SA National Biodiversity Institute, Isimangaliso Wetland Park, SA Weather Service, Marine Living Resources Fund: 2007/08 Annual Reports


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

The South African National Biodiversity Institute, the iSimangaliso Wetland Park, the South African Weather Service, and the Marine Living Resources Fund, which were entities that reported to the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism, gave slide presentations to the Committee on their 2007/8 annual reports.

The Democratic Alliance sought a fuller explanation than had been forthcoming about the background to the dismissal of SANBI's former chief financial officer and the cost of the process; the party was satisfied with SANBI's response. SANBI received an unqualified Auditor-General’s report.

iSimangaliso News was enthusiastically received by Members, who expressed their desire for the Committee to revisit the Park. iSimangaliso Wetland Park's work was underpinned by transformation, and sought to involve local communities in its activities, re-establish the movement of wildlife along their traditional migratory routes from the Lubombo mountains to the sea, and simultaneously enhance the tourism product. iSimangaliso Wetland Park received its sixth consecutive unqualified audit report – one for each year of operation.

South African Weather Service had received an unqualified audit report with no matters of emphasis. It gave a special supplementary slide presentation on severe weather warnings. South African Weather Service had taken a leadership role in the SADC region and had succeeded in establishing a meteorological association.

Marine Living Resources Fund audit report had improved massively, from 22 qualifications in 2005/6 where the Auditor-General had disclaimed expressing an audit opinion, to six qualifications in 2006/7, thence to an unqualified audit opinion in 2007/8, with not any emphases of matter, and with a budget surplus. The Committee expressed approval but hoped that this progress would be sustained. It remained necessary to increase the Marine Living Resources Fund’s revenue base to support research and enforcement. The war on abalone poachers was not being won according to an opposition Member of Parliament. Marine and Coastal Management officials in the Eastern Cape were diligent but completely overwhelmed. Likewise they could not control rock lobster poachers on the west coast. Concern was expressed over the heavy fatality rate among albatrosses and petrels entangled in the 'by-catch' of the line-fishing industry.


Meeting report

The Acting Chairperson welcomed Members and delegates to the day’s meeting which, in hosting more presentations on annual reports from entities that reported to the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism, followed on from the previous day’s meeting (Tuesday, 27 January 2009).

South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) presentation
Dr Tanya Abrahamse, SANBI Chief Executive Officer, an entomologist who held an MSc degree from the University of London (Imperial College) and a PhD from the University of Westminster, both in applied entomology (the study of insects), had previously served as a deputy director-general in the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism, and who was SANBI’s first permanent chief executive officer (appointed from September 2007), introduced her colleagues, before delivering her presentation illustrated by slides.

Dr Abrahamse highlighted the Institute’s appointment of a new chairperson, Mr T Sokutu, an accomplished botanist with degrees from the University of the Western Cape and from the University of Cape Town.

First steps to migrate the National Botanical Institute (NBI) to SANBI were completed. This involved evolving from an institution that was species and botanically based to one that embraced biodiversity in its entirety, both species and ecosystems and applied matters. A new organogram reflecting SANBI’s mandate was approved by the Board in November showing clearly SANBI’s key responsibilities of research, conservation and policy development, in addition to managing the gardens and conservation areas of the organisation. The organisational changes had been free of incidents and worry.

A further highlight was the Institute's first management lekgotla/bosberaad in 13 years held in February at the Water Sisulu NBG. Some 80 members of management came together to discuss the future of SANBI. This was a beneficial opportunity to bring together staff who, in their day-to-day work, did not have much opportunity to meet.

In the year under review there had been a major drive to review internal financial controls. Before Dr Abrahamse's arrival in September 2007 there had been no internal audit system, and such a system 'was rapidly put in place'. Many systems were implemented to ensure compliance with the Treasury Regulations with the result that at the end of 2007/8 SANBI received an unqualified Auditor-General’s report. [There were, however, as mentioned in the Annual Report, pages 88-89, three matters of emphasis – non-compliance with applicable legislation (Treasury regulations 10, and 31.1.2 (e) and (j); matters of governance, and unaudited supplementary schedules.].

Another first for SANBI was a careful examination of SANBI's risk, including reputation al risk, external risk, and environmental risk, had been conducted by way of a risk assessment workshop with senior management, with the beneficial outcome of a new risk management plan intended to guide the internal audit. The plan had been approved with acclaim by the Board.

A major highlight was SANBI's development of the national protected areas expansion strategy which of course was a mixture of science and consultation and was a lengthy process. SANBI now had a clearer idea the direction of its national protected areas strategy, which involved working together more closely with farmers and local communities – an approach much different from that hitherto. Dr Abrahamse had mentioned this because it well defined SANBI's role. National and provincial parks would be the managers of those protected areas, while SANBI's role would be to provide guidelines, policy advice, and scientific advice for that management.

The other big highlight was the grasslands programme which was launched in the year under review funded by the World Bank; this programme had 14 institutions as partners ranging from the Forestry Institution to various other players. As Members knew grasslands was one of those biomes that were under threat. Often a layperson looked at grasslands and did not see much in the way of biodiversity because of the way they appeared to the observer, but in fact grasslands had one of the highest biodiversity levels. They had also a large number of useful plaits, and useful animals. Of course the biggest threat to the grasslands biome was agriculture. Therefore SANBI's main thrust in this respect was to cultivate a good relationship with other users of the grasslands biome. SANBI had also begun to develop relationships with business.

Another highlight was SANBI's 'coming to grips' with its mandate. Dr Abrahamse said that there was a general problem in South Africa of concentration of skills in certain sections of society but a paucity of skills in the majority of the population, and a problem of 'ageing skills'. SANBI had in its risk assessment identified a huge risk to itself of its dependence on an 'ageing set of scientists'., and that SANBI was not attracting able young people, both black and white, to enter SANBI's sector, and so the human capital development strategy that was ironically part of SANBI's mandate, but which Dr Abrahamse felt had not really been addressed, was given special attention in the year under review. SANBI had collaborated with various partners including national and provincial parks, schools, further education, universities and SETAs (Sector Education and Training Authorities) and sought external funding to address this matter. The whole aim was to produce more biodiversity professionals with master's and doctoral degrees, more conservation managers who would move away from the notion of just being rangers, and obviously more previously disadvantaged professionals - there was an urgent need to nurture young black scientists.

'You would be amazed by how many initiatives there are out there.' Dr Abrahamse said, such as the science initiative, the youth initiative, and others, but they were not interacting. So SANBI sought collaboration with the Department to plan for the long term co-operation between these organisations and initiatives.

SANBI had also co-ordinated a world wetlands event. In the middle of Soweto was one of the most amazing wetlands, but it had become quite degraded over time. .Dr Abrahamse gave special attention to agriculture as the biggest threat to grasslands, and to the degradation of the Soweto wetlands

Dr Guy Midgley, head of Climate Change, was part of a team that won the Nobel Peace Prize for his contribution to climate change, an area where SANBI’s leadership role is on the rise.

With an income of R111 million from the Department, R123 million from other grants, donations and sponsorships, and over R35 million generated by SANBI’s scientific work and gardens, SANBI has managed over 100 local, national and international projects in the biodiversity field.

Over a million people visited the gardens as tourists or learners, enjoying concerts, walks, talks, exhibitions, and admiring their natural beauty.

A regrettable matter which had given rise to much expenditure of effort, time and expense, not to mention a legacy of psychological trauma to many staff, had been the unpleasant necessity to set in train the lengthy disciplinary process to dismiss the previous chief financial officer, Mr Sunjit Singh, who was relieved of his post on 01 April 2008. The former employee had petitioned the Portfolio Committee and many individuals holding high office. A new chief financial officer had been appointed and had taken up his post.

Mr Moeketsi Khoahli, SANBI's new Chief Financial Officer, briefed Members on the financial statements. According to the statement of income, in the year under review, revenue of R34 million had been generated in comparison with R35 million in the previous year, a decrease from the previous year's figure. 'This decrease of about 1% was mainly due to depressed economic conditions and high fuel prices resulting in low admission fees.' SANBI relied to a considerable extent to its grant from the Department which had increased to R110 million in the year under review. As a result of the general economic situation, donations from the public were no longer forthcoming in the way that was expected. Attention was given to working capital management by taking advantage of credit extended by suppliers, but not deferring payment to the extent that suppliers' goodwill was prejudiced. Cash flow from operating activities had declined.

The Acting Chairperson thanked SANBI for its 'thought-provoking presentation'.

iSimangaliso Wetland Park. Presentation
Mr Andrew Zaloumis, Chief Executive Officer, iSimangaliso Wetland Park, gave a presentation illustrated by slides. As Dr Abrahamse had said, one was presenting on the previous financial year, 2007/8; it was often frustrating to do so, because one felt that one might have achieved considerable progress in the time that had elapsed between the end of the financial year under review and the present in dealing with the challenges that had arisen in that year.

iSimangaliso Wetland Park was the anchor project in the Lubombo SDI which was initiated to revive northern KwaZulu-Natal, southern Mozambique, and eastern Swaziland's tourist economy; looking beyond the year under review, in December 2008, iSimangaliso Wetland Park had more visitors than in any previous December, despite increasing global recession. Thus the project was really beginning to show dividends.

iSimangaliso Wetland Park's mission is to protect the World Heritage Site and its values to the standard expected by the State and by UNESCO. At the same time it was adding a specifically South African flavour which brought community benefits and contributed to the development of regional tourism economy.

In its programme, the Lubombo SDI and iSimangaliso Wetland Park was establishing major tourist roads, improving access to the Park including part of KwaZulu-Natal's coast land, improving Park infrastructure internally, improving existing product offerings, expanding the Park by acquiring and adding new land ; consolidating the Park by fencing into one open ecological area so that animals could once again migrate as they did in pre-colonial times, and establishing conservation structures.

iSimangaliso Wetland Park's work was underpinned by transformation, and sought to integrate conservation issues, tourism issues and transformation issues.

In the year under review iSimangaliso Wetland Park had delivered infrastructure as planned. Small to medium size enterprises (SMMEs) had been used at a cost of about R25 million.

In terms of land care, iSimangaliso Wetland Park achieved major removal of alien plantations. This was enabling the re-establishment of grassland, and for the eastern and western shores of St Lucia to begin to function as they did more than 50 years ago. In the year under review, R13million was spent through 273 land care contracts with 60% of those employed being women. Completion of the retraction of plantations from the western shores was imminent.

In the year under review, approximately 170 buffalo were reintroduced to the uMkhuze section of the Park through a donation from SANParks.

When iSimangaliso was listed as a World Heritage Site, the entire Park was subject to land claims. In the year under review, five claims had been settled. This meant that claims spanning 75% of the Park had now been settled. It had been endeavoured to capacitate land claimants to co-manage parts of the Park.

Community based natural resources was also an important driver. The region is the second poorest area in the country. The biggest highlight was in May when 3 500 women took part in the annual ncema harvest. In bad economic times, people increasingly returned to the natural economic resources base. On the coast line there is a traditionally high utilisation of resources for example mussels. Swamp forest farming, particularly in the northern section of the Park has been an issue for 20 years in the Park as much of the land outside the Park is very poor for agriculture. The peat-based swamp forest soil gave a relatively high return for a few years. Compliance is a combination of awareness and law-enforcement as well as the provision of alternatives. For example 39 agricultural gardens were established with 900 participating women, 400 of whom had completed certificated training. This was one of the improvements that iSimangaliso Wetland Park had been implementing 'fairly effectively' to give alternative options to forest farming.

Training sessions were provided for SMMEs with the intention of making contractors more self reliant. Those with experience in land care were thereby enabled to tender for work outside the park, and transform their businesses from being dependent on the park. Capacity training and development also emphasised.

iSimangaliso Wetland Park trained for jobs, rather than just for numbers. About 80% of those who trained with iSimangaliso Wetland Park obtained jobs with the Park after they qualified. To assess the weaknesses and strengths of the programmes, the careers of former trainees were tracked.

In terms of crafts, which had been mentioned earlier, in one of iSimangaliso Wetland Park's earlier programmes were about 300 craftswomen whose products were supplied to Mr Price®.  iSimangaliso Wetland Park's challenge was to diversify that programme and to decrease dependence on one purchaser.

iSimangaliso Wetland Park's cultural activities were very important in the light of the Park's having been inhabited for at least 2 000 to 3 000 years. Interpretation of culture was now being introduced to tourism. . There were a number of festivals and events, including the development of cultural performing groups.

In the year under review Rocktail Beach Camp opened. This is a Wilderness Safaris facility with approximately 20% community equity. Community equity is mandatory and distinguished from black economic empowerment partners. Rocktrail Beach Camp now joined Thonga Lodge, Rocktail Bay, as facilities that had opened in recent years with participation of local communities.

 Equitable access was an important focus in the year under review. About 45 000 people had visited St Lucia and Sodwana Bay on New Years day at no charge.The challenge remained to manage this kind of traditional access together with other tourists and to ensure that tourists returned home with an increased understanding of the World Heritage Site.

Equitable access continued with the development of a schools programme. Specifically in the year under review, children from 120 schools entered the Park, without charge. This figure had already been exceeded for the current year. The Wilderness Leadership School had conducted wilderness trails for youth, helping young people to reconnect with the land, and with the former lands of their grandparents.

Special stakeholders groups such as izinyanga were important especially in this area, which was the arguably the biggest exporter of traditional medicinal products to Gauteng. 'People say that nature is their chemist.'

The Interfaith Meeting had been attended by approximately 5 000 people, recognising that religious values, spiritual values, conservation, and development all integrate with each other. The Meeting represented outreach and bringing in leadership, and was a very spectacular and meaningful event.

Lastly, iSimangaliso Wetland Park received an unqualified audit report, the sixth consecutive such report. iSimangaliso Wetland Park had a strong fund-raising programme.

The iSimangaliso Wetland Park had some 120 odd registered research projects all brought into the registration process over the past three years.

South African Weather Service presentation
Ms Linda Makuleni, Chief Executive Officer, introduced her delegation, which included members of the senior management team whose attendance was part of capacity-building by way of giving them experience of what South African Weather Service’s stakeholders required; thereafter she gave a presentation illustrated by slides.

Points of emphasis included the strategic objectives set by the Department for the environmental sector: in particular, the growth, development and retention of scientists, technologists, researchers and IT staff, and South African Weather Service's aim to maintain a consistent internationally-recognised standard of excellence in forecasting and to be recognised throughout the world for its contributions to meteorology and climatology, while contributing to sustainable development in South Africa and beyond.

Weather knew no boundaries, so South African Weather Service valued its access to an international observation network, from which it derived forecasting data, and sought to further facilitate co-operation in this regard. South African Weather Service prided itself on its cutting edge technology and its advancements in research and development aim at improving South African Weather Service’s products and services.

Achieving for itself long-term sustainability was a major concern for South African Weather Service as discussed with South African Weather Service’s Board and documented in the strategic plan. One of the key areas was to examine the financial controls and governing acts to ensure that South African Weather Service was in compliance.

Another important issue was corporate governance, and examining other legislation and South African Weather Service’s international agreements, since South African Weather Service saw itself as playing a leadership role in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region and on the whole continent of Africa, and globally.

Financial viability, being a customer-centred and learning organisation, being a reputable provider of services, corporate governance and leadership were identified as major aims.

To ensure financial viability, South African Weather Service sought to nurture the growth of commercial revenue, to establish funds to enable progress with initiatives, to make capital investments, and effectively use the government grant.

In regard to being a customer-centred organisation, South African Weather Service considered it important to provide discreet services to particular client groups; in particular, the aviation industry to which South African Weather Service felt a particular responsibility, government departments, and communities. South African Weather Service had looked at other weather-sensitive industries.

In regard to being a learning organisation, South African Weather Service aimed to build a critical mass of meteorologists, scientists and researchers.

Information and communication technology (ICT) was identified as another area in which it was important to build a critical mass of qualified and competent staff. This was aimed towards developing a challenge-management system, with quality of acquisition, processing and storage of data in addition to scrutiny of the quality of the data itself.

Climate information was an area with which Ms Makuleni was proud to be associated with South African Weather Service. By 2010 South African Weather Service would have a collection of data that extended back over 150 years. South African Weather Service was collaborating with SANBI and comparable institutions to this end. The organisation was rich in its database. It was important to maintain the existing observation network.

South African Weather Service had received an unqualified audit report with no matters of emphasis. In achieving registration of the title deed of Waterkloof Land in South African Weather Service’s name, it corrected a reason for adverse comment the previous year.

An International Civil Aviation Organisation audit had found South African Weather Service compliant in most instances and awarded a compliance certificate.

South African Weather Service had taken a leadership role in the SADC region and had succeeded in establishing a meteorological association of southern Africa for which South Africa was the secretariat and currently held the chair. It had also established a severe weather demonstration project. This was a joint venture between the World Meteorological Association (WMO) and five countries in the SADC region. It was successful to the extent that the World Meteorological Association had agreed that it should be extended to all 11 SADC countries. This was one of the useful tools in ensuring that South African Weather Service warned affected communities on time.

South African Weather Service had established a new weather office in Mpumalanga, and had developed new products; however, before beginning research and development on new products, South African Weather Service consulted the intended end-users of those products.

South African Weather Service had completed the installation of a Radar Data Acquisition System, and established an early disaster warning system, which had issued 501 warnings nationally between April 2007 and March 2008. Great efforts had been made to ensure that warnings were useful and meaningful, and to ensure that the warnings were transmitted promptly to the intended recipients and received, understood and acted upon by them.

In human capital management, South African Weather Service had awarded 35 bursaries to previously disadvantaged individuals, maintained an employment equity plan, and a skills development programme. Additionally there were beneficiaries of bursaries for part-time study from within South African Weather Service.

Of 389 employees, 52% were African, 32% white, 10% Indian, and 6% coloured. South African Weather Service’s equity rating from the Department of Labour was 1.78.

South African Weather Service valued achieving a high quality assurance rating from the International Standards Organisation.

The Acting Chairperson thanked Ms Linda Makuleni for an ‘impressive’ presentation.

Ms Linda Makuleni requested the Chairperson's permission for a special supplementary presentation of five minutes duration to highlight South African Weather Service early warning system and how the entity was endeavouring to strengthen its relationship with key stakeholders such as the municipalities, the disaster management centres and the communities.

South African Weather Service early warning system for extreme weather
Mr Mnikeli Ndabambi, well-known for his appearances on SABC television, and a member of the South African Weather Service, said that there had been an increase in the frequency and severity of high impact weather. In the long term it was predicted that one still expected further increases in the intensity and occurrence of extreme weather. Such predictions included KwaZulu-Natal, where communities were saying that they were experiencing such severe weather events for the first time. South African Weather Service was investigating how to cope with this extreme weather.

The message was clear that the adverse impacts of such weather were still going to happen, so funds needed to be reserved and when the need arose channelled so the afflicted communities could cope. In response to a Member's previous question, Mr Ndabambi said that the global distribution of extreme weather was increasing; 90% of those weather-related disasters were happening in Africa, where floods and wind storms were contributing to the total, and the droughts to a certain extent.

There was a project to study the definition of weather information; this had begun with the structures of disaster management in the Eastern Cape. The purpose of this project was to ensure that information about extreme weather events was received by the community at risk, by all appropriate means of communication including the radio stations. It was important to ensure that the communities were also part of the project and that they also received training in the correct interpretation of the warnings issued, because the warnings were relevant only if they were issued on time and understood by these who received them, and appropriate actions taken thereafter.

Mr Ndabambi explained the protocol and classification of the warnings and reviewed the revised early warning systems. A Member had previously raised the question of collaboration. South African Weather Service was working together with the Department of Provincial and Local Government with the of establishing an integrated national and local early warning system; but South African Weather Service realised that it would have to do it in phases. The first phase was to review the current weather early warning system which had been presented to stakeholders in southern Africa last October, and comments had been received. Implementation had not been achieved because the South African Weather Service realised that there had to be first of all a programme of awareness and education for the forecasters themselves – the meteorologists, the disaster management personnel, the public, and the media.

South African Weather Service's approach now was to make sure that the people at risk were warned and they benefited from these warnings. South African Weather Service would work together with the national, provincial, and municipal levels of government with an integrated approach. South African Weather Service already had the interim procedures for dissemination of tsunami warnings.

Marine Living Resources Fund presentation
Mr André Share, Chief Director, Marine Resource Management, Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism, gave a presentation illustrated by slides. He said that his organisation’s work, like the weather, was ‘very unpredictable’. He apologised on behalf of Dr Monde Mayekiso. All the Deputy Directors-General were attending a workshop with the Director-General. He introduced Dr Rasina Omar, Chief Director for Integrated Coastal Management and Development; Mr Saliem Mohamed, Chief Financial Officer of the Marine Living Resources Fund; Ms Sue Middleton, Director in the Office of the Deputy Director-General; Mr Ashley Johnson, Director of Biodiversity and Ecosystems Research, who was also deputising for Dr Johann Augustyn, who was on leave; and Dr Nkosinathi Dana, Director of the Special Investigations Unit, who was also deputising for the Chief Director of Monitoring Control and Surveillance.

Mr Share began by reviewing the Marine Living Resources Fund (MLRF)’s objectives and achievements during 2007/8 as per strategic objectives and to report on the financial performance and audit findings for that year. The Marine Living Resources Fund financed the operations of the Marine and Coastal Management Programme (branch) (MCM) of the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism (DEAT). The mandate-related objectives were listed. The overall goal was to promote the conservation, sustainable and orderly use and exploitation, and protect the integrity of the marine and coastal resources.

Marine and Coastal Management had a vast area under its jurisdiction, and policing was a formidable challenge. Technology such as satellite tracking of fishing vessels, aided the Department.

Marine and Coastal Management had had some success in the prosecution of environmental crimes, through infiltration of syndicates, especially in the abalone fishery. The harvesting of abalone had been suspended on 01 February 2008 because of the depletion of stocks.

Hake fishing was a capital intensive industry and was South Africa’s most valuable species. A capacity management scheme had been implemented in the hake fishing sector. Improvements had been made to measures to reduce the ‘by-catch’ in this fishery.

Aquaculture was also a high priority of government. As a regulator Marine and Coastal Management had as one of its targets to establish a regulatory framework and a strategy for marine aquaculture and research, while identifying particular species for research.

Land-based pollution had been identified as the source of 20% of oil pollution of the oceans.

Marine and Coastal Management had established the Benguela Current Commission, which was examining fish stocks across the South African, Namibian and Angolan borders. A similar programme had been started along the east coast – the Agulhas-Somali Large Marine Ecosystem. In terms of its allocation on the high seas, these were normally allocated by regional fisheries management organisations. South Africa, however, lacked the equipment necessary for extensive fishing on the high seas beyond the 200 kilometre coastal zone. Only one SADC patrol had been mounted, against a target of three. Fuel costs had been a major constraint on the number of patrols. Observation of vessels by satellite also assisted Marine and Coastal Management in its efforts to protect the environment from illegal exploitation. Marine and Coastal Management had some success in infiltrating criminal syndicates.

As regards financial management and compliance with the Public Finance Management Act, there had been a big improvement in the audit report. BEE compliance of 49% had been achieved against a target of 55%. This achievement might appear quite low; however, much of the research equipment required was very specialised and had to be procured from overseas.

Mr Share considered the Fund’s financial statements to be a major story of success, with a massive improvement from 22 qualifications in 2005/6 (so many that the Auditor-General had declined to express an audit opinion) to 6 qualifications in 2006/7, thence to an unqualified audit opinion in the year under review, with not even any emphases of matter. This represented an improvement in accounting accuracy to the extent of millions of rands. This achievement deserved to be emphasised. It was partly the result of tighter financial controls, and enhancing the skills of financial management staff, as well as adhering to international accounting standards. The MLRF had been taken from a deficit of R65 million in 2005/6 to a surplus of R29 million during 2007/8.

Mr Shore said that in partnership with the National Treasury, a cost-recovery framework had been developed. The contribution of industry to the MLRF had been considered. This would have entailed a major increase in the levies that industry would have paid on fish products, and it was not felt to be appropriate to South Africa at the present time.

With regard to transformation and skills development, a programme had been launched for young black scientists. Dr Monde Mayekiso, Deputy Director-General, in a previous presentation had referred to the dilemma in which one found oneself, that there were a number of world-renowned scientists who were close to retirement and it was now necessary to nurture the young scientists, especially the black scientists and enrol them in PhD programmes at tertiary institutions in the various disciplines. There had been success in this direction. In terms of the workspace skills development programme, there had been a number of training courses to build the proficiency of staff, especially in finance. Mr Share summarised employment equity and gender statistics: 40.8% African, 29.5% Coloured, 2.1% Indian, and 27.6% white; 32% female and 67.3% male - at that stage the vacancy rate had been 18%. The situation had since changed somewhat.

Mr Gareth Morgan (DA) congratulated MLRF on its unqualified audit report. It was only a few years previously that MLRF had no idea what its receipts were and had to ask industry stakeholders to ask them what they had paid over. The situation had been ridiculous. Thus praise was deserved. However, although MLRF had an unqualified audit report, it remained necessary to increase MLRF’s revenue base to support research and enforcement. Industry, which contributed substantially to MLRF, needed a return on its investment.

Mr Morgan requested an update on MLRF’s long term performance assessment, and some comments on the cost of this, since this was a substantial and costly process.

Mr André Share said that there had been little progress. This was almost a mini-allocation process. A service provider had been appointed at a cost of R8 million. MCM recognised the need to cluster the fisheries.

Mr Morgan asked about the abalone social plan. From public statements, it appeared that this plan would not materialise. It had been one of the initial things promised by the Minister. But from what had been reported recently, it appeared to be the view that stakeholders did not want it. It was controversial nevertheless.

Mr Share said that the Director-General of the Department had gone to the extent of giving presentations to the broader social cluster and the economic and employment cluster of Cabinet, raising the alarm not within the context of abalone alone but in the context of a situation where our marine living resources were declining. One was now talking about a situation not about access to marine living resources but about coastal poverty; that needed a government-wide intervention. One had very limited resources within the marine and coastal environment. It was difficult to train some of the fisherman for alternative occupations.

Mr Morgan asked about the status of science in the abalone fishery. He asked if MLRF had posted the decision to close the fishery on 01 February. He asked if a scientific study had been carried out upon which a future decision could be based.

Mr Morgan said that MCM had done a good job in publishing its arrests for abalone poaching. This did seem to be proof that the number of arrests was increasing. This seemed to be used by MCM as proof that it was winning the war against poaching. However, merely increasing the number of arrests did not go to the heart of whether you were winning the war. It might just mean that policing was better. There were so many abalone poachers. Stakeholders were also affected by the scuba diving ban. He did not think that the war on abalone poachers was being won, and it was the subject about which he received the largest number of items of correspondence from stakeholders and constituents. Mr Morgan received a weekly update, from a stakeholder in Sardinia Bay, illustrated by pictures of abalone poachers in action in broad daylight. MCM officials in the Eastern Cape were diligent but completely overwhelmed.

Mr Share responded that its aim was to keep abalone in the water. 315 fishery control officers were, however, hardly enough to control more than such a long coastline. MCM was concentrating on the areas where there was the greatest probability of possible abalone population recovery. Aerial surveillance was seen as an additional possibility. Patrol vessels were costly to operate.

Mr Morgan was keen to know MCM’s views on the west coast rock lobster situation, because he thought that MCM lacked the ability to handle that problem. Politically it was important, but the inshore fishery was under massive threat. With even more people taking lobster, and with the likelihood of being given rights under subsistence, the inference from stakeholders was that one was not winning that war either. The commercial fishing industry invested a great deal of money in that resource.

Mr Morgan asked Dr Tanya Abrahamse what it had cost to rid SANBI of its previous chief financial officer. From correspondence received, it appeared that the cost of the dismissal was to the extent of millions of rands.

Dr Abrahamse replied that the internal disciplinary enquiry had cost some R102 200. Everything beyond that happened through the Labour Relations Act. The former employee had appealed. That added costs. There was the CCMA process. A legal restraining order for SANBI’s staff had been obtained to protect them, since many female staff had been harassed. The previous chief financial officer had been dismissed on 02 April 2008.

Mr Morgan thanked Dr Abrahamse for explaining this painful issue.

Mr Morgan congratulated SANBI on its unqualified audit report. He asked for comments on the eleven measurable objectives as per the strategic plan, which, according to the Auditor-General, were materially inconsistent. He asked why and if they were as serious as the Auditor-General’s ‘stern words’ indicated.

Dr Abrahamse said that when she took office, SANBI was about to change its focus from gardens to biodiversity, which was a much more ambitious focus. What was needed was to begin that move. ‘This is where that disjuncture came from.’ SANBI was now clearer as to what its job should be. There had been many discussions with the Department on the subject.

Mr Morgan asked SANBI about its net deficit of R39 million and for an opinion as to its financial health.

Dr Abrahamse said that SANBI had made a very strong business case to the Department about what it would cost to shift from one mandate to the other; however, the Department had not given SANBI the full amount that it had asked for.

Dr Abrahamse said also that it looked good on paper that SANBI had 100 projects, but it was necessary to gain revenue from them, as well as exploit ‘sweat’ SANBI’s assets. It was not enough to take on projects on the strength of money from the World Bank. It was also important to negotiate an administration fee that was untied and went into SANBI’s income. Good project management was very important. It was also necessary to reflect the sunken intellectual investments when discussing projects.

Ms J Chalmers (ANC), addressing SANBI, did not expect a reversal of the downturn in the economy in the near future and there was predictability about the challenges that lay ahead in terms of finances. Dr Brian Huntley had been an extraordinary fund raiser at a time when there had been much more money around. However, money might still be available, and she wanted to know how SANBI proposed to raise funds in future that would offset some of the effects of the economic downturn.

Dr Abrahamse said that Dr Huntley was the acting chief executive officer at that time. She was still working with him on the Kirstenbosch Foundation. There was enormous goodwill.

Ms Chalmers asked about progress on the botanical garden for the Eastern Cape.

Dr Abrahamse said that acquisition of land was now in progress. It was hoped that the new botanical garden would be a centre of biodiversity. Creating the new garden would be highly labour-intensive and there was much potential for job creation.

Ms Chalmers asked about SANBI’s interaction with the non-governmental organisations that were working all over South Africa in the field of flora and fauna.

Dr Abrahamse replied that SANBI had a long-standing relationship with the Botanical Society, and SANBI was helping it in the process of transformation.

Ms Chalmers asked the South African Weather Service about its interventions in the schools. These, she felt, were important.

Ms Linda Makuleni said that South African Weather Service did have a short to medium term strategic initiative to intervene in schools with a view to capacity building. South African Weather Service was also looking at the long term. In order to create educational awareness, South African Weather Service held open days to which scholars were invited and where South African Weather Service shared with them knowledge and guidance about possible careers that they might like to follow with South African Weather Service after passing the matriculation examination. They were asked to consider in particular careers such as those of meteorologist and climatologist. When South African Weather Service celebrated annually on 23 March World Meteorological Day, South African Weather Service also involved scholars to visit and receive some training. The other area in which South African Weather Service intervened was to arrange visits to South African Weather Services' centres, even in the regions. The liaison officers who had been appointed had been assigned as one of their tasks to talk to children in schools about careers with South African Weather Services, since it was realised that members of the public had little awareness of such. One of the challenges that South African Weather Service had been faced with was that some of the matriculants lacked a pass in mathematics, a basic requirement for work in meteorology and climatology. The long term strategy was to engage with the Department of Education to influence the curriculum as well.

In terms of updating the information available, it was necessary to emphasise climate change. South African Weather Service had opened discussions with the Deputy Director-General in the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism to whom South African Weather Service reported with a view to engaging with the Department of Education. The short to medium term strategy was with regard to the bursaries that the South African Weather Service could offer South African Weather Service had a bursary scheme to South African Weather Service whereby South African Weather Service would try to recruit people from all over South Africa, not only from Gauteng where the head office was situated. This outreach strategy was advertised in all the newspapers and it was emphasised that South African Weather Service actively sought young recruits from all over South Africa.

Ms Chalmers asked the South African Weather Service if it could make interventions regarding the increase in the number of accidents to small aeroplanes.

Ms Makuleni replied that the South African Weather Service sought total quality management of weather forecasting and information for the aviation industry by 2010. South African Weather Service was working with its partners to that end. South African Weather Service had, at a regional meeting, invited potential donors to support this project. Finland had responded positively. South African Weather Service also sold weather station equipment within the region and provided after sales support. South African Weather Service confirmed an increase – some 120 incidents. South African Weather Service had revised in website to provide more and better information to the aviation industry. South African Weather Service was working with air traffic control authorities to give better training and awareness to pilots as to what they should do in bad weather. When South African Weather Service was doing the feasibility study for being a regional training centre for the World Meteorological Organisation, an opportunity to train pilots in meteorology arose. 'It's in the cards'.

Ms Chalmers congratulated MCM on its unqualified audit report.

Ms Chalmers asked MCM what was happening about the albatross and petrel memorandum of understanding between the southern ocean nations and the ways to manage fisheries and their impact on those particular two species. The incidence of deaths to albatrosses and petrels had been quite horrifying.

Mr Share replied that MCM was taking measures to limit the death of sea birds on account of their being caught as a ‘by-catch’ in the long-line fishing industry. A limit of 25 sea birds per season per ship had been applied.

Mr A Mokoena (ANC) endorsed Ms M Ntuli (ANC)’s concerns about severe weather events that she had expressed in the previous day’s meeting.

Mr Mokoena said that the problems of MCM were manifold. MCM was not integrated in its coastal management. Those Members who returned after the elections should perform a vigorous oversight role.

Mr Mokoena was impressed with MCM’s improved audit report, but asked if it was ‘just a fluke’. It was important that the improvement be sustained.

Mr Share responded that improved financial controls had been put in place.

Mr Mokoena expressed concern about duplication of functions between MCM and SANBI.

Mr Mokoena commiserated with iSimangaliso Wetland Park on its meagre budget.

Dr Abrahamse noted Mr Mokoena’s question about the conflict between parks and gardens, and said that the most recently acquired garden, the Hantam, was not the usual Kirstenbosch type garden, and it was in fact going to be left completely natural. SANBI’s relationship with parks was very close. SANBI was moving away from the notion that gardens were just about pleasure to the idea that they were also conservation areas for threatened species. It was important to conserve them in controlled areas for fear of losing the DNA. Dr Abrahamse said further that this was not a matter about empire building but rather of working together.

Dr Abrahamse said that Dr David Mabunda, Chief Executive Officer, South African National Parks (SANParks) drew on SANBI’s research in formulating his organisation’s strategy. Dr Abrahamse said that SANBI co-operated closely with MCM, given that there was a national lack of capacity.

Dr I Cachalia (ANC) asked South African Weather Service about the cost of maintaining its radar installations.

Ms Linda Makuleni, South African Weather Service, responded that, as Members were aware, government had given South African Weather Service R240 million over the next few years to install radar installations and upgrade them. South African Weather Service was aware also of the need for preventive maintenance.

Ms Makuleni said that as managers when they were doing the risk assessment for the organisation, they had factored in the safety of its workers. Currently it was only one radar installation that was giving problems. The radar installations at the airports were all secure, especially the installation at Umtata. It was not only one family that was looking after it. This made her proud to be a member of South African Weather Services.

Dr Cachalia asked MCM about the impact of climate change on the fishing industry, and obstacles to ‘mariculture’.

Mr Share said that scientists had advised that the decline in fish stocks might be attributable to climate change. The decline in fish stocks had huge socio-economic implications for fishermen along the west coast. Mr Share gave figures and further details. He expressed grave concern; furthermore, fish stocks were not only declining; there were perturbing changes in their distribution. 30 years previously, 90% of lobster had been caught in Port Nolloth; at present it was only 10%. Sardines and anchovies were now hardly to be caught on the west coast, but were found chiefly in the area of Mossel Bay. Factories were threatening to close. Hake had declined by 10%. Sardines had declined by 44% in the last fishing season. ‘So it is of major concern to us.’

Mr Ashley Johnson, Research, Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism, gave a further explanation of the effects of climate change. The whole issue of the relationship between the oceans and climate change went way beyond fisheries, because the oceans’ main role was to regulate climate; and even though the extent of knowledge about the oceans and climate change was vast, it was limited at the same time. To study the effects on the ocean was very difficult; it was not an easy place to go out and explore the signs. One of the key things that the Department's people were currently examining was carbon dioxide, because the ocean was the natural absorber of the excess carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. But because humankind has polluted the atmosphere to such an extent, the ocean has to absorb so much more, with the consequence that it was becoming more acidic. Now if the ocean was becoming an acid, that was going to have a critical role on the outcome for the fish population. If this process of acidification happened too fast, it could wipe out any fishery around the world.

Dr Cachalia asked MCM about obstacles to ‘mariculture’.

Dr Rasina Omar responded at some length: during the period under review the target was to develop a policy to regulate the aquaculture sector, which had previously been largely unregulated. This target had been achieved. A policy had been developed and an accompanying strategic plan. Subsequently, substantial research was carried out in the area of scallop fishing but more so in terms of feasibility studies in all four coastal provinces. The Treasury had made money available for implementation of five pilot projects. Two projects would be implemented within the present financial year. An inter-governmental advisory committee had been established and would meet for the first time on 30 January 2009.

Dr Chalmers interjected to say that there was a primary need for state hatcheries. She recalled that Dr Augustyn had told her that this was of critical importance. She asked if state hatcheries would be part of government intervention.

Dr Rasina Omar replied state hatcheries would indeed be part of such intervention. The feasibility studies had incorporated that crucial facet and the establishment thereof had been incorporated into the plan for implementation. 

Dr Cachalia said that he was also concerned about the sea vessel patrols, a concern he shared with his colleague Mr Mokoena. It was important that budgeting was sufficient to ensure that these patrols could be sustained.

A Member warmly congratulated those delegation leaders who had made the effort to introduce their colleagues and themselves to Members, since Members were keenly interested to know them in order to interact with them intelligently. It was not just enough to recognise a face; it was necessary to be able to greet the owner of that face by his or her name. ‘Keep it up!’ she said.

Mrs P Sekgobela (ANC), addressing Mr Andrew Zaloumis, congratulated him on the iSimangaliso News 1(4), August-October 2008. Reading through it, she was given hope that, come 2010, we were going to be selling to those tourists our own products from South Africa, not those imported from Zimbabwe, Zambia or wherever. She recollected a visit to the Park, when she saw that women were very active in selling South Africa’s own products. She pleaded with Mr Zaloumis that they must do more. When 2010 came, they would not have cause for regret. She spoke with great enthusiasm about the Park. It was high time that the Committee revisited the Park.

Mrs Sekgobela wanted to know from the South African Weather Service why KwaZulu-Natal was ‘so much loved’ by extreme weather events. It was important to educate local communities about natural disasters.

Ms Linda Makuleni said that the South African Weather Service would respond further to the question that had been raised the previous day, with regard to the natural disasters that were happening. Ms Makuleni said that South African Weather Service had arranged a special supplementary presentation on the early warning system and this would assist South African Weather Service in its engagement with the communities.

Ms M Ntuli (ANC) welcomed the iSimangaliso News 1(4), August-October 2008. She asked about the tour guides and if there was any possibility for them to benefit from 2010.

Ms Ntuli welcomed the good work of the South African Weather Services. More education on the ground was needed, and collaboration with the local municipalities. It was important to alert local municipalities of impending disasters but also to educate the people about them.

Ms Ntuli commended MCM for its efforts to combat poaching. She said that the Mozambique border area needed attention. She thought they had tried their level best.

The Acting Chairperson asked South African Weather Service about the bursaries that it issued and their preconditions; for example, if beneficiaries were bound to work for the South African Weather Service after completion of their studies.

Ms Linda Makuleni said that a condition of the bursaries was that beneficiaries were required to work with South African Weather Service at the completion of their studies for at least the number of years for which South African Weather Service had financed them. This was also part of South African Weather Service retention, attraction and capacity building strategy.

Ms Makuleni said that the South African Weather Service provided training to four clusters within the SADC region. SADC wanted South African Weather Service to be appointed an internationally accredited regional training centre. Already South African Weather Service was training a number of people. South African Weather Service also provided experiential training. In a way this also helped South African Weather Service with capacity building, since those people whom South African Weather Service trained usually worked with South African Weather Service for a year or so after their training period. South African Weather Service had also established a meteorological association for the SADC region. South African Weather Service was the secretariat and this year South African Weather Service held the chair of that association. In November 2008, the association had held its second AGM, in which South African Weather Service took the initiative to South African Weather Service to introduce two projects that could assist South African Weather Service to raise funds in the SADC region and to build human capacity and infrastructure. Ms Makuleni had tried to convince the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) to provide special funds to expand the project. South African Weather Service used this as a flagship. South African Weather Service had been accredited as a centre of excellence in training in the use of satellite-based remote sensing equipment.

A Member asked if there could be an exchange of information between scientists who were studying underwater phenomena and those who were engaged in navigation on the surface. There had been no mention of the Navy in all the foregoing discussions. If there could be interaction between the scientists studying the environment under the water, on the surface, and in the air, then one would be in a much better position to understand what was happening. This would enable much better guarding of resources, especially fish. Perhaps the Navy could report on the movements of fish.

Mr Andrew Zaloumis thanked Members for their comments. The work in iSimangaliso Wetland Park importantly was a process, and no more so than with the issue of land claims, an issue that affected not only iSimangaliso Wetland Park but all protected areas. Not only land claimants but all community members had very high expectations of delivery from parks.

Parks including iSimangaliso could not produce all the jobs and the important cash benefits, 'the green bucks' that members of communities sought. DEAT (MCM) had commented on the need for alternative economic solutions.  Other lead regional economic drivers outside of Parks are needed. Nevertheless iSimangaliso Wetland Park had demonstrated progress.

In terms of crafts, Mr Andrew Zaloumis said that work was being done with MAPPP (Media, Advertising, Publishing, Printing, Packaging) SETA and the Flemish Government to support product diversification. In addition an arts programme was in process with 50 beneficiaries.  With tourism guides, the best participants had been taken through from NQF1 level to NQF 4. He concluded that he would be available to Members at lunch after the meeting to discuss any issues and challenges.

The Chairperson reminded Members that there would be a sitting of the National Assembly at 14h00. He advised delegates that the Committee would appreciate written responses to questions that remained unanswered.

The meeting was adjourned.


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