Committee Legacy Report: deliberations

Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment

27 March 2024
Chairperson: Mr P Modise (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Portfolio Committee held an in-person meeting to discuss its Committee Legacy Report, which would serve as a handover report to the new incoming Committee. The Committee Legacy Report summarised the Committee’s work over the Sixth Parliament, 2019-2024.

Committee members asked that the Committee Recommendations state that first task of the incoming committee in the Seventh Parliament be to visit the South African Weather Service about the monitoring of air quality. They asked why certain oversight visits were not included in the report such as Kruger National Park, Engen refinery and Kirstenbosch. They asked that all site visits regardless of whether they were official committee oversight visits be added as the next Committee would need to be apprised of these. Members proposed that follow-ups be done on the progress of the Climate Change Bill and National Veld and Forest Fire Amendment Bill in the NCOP.

The Committee agreed to a 2 April virtual meeting to approve the final version of the Legacy Report.

Meeting report

Legacy Report of Portfolio Committee on Forestry, Fisheries and Environment
Mr Nhlanhla Ginindza, Committee Content Advisor, took Members through the draft report, covering the Committees work and activities in the Sixth Parliament, 2019-2024.

Mr Ginindza said the first part of the Committee Legacy Report was a high-level summary which had four parts to it. Under the first heading – reflection on the Committee programme, activities and objectives - the Committee largely focused on oversight of the department and its entities. The monitoring of the implementation of legislation has been core to the oversight work and the space was created for stakeholders to make their input. The Committee had one international agreement brought before them. The Committee made efforts to work with other committees where work overlapped or was complementary such as the Portfolio Committee on Agriculture. Lastly, there was the amendment of legislation brought before the Committee for consideration.

Next was the strategic plan of the Committee guided directly by the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and Environment (DFFE) commitments to government priorities 1, 2, 3 and 7 as well as other priorities more indirectly. After COVID, the Economic Recovery and Reconstruction Plan.

Page 5 contained a summary of key areas that needed consideration by the next Committee such as the governance in the form of DFFE and its entities achieving a clean audit.

What came up during the term was the support of the Fire Protection Association in the provinces; the proposal for the establishment of the Climate Disaster Fund and the work of the Presidential Climate Commission as well as air quality, particularly in the priority areas such as Durban which was recently dealt with. In the public hearings on the Climate Change Bill, many areas mentioned poor air quality.

In answer to Ms Weber asking if amendments to the report could be made during the presentation, the Chairperson agreed so as to save time.

Ms A Weber (DA) stated that the Committee had no control over the South African Weather Service (SAWS) but could only monitor air quality. The enforcement of air quality was not the duty of the Committee but rather it was responsible for monitoring minimum emission standards. She asked to add “overseeing the enforcement of air quality, monitoring of minimum emissions standards” because this was the responsibility of the Committee.

Mr Ginindza said he understood her point and asked the Members to look at page 65 as it spoke to the problem the Committee needed to focus on when dealing with SAWS. “Unreliable reporting or non-recording of some government-owned air quality monitoring stations since the beginning of the Sixth Parliament, particularly high priority areas.”

Ms Weber said this quote made the Committee responsible for implementing air quality control rather than monitoring the process.

Mr Ginindza said it came back to the overseeing and not implementing. In that sense the oversight was impactful. However, when issues were raised but not attended to, this spoke to another question which he thought should be answered by the Committee – perhaps to state if the tools the Committee used were effective or not.

Ms Mchunu said air quality and its monitoring had been raised several times in the Portfolio Committee. The point that was left out was that the Portfolio Committee had never had an oversight visit to SAWS and that should be highlighted.

Ms Weber repeated that the Committee does not oversee the enforcement but rather the implementation of minimum emission standards. She asked that this be added clearly.

The Chairperson asked if this could be added and Mr Ginindza agreed.

The Chairperson said the Committee had resolved more than three times to visit SAWS but when it was time to visit the site, it was told there were no funds to do so. “Where is the money gone?”

Mr D Bryant (DA) said this question could be directed to the House Chair, Hon Frolick.

Mr Ginindza agreed that the Committee had made efforts with its oversight work but the oversight visit request had been turned down. It unfortunately reflected on the activities that the Committee did not do.

The Chairperson asked that the Committee Recommendations state that first task of the incoming committee in the Seventh Parliament be to visit the SAWS site. The Committee had known about the air monitoring systems, but had never seen them.

Ms Mbatha added that those machines were problematic especially during loadshedding due to being old (00:23:39 – 00:24:03 inaudible).

The Chairperson said that the oversight omission should not be attributed to them because they had tried to go to SAWS more than three times. They tried going when they visited KwaZulu Natal, Mpumalanga and North West but the Committee had been told there was no money to do so.

Ms N Gantsho (ANC) said that some Portfolio Committees were treated better than others which could be political. It was favouritism of portfolios that were loved or liked. When they applied for trips, they would be approved but this Committee would be denied.

Mr M Dlamini (ANC) asked that the problem and unequal treatment when applying for oversight visits be noted.

The Chairperson asked that Members be careful using the word “unequal”. He asked Mr Ginindza to find a better way of wording that.

Mr N Capa (ANC) asked that the matter be emphasized.

On the overlap with the Portfolio Committee on Agriculture on animal welfare, Ms Mbatha said that animal welfare was in line with the Agriculture portfolio.

The Chairperson noted colloquiums.

Mr Bryant recommended that it would be good for the next Committee to do a joint colloquiums with the Portfolio Committee on Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development because that was yet to be done.

Mr Ginindza replied that there was a passing recommendation that spoke to the colloquium on topical environmental issues. He was not sure if it needed to specify that but there was a point that spoke to that in the draft report: “The harmonization of legislation between the Department of Agriculture and the DFFE to advance animal welfare”.

He reminded Members that the Executive Summary was a high-level summary, but these bullet points are more detailed as the report continues.

Mr Bryant said the Committee had monitored and advocated but it needed to be specified that there should be a joint colloquium between the Committees, or it would not happen, it is not going to happen.

Ms Weber asked that the following be added: “advocating for the harmonization of legislation between the Department of Agriculture and Environment to advance animal welfare through an urgent convening of a colloquium”.

The Chairperson agreed that the Seventh Term Committee should start off with this colloquium. This has been on the Committee agenda for some time. This must be added.

Mr Bryant pointed to another key area for future work which was the monitoring of the transfer of state forests and support measures. He asked for clarity on the monitoring of the transfer of state forests. He thought they covered that part well apart except for the one case. He asked which state forests are being transferred.

Mr Ginindza said one of the positive decisions taken by DFFE was to offload the commercial plantations as well as the state natural forests. The state plantations were going to be handed over to communities and beneficiaries of land reform. DFFE presented its support strategy to the Committee on how they would be supporting these communities that were supposed to run these plantations as a commercial operation. One of these was to establish partnerships with the commercial sector to support “the emerging foresters”. DFFE had committed to transfer natural forests to provincial conservation agencies, so they would not be responsible for the management of those forests. Some had started establishing a memorandum of understanding with the provincial agencies, but they had not finalized the packages on the transferring of so many hectares to which conservation agency and how they would be managing them.

Mr Ginindza explained that the problem started when the department was both a player and a referee in the commercial forest space. To a certain extent they competed with private commercial forests. This led to the inability of DFFE to quantify the money spent on managing those forests. There was no value showing how much money was spent and what was profit. As a result, Auditor General had helped DFFE to come up with a modality for the state quantifying and accounting for rent.

Mr Bryant noted that the transfer of state forest are not just to communities but also to outside private entities and other spheres of government. He asked that this be made clearer.
Certain state forests needed to be protected which was where another sphere of government or a private entity would come in to assist. There are instances where communities would be involved but it would be misleading to say all state forests would be transferred to them.

The Chairperson agreed this recommendation should reflect other state entities involved in the transfer of state forests and not just communities.

It was rephrased as “monitoring the transfer of state forest to conservation agencies and support packages to communities who will benefit from state plantations for livelihood and economic development”.

Key challenges were identified included the reduction of the DFFE budget allocation which limited its programmes and the impact of climate change, particularly in the wake of many disasters, whether floods or droughts. DFFE still needed to work on climate adaptation.

Ms Weber said what was missing is the contributors to climate change such as mining and air pollution. Climate change could be managed if enforcement was done.

Mr Ginindza said her point was on page 52 of the draft report.

Mr Capa said it seemed all Members' queries were answered in the second part of the report.

The Chairperson said he wanted it noted that an urgent meeting between DFFE and Minerals should take place. Similarly, a meeting between DFFE and Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (DALRRD).

Mr Ginindza said he understood Ms Weber's point that climate change involved both emphasis on mitigation and adaptation but there needed to be more enforcement and oversight on the adaptation side.

Mr Ginindza continued taking the Committee through the draft report.

Mr Bryant asked that pangolins be added in the bullet point of biodiversity.

Mr Ginindza continued and spoke to land degradation which caused soil erosion and floods as seen in KZN and then moved on to recycling projects including paper, plastics, tires and electronic waste.

Mr Dlamini asked if the draft report touched on waste management and waste treatment. He gave an example of people who spoke on not knowing how to properly dispose of dirty diapers. How could this waste be treated?

Ms Mbatha said waste management strategy had a hierarchy (inaudible 59:28 – 01:00:00).

Ms Weber asked that diseases be added to the last sentence on the waste and littering point. She asked to include that there is a shortage of landfill sites in municipalities and gave Gauteng as an example.

Mr Ginindza explained that the landfill site matter was mentioned on page 65 of the draft report: “The department is not providing enough support to municipalities to help them manage both legal and illegal landfill sites better and support waste pickers to improve their livelihood and minimize pollution”.

The Chairperson suggested there was a lack of synergy between the executive summary and the main report.

Ms Mchunu said a recommendation needed to be added on landfill sites, saying that Environment, Land, Public Works and COGTA should work together on this.

Ms Mbatha highlighted that the point of sewage sludge had been left out which is a critical problem and needed to be added to the report. Waste management on page 64 needed to be reworked because South Africa had a serious issue when it came to waste management at landfill sites.

Mr Ginindza explained if the report were to explain the forms of waste management it would have to breakdown the list of all waste management stakeholders, especially hazardous waste. Therefore, he suggested end it at the high-level check. Only when the incoming Committee began to address the many waste categories and network of parties involved, could that be addressed.

He accepted Ms Mbatha’s proposal to include sewage sludge and Members would guide him on more forms of waste such as ash from Eskom.

The Chairperson agreed that it was not practical to place all forms of waste management in the report as it would result in many pages.

Ms Mbatha suggesting adding 'other' to show that there were many forms of waste. Page 7 spoke on other problematic issues and sewage sludge was not included. Sludge fell under hazardous waste and included nappies.

Mr Ginindza said he would add sludge and et cetera.

Ms Mbatha referred to page 7 on the implementation of waste management (01:07:37 – 01:07:50 inaudible).

Mr Ginindza said that the paragraph highlighted the problems that needed oversight. These were the current realities on which the next Committee would need to focus. While there were policies that spoke of the dream, these were yet to be achieved. The section highlighted the problems in waste management with supplementary reports showing the increased nappy challenge which was evident in all the public hearings. Overall, that was just to highlight the waste management challenges.

The Chairperson repeated his point on the ordering of items in the report. The content was good but the sequencing needed to be adjusted. Some Members may not be in the Seventh Term Committee to explain these points.

Mr Bryant agreed about the sequencing but the rest of the document was detailed.

Ms Weber asked that the biodiversity section include invasive plants and species because removing too much of these was a danger to waterways.

Ms Mbatha went back to page 64 on waste management enforcement, highlighting that DFFE provided little support to municipalities when it came to this enforcement. Provinces needed to implement and enforce the Waste Management Act.

The Chairperson asked Members how they could “panel beat” the report

Ms Weber suggested that they worked on the Executive Summary. Ms Mbatha could give her suggestion when they got to page 64.

Mr Ginindza proposed that they move through the report as the first part of the document was a high-level summary that did not enumerate everything. The next section was where more detail would be found. He had been told to use that template and had tried to argue that it had repetition and would cause confusion as the flow would not be structured and he apologized for that. He added that invasive aliens were in the document.

Ms Weber explained that people read the executive summary and only those interested would read the detailed report. Therefore, it was imperative that the first section be concise to avoid confusion.

The Chairperson said that an executive summary gave a full overview of what the report is about. The template used by Mr Ginindza did not do that and lacked chronology. A person who was not familiar with what the Committee did would not know sludge was on page 63.

Mr Dlamini agreed saying the executive summary should be structured in a way that it touched on what the detailed report is about.

Ms Mbatha said there were no appendix in the high-level summary that would point to the page numbers where the different topics were covered in the report.

Ms Weber said the beginning was very important as it prompted people to read the detailed part.

Mr Ginindza moved on to the functioning of the Committee on page 13 of the draft report.

Ms Mbatha asked how oversight was explained because they had visited Kruger National Park, but it was not included in the report.

Mr Ginindza explained the difference between oversight trips and oversight intervention implementation.

The Chairperson told Members to look at the table on page 53 to see all the oversight visits done in the Sixth Parliament.

Ms Mbatha noted statutory appointments which the next Committee would have to work on.

In reply to a query on what this meant, Mr Ginindza explained that it was when board members had to be appointed through parliamentary recommendation.

The Chairperson did not agree with the interventions noted in the table on page 53 because the Committee went to Engen Refinery, Hout Bay, Grabouw yet these were not highlighted.

Members agreed with the Chairperson that they had done oversight visits

Mr Ginindza said that the staff would check the records and update that accordingly. Working visits did not fall under oversight visits such as visiting the Kruger National Park which was a working visit and not an oversight visit. The Committee did not have approval for an oversight visit but had approval to hold its meeting away from the Parliament precinct. This was the same for the working visit at Kirstenbosch.

Ms Mbatha raised the joint urgent oversight visit with the Water and Sanitation Committee for the Gauteng disaster which she had accompanied.

Mr Ginindza explained that it was not an approved oversight visit as Members went on their own and not as a Committee. This was like the KZN disaster. It was an unauthorized visit and could not be classified under the Committee's official oversight visits.

Members said those visits needed to be reflected irrespective if they were official or unofficial oversight visits. The Chairperson added that if they followed the table on page 53, the Committee did not do any work.

Ms Mbatha noted that no study tours were indicated for the whole five-year term and asked under what category did their trip to Egypt fall.

Mr Ginindza explained that it was international participation as a parliamentary delegation, but it was not a Committee study tour. It would appear in the House Chairperson's report.

The Chairperson noted that they went to Spain.

Mr Ginindza explained that those would be in the House Chair Report and International Relations and Protocol. Although it had Committee members as part of those international trips; it was not the Committee itself.

Members voiced their displeasure with that because it seemed as though the Committee had done no international work and asked that those trips somehow appeared in the draft report.

Mr Ginindza explained that the delegation leaders wrote those reports. He made an example of the COP meeting where Committee members participated but it was not led by the Committee itself. Those reports are adopted and tabled by the House Chair irrespective of the number of Committee members that attended.

The Chairperson said that is what depleted the Committee funds.

Ms Mbatha asked that the work visits be included somewhere in the report because the table appears as though no work had been done in the five years which gave a bad impression.

Mr Capa agreed on the need to highlight the work – whether a new category is included or it states that the work was a joint venture, but it had to appear.

Ms Mbatha said that the report template should be explained to the Committee before it is used so they understand how to structure and categorise sections.

The Chairperson agreed saying those who will be part of the next Committee needed clear explanations of what these items meant in an index or appendix.

The Chairperson asked if the Committee only did two pieces of legislation the whole five-year term.

Mr Ginindza explained that the Committee did two pieces of legislation fully and one was a reintroduction of a Bill, which was meant to be finalized in the Fifth Parliament.

The Chairperson asked that the piece of legislation be added to the report because it meant two terms have gone by without it being finalized.

Ms Tyhileka Madubela, Committee Secretary, responded on this matter (01:44:26 – 01:45:09 inaudible).

Ms Weber asked for clarity on the Aquaculture Bill and its progress. Why was it not brought to the Committee after it was reintroduced.

Ms Gantsho said DFFE would have to answer why the Bill had not made its way back to the Committee for comments.

Ms Mchunu asked why under Petitions said none yet on page 60 the visit to Boipatong in Gauteng was reported as a petition. She asked where the meetings held with NGOs to voice their complaints were placed. Although the Committee was not given permission to visit the one site, it had responded to the complaint written by the community.

Mr Ginindza explained that those would fall under public engagements which were not included in the table. They fell under Meetings Held as stakeholder engagements and DFFE oversight meetings were not separated. The template was a bit problematic on that front because there were some mixed activities. For example, when the meeting was held in Kruger National, there were stakeholders, there was oversight, and there was budget tabling. In that sense it becomes a little tricky how to report that.

The Chairperson said it meant the template did not record the work done by the Committee. The report template had shortcomings

Mr Ginindza noted that Ms Madubela would check her records to update the table correctly.

Ms Mbatha asked Mr Ginindza and Ms Madubela to fix the report to show the work done. If not, this would seem as though nothing had been done by the Sixth Parliament Committee.

The Chairperson noted the Committee had expressed interest about the rhino horn theft from a stockpile facility in North West but the Committee was told that there were no funds to visit the site.

Mr Ginindza asked if he should include all the rejected applications for site visits.

The Committee agreed.

The Chairperson stated that incoming Committee should know that there were attempts to visit those sites. From stockpiling to the UPL chemical disaster, all those needed to appear. The purpose of the report was to take stock of what had been done and what still needed to be done. It would help the next Committee to see this and where they should pick up.

Mr Dlamini stated that as this will be a handover report to the next Committee, it should cover all the bases.

The Chairperson queried the petition on page 60.

In response, Mr Ginindza asked if Members wanted the Boipatong matter to be carried over and have an official visit by the next Committee. This had not been an official oversight visit as Members went on their own and found problems. There was no official Committee report because it was not an official visit.

Ms Mbatha explained that there had been waste management and water problems when they visited the site. Hence the joint visit with the Water and Sanitation Portfolio Committee.

The Chairperson said in his view, it should be reflected. The next Committee would decide if a follow-up would be needed or not. But it should reflect that there was work done.

Ms Weber asked what the Committee should do because some matters were for DFFE to complete. The Committee has still not seen the regulations for the Veld and Forest Fire Bill. She asked if a follow-up on this could be sent to DFFE (02:01:52 – 02:03:16 inaudible).

Mr Ginindza replied that the legislation challenges were picked up on page 31.

The Chairperson agreed and made and an example of the Climate Change Bill. The last time they heard of the Bill it had been sent to the NCOP. How far was it? He asked how the Committee should monitor this challenge with legislation.

Ms Mbatha asked that it be put as a challenge because the Committee had dealt with the Bill but has had no progress report from DFFE.

Mr Ginindza replied that both Bills were with the NCOP Committee.

Mr Bryant said the Bills went through the Committee and had to come back to this Committee.

Mr Ginindza said the Committee did its part. It was the parliamentary legislative process over which it did not have control. Scheduling was controlled by the NCOP and the type of referral for Bills dealing with concurrent matters. What did the Committee want as a recommendation on that?

The Chairperson stated that it should be raised as a challenge. The Committee had done its work on the Bills and is saying no one had been held accountable for the lack of completion.

Mr Bryant agreed and noted that they knew it was their job as legislators to attend to legislation. A lot of work was pushed through the Committee; they would just like to know the progress on these Bills.

The Chairperson said the Committee might have to schedule another meeting on the Legacy Report due to time constraints.

Mr Capa said page 16 under Heading 7 did not mention traditional leaders.

The Chairperson asked that this point be noted due to time constraints.

Ms Mbatha proposed that a follow up be done with the NCOP on the progress of the Veld and Forest Fire Bill and Climate Change Bill.

Ms Weber said the Seventh Parliament needed to deal with the regulations for the Veld and Forest Fire Bill.

The Chairperson suggested a virtual meeting to conclude and polish the final report.

Ms Weber agreed to a virtual meeting. Members could work through the document and make amendments before the next meeting.

Ms Mbatha agreed that Members needed to add their inputs to allow the following meeting to be about consolidating the document.

Mr Ginindza noted that the Legislation section emphasised the regulations for the Veld and Forest Fire Bill. He would follow up with the NCOP on the progress of the Climate Change Bill.

Ms Weber emphasized that there be a clear distinction between DFFE and Committee responsibilities. The Committee is responsible for enforcing decisions implemented by DFFE.

Mr Bryant proposed that if Members had amendments, they should highlight them in green and send them to Mr Ginindza before the next meeting.

The Chairperson said they would go straight to the highlighted amendments in the next meeting on Tuesday 2 April to finalise the Legacy Report.

Meeting was adjourned.


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