ATC200716: Report of the Portfolio Committee on Environment, Forestry and Fisheries on the Revised Amendments to the Annual Performance Plan of the Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries For 2020/21, Dated 15 July 2020

Environment, Forestry and Fisheries

REPORT OF THE PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE ON ENVIRONMENT, FORESTRY AND FISHERIES ON THE REVISED AMENDMENTS TO THE ANNUAL PERFORMANCE PLAN OF THE DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENT, FORESTRY AND FISHERIES FOR 2020/21, DATED 15 JULY 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 revised annual performance targets to the 2020/21 Annual Performance Plan of the Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries in respect to the Adjustments Appropriation Bill, reports as follows:

 

  1. Introduction

 

The Portfolio Committee invited the Department to present its revised annual performance targets to the 2020/21 Annual Performance Plan in respect to the revised 2020/21 departmental budget (Adjustments Appropriation Bill) on 10 July 2020.It would be recalled that the Strategic Plan (2019/20—2023/24) and the Annual Performance Plan (2020/21) of the Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries (DEFF) was tabled in Parliament on 12 March 2020, as per the Money Bills Amendment Procedure and Related Matters Act, 2009 (Act No 9 of 2009). This Bill requires Strategic Plans and Annual Performance Plans to be tabled in Parliament immediately after the adoption of the fiscal framework. However, the ongoing threat of COVID-19 pandemic to public health, the damage to the national economy and the disruption to daily life, have caused South Africa to take unprecedented steps to contain the impact of the coronavirus. Budget plays a central role in government responses to the coronavirus and its fallout, as governments worldwide pay special attention to the needs of their citizens, especially those who are particularly vulnerable to the devastating health and economic impacts of COVID-19. 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. It is in this regard that the Minister of Finance tabled anadjusted 2020/21 national budget(AdjustmentsAppropriation Bill) in Parliament on 24 June 2020.

 

Consequent to the tabling of Adjustments Appropriation Bill, the Department was required to re-tableits revised 2020/21 Annual Performance Plan, commencing on 8 July 2020, according to the Parliamentary Programme Framework. It was therefore in this regard that the Minister of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries tabled the revisedannual targets to the 2020/21 Annual Performance Plan of the Department on 9 July 2020, reflecting the Department’s budgetary contribution to Government’s overall COVID-19 response and post-lockdown economic recovery initiatives as well as the Department’s contribution to the overall postCOVID-19 recovery plan.

 

  1. IMPLICATIONS OF THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC FOR THE MANDATE OF THE DEPARTMENT

The COVID-19 pandemic does not affect the legal mandate of the Department and its public entities.The mandate remains 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. Nonetheless, the pandemic had affected certain planned activities and outputs.

 

  1. ANALYSIS OF THE REVISED BUDGET ON EACH PROGRAMME

The Department was required to make a budgetary contribution to Government’s overall COVID-19 response and post-lockdown economic recovery initiatives. Consequently, the Department had prioritised those elements of its work that could deliver a tangible and significant contribution to the national COVID-19 response and post-lockdown economic recovery efforts, without compromising the delivery of its mandated services and functions. This led to the revision of a number of activities reflected in the original plan, thereby forcingthereprioritisation, postponement, downscaling or rescheduling of some activities for later implementation in the current Medium Term Strategic Framework (MTSF) period.

 

In formulating the Department’s contribution to the overall postCOVID-19 recovery plan, the Department focused on the country’s rich biodiversity and natural competitive advantages to open new economic opportunities. South Africa’s natural beauty and enviable biodiversity wealth is indisputably the cornerstone of its tourism industry and associated economic activities, especially in rural areas where protected areas are uniquely positioned to provide a variety of opportunities. As a result, the Department had prioritised ensuring the sustainability of protected areas both during the pandemic and beyond, considering that healthy natural and near-natural landscapes and oceans provide the ecological goods and services that underpin the South African economy. Restoration of ecosystem services is an important activity both in terms of public employment opportunities and in enhancing the country’s climate resilience. In fact, the biodiversity-dependant sector already employs 418 000 people. It was due to this critical role that an additional R961 million was transferred from the sixth Programme 6 (Environmental Programmes) to the South African National Parks (SANParks) to ensure that 4158 jobs were saved in SANParks and 20 National Parks, 4.3 million hectares of South Africa’s conservation estate and 3697km2 of Marine Protected Areas were effectively protected. It is noteworthy that the Environmental Programmes was the hardest hit in terms of budget reprioritisation in the Department.

 

Finally, the Department’s prioritisation following the tabling of an adjusted 2020/21 national budgetwas doneaccording to its statutory functions, the mandate and applicable legislation. Thus, the Department has cut spending on international travel and public gatherings across the nine departmental programmes.These cuts also affected school awareness programmes,events that are prevented under current Disaster Management Regulations and advertorials as well as certain projects, which have been moved to the 2021/22 financial year. The Departmentprioritised the implementation of international obligations in terms of international agreements. The details of these changes are reflected below under each programme. The Department was considering alternative sources of financing for key programmes; and laying the basis for theDepartment’s contribution to a postCOVID-19 economic recovery plan, which includes the blue and green economies as new sectors for innovation inclusion and job creation.

 

  1. Programme 1: Administration

The Department reprioritised COVID-19 related activities, such as personal protection equipment (PPE), Sanitising Office Spaces and Employee Wellness Support, Information and Communication Technology (ICT) to enhance remote connectivity and allow social distancing in facilities.However, the following were issues that the Committee sought clarity on in this Programme:

 

  1. The total percentage of the departmental staff was working from home and in the office;
  2. The impact of budget cuts on the running of the Department and which international and domestic donors that the Department had approached to request funding for its 29 projects;
  3. Whether the 20-per cent budget cut from the Department’s allocation had been sent to the National Treasury for the COVID-19 response;
  4. Whether there were any job losses in the Department and its entities due to budget cuts;
  5. How the distribution of support was done and how it was handled to ensure it reached the intended beneficiaries; whether there a plan to maintain some of the capital projects; and whether the conditional grants would be affected by the reprioritisation;
  6. The amount that the Department had spent on PPE; and
  7. How far was the process in appointing a new Director-General for the Department?

The Department indicated that it had spent about R17 million on PPEs and other COVID-19 related interventions just before the lockdown to date. The majority of the funds about R12 million went toward ICT preparedness to enable staff to work from home, conferencing cost and ICT security costs. The Department also bought laptops for staff to work remotely. The Department had a budget of R6 million for disinfecting offices, buying face masks, sanitisers and so forth.In terms of staffing, the Department as well as entities had looked at all the vacant positions in their respective organisations and had arrived at the determination that certain positions were critical and needed to be filled, whereas others should be placed on hold for now. However, no decisions had been taken on retrenching anybody thus far.

 

The Department met with entities to see their financial projections from March up to the end of the current financial year to determine the ability of the entities to pay for their running costs and other financial obligations. The projection for SANParks was about a billion rand, but the transfer of R961 million to the entity was what the Department could afford. SANParks is a two to three-billion entity, the largest of all the departmental entities. One of the criterion that the National Treasury used to effect the 20 per cent cut in the departmental budget was that further cuts be done in the budget of entities and that such cuts be rerouted back to the National Treasury. The R83 million cut in the budget of SANBI was actually done by the National Treasury; however, the Department is working with the entity to ensure that between now and the end of the ongoing financial year SANBI succeeds to achieve its planned activities.

 

Annually, 100 interns participate in the Department’s Work Integrated Learning initiative after which they are absorbed into the Department’s job placement partnership programme with the private sector. The percentage of intern absorption has been 60 per cent over the years. Concerning the number of departmental staff working from because of the ongoing COVID-19, about 23 per cent of staff worked from home presently. The Department was working on a rotational basis, meaning staff who were not working from home only came to office on certain days. People who still worked from home were those with comorbidities and those above 60 years of age who happened to be those employees in the Forestry Programme. However, the Department was facilitating those who could not be at the office to work remotely from home.

 

  1. Programme 2: Regulatory Compliance and Sector Monitoring

In this Programme, regulatory compliance and enforcement activities have been reprioritised to ensure that they are not compromised and are more targeted. However, the Committee asked:

 

  1. Whether the Department was able to mitigate the effect that budget cuts would have on its ability to enforce compliance with environmental organisations as well as their inspections.

The Department responded that the slight budget cut in the RCSM Programme would not affect thecompliance enforcement capability of the Department, as law enforcement across the environmental spectrum takes place at the three spheres of government where environmental monitoring inspectors (EMIs) are located throughout the country, not only at the national level, but also in provinces and municipalities. The Department indicated that there were 3 400 EMIs operating throughout the country, and that they were better at communicating with each other during this lockdown. The network was working well and that the whole system of enforcement had become more agile. In terms of muthi markets, the Department had certain blitzes in those markets in the past two years or so to understand what was going in those markets, to raise awareness and to hold sessions with traditional leaders. The Department developed many awareness materials and gave to them, conducted monitoring and now it was entering into enforcement.The Department was tapping into international donor funding for controlling illegal wildlife trade to assist departmental operations, in terms of law enforcement. The Department intended securing donor funding forsome of its wildlife compliance enforcement projects, coming up in the next two years or so.

 

  1. Programme 3: Oceans and Coasts

Marine protected area and estuary planning and management & Implementation and facilitation of Oceans Economy priorities have been reprioritised. The issues raised by the Committee in this Programme comprise:

 

  1. How the Department’s target to approve the alternative livelihood concept plan within the oceans economy in the current financial year was going to be achieved, whether this would contribute to food security initiatives and what the envisaged impact would be on the development of the rural economy in the face of the pandemic;
  2. Whether the Specialist Monitoring Services was going to cover all the work used to be done by consultants, considering that consultancy services amount of R29 million had been suspended from the Oceans and Coasts Programme; and
  3. How the health impact study was going to be conducted in the highly polluted South Durban Basin during this COVID-19 pandemic lockdown.

The Department responded that it has a number of stakeholder forums and processes in the Oceans and Coasts Programme, covering many aspects of the Programme, such as MPAs, management plans, estuary management and stakeholder forum for South Durban Basin. The Department was doing as much as it could with stakeholders through virtual forums, but the obvious challenge was that not all stakeholders could link onto virtual forums. However, the Department was initiating extensive media communication, but would restart the normal mode of engagement with stakeholders when feasible after the lockdown. The Department had done its uttermost to limit the impact of budget cuts on ocean economy initiatives by reducing consultancy budget, with the objective of doing the work in-house where possible.

 

  1. Programme 4: Climate change and Air Quality

Reprioritisation is done in this Programme to ensure that the air quality monitoring network is functionaland stakeholder engagements are to continue virtually in relation to policy development and the Draft Climate Bill.However, the Committee raised the following issues:

 

  1. How the Departmental budget would ensure that the environmental gains that the country has had in the past few months would remain, particularly in dealing with climate change;
  2. The timeframes for completing the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) and how this would be affected by the budget cuts; and
  3. The progress in the finalisation of the Climate Change Bill and the timeframe thereof.

 

To mitigate the impact of budget cuts, the Department was in the process of preparing bankable projects for funding by international funders, and the Department was presently approaching industry role players who would need funding to mitigate their emissions to become part of this process. The Climate Change Bill is in NEDLAC and there were issues relating to Carbon Budget and Carbon Tax. However, this matter was resolved and the Bill was expected to go back to NEDLAC this July. It is the Department’s wish to table the Bill in Parliament during this financial year, once Cabinet approves it. Concerning the reviewing of the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), COP26 has been deferred to the end of 2021. However, the reviewing of NDC goes through a four-phased process, including public participation, which would commence shortly. The Department was of the view that the review process would be completed in good time to allow the South African NDC to be submitted prior to the start of COP26 in Glasgow, in the United Kingdom. Members would be provided with all the necessary details in this process.

 

The Health Impact Study in the South Durban Basin was still at the conceptual stage, and the Department believed that conditions would have changed on the ground for better to engage the process of the implementation of the study.

 

  1. Programme 5: Biodiversity and Conservation

Reprioritisation has been done to ensure the implementation of economic recovery programmes such as work on the rationalisation of the protected areas management to address resource and capacity constraints across the conservation estate; investments in strategic water source areas protection;and regulatory processes, which include the permitting regime, a focus on the work of the high level panel, and unlocking of biodiversity economy opportunities.Nonetheless, the Committee raised the following issues:

 

  1. The initiatives that the Department had taken to deal specifically with the sixth extinction and the protection of the biodiversityand what necessitated the huge transfer (virement) to SANParks;
  2. When the national parks would start operating in order to generate revenue, especially the Kruger National Park;
  3. Whether the Minister was aware of the resignations of members of the High Level Panel to review policies relating to matters of elephant, lion, leopard and rhinoceros handling, management, breeding, hunting and trade seemingly due to the Panel being skewed in the favour of consumptive use, thereby threatening the legitimacy of the Panel;
  4. Whether the partnership that the Department had with traditional authorities in rural provinces on a biodiversity programme, especially in Limpopo where there was consultation with traditional leaders would continue because this would assist with the provision of employment opportunities in rural areas; and
  5. What South Africa was doing in terms of international wildlife and wildlife product trade, including wet markets?

 

The Department responded that COP15 to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) was originally scheduled to take place from 15-28 October 2020, in Kunming, China. However, in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the meeting is tentatively expected to take place during the second quarter of 2021. The main issue that this COP is expected to discuss is the New Deal. This Cop is the equivalent of COP21 to the UNFCCC/Paris Climate Conference. In terms of preparation, South Africa remains involved as the Chair of African Group of Negotiators support by the African Ministerial Conference on the Environment (AMCEN). Mass extinction has been an ongoing phenomenon, but of current concern is the rate at which the extinction takes place due to human-induced processes. Nonetheless, it is important to note that extinction can also be caused by non-human factors such as climate change and other natural processes. A global study was conducted showing these trends. In South Africa, policies and institutional arrangements for biodiversity and conservation are geared to ensure that threats are sufficiently anticipated and counteracted by the various activities that this budget would facilitate.

 

On the matter of zoonotic diseases and related matters, TRAFFIC had conducted a study at the international level dealing with this matter. South Africa took this work further in that the Department in collaboration with SANBI and SANParks as well as other relevant United Nations agencies started the process of finding more information on this issue by commissioning a study that would gather and analyse data with the objective of informing South Africa on what needed to be considered in future trade of wildlife and wildlife products. This study would take some time to conclude, but it had already started. There had always been media reports on South Africa’s wet market, although the South African market, including muthi market was not of proportion, as one would see in other countries. However, this did not mean that the Department was not concerned about the possible linkages between zoonotic diseases and human infections. This concern actually unpinned the commissioning of the aforementioned study by the Department. In fact, South Africa was one of the proponents that pushed for the listing of pangolins in the CITES Appendix I in 2016, which was the species initially thought by some people to be behind the current pandemic.

 

Furthermore, the Department was reportedly part of the One Health Programme that was established to enhance South Africa’s capacity to detect and respond to zoonotic disease threats that may result in significant morbidity and mortality in humans. The One Health Programme aims to strengthen surveillance and research of zoonotic diseases of public health importance with the potential to cause significant morbidity and mortality in humans and animals and ecological factors such as animal and insect vectors involved in their emergence and spread. One Health is the “collaborative effort of multiple disciplines working locally, nationally and globally to attain optimal health for people, animals and the environment”.[1] The Department further stressed that any international wildlife or wildlife product trade involved risk assessment and management. Finally, the aspect of biodiversity economy with traditional leaders was ongoing.

 

On the matter of the High Level Panel,the Minister stated that there was a number of resignations from the High Level Panel, which the Chairperson of the Panel had brought to her attention. The matter was receiving her attention, especially as the Panel could not balance after those resignations.

 

In respect to SANParks, the Department had to consider other issues, besides tourism such as wildlife management, wildlife crime, diseases, the whole system of national parks and the number of jobs to be saved. The question as to when we would be fully operational is that we are guided by the specific regulations at each level of lockdown, for example, the essential services component of SANParks (law enforcement) never stopped at Level 5, as we had to fight crime and protect national parks and we continued to control diseases at that level. We had to consider the directives and regulations at each level and respond accordingly, for instance, self-drives are operational at this stage, but tourism accommodation or leisure tourism is not allowed at Level 3. However, we continue with our state of readiness, training our staff to ensure that we are ready to operate when that time comes.

 

  1. Programme 6: Environmental Programmes

Reprioritisation of funds has been done in funding the budget deficit at SANParks, procurement of PPEs for COVID-19occupational health safety (OHS) compliance for the EPWP project participants andfor ensuring that critical projects are continuing. Discussion points in this Programme comprise:

 

  1. How the budget cuts would impact the Working for Water and Working on Fire, since there were fewer working days than normal due to lockdown regulations; and
  2. Whether the Department had thought of reducing staff across the entities and the Department and if there were any contractual obligations that the Department entered into that it had to meet, and if the service providers had to be paid for those contracts that it entered into prior to the lockdown.

The Department responded that there was a contract where the Department had to pay salaries or stipends in April 2020 to employees, but there were no contracts that the Department was locked into or had to negotiate itself out. The Department further stated that the requirement to observe physical distancing (or social distancing) and the limitation on the movement of people were expected to impinge on the execution of Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP) projects under the Environmental Programmes. Consequently, the Department had to revise some annual performance targets downward, for example, the number of Full Time Equivalents (FTEs) jobs to be created was revised down from 30 665 to 16 315. Similarly, the number of Work Opportunities to be created was revised downward from 61 378 to 44 208 and the number of participants on accredited-training programmes to be declared competent came down from 22 231 10 641.

 

  1. Programme 7: Chemicals and Waste Management

The Department has reprioritised the RESP allocation to procure PPE, provide COVID-19 related relief for waste pickers and Waste Phakisa interventions. Issues raised in this Programme include:

  1. How the reprioritisation of funds would impact the assistance provided to the municipalities by the Department, in terms of absorption of waste pickers into municipal waste management;
  2. How far the Department was with regards to waste tyre management process;
  3. Where the legislative process was in holding multinational companies accountable for the waste that they contributed to the landfills, including the need to recycle plastics in terms of the extended producer responsibility (EPR);
  4. How the health impact study in the South Durban Basin would be conducted in light of the current pandemic; and
  5. How the Department assisted local municipalities to manage their landfill sites to correct the abnormal and disastrous state of landfill sites.

In response, the Department pointed out that the Chemicals and Waste Management Programme received R33 million in net terms, thereby increasing the budget of the Programme. There were, however, internal movements of funds within the Programme, which might be confusing, and it is on this basis that the Department offered to make a written submission to clarify these internal dynamics of money. The same written submission would be provided to explain the internal movement of funds within the Oceans and Coasts Programmeand also loss of funds (to the National Treasury).

 

In terms of support to waste pickers, the Department works with provinces and municipalities supported by waste picker organisations in various municipalities. The provision of support takes place at local municipalities or districts close to where waste pickers work. Part of the relief support included the once off payment of R945 per waste picker to mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on pickers. CSIR is currently assisting the Department with the development of section 29 Tyre Industry Waste Management Plan – they are currently receiving inputs from the industry reference group (manufacturers, processors & mines). The Department intends to publish the Plan for public comments in October this year. Section 18 is an extended producer responsibility on which the Department had worked with the industry on Paper and Packaging, Electrical and Electronic equipment as well as lighting. Three notices and regulations relating to these have been published for public comments, with the closing date of 27 July 2020. The Department is working with the Presidency, which is assisting the Department using the Infrastructure Fund to develop a programme for assisting municipalities with landfill establishment. This would facilitate addressing the protracted challenge of compliance that has characterised the operations of many municipalities.

 

Plastics are included as part of packaging, and some of the single-use plastics would be controlled under the EPR, as manufacturers would be required to collect these products post-consumer use, once the regulations are gazetted for implementation. This would facilitate the diversion of plastic products away from landfill sites, and hence result in job creation, as producers would increasingly be required to manage all products covered by EPR, as per the envisaged regulations. Diversion of bulk industrial waste such as ash, slug and biomass that derive from electrical power stations away from landfill sites would also create jobs under the Waste Economy Phakisa. The Department worked with the National Treasury and COGTA on the Municipal Infrastructure Grant Framework to allow for the purchase of yellow fleet (compactor trucks & heavy machinery used in landfill sites) so that municipalities are able to use MIG funds to procure this equipment for their operations. This would enable proper management of landfill sites. Not all the amount allocated to the Recycling Enterprise Support Programme was moved, but only the amount needed to support waste pickers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

  1. Programme 8: Forestry Management

Funding has been reprioritised in this Programme to ensure that silvicultural operations in Category B and C plantations, increase in security to safeguard biological assets due to increasing illegal activities, refurbishing of tree nurseries managed by the Department, up-scaling greening, expanding ofagroforestry operations to benefit small-scale growers andimplementation of Forest Sector Master plan are implemented. However, the Committee asked:

 

  1. Whythe Forestry Programme was not phased out and plantation forests that it currently managed given to communities?

The Department responded that the process has started to move the Department away from running forestry business to its rightful regulatory function. The process of packaging and parcelling plantation forests for handover to communities was being led by the Minister and the Deputy Minister. The reason to keep the Forestry Branch is due to the fact the Branch is not only dealing with plantation forestry; the Branch is also responsible for other categories of forestry, notwithstanding the fact that the administration of the National Forests Act (Act No 84 of 1998) and the National Veld and Forest Fire Act (Act No 101 of 1998) falls within the Forestry Branch. The Branch is also responsible for ensuring that landowners have integrated fire management plans for their properties and the Branch participates in greening projects through tree planting outside of plantations and natural forest to protect human health. The Branch has responsibility for ensuring the transformation of the sector as well as for ensuring post-settlement support to beneficiaries.

 

  1. Programme 9: Fisheries Management

The Fisheries Branch/Programmegenerates its own revenue, which covers its operational costs, meaning that the Branch is less affected than others are by the universal budget cuts. Notwithstanding, the Branch would reprioritise its existing budget to cover key strategic objectives such as the 2020/2021 Fishing Rights Allocation Process (FRAP), development support programmes for small-scale fishing cooperatives, and the activities associated with the management and protection of fish resources. The following issues we raised by the Committee:

 

  1. The Committee asked how the Department’s handover of its contribution of funds to the National Treasury to assist with COVID-19 response would impact the livelihoods of the small-scale fishers and whether the Department had engaged these communities; and
  2. Why the Department only allocated fishing cooperatives to fishers in the Western Cape Province and not the other provinces and how the small-scale fishing cooperatives that were affected by the lockdown were assisted.

 

Minister Barbara Creecy stated that all questions on fisheries would be answered in written form, as the responsible Deputy Director-General could not respond adequately during the virtual meeting due to load shedding on her side. On small-scale fishing cooperatives, she explained that anyone who has a fishing right has to pay for their license and this money goes into the Marine Living Resources Fund. Commercial fishing throughout the lockdown period has been an essential service. Therefore, fishers have been continuing to pay their licences.On why the provision of licenses has only been in the Western Cape Province, the Department explained that it only refers to small-scale fishing cooperatives. In the previous financial year licenses were provided  to fishers in the rest of the country, whereas in the Western Cape this process had been delayed because the applicants asked for an internal audit, as they were of the opinion that the way the process had been handled was not correct. Indeed, the internal audit revealedthat the same rules did not apply to everyone. The report as well as the remedial action is being finalised and once this is done, licenses would be issued to small-scale fishing cooperatives. The Department would like to end giving interim licenses to Western Cape small-scale fishing cooperatives to ensure that they have 15-year rights like the rest of the country.

 

  1. OBSERVATIONS

Having considered the inputs by the Department on its “Revised Amendments to the Annual Performance Plan of the Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries for 2020/21”, the Committee noted that the adjustments were in line with the mandate of the Department and entities. Those adjustments were necessary to enable the Department as part of government to take on new and unprecedented responsibilities for managing the fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic on our people at such an uncertain time in the history of humanity. Notwithstanding, the Committee has made the following observations:

 

  1. The Committee expressed its concern about the lack of leadership within the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI), as senior executive managers, particularly black women resigned from the organisation during the Minister’s tenure;
  2. The Committee was concerned about job losses in the environmental Expanded Public Works Programme that the Department implements;
  3. The Committee noted the 20-per cent cut in the departmental budget and the possible impact thereof on the running of the Department;
  4. The Committee noted the negative impact that the COVID-19 pandemic had brought upon the country, but also noted the gains to the environment such as clean air and improved climate outcomes, in terms of less emissions of greenhouse gases;
  5. The Committee was pleased that a Stakeholder Forum was proposed by the Department and that a health impact study was being conducted in the highly polluted South Durban Basin;
  6. The Committee noted the high level of resignations from the High Level Panel and also the departure of the Director-General from the Department; and
  7. The Committee thanked the Minister for her efforts in recognising subsistence fishers during this COVID-19 pandemic despite the silence of current legislation on this category of fishers.

 

6.   RECOMMENDATIONS

 

  1. The Department should look at best practices that other countries implement, in terms of landfill sites;
  2. The Department should submit more details to the Committee (in writing) on each of the 29 projects it asked for funding from the Presidential Infrastructure Fund for;
  3. The Department should recognise the fishing rights of categories of fishers who are not presently recognised, notably subsistence fishers and should allocate interim fishing permit to allow fishers who had traditionally used the recreational fishing permit to continue fishing for livelihoods;
  4. The Department should explain the underlying reasons for the high levels of resignations from 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, particularly now that concerns about zoonotic diseases is all time high;
  5. The Department shouldbalance the composition of the High Level Panel to cater for sustainable utilisation of wildlife in line with legislation;and
  6. The Department should retain, sustain and build on the environmental gains achieved across the different facets during the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown

Report to be considered.

 


[1]<https://www.cdc.gov/globalhealth/countries/southafrica/what/one_health.htm.> (Accessed on 13th July 2020).

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