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Deputy Minister Ms Barbara Thomson tables Department of Environmental Affairs 2016/2017 Budget Vote Policy Statement

National Assembly Chamber, 03 May 2016

 

Honourable Chairperson of the session;
Honourable Minister of Environmental Affairs, Mme Edna Molewa;
Honourable Ministers and Deputy Ministers;
Honourable Acting Chairperson, Mr S Makhubela and Members of the Portfolio Committee on Environmental Affairs;
Honourable Members of Parliament;
Distinguished Chairpersons and Chief Executives of Public Entities;
Government officials present,
Representatives of the private sector;

Ladies and gentlemen.

My speech is dedicated to one of our Working on Fire participants, Andile Nkosi, who lost his life on Freedom Day.  He was the only child in the family.

Introduction

On 16 June 1976 thousands of students marched peacefully to demonstrate and protest against the apartheid system that had reduced Africans to second-class citizens in their own country. Next month we will mark forty years since that cursed day when the brutal apartheid regime maimed those young people in Soweto and later in all the major centres of our country.

Chair, ladies & gentlemen; we owe it to that generation of young people to ensure democracy creates a better life for our people. Our environment sector should claim its rightful space in this regard while leaving a lasting and environmentally-friendly legacy for the next generations.  Our constitutional democracy including the care of the environment and our people are enshrined in our Constitution.

In 1987 the Bruntland Commission at the World Commission on Environment and Development defined sustainable development as “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs”.   

This definition rings true in South Africa today and is what guides the work of the ANC as we seek to address the social costs of past environmental policies through an approach that places sustainability at the centre of our environmental governance framework.

Wildlife Economy

The sustainability approach is evident in the implementation of the various programmes of the Department including the Wildlife Economy as part of the  National Biodiversity Economy Strategy (NBES) which we committed to in 2015.  The Strategy is now in a progressive stage.  A critical element of the Strategy is to position the wildlife industry as a catalyst for robust economic development in rural areas through its sustainable use. Whereas in the past, local communities despite being in the midst of such wildlife richness, have been deprived of the associated benefits.  Considerable focus is now on interventions that will assist and empower local communities to become significant players in the wildlife industry through the establishment of wildlife based enterprises.  We believe local communities must be placed at the heart of conservation because unless local communities receive tangible socio-economic benefits and become part of the wildlife and related industries, the concept of conservation will continue to be regarded as exclusive and elitist.

Special attention will therefore be paid in the development of entrepreneurs on skills, training and the improvement of infrastructure. In this regard we will continue to work closely with relevant sectors including the private sector towards the identification and mobilisation of new emerging wildlife farmers.

Government support will also be extended to communities to establish community based enterprises and capacity building to engage in informed negotiation of benefit asset sharing agreements around bioprospecting applications in order for them to leverage the benefits from the use of their traditional knowledge of biological resources.  Conservation authorities need to fully recognise and respect the rights of indigenous and local communities.  Kuloluhlangothi, simema imiphakhati yethu eyakhelene nezizinda zalamafa emvelo ukuba ibhukule ekuthuthukiseni ulwazi abanalo.  Ingathi yibona abazi kangcono ngokuzingela izilwane, ukuvuna amakhambi okulapha ngaphandle kokuhlukumeza imvelo.

To ensure that communities embrace the Strategy and take up the opportunities presented by it, we will intensify communication around the Strategy.  In this regard we will also be relying on Members of Parliament to assist in awareness raising and information dissemination of our biodiversity economy initiatives when they interact with communities as part of their constituency work.

Environmental Affairs: A Transversal Department

Ours is a Department that cuts across almost all other Departments; and hence we all need to come to grips with this reality so that we establish a vibrant symbiotic relationship.

That is why the Departments of Police, Defence and State Security in particular, are part of our Rhino Anti-poaching Strategy which has seen rhino poaching on a decline.

The Department continues with the fight against poverty and joblessness through the EPWP programmes such as Working for Water, Working on Fire, Working on Wetlands, Working on Waste, Working for the Coast.  For example, alien biomass is converted into reasonably priced coffins and furniture by Working for Water.  Just last Friday I visited a school in Mpumalanga province at the request of the principal and whereby the Department provided eco-school desks made from the timber of alien trees.

People and Parks Programme

Chairperson, ladies and gentlemen; we understand the key role which the natural environment plays in the lives of our local communities and it is therefore important that we continue to bring South Africans closer to nature and to allow these communities to actively participate in initiatives that impact on their natural and human environments. In this regard the People and Parks initiative continues to serve as a flagship programme aimed at transforming protected areas for the benefit of local communities. Kubalulekile ukuthi sikhumbuzane ukuthi emandulo abantu bethu babengalubhadi kulamapaki.

We will be hosting the 7th National People and Parks programme this year to take stock of the progress made on the partnership between protected areas and local communities on issues of access to natural resources, capacity building, awareness and most importantly reviewing South African progress and its commitment on the implementation of the 6th People and Parks Conference held two years back.

Contributions towards job creation

Our people are empowered with skills through training as a stepping-stone towards permanent employment opportunities.

Sectoral groups such as youth, women and persons with disabilities continue to be the major beneficiaries of our investment in these job creation programmes. In June, as part of the celebration of Environment Month in South Africa, we will mark World Oceans Day with the launch of the National Working for the Coast Programme 2015/18 cycle.  More than R303 million has been budgeted for this programme.

I am proud to announce that the Fire Fighting teams from our Working on Fire programme has received high commendation from the Canadian Inter-agency Forest Fire Centre, in fighting multiple fires in Alberta and British Columbia in Canada during July and August 2015.

Sustainable land use to protect biodiversity

Our rich biodiversity has made South Africa one of the world’s fastest growing tourism destinations.  It will be important to further address those factors which threaten our biodiversity, including desertification and land degradation.

We have also made significant progress in reversing land degradation in some areas.

During this financial year we will build on these positive results through the land user’s incentives programme partnering with the private sector and communities to restore and maintain more natural resources. The programme creates opportunities for Community Based Organisations to access private sector resources.

Ladies & gentlemen, in partnership with the stakeholders in the Medupi Power station project, we have unlocked R44 million in non-EPWP funding for land restoration and the maintenance of natural resources.  

Biodiversity and Conservation

During 2015/16 iSimangaliso Wetland Park hosted our World Rhino Day awareness campaign with various NGOs.  The word iSimangaliso means “a miracle” or something “wondrous”.  The campaign saw schoolchildren carrying a conservation banner walk from school to school along the length of the Park – some 8% of South Africa’s coastline. More than 75 schools adjoining the Park with some 11 500 learners participated in the campaign. 

Conclusion

Sengiphetha, siziphopezela ekusunguleni amathuba okuthuthukisa umnotho sisebenzisa ingcebo yemvelo ngokwahlukana kwayo sibe silandela imigomo yokonga ukuze sizuze kuyo ngaphandle kokuyishabalalisa. Senzela ukuthi nabayosilandela bakwazi ukuyifica le mvelo bazuze kuyo.

I would like to conclude by reminding South Africans especially our youth about the significance of striving for environmental sustainability. We have only one earth and we need to look after it.  Maintaining and protecting the condition of our natural assets is a key factor in sustaining growth for the longer term and this is a mission, which we as the Ministry and Department of Environmental Affairs will continue to pursue vigorously.

And to ruthless entrepreneurs, I wish to remind them of a principle known as the Triple Bottom Line encompassing the environment, the economy and the social fabric.  It is also called the three Ps (planet, profit & people).  In a nutshell the Triple Bottom Line reminds us that whilst the economy needs to grow, we should not exploit the planet and the people at the expense of profit.

Thanks to the Honourable Minister, Mrs Edna Molewa, Director-General, Mrs Nosipho Ngcaba and the entire team at the Department for the support and the commitment to make our sector deliver in conformity with our constitutional obligations.

I thank you.