ATC160920: Report of the Select Committee on Land and Mineral Resources (DMR) on the oversight visit to the Isimangaliso Wetland Park, dated 20 September 2016

NCOP Land Reform, Environment, Mineral Resources and Energy

Report of the Select Committee on Land and Mineral Resources (DMR) on the oversight visit to the Isimangaliso Wetland Park, dated 20 September 2016

The Select Committee on Land and Mineral Resources having conducted oversight in KwaZulu Natal (iSimangaliso Wetland park), from 29 August – 2 September 2016 reports as follows:


1. Background and Introduction 


  1. The Committee had been briefed in the course of this year’s meetings with the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries about a challenge the department is experiencing regarding the development of its small scale fishery initiatives in Kwa-Zulu Natal. The challenge revolved around ocean access that the DAFF wished to secure for communities seeking fishing access in areas managed by conservation entities of the Department of Environmental Affairs. The interaction between the two departments is complex and revolves around provincial, national as well as international law, policy instruments and agreements. The area that DAFF are attempting to access is with the iSimangaliso Wetland Park, which is a designated World Heritage Site. It was clear, from the interactions had with only the DAFF that this matter requires an oversight session where both DAFF and the DEA can be present, and where the Committee members are afforded to visit the Park and observe first-hand what the conflicting conservation and fishery objectives are.


  1. At the same time, the Committee can also gain further insights into the recent termination of the long-standing Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife fishery monitoring duties and the potential for this decision to impact on other marine conservation areas in the province.     


  1. The delegation consisted of the following members of Parliament, Mr OJ Sefako (Chairperson, ANC), Ms Z Nictha (ANC), Ms E Prins (ANC), Mr AJ Nyambi (ANC), Mr JP Parkies (ANC), Mr EM Mlambo (ANC), Mr CFB Smit (DA), Ms C Labuschagne (DA), Mr J Julius (DA) and Parliamentary support staff, Mr AA Bawa (Committee Secretary), Mr J Jooste (Researcher), and Mr D Arendse (Committee Assistant). 


  1. The proposed oversight is significant to the Committee as it focuses on two conflicting mandates of the DAFF and the DEA that both require access to the near shore coastal zone and marine resources. South Africa is internationally committed to conserve a specific percentage of its coastal areas, and is in the process of expanding its conservation footprint. Simultaneously, a commitment to UNESCO agreements and the proclamation of a World Heritage Site requires adherence to international law. At the same time, the DAFF is attempting to comply with its mandate of expanding access to coastal resources for previously disadvantaged fishers and excluded coastal communities.


  1. It is therefore not clear how to resolve such conflicts of interest where both parties can claim to be adhering to their mandates and responding to the objectives of national policies and priorities. Both activities – Small-scale fishery development and marine conservation, is also high priorities for government and as such, solutions for situations such as these are important to find. It is therefore clearly within the scope of the Select Committee’s role in terms of improving Inter-Governmental Relations between the Departments they oversee to undertake this oversight trip. 


2. Meetings and Site Visits


2.1. Background of the iSimangaliso Wetland Park


The iSimangaliso Wetland Park, previously known as the Greater St. Lucia Wetland Park, is situated on the east coast of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, approximately 275 kilometers north of Durban. It is South Africa's third-largest protected area, spanning 280 km of coastline, from the Mozambican border in the north to Mapelane south of the Lake St. Lucia estuary, and made up of around 3,280 km2 of natural ecosystems, managed by the iSimangaliso Authority. The park includes: Lake St. Lucia; St. Lucia Game Reserve; False Bay Park; Kosi Bay; Lake Etrza Nature Reserve; Lake Sibhayi; St. Lucia Marine Reserve; St. Lucia Marine Sanctuary; Sodwana Bay National Park; Mapelane Nature Reserve; Maputaland Marine Reserve; Cape Vidal; Ozabeni; Mfabeni; Tewate Wilderness Area; and Mkuze Game Reserve.


The iSimangaliso Wetland Park was listed as South Africa’s first World Heritage Site in December 1999 in recognition of its exceptional natural beauty and unique global values. The park was proclaimed a world heritage site because of the rich biodiversity, unique ecosystems and natural beauty occurring in a relatively small area. The reason for the huge diversity in fauna and flora is the great variety of different ecosystems on the park, ranging from coral reefs and sandy beaches to subtropical dune forests, savannas, and wetlands. Animals occurring on the park include elephant, African leopard, black and southern white rhino, buffalo, and in the ocean, whales, dolphins, and marine turtles including the leatherback and loggerhead turtle. The park is also home to 1,200 Nile crocodiles and 800 hippopotami and in December 2013, after a 44 year absence, African lions were once again reintroduced into iSimangaliso. The 332 000-hectare Park contains three major lake systems, eight interlinking ecosystems, 700-year-old fishing traditions, most of South Africa’s remaining swamp forests, Africa’s largest estuarine system, 526 bird species and 25 000 year-old vegetated coastal dunes – among the highest in the world.


The name iSimangaliso translate to miracle and wonder, which aptly describes the park. The park is also due to be integrated into a trans-frontier park, with the Ponta do Ouro-Kosi Bay Trans-frontier Conservation Area, straddling South Africa, Mozambique, and Swaziland. This is in turn planned to become a part of the Greater Lubombo Transfrontier Conservation Area.

Day One (31 August 2016)

2.2. Briefing by Department of Mineral Resources (DMR)

The meeting was chaired by the Chairperson of the Select Committee on Land & Mineral Resources, Mr OJ Sefako.

Overview of the presentation made by the DMR: Operation Phakisa updates


2.2.1. Background to Operation Phakisa:


Operation Phakisa is designed to accelerate the delivery of some of the development priorities highlighted in the NDP. It is loosely based on the “Big Results Fast” (BRF) Malaysian model. The BFR Methodology is a holistic and granular transformation approach designed to deliver a specific goal within a stipulated period of time. The rationale with BRF is to take high-level government plans and apply the discipline of action to translate the high level plan to something that is immediately implementable: The difference between 50 000 feet (high level government plan) and 3 feet (low level implementation program). The rationale behind initiating the oil and gas plans of Operation Phakisa is based on the perceived offshore resources of South Africa. The Department categorised the country’s oil and gas stocks as having the capacity to create large value to the country in the long run possible resources of 9 bn barrels oil and 11 bn barrels oil equivalent of gas SA could achieve 370 000 barrels of oil and gas per day This industry is reported to be able to create 130 000 jobs and contributing $2.2 billion pa to the South African GDP and also reduce dependence on oil and gas imports.


The Mandate and Vision of the Oil and Gas Lab was summarised as follows:

The Lab prioritised accelerating the realisation of the economic potential of SA’s oceans by:


  • Exploration of offshore oil and gas and unlocking the potential of the sector;
  • Create conducive environment for exploration to drill 30 wells within 10 years.[1]

The Department was, however, quick to caution the Committee regarding the risk involved with oil and gas exploration, as well as to highlight the costs involved with such activities. Oil and gas exploration can have a cost of around $100 million per drill hole associated with it, requiring significant investment. Although not highlighted in this presentation, in past discussions around the oil and gas sector, the DMR had stressed that the need for clarity on legislation governing the sector was urgently needed, referring to the impasse regarding the amendment of the Minerals and Petroleum Resources Development Act (MPRDA).


It is, however, likely that the ongoing challenges facing multi-national oil companies, and in particular the low price for oil and gas, has played a much bigger role in cooling potential interest in offshore oil and gas exploration. Over the years, South Africa had committed significant resources to exploration. Over 300 wells have been drilled to date in search for oil and gas resources[2], with scant evidence of significant deposits beyond what was listed by the Department at the onset of the presentation.[3] The Department contested that the majority of exploration wells drilled in the past were in shallow water, and re-affirmed the risk-avert nature of current exploration rights holders resulting in very slow offshore exploration progress.


The development of oil and gas resources normally takes a significant period of time, and the committee was informed that the South African time-line is likely to run into decades. Not only is there a need for exploration, but also for significant investment in shore-based infrastructure. According to SAMSA[4], the South African offshore oil and gas industry infrastructure is: “highly fragmented and is represented by a few dominant companies that often compete head on.  There is therefore lack of cooperation beyond ad-hoc project-based activities and little or no cooperation in market activities. Although a wide range of infrastructure is available to service the industry, it has not been upgraded for many years, lacks maintenance and operational efficiency. Moreover, the current facilities do not meet the requirements of modern rigs and drilling vessels.” The Department confirmed this status quo, introducing the list of preparatory developments that is required in the country prior to the establishment of a sustainable industry. These were:


  • Infrastructure,
  • The environment
  • Local supply content development
  • Capability and capacity development
  • Institutional arrangements and
  • Legislative certainty.


The committee was further cautioned that the success rate during exploration is very low (as can be attested to through the country’s history thus far). The impression created by the presentation is that, since 2014 and the inception of Operation Phakisa, the oil and gas Lab has been pre-dominantly occupied with high-level and detail planning, as can be expected when such significant development is contemplated.


2.2.2. Progress with implementation:


The Department outlined how a process of needs identification for the oil and gas sector was followed by the development of 11 initiatives to drive delivery on these needs. Each initiative was supplied with time-lines, and Phakisa Implementing Agencies (PIA) were identified for each initiative.


Identified Operation Phakisa Initiatives:


  1. Develop phased gas pipeline network
  2. Conduct joint industry/ government emergency response drills
  3. Operationalise IOPC fund
  4. Exploit the broader research opportunities presented by offshore oil and gas exploration
  5. Develop/implement local content roadmap
  6. Develop/implement skills strategy roadmap
  7. Develop capability for sub-surface research and data gathering
  8. Build end-to-end institutional structure
  9. Enhance environmental governance capacity of the oil and gas regulator
  10. Promote awareness of the oil and gas industry
  11. Provide fiscal terms clarity


The Department stated that, apart from some minor delays in the initial planning and implementation stages of the initiatives, most are still up-to-date. In order to deliver on the high detail implementation plans of the initiatives, the Department presented the following implementation strategy:


  • Delivery Unit was established to drive delivery
  • All working groups were established to work on each initiative in the 3 ft plans led by relevant PIA
  • Monthly reports are provided to the Presidency 


The remainder of the presentation focused on providing feedback on the planning and initial actions taken in order to complete the initiatives listed in this report. As stated, the majority of the initiatives were considered to be up to date, but the Department did allude to challenges which it referred to as “The absence of the apex within the structure of Operation Phakisa implementation”, further stating that problems surfacing within the Oil and Gas Lab was not being dealt with as expected. It can be considered that the delay in finalising the MPRDA and the poor performance of oil and gas at present has something to do with this delay. The Department further confirmed that since the inception of Operation Phakisa, no PPP have been concluded in the sector, suggesting that the activities of the Oil and Gas Lab is still focused on high level planning rather than ground-level implementation. One of the key targets of the Oil and Gas Lab that was clearly not on target was the drilling of offshore exploration wells. At present, only 3 of the projected 30 wells have been drilled.


2.2.3. Feedback on the planned oil and gas pipeline:


The Department and Committee spent some time interrogating the proposed pipeline network that forms an integral part of the Oil and Gas Lab initiative at present. Operation Phakisa envisages a significant investment in a phased oil and gas pipeline eventually spanning the full extent of the country’s coastline. The phases are listed below:


Phase 1: Abraham Villiers Bay to Saldanha/Atlantis

Phase 2: Saldanha to Mossel Bay

Phase 3: Mossel Bay to Coega

Phase 4: Oranjemund to Abraham Villiers Bay

Phase 5: Coega to Richards Bay

Phase 6: Richards Bay to Palma (Northern Mozambique)

At present, the development of the initial phases of the pipeline is dependent on the completion of a Strategic Environmental Assessment, which has not been concluded, even though the timelines for the study has been shortened.

2.3. Department of Agriculture, Forestry & Fisheries (DAFF)


2.3.1. Overview of the presentation made by the DAFF: Operation Phakisa Aquaculture development updates

The Department presented the Committee with an overview of the global aquaculture and capture fishery scene at present, highlighting the fact that the world population is increasingly demanding more fish from natural resources than what can be caught sustainably. In order to preserve wild stocks but also to capatalise on an increasingly lucrative food production sector, aquaculture production is rising rapidly (roughly 7 to 8 percent per annum growth).

Factors that are supportive of the development of the industry or have been highlighted as impacting on the availability of farmed fish were listed. These were:

Supplementing wild capture within maximum sustainable yields

The need to employ sustainable fishing methods has become more important due to dwindling stocks of certain species

  • FAO has classified most wild fisheries as either fully exploited or over exploited
  • Increasing demand for fish products
  1. Better technologies and production methods
  • New technologies and breeds e.g. RAS system and GIFT strain for tilapia has enabled better yields and lower long term input costs
  • Higher stocking capacity for shrimps which allows for higher yield
  • Investment in Research and Development

2.       Food Security

  • Governments have a responsibility to ensure that everyone has enough to eat.
  • Food needs to be available, accessible and affordable through a resilient and reliable supply system
  • Fish is regarded as an essential part of a healthy and nutritious diet

A significant part of the presentation and discussion revolved around contrasting the local aquaculture scenario to the points listed above. South Africa, in contrast to the world average for countries formerly heavily dependent on capture fisheries, are not showing any significant increase in aquaculture production. At present, aquaculture employs less than 2500 people directly, and contributes roughly 0.2% to the annual GDP. Most (50%) of the aquaculture ventures are located in the Western Cape, and the majority of these focus on high-end produce such as oysters, abalone and other shell-fish species.

The sector as a whole is also poorly transformed, with less than 10% of the management/owner level comprised of Historically Disadvantaged Individuals (HDI). The Department summarised the most critical challenges to aquaculture development as follows:

  • Inefficient regulation and governance systems
  • Difficulty in accessing financing
  • Under-representation in the sector
  • Limited market footprint
  • Small-scale
  • Small pool of skills
  • Fragmented research and development
  • Rural infrastructure underdeveloped
  • Challenge in sourcing quality inputs

The Department contrasted the status quo in aquaculture with their vision for aquaculture development through Operation Phakisa. A 8-point plan of action was presented to the Committee. This consisted of:

  • Selection and Implementation of 24 Projects
  • Legislative reform
  • Inter-Departmental Authorisations Committee
  • Globally recognised monitoring and certification system
  • Aquaculture Development Fund
  • Capacity building for support services and Skills Development
  • Coordinated industry-wide marketing efforts
  • Preferential Procurement

The Department further briefed the committee on progress made to date. A total of 32 projects, against a projected target of 24, is currently under development, with 4 of these turned into business opportunities. 12 Projects have been accepted, with 14 further projects under assessment.


Progress reported on projects under development was as follows:

  • Ten (10) projects are on track in terms of production, jobs, etc;
  • Seven (7) expansion projects; and
  • three (3) new projects:
    • EC: Hamburg oyster, Hamburg Kob, Port Elisabeth/Cape Recife abalone ranching (new);
    • NC: Hondeklipbaai Abalone;
    • WC: Hermanus abalone, Bredasdorp abalone, Saldanha Bay oyster, Saldanha trout/salmon (new), Doringbaai abalone;
    • KZN: Richards Bay dusky kob (new)   

The Department further highlighted its progress with regards to policy and legislative development. This include the initiation of Strategic Environmental Assessments at proposed high density aquaculture zones, and the release of the second draft of the Aquaculture Bill for public comment. The objectives of the Aquaculture Bill are to promote responsible aquaculture development; to promote the development and management of the South African aquaculture sector; to promote coordination of aquaculture research and development activities; enable the aquaculture sector to be regulated more effectively, and to promote transformation of the sector.

In the past, obtaining long-term land leases and water rights had been a significant stumbling block. Under the new initiative, the Department of Public Works (DPW) have taken over the task of securing leases. Of the first 10 leases identified, seven have been signed. In terms of water leases, eight long term leases (15-year period) and two short term (5 year leases) have be made available to the applicants for signature.

In terms of the establishment of a globally recognized monitoring and certification system, the Department reported that the first Aquatic Animal Health and Welfare Implementation Plan in South Africa has been approved. A number of updates were also provided with regards to the establishment of an Aquaculture Development Fund. A Government Technical Advisory Committee (GTAC) has been established and is in the process of assessing the funding model and mechanism for Aquaculture Development Fund. Separate feasibility studies are being conducted on Marine Finfish, Oyster and Mussels, while other individual aquaculture species feasibility studies are planned. In terms of funding institutions for the sector, the Department reported that 40 have been identified, consulted with 25 of the funding institutes to date which have indicated their support.

For Initiative 6 (Capacity and Skills Development), a collaboration between DAFF and the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) has resulted in the establishment of a working group and it will shortly do a skills audit and needs analysis of the sector. A further challenge for the development of any new agriculture sector is effective marketing. Initiative 7, Coordination for industry wide marketing efforts, is tasked with finding solutions for this challenge. The following progress was reported:

  • A Draft AquaSA Business Plan has been developed;
  • A Draft MOU has been developed; and
  • A Market Information System template has been developed to improve access to market information. It will be populated with industry information.


Linked to Initiative 7 is Initiative 8, Preferential Procurement of Aquaculture Product. Finding market access for aquaculture products supported by the Department and active as a result of Operation Phakisa is a necessary approach to support the developing domestic industry.  DAFF has met with the dti to map a way forward for this initiative. Procurement data of sea food by schools, hospitals, correctional centres etc. is now being collected.  

2.3.2. Specific overview of Aquaculture Developments and planned Operation Phakisa sites in Kwa-Zulu Natal.

The Committee specifically requested an update on the current status of, and future plans for aquaculture in the Province. The Department provide the following statistics, but informed the Committee that much of the data collected about fresh water aquaculture activity is supplied voluntarily thus there could be errors:

18 aquaculture farms were operating in KwaZulu-Natal: 2 of these were marine aquaculture (mariculture). Both mariculture projects focussed on the production of Dusky Kob (a South African Species). At present, there are an estimated 16 freshwater aquaculture ventures, split as follows:

  • 5 tilapia farms
  • 5 rainbow trout farms
  • 6 ornamental farms Operation Phakisa-linked developments: Amatikulu Aquaculture Zone

A. Location & Size

The zone is located approximately130km from Durban and 7km from the Amatikulu River

Targeted area: 108 hectares

Position: Land Based Zone

B. Targeted Species

  • Ornamentals,
  • Prawns,
  • marine and freshwater Finfish

C. Current Status 

Currently only 2 hectares are utilised for Ornamental fish farming, with 2 farms in operation

Two projects have been identified under Operation Phakisa for the Amatikulu ADZ. At present, the Department of Agriculture, Forestry & Fisheries are in negotiation with the Ingonyama Trust Board to obtain a letter of consent to utilise the identified site, as the area is under the Trusts’ control. The Department has also initiated the process of obtaining an Environmental Impact Assessment, for which a Background Information Document (BID) has been advertised. Together with KwaZulu- Natal Wildlife & Trade Investment KwaZulu- Natal, the Department has started engaging potential investors (one new investor for prawn farming). It is estimated that a production level of 15 000 tons per annum will be reached, with 6 000 direct jobs and 10 000 indirect jobs created.

The Department presented an overview of a sea-based, cage culture project in Richards Bay harbour to the Committee. The project is in a pilot phase and is evaluating the culture of an indigenous species with commercial value, the Dusky Kob. The project is projected to be able to contribute significantly towards development of a sustainable and competitive marine finfish farming industry in SA with international recognition for its product quality, environmental awareness and technical innovation

D. Growth strategy and prospects

The brief for the project was to implement and undertake 60-ton pilot project by 2016. If the pilot project proved to be viable, the next phase would be to prepare the project for commercialization and secure investment. The project will have to be formalised by registering it as a commercial venture, and approval will have to be sought for its expansion. The initial plans called for the establishment of 300 tons production capacity and the establishment of a hatchery by 2017, with the goal of reaching a final production capacity of 1 000 tons by 2018.

E. Business Overview

The Aquaculture Division at Stellenbosch University was established in 1989 with the aim to contribute to the development of the aquaculture industry of Southern Africa through high standards of education and training, innovative research, and efficient services. The Division functions in an interdisciplinary way through participation of various Departments from the Faculties of Natural Sciences and Agri-Sciences, as well as partner with various Government Departments such as Department of Science and Technology. It is estimated that the project will require funding of R 6.4 m to pilot and R 42.7 m to commercialise. Additional Planned Projects for Kwa-Zulu Natal

A. Siberian Sturgeon (Acipenser baerii) farm in the area of  Kranskop within the Umvoti Local Municiplaity (Kwa-Zulu Natal):

The farm had undertaken an EIA and received Environmental Authorisation. However, the species is listed as prohibited alien and invasive species and therefore requires a risk assessment. The DAFF is currently appointing service provider to undertake the risk assessment.

B. Ulundi, Agricultural Mthashana College:

The college aims to introduce aquaculture farming in the curriculum. The site has potential positive attributes but the water availability is seasonal and quality of borehole water is unknown. Further water quality studies need to be undertaken.

C. Eshowe and Nkandla:

Three sites in Eshowe and one site in Nkandla were visited and assessed. Here, there is a significant water challenge that could restrict viable aquaculture entities.




Day Two – (1 September 2016)

2.4. Meeting with Departments of Environmental Affairs & Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.  

2.4.1. iSimangaliso Wetland Park

The Committee received a number of presentations from the management of Isimangaliso Wetland Park. This summary will highlight the important matters related to communities living close to the Park, as well as changes in the management of the estuary that is required in order to restore the proper ecological functioning of the Park. The Committee was also briefed on the change in management strategy regarding the management of the mouth of the St. Lucia Estuary and its influence on Lake St Lucia. Presentation regarding the management of the Estuary, and Co-Management / Benefit Sharing Opportunities

The vision of Isimangaliso was spelled out as being “creating Africa’s greatest conservation-based tourism product driven by community empowerment”. The Park, a World Heritage Site, was created by amalgamating 16 parcels of land into a 324 441 ha conservation area in Northern Kwa-Zulu Natal. The Park management acknowledges that the human settlements around the Park is severely affected by socio-economic neglect, and that the Park has a role to play in improving the development trajectory of the area. One aspect of this economic upliftment through conservation and tourism approach was the proposal for the creation of the Lebombo Spatial Development Initiative (LSDI). The development will, if realized, encompass protected areas from South Africa, Mozambique and Swaziland. The improvements in road infrastructure proposed will be responsible for increasing tourism in the area.

The Isimangaliso Board consists of 5 – 9 members, and is inclusive of land claimants, amakhosi and local government. Institutional arrangements are in place with a number of key role-players, which include:

  • 14 land claim Trusts;
  • 8 co-management agreements with local communities/land claimants;
  • The Ingonyama Trust;
  • Local and district municipalities
  • 4 National Departments (DAFF, DEA, DWS, DT);
  • South African Tourism;
  • The KZN Dept. of Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs; and
  • Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife.

The redevelopment and rehabilitation of Park infrastructure and habitats were discussed. Park management reported that these developments, and rehabilitation projects under Land Care were providing community benefits through strategic job opportunities. The following economic empowerment activities were highlighted:

  • A co-management agreements were signed with local communities, resulting in meetings with land claimants in order to develop an annual plan of opetation;
  • Revenue sharing with local communities – for 2015/16 this was R1.3 milion;
  • Supporting SMMEs through their rural enterprise programme;
  • Allocating sub-grants totaling R6.8 million;
  • Supporting 9 community-based tourism activity businesses;
  • Supporting local residents with employment opportunities in the Park and through contracting local SMMEs for infrastructure development;
  • Job creation (temporary and permanent) through alien invasive plant eradication;
  • Sustainable resource use agreements including allowing 15 small-scale fishing communities access to 82% of the Park coastline;
  • A higher education access programme and internship programme;
  • A bursary scheme;
  • A craft programme supporting 360 crafters;
  • Capacity building programmes for effective co-management;
  • Tourism skills development;
  • Project-specific training of SMMEs and contracted employment; and
  • Equity partnerships in tourism camps and lodges.

The presenter reported the economic figures associated with activities at the Park. It was estimated that Isimangaliso Wetland Park contributed towards the creation of:

  • Roughly 7000 direct jobs;
  • The support for 89% of tourism businesses and the occupation of around 46% of tourism accommodation on offer;
  • 5% of KZN GDP (Roughly R1.4 billion). Change in the Management of the Estuary Mouth

A. The History of Lake St Lucia’s separation

The uMfolozi floodplain was modified in the 1900s for sugarcane farming through the canalisation of the uMfolozi River and the clearing of indigenous wetlands. To reduce the risk of the estuary silting up due to reduced water action, measures were taken to partially separate the uMfolozi River from the St Lucia Estuary in 1952 by depositing dredge spoil in the natural course of the river impeding its flow to the St Lucia Estuary and artificially breaching the uMfolozi River into the sea at the south near Maphelane to prevent its natural northward migration. Dredge spoil was deposited there on and off until early 2000. This severely impacted on the natural functioning of the estuary and today the impacts of this approach are still evident. With current rainfall levels the lowest in 65 years, the Lake system has compartmentalised. Presently, only some 30% of the Lake’s surface area has water and species recovery is slow. During the drought of 2002-2012, Lake St Lucia receded to only 10% coverage and species died out as a result of the high salinity levels. The Tugela Bank prawn fishery collapsed and other fisheries suffered heavy losses. Natural resources available for subsistence use decreased significantly and tourism was negatively impacted.

In 2010, a multi-disciplinary research team was contracted by iSimangaliso with support of the Global Environmental Facility (GEF) and the World Bank to find solutions for the hydrological problems facing the Lake St Lucia system. Research concluded that past management practice aimed at preventing the siltation of the estuary was not correct and also concluded that the uMfolozi River is a significant contributor of freshwater to the St Lucia estuary. The study recommended that the uMfolozi should be allowed to pursue its natural path northwards. This would allow the uMfolozi to once again take its rightful place as the contributor of some 60% of the Lake’s freshwater. In 2011/12, iSimangaliso with Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife launched its publicly consulted management strategy for the Lake St Lucia Estuary: minimum interference, no artificial breaching and the re-establishment of the natural river course. The first intervention in the implementation of this strategy, frequently referred to as the spillway, was completed in 2012. It entailed the removal of small quantities of dredge spoil to facilitate the flow of the uMfolozi River into the estuary along its natural course. The spillway between the uMfolozi River and the Lake St Lucia Estuary was opened in 2012.

The world recognised the uniqueness of Lake St Lucia, when it said there “is no other place like this on the globe” and accorded it the privilege of World Heritage status. Lake St Lucia is the world’s oldest protected estuary. It was first proclaimed in 1895. It was also recognised as a wetland of international significance and made a Ramsar site in 1986. It is Africa’s largest estuarine lake and comprises over 60% of South Africa’s estuarine area and 90% of its protected estuarine area. It is one of five coastal estuaries in South Africa.

South Africa is a water scarce country and finds itself in one of the worst droughts in living memory. Innovation is key to conserving and managing our water resources. The struggle to save Lake St Lucia is central to this issue. Estuaries, with their surrounding wetlands, comprise some of the most productive yet threatened eco-systems in the world. They are important in the moderation of global climatic conditions, naturally improve water quality, and provide important economic and recreational opportunities. They form a vital link between marine, aquatic and terrestrial eco-systems.

B. Biodiversity

The Lake St Lucia estuarine system supports high levels of biodiversity and viable populations of threatened species, which are of international and national importance, including feeding and breeding areas for endangered and endemic species. It is the most important nursery ground for juvenile marine fish and prawns along the KwaZulu-Natal coast. More than 50% of all water birds in KwaZulu-Natal feed, roost and nest in this estuary. Importantly it is a breeding area for several birds, which are rare or have limited distributions in South Africa. The Lake St Lucia estuarine system is one of the most important protected areas for the conservation of the Nile crocodile in South Africa. The hippopotamus is an iconic animal for Lake St Lucia. Listed as ‘Vulnerable’ on the IUCN Red List, Lake St Lucia is recognised as having the largest viable population in South Africa. The contribution to fisheries of the Lake St Lucia system is also significant. Seventy-one of the 155 fish species that have been recorded in the St Lucia estuarine system use it as a nursery.

C. Livelihoods

The health of the St Lucia ecosystem is directly linked to the livelihoods of people in the area. The Park is situated in the uMkhanyakude District Municipality, one of the poorest and most underdeveloped local authorities in South Africa. Over 80% of households live below the poverty line and only about 16,5% of the population is formally employed. Some 80 000 people living in 15 000 households within 15km of the Lake St Lucia estuarine system and use the system extensively. Harvests of raw materials, particularly estuarine sedges, are estimated to be worth around R7,5 million a year. Tourism related to the Lake St Lucia estuary area employs an estimated 1291 direct full-time equivalent jobs and 6924 indirect jobs. There are about 510 000 visitors to the study area per annum, of whom 42% are foreign visitors, who spend R46 million on an estimated 157 000 tourism activities from local operators.



2.5. Meeting with the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries: Introducing and unpacking its Small-Scale Fisheries Policy

There is a long history in South Africa of coastal communities utilizing marine resources for various purposes. Many of these fishers and communities have been marginalized through apartheid practices and previous fisheries management systems. In 2007 government was compelled through an equality court order to redress the inequalities suffered by these traditional fishers. The Small-Scale Fisheries Policy (SSFP) was developed through extensive consultation (incl. the involvement of NEDLAC), which was finally adopted in 2012. The primary aim of the Small-Scale Fishery Policy (SSFP) is to provide redress and recognition of the rights of small-scale fishers. The new small-scale fisheries policy moves away from an individual allocation of rights, largely commercial focus to one which is collective and has a developmental focus. More importantly, the policy gives legal recognition to small-scale fishers.

Some important features of the SSFP, include:

  • Sustainable utilization of resources
  • Sustaining livelihoods
  • Poverty alleviation through economic development and job creation
  • Food security

Some key principles of the SSFP, which distinguishes it from other commercial and the recreational fishery sector include:

  • Community orientated management, co-management of resources, and
  • An allocation of a basket of species

The SSFIP recognised a five-year process for implementation taking into account the complexity of the process, government systems, and costs and capacity of government to implement. The Department introduced its Small-Scale Fishery (SSC) Policy, and outline how this policy is to be implemented across the entire country. The Department explained that their goal with the Small-scale fishery is not to provide recognition for subsistence users, but rather to allocate fishery rights to collectives (small-scale fishers are required to form a co-operative and apply for fishing rights) with the aim of creating a viable commercial entity with the capacity to catch fish for own consumption as well, should this be desired.

The fish species that this sector is earmarked to target are mostly coastal in distribution. One challenge that the Department will have to overcome is the fact that the vast majority of these stocks have been over-fished and historically poor management practice has resulted in dwindling or collapsed stocks. The Department stated that in order to ensure sustainability of resources, careful consideration of available resources need to be taken but that it is highly motivated to ensure the development of this sector. As a result, allocations for target species where stocks are limited may be prioritized for small-scale commercial fishers above other commercial and recreational users.

In its presentation, the Department highlighted its milestones with regards to implementing the SSC. These are:

  • Small-scale Fishing Regulations vetted by OCSLA – Dec 2015
  • DPME signed-off on the SEIAS – Dec 2015
  • KZN service provider appointed – Dec 2015
  • First open discussion with stakeholders on marine resource apportionment between sectors – Dec 2015
  • Small-Scale Fishing Regulations approved by Minister – Jan 2016
  • Information Management System completed to be used for the fisher verification process – Jan 2016
  • Media briefing - small-scale fisheries implementation process – Feb 2016
  • Small-scale fisheries guide book printed in English – Feb 2016
  • Fisher verification protocol completed – Feb 2016
  • To date 267 communities registered an expression of interest (EoI)
  • Environmental scan completed for communities that registered an EoI – Feb 2016
  • Traditional leaders and local municipalities briefed on the process – Feb 2016
  • Dedicated Facebook page up and running,
    • and web page under construction.

The Department was called to brief the committee with a specific focus on the challenge that exists at Isimangaliso Wetland Park, and the Department’s desire to implement its SSC within areas managed by the Park. The Department explained that the process of briefing communities on the process of registering for SSC status is ongoing in Kwa-Zulu Natal, and that communities residing within the coastal areas affected by the boundary of Isimangaliso Wetland Park have expressed interest in registration. In total, as many as 26 communities could be considered for SSC registration. The Department were at great pains to explain that their desire with developing an SSC is based on sustainability and co-management principles.

Once the relevant legislative revision is completed, the Department will publish the approved small-scale fishing regulations and Minister can announce the final call (30 days) for all outstanding communities to register their expression of interest. The Department will announce a schedule for community visits to start the verification process of all members considering themselves as small-scale fishers in the registered communities. This is the first important step in the process of allocating small-scale fishing rights.

Registration of potential SSC communities has been slow in parts of Kwa-Zulu Natal, in part due to community skepticism about the process and the role that Ezemvelo-KZN Wildlife, the designated managers of large parts of the Province’s protected coastline, will play in the process. At present, the Department could not provide details about the process outcomes in terms of total number of co-operatives established, the basket of species that is likely to be proposed within the region or the areas of contention in terms of access – thus parts of Isimangaliso Wetland Park that may be of interest to prospective SSC co-operatives or the Department. Most registration and application processes are ongoing, and have not yet been completed. 

2.6. Discussions between the delegation of the DEA & DAFF

During discussion the following issues / aspects were highlighted and discussed:

  1. Involvement of the World Bank in the Park – The department explained that the DEA belongs / signatory to the Global Environmental Forum (GEF) which funds certain projects of the department and that the World Bank and the United Nations are trustees, appointed as implementing agents. In order for the DEA to access funds within the GEF, SA has to abide to conditions set by the World Bank and the United Nations are trustees and implementing agents of the GEF.     


  1. Commercial Fishing operations vs Small Scale Fishing – The DEA explained that fish stocks in the park are not enough to sustain any type of commercial fishing industry but rather sustainable fishing and recreational fishing. The DAFF further explained that Small Scale Fishing (SSF) never had commercial rights and were never included as part of the fisheries sector. The SSF sector eventually won a court case where the DAFF was forced to recognise them and include them in the sector and amend legislation regulating the fishing industry. The DAFF further explained the SSF support programme in the park not only refers to fishing but also refers to fishing related activities such as tourism, etc. The department further explained that they are working towards finalising the rights allocation by March 2017 and that the allocation of rights will be solely dependent on what the basket of species would be, as determined by the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries. The DAFF further explained that the allocation rights would be done on the bases of one rights allocation per co-op, with only one co-op per community.              


  1. Challenges experienced in the park – The department explained that the park receives less funding compared to the budget allocated to other parks and protected areas in the country. Officials representing the park further stated that most of the challenges facing the park are from outside of the park, such as illegal fishing boats outside of the estuaries, unreasonable demands from the Ingonyama Trust, water related problems concerning the two municipalities bordering the park and un-intended consequences of issuing fishing licenses to people not from the area. 


  1. Economic Development vs Land Claims – The DEA explained that the as far as other economically viable projects are concerned, certain areas are perfect for growing sugar cane, but the areas in question are is involved in a land claims case.


  1. Research – In response to the delegation’s questions pertaining to the research capabilities within the park, the department explained that as a result of budget constraints, the parks research capabilities are rather limited which is why permission is granted to Universities; NGO’s and reputable research institutions who are willing to pay for the research expedition with the understanding that the iSimangaliso Wetland Park is privy to the data and are able to use it for the advancement of the park.

2.7. Site visits  

2.7.1. Land Care Programme

One of iSimangaliso’s strategic objectives is the rehabilitation of degraded habitats and ecosystem which gave rise to the implementation of the land care programme. The programme involves the clearing of invasive alien plants, bush control, encroachment control and the restoration of the wetlands through the removal of commercial plantations and old roads within the iSimangaliso Wetland Park (IWP). Funding for the land care programme, which amounts to R 19.5 million per annum, is sourced from the Department of Environmental Affairs under the Working for Water, Working for Wetlands and the IP Infrastructure projects. The iSimangaliso Wetland Park has entered into partnership with local communities, to whom it provides jobs and capacity building opportunities within the land care programme.

In order to ensure that the surrounding communities benefit from the programme, the recruitment consultation with land claims trusts and traditional leadership for a list of prospective contractors and workers in terms of the Working for Water prescripts. iSimangaliso management will then conduct interviews and employ people off the recommended list, making up land care teams consisting of one contractor and an average of 12 workers. Each contractor is in turn managed by a designated iSimangaliso contract manager who will provide the necessary maps and time frames for rehabilitation. Currently a total of 72 contractors have benefitted from these projects, over 41 700 ha have been cleared and 4 wetlands rehabilitated. The rates and profit margins are prescribed by the rules of the expanded public works programmes.

2.7.2. Enterprise Programme Ms Mary Barnes - The catering provided during the delegation’s visit was provided by Ms Mary Barnes who first joined iSimangaliso as a participant in the tourism skills development programme. It was in this programme where she obtained her NQF4 level qualification and worked as a tour operator and is still extensively involved in the iSimangaliso Schools and Environmental Education programmes.

Her passion to start a restaurant and catering services business eventually led her to being one of the first participants to apply and secure a place in the iSimangaliso Enterprise Programme where she was trained and developed her business. Ms Barnes thereafter qualified for a grant which was used to purchase equipment for her restaurant at the crocodile center, which is in operation during peak seasons and her take-away business, off season. She currently employs three people from the surrounding community. Mr Philip Mkhwanazi – Shoreline Cruises: Mr Philip Mkhwanazi was also one of the first in-take into the enterprise programme, with the hopes of setting up a tourism accommodation facility in Khula. He later succeeded in securing a grant from iSimangaliso which contributed towards construction of his lodge and has since been awarded an estuary boat cruise license comprising of two 16-seater boats, as well as a turtle tour license.

2.7.3. Bursary and Intern Programme Mr Zweli Miya and Mr Bongani Gumede both received bursaries from iSimangaliso to study at university, with both recipients completing their studies to an honours level with Mr Miya specializing in geography and environmental management and Mr Gumede in community service and development. Both recipients later applied for the intern programme offered by iSimangaliso in conjunction with Groen Sebenza and were awarded intern posts. After successfully completing their internships they were awarded one year contracts with iSimangaliso to further their workplace experience. Mr Z Miya is a currently GIS intern and does mapping for various programmes including land care, with Mr B Gumede working in the training and capacity building unit which implements community training programmes.    

2.8. Recommendations


A. Operation Phakisa: Oil and Gas sector


  1. In the past, investor concerns over the legislative context of oil and gas exploitation in South Africa had been raised as a serious constraint in the development of the industry in South Africa, but this presentation was largely silent on the matter. Investor skepticism and a low oil price are important factors that could impact on the cost, and the speed of delivery on Operation Phakisa’s oil and gas sector development. Most of the planning for the development of the sector transpired in an environment characterized by prolonged periods of high oil and gas prices. It is perhaps prudent to workshop the impact of the current oil and gas prices, legislative challenges (if they exist) and investor commitment with the DMR to determine if there is significant risk to the projected timelines developed at the onset of the plan.
  2. It is understood that the development of an oil and gas industry is a prolonged and costly exercise. There are, however, a number of matters that the committee could request further clarification on. These include:
    1. The likelihood of an oil and gas sector being established in Kwa-Zulu Natal versus the current plan to develop oil and gas infrastructure along the entire coastline of South Africa. It is understood that the oil and gas pipeline is a phased development, but to what extent is the development of oil and gas shore-based infrastructure informed by the discovery of commercially viable resources?
    2. Related to the development of land-based oil and gas infrastructure in Kwa-Zulu Natal is the already existing investment by South Africa (through the parastatal SASOL) in a gas pipeline from Mozambique to Sasol refineries? How is this already existing supply of gas interpreted in the costing of Operation Phakisa?


  1. The planning of Operation Phakisa, oil and gas lab, was presented to the Committee without seeking parallel input from the Department of Environmental Affairs, as it was understood that the oil and gas lab planning would include in its situational analysis the potential risks of operating offshore oil and gas exploitation in the Agulhas current. This topic was not adequately covered and should potentially be explored further by the committee through engagements with the DMR and DEA.


B. Operation Phakisa: Aquaculture Sector


The Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries presented accurately the developmental status of aquaculture in South Africa at present – the only significant participants at present is relatively poorly transformed, privately owned businesses focused on niche market export products with a high rate of return. South African aquaculture does not produce high volumes of product geared towards relieving the pressure on wild caught fisheries in decline for the local market. Both in terms of Fresh- as well as marine water aquaculture, South Africa’s output is low even when considered against African countries only.


In part, the challenge relates to difficult environmental conditions – a very active coastal environment and low water supply for large parts of the country does not stimulate aquaculture development. Second, there is a tendency for a consultancy and research-orientated interest in high-tech aquaculture technology, which is likely to exclude many potential participants in community-based aquaculture development. This interest in high-tech systems is not merely a result of profiteering or academic interest, but is also driven by extremely strict environmental legislation that severely constrains the potential for low-cost, low-technology developments.


A final challenge highlighted in discussions that will be highlighted here is the high cost of imported technology and consumables. A lack of aquaculture developments results in a lack of local manufacturers or high-volume imports. All of these factors combine to challenge the development of aquaculture. Where developments are possible, environmental legislation is strict and will require significant investment in closed aquaculture systems that are compliant with the likely requirements of a license. Such equipment is costly and requires skilled operators. Even when operations similar to international open-water culture practices are allowed, costs are still significant.


It is proposed that the Committee remains in contact with the relevant DAFF directorate responsible for the development of aquaculture, in order to continue to offer assistance with matters related to IGR and legislative clarification. In particular, it is suggested that the committee conducts a detailed study tour to a developing/developed country that has successfully employed low-technology aquaculture in order to improve fish supply to domestic markets and to facilitate rural economic development.


Such a tour can focus on:


  • Solutions to legislative conditions that place severe restrictions on aquaculture opportunity, without compromising environmental sustainability;
  • Solutions for the supply of cost effective technology and consumables, as well as the establishment of local suppliers over time.
  • Suitable technology that does not result in the establishment of an industry that by necessity sustains a significant number of consulting support. Suitable technology should be considered to be such that DAFF, in its extension services offered to farmers, can train communities and entrepreneurs in the majority of cases.


If possible, the committee can also engage with the Department and industry stakeholders in order to identify legislative and developmental obstacles that have restricted aquaculture development for a significant period of time, and to propose solutions for these.


C. iSimangaliso Wetland Park and Small-Scale Fishery Policy


The economic benefits for the communities adjacent to iSimangaliso Wetland Park is an integral part of both Department’s planning, as presented to the Committee. Both Departments include co-management and resource sharing as integral part of community engagement and park management strategy, but to a large extent, the status of the Park as a World Heritage Site, including Marine Protected Areas, likely presents a significant obstacle to the development of any small-scale fishery industry inside park boundaries that does not conform to allowable practice within World Heritage Sites.


That being noted, the committee was clear about the fact that greater management and business ownership opportunities should be afforded to the communities adjacent to it. At present, the Park has the opportunity to become a significant economic asset to the region and as such, the Committee expressed its desire to see the rural economy, and by default thus the communities around the Park, develop in tandem with the Park.


Small-scale commercial fishing is not likely to be the sole answer to this. The lack of detail around the “proposed basket of species”, as well as the need to collaborate in co-operatives to apply for fishing rights remain largely untested and as such, require close monitoring.


It is proposed that the Committee remains in close communication with both Departments in order to track the developments with regards to Small-Scale Commercial fishery development in the Province. It is further proposed that:


  • Definitive clarity is sought regarding the type of fishing activity that can be allowed within a World-Heritage Site;
  • Clarity is provided about the number of fishers DAFF intends to register;
  • Clarity is provided about the “basket of species” DAFF is considering, as well as the resource status of these species; and
  • That the committee continue to liaise with iSimangaliso Wetland Park management and DEA with regards to opportunities for communities to expand their co-management opportunities and sustainable benefit-sharing opportunities emanating from the Park.


Report to be considered.



[1] Although, at current activity levels, this goal will be a challenge. Since its inception in 2014, only three of the planned exploration wells have been sunk. The slowdown in the world economy as well as the sustained depression in the price of oil and gas has definitely reduced the amount of resources companies are willing to commit to exploration. This, in turn is impacting on the goals of the Oil and Gas Lab.



[4] South African Maritime Safety Authority.


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