NATIONAL ASSEMBLY FRIDAY, 14 MAY MINI PLENARIES (VIRTUAL) 10:00 – 12:15 Vote 32: Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment

 

Hon. N Singh

BUDGET VOTE 32 OF THE DEPARTMENT OF FORESTRY, FISHERIES AND ENVIRONMENT (DFFE), DATED 11 MAY 2021.

 

Honourable Chairperson,

The Right to an Environment, as ensconced in Section 24 of the Bill of Rights in our Constitution, guarantees not only a healthy environment to each and every individual but goes further, and mandates the state to ensure that such compliance occurs.

This Department is at the coalface of balancing the sustainable use of the environmental resources currently available, in a manner which does not render them finite and irreplaceable. 

Hon. Minister, you shoulder the unenviable task of ensuring that environmental resources are utilised within the parameters of a sustainable development model.

This is a continuing battle, which is currently being waged upon many environmental and biodiversity fronts, and as the IFP, we wish to highlight the following issues for urgent attention and corrective action:

Single-use plastic pollution in our environment, and particularly our marine environment, remains one of the most concerning and detrimental pollutants, which, if not decisively addressed, will continue to indiscriminately kill marine animals and sea birds, and contaminate our seafood resources. In addition, they place unnecessary strain on our waste management systems. Their production, primarily from fossil fuels, contributes to global warming and climate change. In our opinion, single-use plastics should be immediately banned, Hon. Minister.

On 2 May 2021, Hon. Minister, you released the High Level Panel Report on the management, breeding, hunting, trade and handling of elephant, lion, leopard and rhinoceros, following the parliamentary hosting – in August of 2018 – of a Colloquium on Captive Lion Breeding and Hunting, which included the extremely controversial lion bone trade. The Report and recommendations do indeed herald a new dawn for our wildlife, where we move to a position that incorporates the de-commodification of iconic African species, such as the African Lion, and in which the Report states, quite categorically, in respect of our treatment of lions: that the cruelty, barbarism and abhorrent exploitation of them must end now. It further admits that these practices have indeed been a dark stain on the ethics of our democracy and a roadblock to our tourism reputation. Hon. Minister, it is our hope that you move swiftly with both legislation and regulation in this regard, and the IFP will most certainly be supporting the Report and its recommendations when it comes before Parliament.

Wildlife Crime and Enforcement in South Africa remains our Achilles heel in conservation efforts, where perpetrators of such crimes are all too often dealt with far too lightly, if at all. Often, once convicted, they are simply released with a small fine or slap on the wrist. The punishment certainly does not fit the crime, which in toto, leads to the decimation of keystone species in South Africa. The IFP therefore reiterates its calls for the establishment of specialist wildlife prosecutorial courts, with competent judicial officials, backed by unambiguous and stringent legislation and criminal sanction for wildlife-related crimes. In certain instances, we have sound legislation and regulation but there is just not sufficient enforcement.

If we look specifically at the Report, concerns must be noted regarding how the Department intends dealing with its decrease in budget, yet still achieving the targets it sets for itself. Minister Creecy stated last week that she expects nothing less than 80% achievement of targets from her officials. Minister, how do you intend achieving such targets with a zero budget allocation to the Green Fund? How would this assist the development of our green economy?

Regulatory certainty should also be prioritised – especially with regard to small-scale fishers. These people depend on fishing for subsistence and livelihoods and as such, should not be the victims of ineffective and ambiguous bureaucracy.

Chairperson, with regards the regulations at the Aliwal Shoal, which is a protected area, I trust you have received a report from the official that was sent down to have meetings, and conduct in loco inspections on that site. It will be evident from your report that some of the restrictions imposed on line fishermen in the area clearly illustrate ulterior motives by those who hide behind what is called Clansthal Conservancy. Minister, you should not allow past privileges to hamper the future of citizens in a democratic South Africa.

In summation, the IFP supports the Budget Vote and looks forward to continuing to work together with the Department in the achievement of its goals and targets.

I thank you.

Hon. Narend Singh, MP