ATC200605: Report of the Portfolio Committee on Environment, Forestry and Fisheries on the Strategic Plan 2019/20—2023/24, Annual Performance Plans (Apps) 2020/21 and the Budget Vote 32 of the Department Of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries (Deff), Dated 20 May 2020

Environment, Forestry and Fisheries

REPORT OF THE PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE ON ENVIRONMENT, FORESTRY AND FISHERIES ON THE STRATEGIC PLAN 2019/20—2023/24, ANNUAL PERFORMANCE PLANS (APPS) 2020/21 AND THE BUDGET VOTE 32 OF THE DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENT, FORESTRY AND FISHERIES (DEFF), DATED 20 MAY 2020

 

1.BACKGROUND

 

The Portfolio Committee on Environment, Forestry and Fisheries (hereinafter referred to as the Portfolio Committee) having considered the directive of the National Assembly to consider and report on the Strategic Plan, Annual Performance Plans and Budget allocations of the Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries (hereinafter the Department) and having been presented the high-level strategic goals of the fiveentities reporting to it, tabled by the Minister of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries and in terms of the Public Finance Management Act (Act No 32 of 2003), reports as follows:

 

2.INTRODUCTION

 

On 7 and 15 May 2020, the Portfolio Committee invited the Department and the entities to present the overview of their medium term strategic plans, annual performance plans and the budget allocations for the 2020/21 financial year as well as medium term expenditure framework allocations for 2021/22, 2022/23 and 2023/24, respectively. The Strategic Plan and the Annual Performance Plan were tabled prior to the outbreak of the COVID-19 in South Africa. The report thus reflects that state, although it was considered and deliberated on during a lockdown period when internal reprioritisation of funds had already begun and plans of the Department already affected for the first quarter of the financial year. This might become clearer upon the tabling of the Adjustment Bill.

 

2.1.Overview of the Department of Environment Affairs and its Entities

 

The mandate of the Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries (DEFF) is to ensure the protection of the environment and conservation of natural resources, balanced with sustainable development and the equitable distribution of the benefits derived from natural resources for current and future generations. This is to be achieved while giving effect to the right of the nation to an environment that is not harmful to their health and wellbeing as stated in section 24(b) of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, which stipulates specifically that “all South Africans have the right to an environment that is not harmful to their health or wellbeing, and to have the environment protected for the benefit of the present and future generations” through relevant legislation.

 

Prior to the cabinet reconfiguration, the former Department of Environmental Affairs was a high performing organisation, having served effectively with integrity as the custodian of South Africa’s environment. However, the Department started experiencing challenges in meeting audit requirement as it related to Modified Cash Standards (MCS) when the Department failed to table its 2015/16 Annual Report in Parliament at an opportune time for consideration by the then Portfolio Committee on Environmental Affairs (PCEA) in the Fifth Parliament. Nevertheless, DEA resolved the dispute that it had with the Auditor-General and succeeded to obtain an unqualified audit opinion, but the Department retrogressed in its audit outcomes in the subsequent 2016/17, 2017/18 and 2018/19 financial years where the Department attained adverse audit findings. Those findings were due to disputes between the Office of the Auditor-General South Africa (AGSA) and DEA, regarding the different interpretations with regard to the application of Modified Cash Standards, insofar as transfer payments to the Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP) projects were concerned. In contrast, leadership and management weaknesses affected the performance of the Forestry and Fisheries functions throughout the Fifth Parliament. The results were repeat findings on biological assets, overpayments on overtime and non-compliance with supply chain prescripts.

 

2.2 Legislative mandate

 

The core business of the Department is underpinned by the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa and all other relevant pieces of legislation that derived from it. The constitutional directive “to have the environment protected, for the benefit of present and future generations, through reasonable legislative and other measures” gave rise to the formulation and adoption of notably the National Environmental Management Act (NEMA) (Act No 107 of 1998). NEMA has undergone several amendments and has provided the bedrock for enacting the following “specific environmental management acts” (SEMAs), or issue-specific legislation on biodiversity and heritage resources; oceans and coasts; climate change and air quality management; and waste and chemicals management. Those applicable SEMAs comprise National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act No 10 of 2004; National Environmental Management: Protected Areas Act No 57 of 2003; National Environmental Management: Air Quality Act No 39 of 2004; and National Environmental Management: Integrated Coastal Management Act No 24 of 2008; National Environmental Management: Waste Act No 59 2008, inter alia.

 

The transfer of the Forestry and Fisheries functions of the former Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries to the Department, effective 1st April 2020, as part of the national macro organisation of government, has meant the shifting of certain key legislation that deals with the management of these two branches to the recently constituted Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries (DEFF). Key acts of Parliament in this regard comprise the Sea Fishery Act No 12 of 1988; Marine Living Resources Act No 18 of 1998, which deals with the long-term sustainable utilisation of marine living resources; National Forests Act No 84 of 1998, which promotes the sustainable management and development of forests for the benefit of all and creates the conditions necessary to restructure forestry in state forests in relation to protection and sustainable use; and also the National Veld and Forest Fire Act No 101 of 1998, which makes provisions for the prevention and management of veld, forest and mountain fires throughout the Republic of South Africa. Furthermore, there are many other government policies and legislation, which affect the South African environmental, forestry and fisheries sectors both directly and indirectly.

 

The Department fulfils its mandate through formulating, coordinating and monitoring the implementation of national environmental policies, programmes and legislation with the additional support from its entities, such as the iSimangaliso Wetland Park Authority (iSimangaliso), Marine Living Resources Fund (MLRF), the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI), South African National Parks (SANParks), and the South African Weather Service (SAWS). The Department is structured into nine Programmes to ensure the effective achievement of its constitutional mandate. The nine different programmes and their purposes are reflective of the different focus areas and subsectors of environmental management. The objective of the current programme structure is to ensure that specific attention is given to each focus area of the Department’s constitutional mandate, while acknowledging the interrelationship and ensuring an integrated approach.

 

Programme 1: Administration provides strategic leadership, management and support services to the department.

 

Programme 2: Regulatory Compliance and Sector Monitoring (RCSM) promotes the development of an enabling legal regime and licensing authorisation system that will promote enforcement and compliance and ensure coordination of sector performance.

 

Programme 3: Oceans and Coasts promotes, manages and provides strategic leadership on oceans and coastal conservation, including relevant research and specialist services, as they pertain to the costal and oceans environment.

 

Programme 4: Climate Change, Air Quality and Sustainable Development: seeks to improve air and atmospheric quality, lead and support, inform, monitor and report efficient and effective international, national and significant provincial and local responses to climate change, and promote sustainable development.

 

Programme 5: Biodiversity and Conservation ensures the regulation and management of all biodiversity, natural heritage and conservation matters in a manner that facilitates sustainable economic growth and development.

 

Programme 6: Environmental Programmes is the largest departmental programme (in terms of budget allocation) and deals with the implementation of expanded public works programme and green economy projects in the environmental sector.

 

Programme 7: Chemicals and Waste Management manages and ensures that chemicals and waste management policies and legislation are implemented and enforced in compliance with chemicals and waste management authorisations, directives and agreements.

 

Programme8: Forestry Management develops and facilitates the implementation of policies and targeted programme to ensure management of forests, sustainable use and protection of land and water as well as managing agricultural risks and disaster.

 

Programme 9: Fisheries Management ensures the sustainability utilisation and orderly access to the marine living resources through improved management and regulation.

 

3.LINKAGES BETWEEN THE DEPARTMENTAL PRIORITIES AND THE NATIONAL DEVELOPMENT PLAN VISION 2030

 

The National Development Plan (NDP) Vision is that by 2030, South Africa’s transition to an environmentally sustainable, climate-change resilient, low-carbon economy and just society will be well underway. To achieve this requires, first and foremost, attaining of the NDP outcomes relating to the transformation of society and an economy, which is internationally competitive, equitable, job-creating and sustainable (resilient, green and low-carbon), inter alia. Thus, the National Development Plan sets out a vision for promoting environmental sustainability in South Africa by making an equitable transition to a low‐carbon economy, and transforming human settlements for improved local governance and spatial integration. The National Development Plan envisions environmental sustainability and transformation within the context of an integrated and inclusive economy that is supported by a capable and developmental state. This vision is given expression by the following priorities of government’s 2019‐2024 medium‐term strategic framework (MTSF), with which the work of the Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries is closely aligned:[1]

 

  • Priority 1: Economic transformation and job creation
  • Priority 2: Education, skills and health
  • Priority 3: Consolidating the social wage through reliable and quality basic services
  • Priority 4: Spatial integration, human settlements and local government
  • Priority 5: Social cohesion and safe communities
  • Priority 6: A capable, ethical and developmental state
  • Priority 7: A better Africa and world

 

The Department’s 2019/20–2023/24 Strategic Plan and 2020/21 Annual Performance Plan are aligned with the Priorities outlined in the MTSF. The implementation of Operation Phakisa projects have an immense contribution to the Priority 1Economic transformation and job creation”. In terms of Priority 2Education, Skills and Health” and Priority 6A capable, ethical and developmental state”, the Department undertakes initiatives that improve capacities for the environment, forestry and fisheries sectors. There are many contributions in terms of education and upskilling that the Department plans to roll-out in the medium term in all three sectors. The examples include:

  • The implementation of the Department’s internship and environmental, education programmes;
  • The placement of students in the Work Integrated Learning Programme;
  • Training of teachers in various provinces in different aspects of environmental management through the “Fundisa for Change” programme. The Programme is a partnership with the Department of Basic Education focusing on environmental learning and teacher education; and
  • The implementation of key environmental awareness interventions, inform society and change behaviours, inter alia.

 

Similarly, Priority 4 (Spatial integration, human settlements and local government) and Priority5 (Social Cohesion and Safer Communities) are at the heart of the Department’s work. This considering that the Department carries out the effective implementation of planned Local Government support interventions to support municipalities in carrying out their environmental management mandate by assisting district municipalities to incorporate environmental priorities in their Integrated Development Plans (IDPs); pursues sound environmental management of hazardous waste streams to protect communities from being affected by dumped or badly managed waste; and implements effective air quality management interventions and ensures reduction of atmospheric emissions from major polluters. Some of the vital activities are building and skilling a climate-resilient society. Through the allocation of small-scale fishing rights, the Department is restoring dignity to many coastal communities. Similarly, the plan to transfer forests to communities contributes significantly towards social cohesion and building societies. Finally, Priority 7 (A Better Africa and World) focuses on one of the Department’s key functions of leading and influencing an environmental management global agenda, which includes negotiations on Climate Change, Sustainable Development, Chemicals and Waste Management, Oceans and Coastal Management, Biodiversity and Conservation. The Department pursues targeted and strategic global and regional engagements with the aim of enhancing South Africa and Africa’s socio-economic development priorities.

 

3.1.Medium Term Strategic Plans and Annual Performance Plans (APPs) of the Department and its Entities for 2020/21

 

As the national partner to provinces in a concurrent function, the Department leads the environmental, forestry and fisheries sectors by setting the policy and legislative framework and the norms and standards required for environmental protection and environmentally sustainable development in the country. This role is evident through the large numbers of policy and legislative instruments initiated, processed and administered by the Department.

 

To account for the Department’s strategic role, including the above, the Portfolio Committee was briefed by the Department and entities on 7 and 15 May 2020 via a virtual platform (MS Teams), on the Strategic Plans (2019/20−2023/24), Annual Performance Plans and Budget of the Department and entities for the 2020/21 financial year. The purpose of the Committee’s most recent meetings with the Department and entities was to ascertain whether the allocated budget was aligned to achieve the Department and entities’ strategic goals and APPs, and also to determine whether the budget was aligned with the government’s strategic priorities for the current 2020/21 financial year, which are underpinned by the NDP. However, the other pressing reason for the Committee’s meeting with the Department was to assess the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, which is inflicting havoc around the globe on the three key sectors in the departmental purview. The threat to public health, the damage to national economies and the disruption to daily life are frightening, as countries struggle to contain the impact of the virus. To meet these unparalleled challenges, governments must rapidly shift priorities and realign tax and spending policies, as the COVID-19 pandemic requires sufficient public funding to ensure a comprehensive response. The Committee therefore met to determine the effect of all these priority and budget shifting on the environmental, forestry and fisheries sectors. It was also opportune for the Committee to gain a bird’s eye of the impact of this ongoing coronavirus pandemic on the human capital of the Department and entities.

 

This report, therefore, captures the key findings, observations and recommendations of the Portfolio Committee after its engagement with the Department and entities. The discussions contained in this report are based on the strategic plans, APPs and the budget of the Department and entities.

 

3.2Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries (DEFF)

 

The Department of Environmental Affairs was renamed the Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries (DEFF) in June 2019, incorporating the forestry and fisheries functions from the previous Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries. DEFF is mandated to give effect to the right of citizens to an environment that is not harmful to their health or well-being, and to have the environment protected for the benefit of present and future generations. To achieve this, the Department provides leadership in environmental management, conservation and protection towards sustainability for the benefit of South Africans and the global community.

 

3.2.1Departmental Strategic Objectives

 

The Department’s strategic objectives over the medium term are to:

 

  • Provide leadership, strategic, centralised administration, executive support, corporate services, and facilitate effective cooperative governance, international relations, and environmental education and awareness;
  • Promote the development and implementation of an enabling legal regime and licensing/authorisation system to ensure enforcement and compliance with environmental law; promote, manage and provide strategic leadership on oceans and coastal conservation;
  • Improve air and atmospheric quality, lead and support, inform, monitor and report efficient and effective international, national and significant provincial and local responses to climate change;
  • Ensure the regulation and management of all biodiversity, heritage and conservation matters in a manner that facilitates sustainable economic growth and development;
  • Implement expanded public works and green economy projects in the environmental sector; and
  • Manage and ensure that chemicals and waste management policies and legislation are implemented and enforced in compliance with chemicals and waste management authorisations, directives and agreements.

 

 

4.BUDGET ALLOCATION TO THE DEPARTMENT AND ITS ENTITIES

 

Public spending on ensuring environmental sustainability, as indicated by the budget allocation to the Department (Vote 32) in the current 2020/21 financial year is about 0.4% of the overall government expenditure of R1.95 trillion. This level of funding for the Department at about 0.4% has been running since 2015/16, from where there has not been a significant deviation upwards despite mounting environmental challenges. Thus, the Department’s Budget mostly remained unchanged during the previous parliamentary term, and current allocations and projections show a continuation of the trend (Figure 1). The Figure shows the Department’s actual (nominal) allocations for past years, and budgeted expenditure for the current year and the upcoming three years of the MTEF, which is the three-year spending plans of national and provincial governments, published at the time of the budget. The growing trend in the budgeted expenditure of DEFF is merely based on the allocations, without due consideration of the true ‘worth’ of these allocations. The assumption in these nominal increases is that the value of, for example, R100 in 2019/20 is the same in 2020/21, which is incorrect and hence the need to correct this by adjusting for inflation (increase in the overall price level of goods and services in an economy over a specific period of time), which may vary from year to year.

 

 

 
 

 

 

Figure 1. Trend in departmental budget allocations in nominal and inflation-adjusted terms for the periods 2016/17−2022/23. (Adapted from National Treasury, 2020).

 

The total budget allocation of the Department is R 8.954 billion for the 2020/21 financial year, which is a nominal increase of 3.0 % (R258.9 million) from the 2019/20 financial year. After factoring inflation, the real change in the allocation is a 0.6% decrease, which in Rand value amounts to R52.2 million decrease when compared to the 2019/20 financial year[2].14 The budget allocations are depicted in Figure 1 below. The real change in percentage terms is a small decrease of 0.60%. There is an imbalance between the Department’s budget allocation and its critical role in ensuring South Africa’s environmental sustainability that has important implications for human health and wellbeing. The subsections below provide a breakdown at a branch level. The medium-term expenditure estimate shows a possibility for an increase in the National Treasury allocation to the Department, subject to other political, social and economic factors.

 

The overall budget of the Department has not changed, despite the ever-increasing challenges in South Africa’s environmental, forestry and fisheries sectors. The challenges include high incidents of poaching, biodiversity loss, land degradation and air pollution in Air Quality Priority Areas (air pollution hotspots). Five of the Department’s programmes (Administration; Biodiversity and Conservation; Chemicals and Waste Management; Forestry Management; and Fisheries Management) achieved positive budget increases in real rand terms, whereas four of the Department’s programmes (Regulatory Compliance and Sector Monitoring; Oceans and Coasts; Climate Change, Air Quality and Sustainable Development; and Environmental Programmes).

 

 

 

 

Table 1: The Overall budget allocation to the Department and its programmes for the 2020/21 financial year

Programme

Budget

Nominal or in 2020/21

Real

or in 2020/21

Nominal % change in 2020/21

Real % change in 2020/21

R million

2019/20

2020/21

2021/22

2019/20-2020/21

2019/20-2020/21

Administration

941.4

1,011.6

1,072.6

70.2

35.0

7.46%

3.72%

Regulatory Compliance and Sector Monitoring

207.5

208.1

221.8

0.6

-6.6

0.29%

-3.20%

Oceans and Coasts

507.2

495.1

522.0

-12.1

-29.3

-2.38%

-5.78%

Climate Change, Air Quality and Sustainable Development

445.9

435.4

461.1

-10.5

-25.6

-2.35%

-5.75%

Biodiversity and Conservation

801.3

900.1

928.0

98.8

67.5

12.32%

8.42%

Environmental Programmes

 4 037.4

3,931.7

4,002.8

-105.6

-242.3

-2.62%

-6.00%

Chemicals and Waste Management

594.3

646.8

669.6

52.4

30.0

8.82%

5.04%

Forestry Management

664.5

805.2

857.5

140.7

112.7

21.17%

16.96%

Fisheries Management

496.1

520.6

552.4

24.5

6.4

4.94%

1.29%

TOTAL

8 695.7

8 954.7

9 287.8

258.9

-52.2

2.98%

-0.60%

Source: Adapted from National Treasury (2020).

 

5.DISCUSSIONS ON DEPARTMENTAL STRATEGIC PLAN, APP & BUDGET

 

The departmental presentation on the strategic plan (2019/20−2023/24), annual performance plan and the budget for 2020/21 was led by the Director-General of the Department, Ms Nosipho Ngcaba and supported by the respective Deputy Directors-General or Acting Deputy Directors-General. The large number of acting positions in the Department (e.g., Acting Deputy Director-General (DDG): Climate Change, Air Quality and Sustain able Development; Acting DDG: Chemicals and Waste Management; Acting DDG: Forestry; and Acting DDG: Fisheries), immediately drew the attention of the Joint Committee (Portfolio Committee on Environment, Forestry and Fisheries, and the Select Committee on Land Reform, Environment, Mineral Resources and Energy) meeting. This led the Minister to respond that she had interacted with the Department of Public Service and Administration concerning these acting positions and had been given the permission to fill these vacant positions for which advertisements went out this past week.

 

Programme 1: Administration

 

There was concern that the APP of the Administration Programme that aims to provide strategic leadership, centralised administration, executive support, corporate services and effective cooperative governance, international relations and environmental education and awareness for the whole Department, appears to be narrowly focused on the environmental sector at the expense of the fisheries sector, which means much to a vast number of South Africans. The fisheries sector supports a huge industry that has experienced protracted poor management or inadequate attention, and hence requires a focused attention in its new home, in the Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries. A clarificatory question on the provincial distribution of bursaries was responded to as follows: Eastern Cape 2, Gauteng 9, KwaZulu-Natal 4, Limpopo 3, Mpumalanga 1 and Western Cape 11.

 

On whether a staff of the Department tested positive for COVID-19, the Minister conceded that a staff tested positive today (15th May 2020) in the Foretrust Building and the offices have been evacuated. The Department was working with the Department of Health to implement the required protocol, including contact tracing to ensure that other members of the staff are safe. The concerned person did not come into contact with departmental stakeholders.

 

Programme 2: Regulatory Compliance and Sector Monitoring (RCSM)

 

The same concern about the lack of attention to the fisheries sector in the Administration Programme was raised about the missing target[s] for law enforcement specifically targeting fisheries in the Regulatory Compliance and Sector Monitoring (RCSM) Programme that seeks to promote the development and implementation of an enabling legal regime and licensing/authorisation system to ensure enforcement and compliance with environmental law. There is no reference to the fisheries sector in the law enforcement function of this Programme despite the addition of this vital branch to the Department. A question was asked about how the Department deals with the issue of non-compliance in the public sector with relevant legislation in terms of Chemicals and Waste Management. There was a concern that the public sector breaches chemicals and waste management legislation more than the private sector does. In terms of compliance with waste management legislation, the Minister responded that municipalities are failing to live up to their responsibilities because the Waste Bureau, which is supposed to progressively build its capacity to support municipalities in the development and implementation of integrated waste management plans and capacity building programmes, as required by the National Waste Act (Act No 59 of 2008), is not presently performing this function. There are many other functions that the Waste Bureau should undertake under the law, but it is not involved in those other important responsibilities, and hence the Department’s emphasis on the need for the Waste Bureau to exit the waste tyre disposal function, including reuse and recycling of waste tyres.

 

There was a follow up question on how Minister Creecy dismissed the appeals against last year’s approval of vastly expanded beach mining operations on the West Coast, north of the Olifants River, which in essence gave go-ahead to a highly controversial proposed expansion by an Australian-owned mining company. The Minister responded that, under the One Environmental System, the EIA issuing authority is the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE), not DEFF. However, the Minister of the Environment, Forestry and Fisheries is the appeals authority, which means that the Minister has to consider whether the legal argument against the environmental authorisation is sound enough to overturn the EIA. There is no legislation in the country that disallows mining on beaches unless those beaches fall within a protected area. She made some adjustments, but could not find in terms of law or regulated environment why mining could not go ahead in the proposed area.

 

Programme 3: Oceans and Coasts

 

The purpose of the Oceans and Coasts Programme is to promote, manage and provide strategic leadership on oceans and coastal conservation. Despite the significant role of this branch, for example, South Africa has jurisdiction over an extensive exclusive economic zone (EEZ), with an extent of about 1.5 million square kilometres, more than the total landscape of the country, there was no discussion on this branch. Notwithstanding, there discussions earlier on marine protected areas when the Committee met with the entities. There is actually a lot that is taking place in South Africa’s ocean space, as the Department aims to finalise a renewed “Oceans Economy Master Plan” in order to unleash the potential of the sector to create work in new industries. The Programme has also witnessed steady budget cuts both in the current and past financial year in the face of the Department’s mandate to conserve and ensure the coordinated sustainability of these expansive oceans and coastal resources.6

 

Programme 4: Climate Change and Air Quality Management

 

The purpose of this Programme is to improve air and atmospheric quality, lead and support, inform, monitor and report efficient and effective international, national and significant provincial and local responses to climate change. The South African Weather Service’s mandate contributes to this Programme. Important discussions took place when SAWS appeared before the Committee on 7 May 2020. Nevertheless, there was a question about why the implementation of the Carbon Tax Act No 15 of 2019, did not feature as a target in the Department’s APP. The Minister indicated that the Carbon Tax is being implemented by the National Treasury and the role of the Department is to work with the National Treasury on the synergies between the carbon tax and the carbon budget prior to the tabling of the National Climate Change Bill in Parliament in order to avoid double taxation. In response to the question on the role of the Department in enforcing air quality standards, the Director-General affirmed that the Department supports local municipalities to enforce air quality standards, considering the technical issues with the standards that municipalities are not always able to grasp. The Department does this within its financial capacity. Overall, compliance enforcement is coordinated between the three spheres of government: national, provincial and local.

 

 

 

Programme 5: Biodiversity and Conservation

 

The purpose of this Programme is to ensure the regulation and management of all biodiversity, heritage and conservation matters in a manner that facilitates sustainable economic growth and development. The South African National Parks, South African National Biodiversity Institute and the iSimangaliso Wetland Park Authority also contribute to this Programme. In the Biodiversity and Conservation Programme, the Department was asked to clarify the “New Deal” it mentioned under “Better Africa, better world”. The Director-General explained that the New Deal seeks to protect and restore nature for the benefit of people and planet, proposing no more loss of natural spaces or extinctions as well as halving the negative ecological impacts of production and consumption. However, for now countries are in the process of negotiating this new global biodiversity framework through the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), which has been called a “New Deal for Nature.” This pact, expected to be agreed at the 15th meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP15) to the Convention on Biological Diversity. The “New Deal” will lay out the global strategy for protecting nature through 2030. On the SANBI matter that the entity is opposed to having black CEOs, especially women, the Minister indicated that she was not aware of this, but she would look into this matter if evidence was provided.

 

Further questions were connected with whether the High Level Panel would take into account the report of the colloquium convened by the previous Portfolio Committee on Environmental Affairs; the rational for the High Level Panel to get involved in elephant matters when there is already “National Norms and Standards for the Management of Elephants in South Africa”; and South Africa’s position on lion bone trade, and whether the Department is satisfied by the calibre of individuals on the High Level Panel to produce a credible report. The Minister indicated that she had met with the High Level Panel that was constituted to review policies, legislation and practices related to the management, breeding, hunting, trade and handling of elephant, lion, leopard and rhinoceros. Minister Creecy said that she had stressed the important role of the Panel and the expectation of the Committee and other stakeholders on the Panel to do a proper work and deliver a credible report. She pointed out to the panelists the need for objective, evidence-based decisions, and encouraged the Committee to give the High Level Panel chance.

 

A further question related to why the Department would not allow local communities to undertake extractive uses of national parks. The Minister responded that the Department would like to work on new programmes that would cater for the needs of surrounding communities with SANParks and present it to the Committee as part of the entity’s adjusted APP after the tabling of the Adjustment Bill by the Minister of Finance.

 

Programme 6: Environmental Programmes

 

The purpose of this Programme is to ensure the implementation of the Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP) that has important implications for the environment and to conceptualise and implement green economy projects in the environmental sector. Thus, the aim of the EPWP (via the Environmental Programmes) is to provide unemployed mainly disadvantaged people with income support through work opportunities, while building and protecting South Africa's natural resourcesusing labour-intensive methods. It is this recognition that the Environmental Programmes has received favourable budget allocations over the years, constituting the largest portion of the Department’s budget. Ironically, it is the same Programme with which the Department has been struggling to properly account for transfer costs, thereby earning unfavourable audit outcomes from the Auditor-General of South Africa for some time now. Despite the significant role that this programme plays in job creation and poverty relief, the unprecedented, significant ‘real rand’ reduction in the budget of the Environmental Programmes by over R270 million in the current financial year is worrying. This is truly worrying, considering the huge job creation and skills and enterprise development potential of especially true in light of growing levels of poverty and unemployment among the youth and underprivileged individuals. There were no discussions under this Programme.

 

Programme 7: Chemicals and Waste Management

 

The purpose of the Chemicals and Waste Management Programme is to manage and ensure that chemicals and waste management policies and legislation are implemented and enforced in compliance with the chemicals and waste management authorisations, directives and agreements. There were many questions under this Programme in line with its strategic goal, comprising the amounts and use of the plastic bag levy as well as tyre recycling levy and whether tyre recycling is on track; clarity on specific Chemicals and Waste Economy Phakisa activities that would be rolled out in the current year in terms of waste pickers; the number of waste pickers out of the 500 jobs that would be created in the Chemicals and Waste Economy Phakisa; and whether the Department would be working with the other spheres of government, especially municipalities in getting the waste pickers’ cooperatives off the ground. There was a request to the Department to explain waste management during Levels 5 and 4 Lockdown beyond the provision of gloves and masks, especially in managing waste that emanates from homes, which could pose a huge risk; how to ensure that plastic bags do not end up in landfill sites; clarity on the allegations that people who were involved tender irregularity in the City of Johannesburg are the same people who got a tender in the Department; and how come that the people who were in REDISA are now in the Waste Bureau, holding senior positions.

 

The Minister gave responses related to the issue of waste management, including tyre recycling, inter alia. She stated that the Waste Phakisa identified 27 waste streams that would be managed by different organisations or companies. It is in this regard that the Department had identified waste tyres as an important waste stream and the responsibility for managing waste tyres to the Recycling and Economic Development Initiative of SA (REDISA) on contract. That contract came to an end in 2017, after which the responsibility for tyre recycling temporarily shifted to the Waste Bureau. Consequently, the Department is working with the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) on a section 29 intervention – a state initiated intervention that would cover the disposal, recycling and reuse of waste tyres. There had been initial discussions with the industry and there would be further discussions with them again in June 2020, after which a proposal would be put out for public comment. This would present the Department with a new environment for managing waste tyres, and provide an opportunity for managing waste tyres, which is a serious problem in the country, especially in terms of surplus waste tyres.

 

Concerning the Waste Bureau, the Minister drew attention to the irregular finding against the Waste Bureau in the 2018/19 financial year, which led the Department to initiate an independent forensic investigation into that finding. A report was submitted to the Department that recommended to the Department to apply to the National Treasury for condonation of R45 million, as there was no intentional financial malpractice. However, the forensic audit was still ongoing concerning the remaining amount, and hence the Department expected a report before the end of the year. The Department aims to rid itself of the responsibility for managing waste tyres, hopefully before the end of the year. The current involvement of the Waste Bureau is an interim arrangement and it must come to an end.

 

With reference to the other waste streams (Paper, Packaging, Glass, Electrical Bulb & e-Waste), the Department is in the process of concluding section 18 process where the Department was calling for voluntary industry plans that would be advertised in June 2020. This is an effort to recognise good initiatives going on out there, as government and to encourage others by setting criteria for those good practices. The issue of formalisation of waste pickers is an integral part of sections 18 and 29 processes, as one of the criteria for industry partners (or companies) to work in these plans would be to formalise the role of waste pickers in the waste management industry/sector to help them have decent work and decent conditions to comply with minimum health and safety regulations of the country. Concerning the COVID-19 pandemic, the Department works with waste pickers to provide them with personal protective equipment (PPE) and companies, including those doing recycling also provide their employees with PPE. The Department works with recycling companies and municipalities to ensure that relevant regulations are enforced, including social distancing.

 

Programme 8: Forestry Management

 

The Forestry Management Branch exists to develop and facilitate the implementation of policies and targeted programmes to ensure proper management of forests and the sustainable use and protection of land and water, manage agricultural risks and disasters. The Branch has a substantial increase in budget allocation in nominal and real terms. The performance indicators have been restructured, although they are mainly similar to those of the 2019/20 financial year. A significant portion of the budget would be directed towards replanting temporary unplanted areas, rehabilitation of nurseries and forests, revitalisation of infrastructure relating to land and water use.

 

Programme 9: Fisheries Management

 

The Fisheries Management Branch serves to ensure sustainable utilisation and orderly access to marine living resources through improved management and regulation. In real terms, the budget allocation to the Fisheries Branch has not changed (0.51%). The operational budget will be supplemented by revenue generated from the fisheries sector under its entity, the Marine Living Resources Fund. It seems the only priority of the Programme will be law enforcement, while other functions will take a back seat. The development of aquaculture was claimed to be a priority under the Aquaculture Phakisa. Targets in the Fisheries Branch could not be achieved in the preceding financial years due to human and financial capacity constraints. This financial year, the budget reduction on key sub-programmes could mean more targets will be missed when considering that fisheries research and fisheries resource management will not receive an increase. Fishing rights and quota allocations require sound research. The budget reduction is against the ideals pronounced in the NDP of increasing fisheries research to diversify economic opportunities and rebuild fish stocks.[3] A significant portion (R274.3 million or 52.7%) of the financial allocation to the Fisheries Management Branch will be transferred to the Entity, the MLRF, during the current financial year. The MLRF was already struggling to raise funds from the sector mainly due to closure of fishing operations. For example, during the 2018/19 financial year, the Fund generated R311.7 million from the sector. This value was expected to decline to R215.96 million during the 2019/20 financial year.

 

The complexity of issues and/or significance of the Fisheries Branch drew many questions from members of the Committee who sought clarity on the Department’s position on subsistence fishers who seemed not to be recognised during the lockdown like small-scale fishers who were allowed to return back to their trade; whether the Department could issue temporary permits to recreational fishers to allow them to fish for their own consumption; and also charter clubs that used to depend on tourists prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, but are currently struggling to make a living. They would indeed like to go out (to the sea) to fish for self-sustenance; and why it took 14 days to issue the regulations dealing with fishing? The lockdown was declared on 25th March and the regulations only became available on 9th April 2020. There was another question on the rational for withdrawing the Aquaculture Bill from Parliament, specifically the NCOP.

 

All the environment that allows for fishing in the sea is governed by the Marine Living Resources Act (Act No 18 of 1998), which identifies three categories of fishers: commercial fishers, small-scale fishers and recreational fishers. There is no category called subsistence fishers under the Marine Living Resources Act, and hence there cannot be any dispensation for them in law. However, the Department is aware of a category of people who fish for their own consumption who used to buy a recreational fishing permit from the Post Office to fish, but recreational fishing and chartering to go out to the sea are not permitted now under Regulation 4 Lockdown. The Department is in discussion with the State Law Advisors to permit recreational fishing under Level 3 Lockdown, and they would not like to say nothing further than this, but to state that the Department is aware of people who were fishing for food security on recreational fishing permits procured from the Post Office. On the resourcing of the Fisheries Branch, the Marine Living Resources Fund is supposed to generate its own financial resources just like SANParks that generates the bulk of its revenue. However, this function is currently far from optimal. It was in this regard that she underscored the importance of filling the positions of DDG: Forestry and DDG: Fisheries.

 

The Minister stated that the Aquaculture Bill was withdrawn, owing to the views that the sector is highly regulated by the Agriculture Sector. Consequently, the Department is currently involved in discussions with the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development as well as industry on this matter. The Department would come back to Parliament when these consultations are concluded.

 

6.ENTITIES REPORTING TO THE DEPARTMENT

 

6.1.South African National Parks (SANParks)

 

SANParks was established in terms of the National Environmental Management: Protected Areas Act (Act No 57 of 2003), with the mandate to develop, expand, manage and promote a system of sustainable national parks that represents the country’s biodiversity and heritage assets through innovation and best practice for the just and equitable benefit of current and future generations. It was in this regard that SANParks appeared before the Committee via MS Teams on 7 May 2020, along other entities to present its strategic plan, annual performance plan and budget in light of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Having received the entity’s presentation, members of the Committee raised several issues, as captured below in the discussions.

 

6.1.1     SANParks Discussions

 

SANParks was asked about the kind of support that the entity provided to neighbouring communities who, under normal circumstances, benefitted from the economic activities of national parks, taking into account the lockdown restrictions; current interventions to help these communities now; the kind of measures that would be put in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19; and whether the public would be screened prior to entering parks. In response, the CEO of SANParks stated that there had been widespread relief provided to communities within close proximity of national parks, including the provision of water tanks. SANParks would continue to work with its partners to raise funds towards this cause. SANParks further stated that it has a Standard Operating Procedure and guidelines in place to address screening of employees and the general public once lockdown restrictions on national parks are lifted, stressing that staff members were trained by the Department of Health (DoH) to ensure they were able to perform screening of visitors at the entrances. The entity had already established a programme with the DoH to refer any suspected cases of COVID-19 for further testing and isolation.

 

The second batch of questions first sought clarity on whether the Black Rhino Biodiversity Management Plan had been revised; if the budget for anti-poaching had been reduced in the previous year, and the reasons for doing so; whether anti-poaching measures would be prioritised following the budget adjustments which would be tabled; and the list of competent authorities responsible for managing marine protected areas (MPAs). Replying to the Committee, Mr Mketeni (CEO), noted that the white rhino population was being targeted at a higher rate than black rhinos. Black rhinos were currently being moved to smaller national parks as a mitigation strategy. The smaller the area they were located in, the easier it was to perform surveillance. The movement of animals away from poaching hotspots was a strategy SANParks had been implementing for the previous four years. He indicated that SANParks manages the Addo National Park MPA, Namaqua National Park MPA, Robben Island MPA, Tsitsikamma National Park MPA, West Coast National Park MPA (including Langebaan, Jutten, Malgas, Markus and 16-mile beach MPAs) and Table Mountain National Park MPA. Thus, SANParks manages a total of 10 MPAs. In responding to the question on the anti-poaching budget, the Chief Financial Officer, Mr Dlamini confirmed that the budget for anti-poaching had been increased. The current budget was R270 million, which included conservation, rangers and protection services, noting that there had been an increase in the costs associated with anti-poaching programmes, especially in the Kruger National Park. SANParks also received additional funds from NGOs.

 

Additional questions related to the SARS Commissioner’s projection of 11-12 per cent decrease in government revenue, which would likely lead to budget cuts, and the implications for SANParks’ APP, as presented. Specific questions sought to find out those planned targets that the entity had identified to be affected by budget cuts; whether the plan to outsource procurement to BBBEEs and SMMEs would increase costs and by how much; if the EPWP was already active or it would be used, following level four restrictions; what the details of the new priorities would be and how spending would be amended to reflect this; and how SANParks would manage, given that income/revenue would be lower than expected. The Chief Financial Officer, Mr Dlamini responded that SANParks had already identified areas for potential cost cutting. The organisation would focus on its top 20 spending areas, including overtime, travel, training, benefits and consulting. The CEO of SANParks, Mr Mketeni responded that procurement by BBBEEs and SMMEs would not increase any costs, with the CFO, elaborating that the increase in outsourcing by BBEEs and SMMEs would not lead to increased overall costs. This was because only the component of bid specification and evaluation would be outsourced and not the transactional procurement. This would only lead to minimal changes. Mr Mketeni further stated that new priorities would be established in time with the unfolding of events.

 

The final points of discussion comprised whether there would be any possible job losses as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic; how SANParks’ strategy addressed the need to attract more tourists beyond lockdown restrictions; and the readiness of SANParks to deliver on improving diverse responsible tourism as per its outcome goal two. In response, the CEO noted that it was difficult to respond on the issue of job losses. However, he was hopeful that many jobs would be saved. He further pointed out that tourism was indeed a revenue engine. SANParks planned on doing extensive promotion and packages to encourage tourists once lockdown restrictions are lifted. Meanwhile the Chairperson of SANParks Board, Ms Yawitch acknowledged the questions raised by the Committee that they were mainly clarity-seeking questions during uncertain times. She echoed the Minister in stating that SANParks was still awaiting guidance from the National Treasury in relation to any possible amendments to the APP or the budget. Until then, the board and management could not proceed to identify any possible changes. This was why the Minister had suggested the need to return and report to the Committee once directives had been received from the National Treasury. The same applied to job losses. SANParks did not expect any job losses, but this could only be guaranteed once guidance had been received.

 

6.2.iSimangaliso Wetland Park Authority (IWPA)

 

The iSimangaliso Wetland Park Authority in KwaZulu-Natal was established in 2002 in terms of the World Heritage Convention Act (Act No 49 of 1999), with the mandate to ensure that effective and active measures are implemented in the Park for the protection and conservation of World Heritage Convention values; promote empowerment of historically disadvantaged communities living adjacent to the Park; promote, manage, oversee, market and facilitate optimal tourism and related development in the Park; and encourage, sustain, invest and contribute to job creation. Similarly, having received the iSimangaliso Wetland Park Authority’s presentation fashioned around its mandate, members of the Committee raised several issues on the entity’s strategic plan, annual performance plan and budget as well as the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on its work. These are captured below in the discussions.

 

6.2.1     iSimangaliso Discussions

 

Members of the Committee directed a number of questions at the iSimangaliso Wetland Park Authority, specifically relating to whether there had been cases of rhino poaching in the Park in the past six months; how the Park was managing marine protected areas (MPAs) and the availability of budget for this function; whether iSimangaliso received any application for mining in the World Heritage Site; current status of the phasing out of Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife regarding conservation aspects; relationship between the Park and local communities as well as the Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife; current type of relationship with Ezemvelo given previous tensions between the two authorities; whether this relationship improved and what iSimangaliso envisaged the relationship would look like in order to improve the functioning of the Park; the amount of money that had been set aside for the food parcel distribution project and how iSimangaliso had determined who would benefit; if the comprehensive plan for business development by iSimangaliso had been revised following COVID-19 and how resources that had been allocated for this purpose were managed during the lockdown period; what iSimangaliso was doing towards occupational health and safety during the pandemic; and what had been done to address issues surrounding compliance to regulations, issuing of personal protective equipment (PPE) and awareness on COVID-19.

 

Mr Bukhosini, the CEO of the iSiMangaliso Wetland Park responded that they had seen a sharp decline in the incidence of rhino poaching over the last six months. Figures from previous years were notably higher than they currently stood. He acknowledged that there was a fiscal challenge posed by the transition from implementation to management of MPAs. However, iSimangaliso collaborated with an NGO called Wild Oceans to execute some of the activities related to MPAs. Additional funding of R1.5 million was received from the Department to complement the previous budget of R2.2 million. He indicated that iSimangaliso was currently working on the phasing out of Ezemvelo, but a report on how the transition would be finalised was still being drafted. The boards of both entities had met to discuss a way forward, although it was too premature to indicate how things would eventually turn out. He also responded that there were currently no new sand dune mining applications since the last engagement with the Portfolio Committee, he could not speak at length about the relationship between iSimangaliso and traditional authorities and communities prior to having completed the stakeholder survey. However, there had been significant improvement; community members and other stakeholders had become more proactive in communicating with the Park.

 

Similarly, the CEO indicated that the relationship between Ezemvelo and iSimangaliso had undoubtedly improved. The two entities had been engaging in joint meetings and were addressing pertinent issues without any problems. However, on the issue of distribution of food parcels, he responded that the focus had mainly been on destitute families located within the Park, noting that iSimangaliso enlisted the assistance of traditional authorities and ward councillors to identify families that were at most need. No money had been set aside from the budget for this purpose as funds had been donated to iSimangaliso to do this. The distribution was well executed and received by the community. Furthermore, Mr Bukhosini indicated that iSimangaliso had developed a comprehensive plan which detailed the identification of vulnerable employees, screening before returning to work and deep cleaning of all facilities. Thermometers, hand sanitisers and masks were all procured. Returning employees would undergo mandatory screening and would be required to fill in declaration forms detailing their symptoms if they had any and if they had travelled outside of the province. The entity was working closely with the DoH to refer any cases that raised suspicion. Finally, the Chairperson of the Board of iSimangaliso Prof Nzama concluded that notable strides had been made towards ensuring the entity was ready and fully capable to tackle any issues following the return of employees.

 

6.3.South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI)

 

SANBI was established in September 2004, in terms of the National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act (Act No 10 of 2004). The mandate of the Institute is to monitor and report regularly on the status of South Africa’s biodiversity, all listed threatened or protected species, ecosystems and invasive species; and the impact of any genetically modified organism that has been released into the environment. The Institute is also mandated to act as an advisory and consultative body on matters relating to organs of State and other biodiversity stakeholders; coordinate and promote the taxonomy of South Africa’s biodiversity; manage, control and maintain all national botanical gardens, herbaria and collections of dead animals that may exist; and advise the Minister of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries on any matter regulated in terms of the Act, and any international agreements affecting biodiversity that are binding on South Africa. To this end, SANBI presented its strategic plan, annual performance plan and budget for scrutiny by members of the Committee. The discussions which ensued are featured below.

 

6.3.1     SANBI Discussions

 

The first set of questions to be asked under SANBI’s presentation was directed at the Department whether it was aware of the amendment to the Meat Safety Act gazetted by the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (DALRRD), which allowed for the inclusion of threatened species under Schedule I, meaning these species could be slaughtered in abattoirs for export; how the two departments would address the tensions between them, as DALRRD tended to act unilaterally when it came to the amendment of regulations and acts, which had an indelible impact on the conservation of wildlife species under DEFF; whether there would be any changes to be made to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) in light of the COVID-19 pandemic and hence the export of live wildlife, considering that South Africa was the number one exporter to Asia and the ensuing risks associated with this trade; whether South Africa should not act progressively by banning this kind of trade; and other alternative solutions that the Department might be contemplating if it did not consider banning the trade.

 

The Minister of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries, Hon Barbara Creecy responded to these questions regarding DALRRD and CITES, which she considered important, but they did not fall under the purview of SANBI. There were broader issues related to the amendment of the Meat Safety Act, which she had raised with Ms ThokoDidiza, the Minister of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development. She had taken personal independent legal advice, and had been assured that the environmental legislation that protected these relevant wildlife species took precedence over the regulations relating to the trade of these threatened species. Prior to the lockdown, the two departments had been scheduled to meet to discuss the matter, but other issues had come to the forefront. However, this matter remained very important and had to be resolved. Minister Creecy further stated that her Department could indeed make recommendations to the CITES and in due course, the CITES would be convening a meeting to facilitate consultation. This is pertinent as there had been statements by the United Nations concerning the transfer of the virus from animal species to humans.

 

Another question related to whether SANBI would consider doing something similar to what the Kruger National Park was doing by providing online access to the Park, which allowed customers a virtual tour of the property to view animals in their habitats during the lockdown restrictions, as this could feed into the recovery plan and a new marketing strategy, and whether funds could be redirected towards this purpose. The SANBI Board Chairperson, Ms Ferguson responded by underscoring that SANBI was encouraging virtual tours of the gardens through online footage. In addition, the entity was revisiting its marketing plans, given the current lockdown restrictions. The Committee commended SANBI’s forward thinking, which was demonstrated by its economic recovery plan and initiative in finding alternative donors.

 

Additional questions to SANBI included the number of the regular staff who were not at work during the initial lockdown restrictions; the number of claims that been made to the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF), given that SANBI was a state entity; the extent of the impact that COVID-19 had on the entity; whether SANBI had been involved in any activities related to social responsibility, such as the distribution of food parcels to vulnerable communities, as other entities had reportedly done; and finally, SANBI was asked to elaborate if the post-pandemic recovery plan promoted greater inclusivity of women and youth to ensure a degree of economic participation. Accordingly, SANBI responded that it contributed to the UIF, but this benefit had not yet been utilised under COVID-19, but the entity would apply if the need arose. However, the entity had not been involved in the distribution of food parcels, but it had contributed to the Solidarity Fund, where its senior managers had given up a portion of their salaries. SANBI was looking broadly at its corporate strategic plan to ensure that the inclusion of women and youth was prioritised, apart from the economic recovery plan. This would be done through efforts directed at education, human capital development and in training programmes where SANBI had the opportunity to reach out to a wider range of stakeholders. SANBI had not seen a notable involvement of youth in citizens’ science programmes, which was an area the entity aimed to strengthen, as demonstrated in its performance plan. Human development interventions were another area in which SANBI intended to promote greater inclusivity.

 

Conversely, responding to a question whether any directives had been given by the Department after level four restrictions were introduced, especially in terms of fishing, as there was notable confusion in this area, the Minister of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries indicated that the Department had issued directives which had retained the ban on the export of live animals during the level 4lockdown, and was producing directives on waste permits and fisheries. However, the delay in the publishing of these directives was because the Department had to consult with provincial departments, as these functions were shared. The Department had signed off on the final draft of directives. These had been transferred to the legal work stream of the National Command Council to make sure they were consistent with the regulatory environment. The directives were expected to be available in the following week.

 

6.4        South African Weather Service (SAWS)

 

The South African Weather Service (SAWS) is a section 3a entity established in terms of the South African Weather Service Act (Act No 8 of 2001) as amended, Public Finance Management Act (PFMA) and associated treasury regulations. SAWS mandate is to provide two distinct services, i.e., the public good service, which is funded by the Government of South Africa and commercial services where the user-pays principle applies. SAWS’ strategic plan, annual performance plan and budget, which were presented to the Committee were reflective of this two-fold function. The details of the interactions between the Committee and SAWS, in the presence of the Minister are captured in the following discussions section.

 

6.4.1     SAWS Discussions

 

Members of the Committee directed several questions at the South African Weather Service (SAWS), with the first set of questions comprising whether an early warning grant that had been introduced was a new grant; how SAWS planned to maintain its commercial revenue, given that it may not be able to provide some of its services during the current situation; the exact plan for managing the R65 million grant targeting the education of communities; and the kind of maintenance plans SAWS had in moving forward. A further question related to the relationship between weather patterns and the incidence and viability of viruses, and whether SAWS had been approached to play a more active role in planning where the focus areas should be as winter approached. In return, SAWS confirmed that there had been an early warning grant of R40 million in the previous financial year, while this year the grant stood at R100 million. SAWS was currently engaging with the National Treasury to address the inevitable financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, indicating that the entity had internally developed an economic recovery plan and cost cutting measures. SAWS pointed out that it had maintenance plans and schedules in place, and hence the entity’s executive management reported to the board on the availability of infrastructure on a quarterly basis. SAWS confirmed that it was working closely with government with a focus on seasonal viruses. In addition, SAWS scientists had introduced a new programme, where they were working with medical and economic experts and Statistics South Africa.

 

The second set of questions at SAWS related to SAWS’s awareness programmes, especially the projected timeline presented in SAWS APP, which would take about 12 years to reach the 44 district municipalities. Specific questions in this regard concerned the criteria that SAWS would be using to select the 44 district municipalities; reasons for the missing link between the generation of data on emissions and consequences, in terms of air pollution; what SAWS was doing with collected data if data were not being used to hold emitters accountable; why many air quality monitoring stations reporting data on the South African Air Quality Information System (SAAQIS) often offline on the SAAQIS website;  whether there was collaboration between SAWS, municipalities and air quality monitoring officials; if the collaboration involved data collection and integration went; the frequency of this collaboration; and the responsible authority (or person) that oversaw this relationship.

 

SAWS responded that the approach to reach the 44 district municipalities would be twofold: SAWS would be working at a national department level, as well as collaboratively with disaster management authorities at the provincial and district levels to deploy additional awareness activities which would be done more frequently. Currently, the role of SAWS was to monitor air pollution and to report its findings, however, SAWS was working on enforcement policies, which would be implemented by the Department. SAWS was aware that some of the stations were offline in certain areas, and attributed these to maintenance and power losses, inter alia. However, the entity was unable to elaborate more on the air quality monitoring stations in the South Durban Basin, and aimed to respond in writing.

 

Finally, members of the expressed concern about SAWS having been marred by many allegations of irregular appointments and suspensions of members of its executive management. Specific concerns were raised about whether Dr Jonas Mphepya was appointed as an executive at SAWS, despite his dismissal and the organisational policy stating that dismissed individuals were not eligible for re-appointment. The second matter related to the appointment of Ms Miriam Machoele at SAWS, despite allegations of corruption at her former position with SA Express. At SA Express she was MerriamMochoele, General Manager: Legal Risk and Compliance, whereas at SAWS she is Merriam Chueu; Senior Manager: Compliance. The specific question was whether the Chairperson of the SAWS Board was aware of these alleged irregularities in the appointment of the two executives.

 

In response, the Chairperson of the SAWS Board, Ms Magomola stated that she and the Board were unaware of the allegations surrounding Dr Jonas Mphepya, and that they would look into the matter. However, she confirmed that the recently appointed senior manager of compliance at SAWS was the same Ms Miriam Machoele who had left SA Express following allegations of corruption. An investigation had been completed under the current Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of SAWS, and the matter had been closed following this inquiry. Mr Ndabambi (for SAWS) confirmed that there had been an investigation into the appointment of Ms Machoele, which found that Ms Machoele had not disclosed the conditions under which she had left SA Express. A disciplinary process was completed, and a warning was issued. He undertook to supply the Committee with formal written response, detailing the circumstances surrounding the appointment. Furthermore, Ms Magomola assured the Committee that SAWS would do a further investigation on both issues and return with a report on the findings.

 

7.COMMITTEE OBSERVATIONS

 

Having considered the inputs by the Department and entities, the Committeenoted the manner in which theDepartment and entities functioned to execute their mandate and take on new responsibilities for managing the fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic on our people at such an uncertain time in the history of humanity. It is in this respect that the Committee values what the Department and the entities are doing in providing leadership in environmental management, conservation and protection towards sustainability for the benefit of South Africans and the global community. Notwithstanding, the Committee has made the following observations:

 

  • The Committee appreciated the information presented by the Department and its respective entities on their strategic plans, annual performance plans and allocated budget, further noting that the APPs and the budget are bound to change upon the tabling of the Adjustment Budget/Bill that properly reflects our government’s response to the ongoing threat of the COVID-19 pandemic with serious implications for the tabled budget;
  • The Committee noted the linkages between the strategic objectives of the Department (and hence entities) and strategic priorities of the Sixth Administration, which in turn, are anchored in our development blue-print, the National Development Plan Vision 2030;
  • The Committee was pleased with the full transfer of the two branches (Forestry and Fisheries) to their new home (DEFF) and appreciated the Minister’s efforts to fill the large number of acting positions in the Department (e.g., Acting Deputy Director-General (DDG): Climate Change, Air Quality and Sustainable Development; Acting DDG: Chemicals and Waste Management; Acting DDG: Forestry; and Acting DDG: Fisheries), prioritising those in the Forestry and Fisheries branches that had been bedevilled by capacity constraints;
  • The Committee is concerned that the Small-scale Fisheries Directorate is not adequately capacitated to deliver on its functions. The scope of the directorate does not match the allocated human and financial resources for the implementation of small-scale fisheries objectives and the management of the small-scale fisheries sector;
  • The Committee noted the progress that the Department has made thus far to manage the establishment of a sustainable environmentally-sound e-waste management system for the country;
  • The Committee observed the current annual growth targets for rhino population: four per cent for SANParks and per cent for the Kruger National Park, but the Committee did not believe those targets were sufficient enough to offset the level of poaching as per the Black Rhino Biodiversity Management Plan;
  • The Committee noted the APP of the Administration Programme, which aims to provide strategic leadership, centralised administration, executive support, corporate services and effective cooperative governance, international relations and environmental education and awareness for the whole Department, but appears to be narrowly focused on the environmental sector at the expense of the fisheries sector, which means much to a vast number of South Africans. The same seems to be the case for the Regulatory Compliance and Sector Monitoring (RCSM) Programme that seeks to promote the development and implementation of an enabling legal regime and licensing/authorisation system to ensure enforcement and compliance with environmental law. There is no reference to fisheries in the law enforcement function of this Programme;
  • The budget allocation for the Fisheries Branch of about R500 million does not reflect the true value of this sector, whose significant contribution to the South African economy is indisputable, especially when the livelihoods of poor coastal communities are taken into account;
  • There were concerns around iSimangaliso’s transition from implementation to the management of MPAs due to a need for increased revenue to fund this function;
  • It would have been better to present the adjusted budget and the Apps at a later stage, given the current situation and the impact of COVID-19 on the Department and entities;
  • The Committee noted that there was a comprehensive plan for business development in the iSimangaliso;
  • The Committee noted the premature departure of the Chief Executive Officer of SANBI, Dr MoshibudiRampedi on allegations of hostility against her as an African female;
  • The Committee expressed concern about SAWS having been marred by many allegations of irregular appointments and suspensions of members of its executive management. Specific concerns were raised about the alleged improper appointment of Dr Jonas Mphepya as an executive at SAWS, despite his dismissal and the organisational policy stating that dismissed individuals were not eligible for re-appointment. The second matter related to the appointment of Ms Miriam Machoele at SAWS, despite allegations of corruption at her former position with SA Express;
  • The Committee was pleased with the plans underway to phase out the use of mercury under the Minamata Convention on Mercury, which is a global treaty to protect human health and the environment from the adverse effects of mercury. The South African Government deposited its instrument of ratification on 29 April 2019;
  • The Committee was concerned about the status of waste tyre recycling in the country due to the lack of a dedicated entity, following the fallout of the court case between REDISA and the Department;
  • The Committee supports the ongoing work of the High Level Panel appointed to review policies, legislation and practices related to the management, breeding, hunting, trade and handling of elephant, lion, leopard and rhinoceros;and
  • The Committee saw the need to accept the Department’s Budget, Strategic Plan and Annual Performance Plan (and targets), which were presented before the Committee as tabled, given the current situation faced by the entire country. It was important to take into account the current realities.

 

8.COMMITTEE RECOMMENDATIONS

 

Having considered the strategic plans, annual performance plans and budget allocations of the Department and entities, the Committee was acutely aware of the capability of the Department and entities to prudently use the allocations made to them to fully implement their strategic plans, annual performance plans, indicators and targets that they had set for themselves ceteris paribus. However, a lot has happened since the tabling of the budget and associated plans of the Department and entities as a result of COVID-19, which is almost without precedent. The unprecedented nature of this health crisis and the uncertainty around its precise economic toll are real, and the Committee bore this in mind, as it made the following recommendations.

 

  • The waste diversion target of 10 per cent is rather very small, considering the capacity of existing landfill sites let alone those operating illegally. The 7-per cent target for diversion of manufacturing waste is also scanty, considering the volume of waste originating from this sector. Similarly, the number of industry waste plans need to be upscaled, as a matter of urgency;
  • The Department should ask hard questions about what it would mean to seriously tackle the wildlife trade, both legal and illegal trade. There is a need to review the link between the two, as animal products procured from illegal sources are often laundered through legal channels and sold as more valuable “wild-caught”. For instance, wildlife products that derive from licensed breeding centres for endangered species (e.g., rhinos, lions, tigers, etc.) could be used as avenues for laundering endangered wildlife products, which are illegally sourced;
  • South Africa should ensure that its trade in wildlife and wildlife products is closely linked to proper pathogen surveillance focused on wildlife trade and to protect global human health, although the human health risks associated with live animal trade can never be eliminated entirely. There were concerns about lion bone trade and tuberculosis. This becomes important in terms of product liability, given the fact that these concerns were articulated in the country of origin;
  • The scope of departmental programmes that cater for the ecology of the entire Department, such as the Administration Programme and the Regulatory Compliance and Sector Monitoring (RCSM) Programme, should be enhanced to account for new additions such as Forestry and Fisheries branches that must be reflected in their APP targets;
  • There is a need for the Department to recognise the fishing rights of categories of fishers who are not presently recognised, notably subsistence fishers, as we move to levels 4 and 3 lockdown. There is a need to relook at the regulations that stemmed from the Marine Living Resources Act (Act No 18 of 1998) to institutionalise their resource use rights;
  • The Department should allocate interim fishing permit to allow fishers who had traditionally used the recreational fishing permit to continue fishing for livelihoods;
  • The Department should streamline its communication of regulations among the national, provincial, and municipalities to avoid impeding fishing activities;
  • The Department should establish a transparent and accountable mechanism to guide the fishing rights allocation process and associated recourse;
  • The Department should inform the Committee on its planned strategy to improve consultations with industry stakeholders, in particular disadvantaged stakeholders to minimise exclusions;
  • The Department should not allow the environmental gains due to the COVID-19 pandemic in terms of biodiversity, air quality and climate change to slip away from sight, but rather find creative ways to sustain it;
  • The allegations of improper appointments at SAWS must be addressed expeditiously, and those responsible for those alleged appointments must be held to account, as this is not the first time where SAWS had appointed a senior staff member while being subjected to a disciplinary process elsewhere. A similar appointment of another employee who was allegedly facing a disciplinary action at SAFCOL was brought to the attention of the Portfolio Committee on Environmental Affairs in the Fifth Parliament. SAWS has been facing serious instability since the ‘forced’ departure of the former CEO, Dr Linda Makuleni. SAWS should conduct full investigation and review on all senior appointees and return with a report on the findings; and
  • The Department should table an updated budget and annual performance plan that might arise as a result of the tabling of a revised budget (Adjustment Bill) in Parliament by the Minister of Finance to account for the government’s R800 billion response to the COVID-19 pandemic, as announced by the President of the Republic, Mr Cyril Ramaphosa. 

 

The Minister should submit a detailed response to the Committee on all the recommendations made in this report within 90 days after the adoption of this report by the National Assembly.

 

Having due regard to the changes that might become necessary in the budget and annual performance plan targets of the Department upon the tabling of the Adjustment Budget (Bill) in response to government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Portfolio Committee on Environment, Forestry and Fisheries recommends to the House to adopt the Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries’ Budget Vote 32 allocation for the 2020/21 financial year, with the allocation of R8.954 billion, as tabled on 26 February 2020.

 

 

Report to be considered.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


[1] National Treasury (2020) Vote 32: Environment, Forestry and Fisheries. National Treasury, Pretoria.

 

[2] The inflation adjusted calculations are based on the 14 April 2020 Statement of the South African Reserve Bank’s Monetary Policy Committee.

[3] National Treasury (2020).

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