway was being made but there were still challenges as to the sufficiency of accommodation.

Ms P Sekgobela (ANC) asked about tourism. It was encouraging, in her view, to see that the industry was doing really well, although there were some downturns; however, the fact remained that one could feel very proud whenever one listened and watched what was going on. Addressing Mr Mosola, she asked him about his mention of educating people about attainments in the industry but had not heard precisely the content of those lessons, and how they were conducted. ‘Because, at times, I worry; and get into the layman’s shoe, not [as a] parliamentarian whereby you speak of sustainable; what does ‘sustainable’ mean.” To a layman it is something else; and once he does not understand the word “sustainable” he is lost. He will fail to follow the whole subject.’ One of the slides had shown the slowdown of progress. She asked the cause of that slowdown of progress and what SA Tourism thought could be done to reverse the decline in order ‘to help this wonderful industry’. “I believe that the industry is going to excel, come 2010. I have no doubt.’ She asked about domestic tourism, and how the South African people were responding to it. It was very important to know the direction that domestic tourism was taking.

Mr Mosola, on domestic tourism, in response to Ms P Sekgobela (ANC said that the issue of domestic tourism was very important. In fact 37 million trips were undertaken, but emphasis was placed on a programme to increase domestic tourism further. Domestic tourism was considered to be in a healthy state, but it was acknowledged that more could be done to promote it. It was significant that at present there were about 50 000 learners who were studying tourism at the high school level, and additionally there were teachers who were studying to become qualified in  tourism as a subject. Because tourism was new to South Africa’s education system, there were qualified teachers who had never taken tourism as a subject. This development augured well for the future of South Africa’s tourism industry.

Addressing Dr Mabunda, Ms Sekgobela asked about SANParks. It was interesting to listen to SANParks’ presentation. She had a particular interest to know more about the Addo National Elephant Park. She asked about the Park’s affairs in general, and its activities. Secondly she asked how animals were protected ‘from the different national parks. Is there any intimidation of some kind at a certain stage, I wonder? I just want to know from you. Thank you.’

In response Dr Mabunda said that Addo with an occupancy rate of 85.1% was the best performing park, and it was growing in terms of tourist sales. Animal protection was indeed a challenge. Protection strategies were in place at various levels. There were well-trained rangers deployed in all parks, and a detective team gathered in intelligence on poaching activities, with forensic assistance from the South African Police Service. It was a combination of all these approaches that had assisted SANParks ‘break the back’ of the onslaught of rhinoceros poaching. This investigation had taken eight to nine months. These were some of the examples as to how SANParks protected South Africa’s natural resources.

Ms Nosipho Ngcaba said in response to Ms P Sekgobela (ANC)’s question, that domestic tourism would be dealt with by Mr Moeketsi Mosola, Chief Executive Officer, South African Tourism. 

Ms M Ntuli (ANC) thanked the Director-General and the Department’s team. Tourism was one of the pillars of South Africa. She concurred with Mr Mokoena that SA Tourism’s problems should be addressed with immediate effect. She believed that Dr Mabunda faced the same kind of problems with SANParks. She asked about the impact of fires on the various species and what strategies were being adopted to mitigate the effects of fire. She asked about the regulations for alien plants and species. She asked how SANParks programmes were designed ‘to reach the ordinary people on the ground’. There was much damage on the ground and one found that ‘our people don’t understand’ how these alien species are dangerous to South Africa’s own environment. She said, if the management was being retrenched, that meant that one would lose sight of the achievements mentioned in the presentation.

Although she was enthusiastic about the presentation, she felt that it was insufficient, because on visiting hospitality establishments one met employees who had been casual employees for five years; it was necessary to follow up on that subject. Training had indeed been achieved, but what would follow this impressive training. She asked the Director-General about the 47 women who had achieved management positions. However, the target was 50, but one could be hopeful that the target could not only be reached but exceeded. She asked about the exact demographics and if they reflected the demographics of the country. On the basis of the presentation, she said that the Department was correct in saying that it had difficulty in attracting the learners. She asked if the Department had any strategy or tactics to attract learners ‘on the ground’. She believed that the Department was still deficient in this regard. Lastly, she asked about the 48 hour turnaround time for call centres, and if the call centres were linked to the South African Weather Services. She asked this question in the light of the succession of natural disasters in KwaZulu-Natal. She asked if the Department was giving the matter serious attention. She asked what kind of partnership the Department had with the municipalities to achieve a co-ordinated approach to the matter.

Dr Mabunda said that in response to a Ms Ntuli’s question on the impact of fires on species, SANParks’ fire ecology had evolved from a regime where SANParks now intervened to prevent or reduce fires caused by natural causes, notably lighting, because the accumulation of a huge biomass, together with wind conditions and low humidity, could result in a fire that would be unstoppable and create problems for residents and other people who might be caught in the fire. Animals, indeed, did get caught from time to time, ‘in the cross fire of the fire, ‘but they have learnt how to survive’, in those extreme conditions. So if SANParks succeeded, by its ‘burn plot’ strategy, in reducing the biomass, animals could be given a better chance of survival.

The Chairman said that the Committee had only about 50 minutes remaining in which to conclude its day’s business.   

Ms J Chalmers (ANC) said that she would be brief. She asked Dr Mabunda, in relation to Mr Morgan’s question, about the Peace Parks and the Trans-frontier Conservation Areas., which, as Mr Morgan had said, had been launched with so many accolades, many years previously, how they worked in terms of sharing revenues from gate fees among participants.  She could remember, ten years previously, going in a helicopter with the previous minister and being shown ‘with so much excitement and pride’ the marine protected area that was going to become part of Addo. She asked why it had still not happened.  She asked about the subsistence fisheries policy which had been ‘a festering sore … a miniature Zimbabwe’ and about which there had been so little consensus. She asked if aquaculture and ‘mariculture’ policies had been developed. She asked the extent of interaction, since this could have a huge impact on the finances of the fishing industry and on coastal populations, given the lack of fish in the sea.

Dr Monde Mayekiso, Deputy Director-General, responded to Ms Chalmers’s question on the marine protected areas (MPA). The Department believed, he declared, that there should be integration of management of terrestrial parks with the management of the ocean parks. The Department was already implementing this in regard to several parks that were linked to marine protected areas. Indeed, the Department had a memorandum of understanding with it hoped to sign in the near future with SANParks. It was also true that there was a string of MPAs that had been proposed. Members would remember that about three years previously there had been a proposal for an MPA in Prince Edward, an MPA in East London, and in other places that he mentioned. The Department had continued to make progress on those MPAs. In the current year it had been possible to proclaim the Still Bay National Park. However, it was necessary to take them in sequence according to certain criteria, but the matter was considered urgent.

 In response to Ms Chalmers’ very difficult question, he reiterated the Director-General’s earlier statement, that fishing rights had been allocated in 2005, and most, if not all, of the species that were available had been allocated. Now these had been allocated to the commercial sector, but they were also exploited by the recreational sector, while there had to be a provision for the subsistence sector. Policing under those conditions was ‘extremely difficult’. As the Director-General had indicated, the West Cost Rock Lobster Association had said that if one wrote those kind of words in one’s policy, one could be taken to court, and indeed one had been taken to court, and a case was now under appeal. The first challenge was that the resources were limited; the second challenge was that the Department might ‘run foul of the law’ given that it had, for example, allocated a certain party a right in 2005 for ten years, and revoking that right to accommodate other parties was fraught with complications. However, there might be found a way of doing it. So policy development for subsistence fishing presented all those difficulties. The Department, however, had committed itself to finalizing the process in the next few months.

Dr Monde Mayekiso, Deputy Director-General, said that Ms Chalmers’ question had been linked to the question of whether aquaculture ‘could come to the rescue’. The Department was endeavouring to make that possible. That Department was currently running a number of pilot projects, which, as a priority, were examining what sort of models could be used to include the kinds of communities or fisheries that Ms Chalmers was referring to. South Africa’s marine environment was ‘very hostile’ and it was difficult to carry on aquaculture in the oceans. Technology was required, and this needed much money to acquire. If, on the other hand, one chose to carry on marine aquaculture on land, it could be done successfully, for abalone? for example, however, one would always be competing with golf courses, one would always be competing with real estate, and it was necessary to educate the local authorities to see marine aquaculture as of greater importance. Also the capital requirement of these farms was significant. This was a problem that remained to be solved. In short, the Department was exploring ways of involving the communities in aquaculture.

Mr L Greyling (ID) asked with reference to the working for water programme and the working for wetlands programme what had happened to the working for energy programme. A huge opportunity existed to use the biomass, resulting from the working for water programme, as an alternative fuel to save energy, and he wondered if there had been any progress in advancing that concept. He shared Mr Morgan’s sentiments in response to SA Tourism’s advertisements. He was interested additionally in the breakdown of tourism statistics. He wanted to know the extent of the backpacking aspect of the tourism industry and whether it was a growing sector. He was aware that Australia had placed a major emphasis on backpackers, and this emphasis had built a very sustainable tourism industry, because backpackers tended to return when they matured and became middle-class tourists.  Climate change was a big issue for the Department, and, of course, tourism was a big contributor to climate change. A great many European tourists were beginning to question whether they should be tourists in view of the perception that tourism itself contributed to climate change. He asked if carbon-offset was seen as a threat. 

Mr Mosola, responding to Mr Greyling, said that with regard to the issue of the backpackers, these travellers, about 640 000, aged largely between 18 and 30, they came largely from continental Africa. This was a good market, because the lifetime value of these backpackers was quite significant. Moreover, backpacking as a market had the added value that backpackers were likely to revisit later in their lives as more affluent travellers; additionally they encouraged their children to visit. The challenge, however, was to market one backpacker. ‘One might as well stay at the airport and give them tickets to South Africa for free.’   It was important, therefore, not to over-invest; rather it was important to recognize that deriving value from backpackers was in the long term, and that such value would not be realized in the year in which one was marketing to them. It was necessary to find cost-effective ways of marketing to them without over-extending one’s efforts and limited resources.

Mr Mosola, responding to Mr Greyling, said that, with regard to the issues raised on global warming, tourism had been one of the leading industries in South Africa in coming forward with clean and renewable technologies in terms of energy efficiencies. There was co-operation with the presidential task team on energy saving to ensure energy saving in hotels. ‘The truth of the matter was that we were still far’ from achieving all that could be achieved. For example, in many hotels overseas, lights in bedrooms and bathrooms switched on and off automatically in response to human movement in and out of rooms. This was not so in South Africa. One recognized ‘the need to get there fast’. It was something that was being addressed urgently with the tourism industry.

Mr A Wills, Deputy Director-General, responded to Mr Greyling, that In real terms climate change presented the tourism industry with two threats: firstly ‘the threat of consumer-driven resistance’, which had a number of aspects; the second threat was ‘unilateral actions by states’ within the areas from which most tourists came. That South Africa was ‘a long-haul destination’ was a disadvantage. That produced consumer resistance from three different angles. The first of these was the carbon footprint of the transport. It was not only the transport on board an aeroplane or aboard a luxury cruise ship on which one arrived in South Africa. It was also the carbon footprint of South Africa’s own ground transport systems. The second angle was the carbon footprint from South Africa’s accommodation units and tourism activities. The third and probably most important angle was the perception internationally in developed countries that South Africa as a developing country, in common with other developing countries, was doing nothing about climate change. ‘We’re a climate criminal’ in the mind of some circles in developed countries. When one considered transport solutions, the issue around aviation and maritime fuel required a multilateral solution. It was concerned with issues taking place beyond national jurisdictions.

With regard to domestic ground transportation systems, one was sure that Members had received inputs from the Department of Transport regarding the move from road to rail and complete transformation of South Africa’s public transport system.  The Department was also working with the Department of Transport on bio-fuels, public transport fuelled by natural gas, and other options. Such options would go a long way to changing the above negative perceptions. ‘In real terms the DEAT was working proactively on a green-grading programme.’ The Department sought to create accommodation units that ‘were branded green and could be demonstrated’. This entailed energy-efficiency in lighting, laundry, kitchen, waste and recycling and other systems.  It was a broad-based programme. South Africa had the advantage that many of its tourist activities could be branded as low carbon and nature-based. This presented opportunities for synergy in branding. It was important for South Africa to complete its national climate policy. The long term mitigation scenario process had been completed. There would be a climate change summit in March 2009. The Director-General was leading bilateral sector engagements. Secondly South Africa needed to be active in the international climate change negotiations. In this Mr Wills believed that South Africa was building up a credible profile. There was need for environmental awareness domestically by means of a programme at school level. More broadly the Eskom energy efficiency drive was an effective contribution to that broader awareness programme. The issue of cross border tax adjustments was first considered by the European Union but the United States of America is building provision for cross border tax adjustments in all its legislation. It was an anti-competitiveness issue, and largely it was an issue of competitiveness with China and India; however, South Africa would ‘fall in the cross fire’. That was a serious concern internationally. The problem with using biomass from the working for water campaign was the wide distribution of that programme. When one added the emissions from transport that one would have to use, then it would become highly inefficient climate mitigation process. So one is largely stuck with producing charcoal form mobile units which would have a larger carbon emission profile. The other aspect of this was the security of supplies. If one exhausted the supply of alien vegetation from the working for water campaign, one would be left with no security of supply. It would be better to exploit solar and wind resources rather than biomass resources. South Africa’s biomass production rate was low, because it was a dry country and did not compare with countries like Brazil in the tropics.

Ms R Ndzanga (ANC) asked about the new heritage sites, and if tourists were attracted to those sights. She asked if the tourist guides, who were trained for the World Summit, would be used for 2010, or if it was not thought necessary for 2010 visitors to be assisted by tourist guides during the matches. She asked whether schools in Soweto were included in programmes to educate young people about tourism. She thought that it was very important for young people of school age to understand the significance and implications of tourism.

Dr Mabunda responded that the World Heritage Site of
Mapungubwe was very popular with local people and local visitors. However the site was located at a great distance – ‘a good six hours on the road from Johannesburg’. However, 22 801 visitors were attracted in the previous year. A large component of that number was educational tours from schools in different parts of South Africa. World Heritage Sites were very attractive because of ‘their history and uniqueness’.   

Mr L Khoarai (ANC) asked whether the Department was aware of the fishermen’s strikes in the Eastern Cape and if it had intervened. After several months there were still fishermen on strike in that area. Fisherman constituents had sent him by fax many letters indicating their grievances. He wished to hand these letters to the Chairperson for him to convey to the Department for their response.]

Dr Monde Mayekiso, Deputy Director-General, said that in response to a Member’s question on whether the Department was aware of the strike involving the squid industry in the Eastern Cape, the Department was indeed aware, and considered it a labour relations matter and that it fell in the domain of the Department of Labour.  However, the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism had an interest and was examining whether in the practices that had been highlighted there was any conflict with the Marine Living Resources Act, and if anything was happening that the industry had promised would not happen.

The Acting Chairperson asked the Department’s marine and coastal management division about the SADC patrols. He wanted to know South Africa’s SADC partners’ contribution to such patrols. If they were not contributing, he wanted to know the reasons, because these patrols were of benefit to the entire region.

Ms Nosipho Ngcaba said that her above response to Mr Morgan could be linked to the Acting Chairperson’s question on the SADC patrols, about which Dr Monde Mayekiso, Deputy Director-General, would talk regarding the other countries’ contributions to the cross-border patrols.

Dr Monde Mayekiso said that as far as SADC patrols were concerned, the Department had carried out patrols up the coast as far as Tanzania, Mozambique and Namibia. With regard to the patrols on the coast of Namibia, this was really a partnership with the Namibian authorities whereby the use of vessels was exchanged. It was an equal partnership. One could say also that there was an equal partnership with Mozambique. They had a fishery which they were obliged to patrol over a limited period of time. So when the Department patrolled it under this arrangement, the cost of the patrol was met by Mozambique. However, the Department was examining ways to ensure that its vessel was used throughout the year, and to avoid its remaining unproductively in port, while the Department did not have the funds to keep it at sea every day. So if the Department’s vessel was able to spend 20 days a year in Mozambique’s waters, paid for by Mozambique, this was a positive development from the Department’s viewpoint. However, such joint patrols would never be carried out at the expense of the Department’s local needs.

The Acting Chairperson asked the Department’s division of corporate affairs about persons with disabilities. He noted the Department’s achievement of 1.7% with regard to participation of persons with disabilities in its workforce. He asked how the Department solicited candidates from organisations for persons with disabilities. He asked if the Department sought them out proactively, or just advertised and hoped that they would respond. He also asked about the Department’s 100 environmental learnerships. He asked about the duration of those learnership programmes, and what happened to those learners when they had completed their learnerships.

Dr I Cachalia (ANC) said that he believed that people from India had experienced difficulty in accessing visas to come to South Africa. He asked if the Department could identify the problem and what was being done about it. He asked secondly about the patrols. He said that there was one patrol known to have been constrained by fuel costs. These patrols played an important role in monitoring South Africa’s waters. When budgeting for these patrols, it was desirable to take account of exchange rates and inflation in order to allow sufficient funds for fuel.  He asked where the tourist information centres were located, and if they were easily accessible to tourists and if they were staffed by friendly and knowledgeable staff.

Mr Mosola, in response to Dr Cachalia (ANC) said that one was aware of the difficulty in India of issuing visas. The biggest issue had, from the viewpoint of the Department of Home Affairs, always been that of security. It had always taken too long to process visa applications. Now 12 major operators, with whom business had been done for at least five years, had been accredited to go to India in order to vet and pre-approve intending travellers from India to South Africa in terms of their visa applications. These processes were being undertaken both Mumbai and Delhi offices. Even in times when there had been a high demand, for example for the previous year’s cricket cup, it had been possible successfully to address the issues of visas for Indian visitors.

Dr Monde Mayekiso said that, in response to Dr Cachalia’s question, the Department usually gave estimates of inflation when it submitted proposals to the National Treasury, but it was also true that in recent years the diesel price did ‘spike’ quite significantly and ‘without warning’.

The Acting Chairperson asked Members and delegates please to submit any outstanding questions and responses to him in writing, since he needed to conclude the meeting promptly at 13h00, in view of other commitments.

The meeting was adjourned.

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