ATC200605: Report of the Select Committee on Land Reform, Environment, Mineral & Energy on the Budget Vote and Annual Performance Plan 2020/21 of the Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries – Budget Vote No 32, dated 22 May 2020.
Report of the Select Committee on Land Reform, Environment, Mineral & Energy on the Budget Vote and Annual Performance Plan 2020/21 of the Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries – Budget Vote No 32, dated 22 May 2020.
The Select Committee on Land Reform, Environment, Mineral & Energy having considered Budget Vote: 32 and Annual Performance Plan 2020/2021 of the DEFF, reports that the committee jointly met with the Portfolio Committee of the National Assembly 5 and 15 May 2020, where the department briefed both committees on the matter.
The Minister, upon opening the meeting, stressed that the department had already briefed the Portfolio Committee on the departmental entities. As a result, she stated that she was going to focus the current presentation on the departmental programmes. She also requested that questions posed to the department should not be inclusive of matters pertaining to entities. Questions about staff matters at SANBI did arise, and was resolved.
During discussion emphases was placed on the fishing industry, with specific reference to the small-scale commercial and subsistence fisheries sectors. Questions were posed to the minister related to the impact of lockdown regulations on the small scale, recreational, charter and “subsistence” fisherman and what the department was doing to assist them during this lockdown period. The minister clarified that the department did take a long time to release regulations related to the impact of lockdown levels on the fishing industry, and apologised for this. Discussions are ongoing regarding how different sectors will be accommodated under current and future lockdown conditions. Some sectors, such as the snoek fishers and coastal fisheries under interim relief, were given permission to return, but other sectors are still not permitted to operate. The legal status of subsistence fishers was highlighted as a challenge. The Marine Living Resources Act does not recognise subsistence fishers, and therefore no regulation separates them from recreational anglers. At present, their activity is governed by the recreational permits they use to fish. Recreational angling is not permitted at present but the department is in discussions to determine if relief can be offered in specific circumstances.
The Waste Management mandate of the Department received a fair amount of attention. The Minister highlighted that there are 27 waste management streams incorporated into the Operation Phakisa Chemicals and Waste Economy. Four important waste streams namely, Municipal Waste, Bulk Industrial waste, Product Design and Waste Minimization and Chemicals were emphasised. The key aspirations in these groups include the reduction of the negative environmental and health impacts of waste and risks posed by chemicals; an increased commercialization of the circular economy and value creation from resources currently discarded as waste; and the fostering of inclusive growth through positioning of South Africa as a globally competitive producer of sustainable products. The Minister stated that she was of the opinion that numerous challenges reduce the efficiency of waste management at local government level. Some improvements in service delivery could be achieved if the Waste Bureau offered better support to local government, and that attention is being given to the matter. The fate of REDISA and the waste tyre management stream also received some attention. The Minister clarified that the functions of waste tyre management ended up being shifted back to the department when the REDISA contract terminated, and that this situation is not desirable. The Department, together with the CSIR., is in the process of finalising an intervention based on Section 29 of the Waste Management Act. The desired outcome of the Tyre Industry Waste Management Plan is to return the functions of waste management back to industry.
Questioned about the finances of REDISA and the employment of senior REDISA management in the Department, the Minister clarified that the 2018/19 irregular expenditure in the Waste Bureau was investigated, and that it was recommended that R45 million worth of expenditure flagged as irregular should be applied for condonation as no evidence of intentional wrongdoing was found. The balance is still under review. A final focus area of discussions around waste management was the agreed need, supported by both the Minister and Committee members, that waste pickers should be better protected and incorporated into value chains of the waste management sector. No details were given of any plans currently in place to formalise the waste pickers.
The Minister spent some time clarifying her role in the One Environmental System. As the Appeals authority, the Minister does not grant permits and is not in a position to rule against any mining or prospecting right allocated to industry outside of the application of law. Community disagreement can be taken into account, but a lack of specific clauses of environmental legislation means that there are no laws prohibiting mining in certain environments that the public may deem sensitive. The focus of the discussion was on community disagreement over the decision to allow mining in the coastal zone of the Olifants River, West Coast.
Additional matters discussed include:
- In terms of staffing, bursaries and learnerships, the Minister stated that the department is in the process of recruiting for vacancies in the Forestry and Fisheries portfolios, and that their learnership opportunities for staff is spread across all provinces. A provincial breakdown was provided. In terms of Departmental bursaries offered to students, the DG clarified that the Department was not able to recruit all recipients once they graduated.
- While the Minister stated that matters related to entities were discussed in a prior meeting, she stated that there was no link between the departure of the newly-appointed CEO of SANBI and an organisational culture that was not welcoming to African women. She suggested that if evidence for this exists, it should be provided to the department.
- More details on plans to improve sustainability focus in municipal IDPs would be given once these were finalised.
- Questions related to the development of small fishing harbours should be directed at the Department of Public Works, which is mandated with this function.
- The Aquaculture Bill had been criticised as over-regulation. Both DEFF and DARDLR have legislation and/or regulatory functions related to aquaculture, and the Bill was withdrawn in order to assess how over-regulation can be reduced in consultation with stakeholders.
- In the period after the expected budget adjustment of the department, it will focus on plans to improve benefits of communities living adjacent to parks and reserves.
The Select Committee on Land Reform, Environment, Minerals & Energy having considered Budget Vote: 32 and Annual Performance Plan 2020/2021 of the Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries, reports that the Committee has concluded its deliberations thereon.
Report to be considered
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