President Ramaphosa | South Africa’s Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan

15 October 2020

Speaker of the National Assembly, Ms Thandi Modise,
Chairperson of the National Council of Provinces, Mr Amos Masondo,
Deputy President David Mabuza,
Ministers and Deputy Ministers,
Honourable Members of the National Assembly and the NCOP,
Fellow South Africans,

I have requested this sitting of the Joint Houses of Parliament to present the plan for the reconstruction and recovery of our economy and our country.

In contrast to the State of the Nation Address, where we address the broad programme of government for the year, today I want to focus on the extraordinary measures we must take to restore our economy to inclusive growth following the devastation caused by Covid-19 to our people’s lives and our country’s economy.

This is a plan through which all of us as South Africans should work together to build a new economy.

The objectives of the plan are clear:

– To create jobs, primarily through aggressive infrastructure investment and mass employment programmes;

– To reindustrialise our economy, focusing on growing small businesses;

– To accelerate economic reforms to unlock investment and growth;

– To fight crime and corruption; and,

– To improve the capability of the state.

All these objectives are linked to the vision of our country set out in the National Development Plan.

Madam Speaker,
Chairperson of the NCOP,

On this day seven months ago, we declared a national state of disaster to confront the greatest health emergency that the world has known in more than a century.

Since then, the coronavirus has infected more than 38 million people across the world and is responsible for more than a million deaths.

The reality that we must confront is that the pandemic will not be over soon.

Globally, the number of new Covid cases per day is currently at its highest level since the start of the pandemic.

This has far-reaching implications in every area of human development, from education to health, from food security to poverty alleviation, from the empowerment of women to social stability.

The pandemic continues to cause severe damage to the global economy, affecting trade, investment, production, international travel and global supply and demand.

No country has been spared. No economy has been unaffected.

This is also the case on our own continent.

In South Africa, the pandemic has caused great hardship and suffering.

In the 220 days since our first recorded case, more than 18,000 people are confirmed to have died from Covid-19.

The loss of these lives is not only devastating to the families who have lost loved ones but to the nation as well.

South Africa has over 700 000 confirmed cases.

At present, 90% of those infected have recovered.

As a result of the measures we took to delay transmission and to prepare our health facilities, we were able to withstand the massive surge of infections in the middle of July. At that time, new cases were being detected at an average rate of 500 an hour.

While the national lockdown in April had a significant impact on economic activity, the economic consequences of an uncontrolled surge would have been far worse.   

Due to the dedication and sacrifices of millions of South Africans, we were able to limit the impact of the pandemic on lives and livelihoods.

For the last month and a half, even as we have significantly eased restrictions on movement and social and economic activity, the average number of daily cases has remained relatively stable at less than 2 000 cases.

But it is far too soon to declare victory.

The World Health Organisation warns that many countries have had a significant resurgence of infections following 4 to 8 weeks of low transmission.

It has also advised us that South Africa is now entering a phase that requires high vigilance and heightened readiness to respond.

Rather than easing our prevention efforts – including social distancing and observing health protocols – we must intensify them further to reduce new cases to less than 1 000 a day.

Coronavirus will remain part of our lives for some time to come, and we need to adjust to this new reality and a new normal in all areas of life.

Our health system must remain adequately staffed, equipped and financed to ensure we save lives.

We must rebuild, repair and restore our country not after Covid, but in the midst of Covid.

Our country had immense challenges for a number of years before coronavirus.

The coronavirus pandemic has worsened these challenges. 

Poverty and inequality have deepened, threatening many South Africans with hunger and a sudden loss of income.  

Our economy, like other economies, has contracted sharply, businesses have closed and jobs have been lost.

Notwithstanding these challenges, we were duty-bound to respond as a government and the nation to this pandemic in a way that demonstrated our care for the lives and livelihoods of our people.

Our response to the pandemic was therefore three-pronged – firstly, a robust health response, secondly, social and economic relief and now economic recovery.

As we anticipated the impact of the pandemic on the livelihoods of the people, we responded by implementing a massive social and economic relief package to support companies, workers, households and individuals in distress.

We announced a relief package which, with a total value of R500 billion or around 10% of GDP, is the biggest on the African continent and compares favourably with other countries in the G20. 

Relative to the size of our economy, our social and economic relief response to Covid-19 is roughly on par with countries like Canada, Spain, the United States and Australia.

Through the special Covid-19 grants and the top-up of existing grants, close to R40 billion in additional support has been provided directly to more than 17 million people from poor households. 

Studies have shown that these grants were vital in reducing the impact of the pandemic on levels of poverty and hunger.

The evidence suggests that the expansion of social protection has kept more than 5 million people above the food poverty line during the past six months.

The Special Covid-19 Grant in particular represents a significant achievement, reaching more than 6 million unemployed people in a short space of time.

More than 960 000 companies have benefited through the UIF wage support scheme and through the grants and loans provided by various government departments and public entities.

More than 4 million workers have received R49 billion in wage support, helping to protect these jobs even while companies were not able to operate.

In addition to those businesses that have received direct support, many more companies have benefited from tax relief measures worth in the region of R40 billion.

The South African Reserve Bank acted swiftly to support the economy and protect the financial system, reducing interest rates to their lowest level in more than 50 years.

With a view to protecting jobs and saving companies that employ our people from bankruptcy, we introduced another important intervention in the form of a R200 billion Loan Guarantee Scheme. 

This scheme has thus far provided R16 billion in low-interest loans to almost 12 000 businesses.

Banks have together provided an additional R34 billion in debt relief to individuals and businesses.

Nonetheless, this is far short of what is needed and what is possible.

We are therefore working with the banks to ensure that more companies are able to access this assistance as they resume their operations, and that the full potential of this scheme can be realised.

The combined effect of the measures taken by government and its social partners has been to preserve our country’s economic capacity and lay the foundation for a more rapid recovery.

Despite these vital interventions, however, the damage caused by the pandemic to an already weak economy, to employment, to livelihoods, to public finances and to state-owned companies has been colossal.

More than 2 million people lost their jobs in the second quarter of this year.

Our economy contracted by 16.4% when compared to the previous quarter.

National Treasury expects a significant shortfall in revenue collection. 

This economic shock is unprecedented in our country, and it will take an extraordinary effort to recover from it.

As even the darkest of clouds has a silver lining, we need to see this moment as a rupture with the past and an opportunity to drive fundamental and lasting change. 

It is an opportunity not only to recover the ground that we have lost over the course of the pandemic, but to place the economy on a new path to growth.

We are therefore presenting before this joint sitting of Parliament and the country a reconstruction and recovery plan to drive growth that is inclusive and transformative.

The South African Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan builds on the common ground established by the social partners – government, labour, business and community organisations – through intensive and detailed consultations over the last few months.

It is informed by the work of Cabinet’s Economic Cluster working together with government departments and Cabinet itself and draws on the contributions of the leading economists who make up the Presidential Economic Advisory Council.

I wish to applaud the remarkable efforts, particularly from our social partners in NEDLAC, in reaching consensus on the actions required to rebuild our economy, and the firm actions that all social partners have committed to contribute to the country’s recovery.

We know from the examples of several other countries that social compacts are essential to effective and sustainable growth and development.

As we implement this plan, government remains committed to the agreements reached through the NEDLAC process.

Honourable Members,

The work that we have embarked upon to rebuild our economy after the devastation of coronavirus is guided by the vision to 2030 of the National Development Plan and the programme that was outlined at the beginning of the 6th democratic administration, where we set out the key priorities to drive change and transformation in our country.

The depth of the crisis caused by the pandemic has sharpened our focus and our determination to address the challenges that face us.

The creation of jobs is at the centre of the Reconstruction and Recovery Plan.

We must get our people back into the jobs they lost in the pandemic. 

We are determined to create more employment opportunities for those who were unemployed before the pandemic or who had given up looking for work.

This means unleashing the potential of our economy by, among others, implementing necessary reforms, removing regulatory barriers that increase costs and create inefficiencies in the economy, securing our energy supply, and freeing up digital infrastructure. 

This plan directly responds to the immediate economic impact of Covid-19 by driving job creation and expanding support for vulnerable households. We aim to do this primarily through a major infrastructure programme and a large-scale employment stimulus, coupled with an intensive localisation drive and industrial expansion.

The interventions outlined in this plan will:

– achieve sufficient, secure and reliable energy supply within two years;

– create and support over 800 000 work opportunities in the immediate term to respond to job losses;

– unlock more than R1 trillion in infrastructure investment over the next 4 years;

– reduce data costs for every South African and expand broadband access to low-income households;

– reverse the decline of the local manufacturing sector and promote reindustrialisation through deeper levels of localisation and exports;

– resuscitate vulnerable sectors such as tourism, which have been hard hit by the pandemic.

According to the modelling done by National Treasury, the implementation of this plan will raise growth to around 3% on average over the next 10 years.

Our recovery will be propelled by swift reforms to unleash the potential of the economy, and supported by an efficient state that is committed to clean governance. 

It will be transformative. 

It will be inclusive. 

It will be digital, green and sustainable, and it will invest in our human capital to lay the foundations for the future.

The economic reconstruction and recovery plan recognises that to support a rapid economic rebound, South Africa needs to focus on a few high-impact interventions and ensure they are executed swiftly and effectively.

The reconstruction and recovery plan has four priority interventions:

Firstly, we are embarking on a massive rollout of infrastructure throughout the country.

Infrastructure has immense potential for stimulate investment and growth, to develop other economic sectors and create sustainable employment both directly and indirectly.

We have developed a robust pipeline of projects that will completely transform the landscape of our cities, towns and rural areas.

By the end of June 2020, we had 276 catalytic projects with an investment value of R2.3 trillion. 

Moreover, a list of 50 strategic integrated projects and 12 special projects was gazetted in July 2020. 

These catalytic projects have been prioritised for immediate implementation with all regulatory processes fast-tracked – enabling over R340 billion in new investment. 

These projects are at various stages of the project life cycle. 

Those that are already in construction will see the future phases brought earlier for implementation, including some human settlements projects, which have already received bulk financing to unlock them. 

We are exploring the use of credit enhancing instruments to unlock bulk water infrastructure and national roads improvement projects.

Our infrastructure build programme will focus on social infrastructure such as schools, water, sanitation and housing for the benefit of our people.

We will focus on critical network infrastructure such as ports, roads and rail that are key to our economy’s competitiveness.

We have taken steps to remove the constraints that have hampered infrastructure delivery in the past.

To ensure that there is active implementation of our infrastructure built programme, we have established Infrastructure SA and the Infrastructure Fund with the capacity to prepare and package projects.

This approach is already encouraging private investors to help us build capability for infrastructure delivery within the state and to develop blended financing models.

The Infrastructure Fund will provide R100 billion in catalytic finance over the next decade, leveraging as much as R1 trillion in new investment for strategic infrastructure projects.

Several projects are already in construction.

These include human settlements projects such as Matlosana N2 in North West, Lufhereng in Gauteng, Greater Cornubia in KwaZulu-Natal and Vista Park in Free State.

Together these represent an investment value of R44.5 billion.

In total, we have gazetted 18 housing projects to the value of R130 billion, which together will produce more than 190 000 housing units.

Transport projects currently under construction include the N1 Polokwane and N1 Musina with a total value of R1.3 billion.

Within the next six months, we will:

– Embark on the modernisation and refurbishment the commuter rail network, include the Mabopane Line in Tshwane and the Central Line in Cape Town;

– Expand the national rural and municipal road rehabilitation and maintenance programme using labour intensive methods; and

– Fast-track the implementation of gazetted strategic infrastructure projects through the approval of credit enhancing instruments, provision of bulk infrastructure, and speedy processing of water use licenses, environmental impact assessments and township establishment; and

– Adapt the infrastructure procurement framework to enable public-private partnerships and unlock new funding.

Our second priority intervention is to rapidly expand energy generation capacity.

We are accelerating the implementation of the Integrated Resource Plan to provide a substantial increase in the contribution of renewable energy sources, battery storage and gas technology. 

This should bring around 11 800 MW of new generation capacity into the system by 2022. More than half of this energy will be generated from renewable sources.

In the immediate term, agreements will be finalised with Independent Power Producers to connect over 2 000 MW of additional capacity from existing projects by June 2021. 

The Risk Mitigation Power Procurement Programme will unlock a further 2,000 MW of emergency supply within twelve months.

The process to implement bid window 5 of the renewable energy programme has begun.

We are taking further steps to enable power generation for own-use.

The current regulatory framework will be adapted to facilitate new generation projects while protecting the integrity of the national grid. Applications for own-use generation projects are being urgently fast-tracked.

The work of restructuring Eskom into separate entities for generation, transmission and distribution continues and will enhance competition and ensure the sustainability of independent power producers going forward. 

To achieve this, a long-term solution to Eskom’s debt burden will be finalised, building on the Social Compact on Energy Security recently agreed to by social partners.

Through these measures, we aim to achieve sufficient, secure and reliable energy supply within two years.

Our third key intervention is an employment stimulus to create jobs and support livelihoods.

Large-scale job interventions driven by the state and social partners have proven effective in many countries that have faced devastation from wars and other crises.

We have committed R100 billion over the next three years to create jobs through public and social employment as the labour market recovers. 

This starts now, with over 800 000 employment opportunities created in the months ahead.

The employment stimulus is focused on those interventions that can be rolled out most quickly and have the greatest impact on economic recovery.

At the heart of the employment stimulus is a new, innovative approach to public employment which harnesses the energies and capabilities of the wider society. 

It uses the considerable creativity, initiative and institutional resources that exist in our society to respond to local community priorities. 

These activities will be locally driven, allowing participants to earn an income while contributing to their community.

Traditional forms of public employment are being scaled up and new forms of public employment created to meet the immediate need. 

We are going to expand our natural resource management programmes such as Working on Fire and Working for Water. 

We are going to create 300 000 opportunities for young people to be engaged as education and school assistants at schools throughout the country, to help teachers with basic and routine work so that more time is spent on teaching and enabling learners to catch up from time lost because of Covid.  

More than 60 000 jobs will be created for labour-intensive maintenance and construction of municipal infrastructure and rural roads. 

To support our healthcare system an additional 6 000 community health workers and nursing assistants will be deployed as we proceed with the implementation of National Health Insurance.

Public employment will be expanded at the provincial and city level, contributing to cleaner, greener and safer public spaces and improved maintenance of facilities.

In all of these programmes, we will ensure that recruitment is fair, open and transparent, and that opportunities are advertised widely.

To assist young people who are unemployed to access these and other opportunities, we will soon launch the national Pathway Management Network as a platform for recruitment and other forms of support.

Finally, the employment stimulus includes direct support for livelihoods and the protection of jobs in vulnerable sectors. 

Support is being provided to more than 100 000 early childhood development practitioners and to 75 000 small-scale farmers whose production was disrupted by the pandemic. 

Grant-making programmes are being expanded in the creative, cultural and sports sector, and funding has been allocated to protect jobs in cultural institutions such as museums and theatres. 

More than 40 000 vulnerable teaching posts are being secured in schools which have lost income from fees.

The implementation of the employment stimulus has already commenced. Each of these work opportunities is fully funded and ready for implementation.

The speed and urgency with which we are expanding employment programmes demonstrates our commitment to support those who are without work.

As these and other recovery measures are being rolled out, we need to do everything in our means to provide support to those in society who continue to face hunger and distress.

We will therefore be extending the Special Covid-19 Grant by a further 3 months.

This will maintain a temporary expansion of social protection and allow the labour market sufficient time to recover.

Our fourth key intervention is a drive for industrial growth.

This is in the context of a steady decline of our manufacturing base over many years.

To place our economy on a new trajectory, we are going to support a massive growth in local production and make South African exports much more competitive.

We will build on the work that was being done in several areas before the pandemic struck.  

Through the first two South African Investment Conferences, we managed to secure pledges of around R664 billion in new investment.

To date, just under R170 billion of capital expenditure committed during those investment conferences has been invested in projects for construction and buying equipment is essential to mining, manufacturing, telecommunications and agriculture.

Last year, South Africa recorded its first trade surplus with the European Union, driven by record exports of manufactured goods.

Our country produced and exported more motor vehicles last year than in any previous year.

Our agricultural sector has continued to grow, with a bumper maize harvest and the expansion of many high-value crops.

We have positioned South Africa as one of the most attractive destinations in the world for global business services.

Despite the weaknesses in our economy, despite the devastation caused by the coronavirus, these are some of the strengths on which we can build.

There are huge opportunities that we can seize through effective partnerships, targeted deployment of resources and the right policies.

South Africa currently imports around R1.1 trillion of goods, excluding oil, each year.

If we were to manufacture just 10% of these goods locally, it is estimated that we could add 2 percentage points to our annual GDP.

The rest of Africa currently imports R2.9 trillion worth of manufactured goods from outside the continent each year.

If South Africa were to supply just 2% of those goods, it would add 1.2 percentage points to our annual GDP.

And if we succeed in reaching our target of R1.2 trillion in new investment by 2023, it could add around 2.5% to our annual GDP.

It is to realise this huge potential that the social partners have agreed to prioritise a range of consumer and industrial products for local procurement.

Together with business and labour, we will soon be publishing localisation targets for goods in areas like agro-processing, health care, basic consumer goods, industrial equipment, construction materials and transport rolling stock.

We will enforce government policies to ensure that all public infrastructure projects use locally-made materials, including steel products, cement, bricks and other components. 

We will support the efforts by organised business, we are planning to establish supplier development programmes for large companies and in key sectors.

We welcome the commitment by trade unions to ensure their investment companies increasingly invest in companies that buy from local manufacturers.

The NEDLAC agreement commits all companies and government entities to publicly disclose in their annual reports the value of procurement from local producers and on steps to be taken to improve localisation.

The social partners have also agreed to support a massive ‘buy local’ campaign for this festive season, with a particular call to support women-owned enterprises, small businesses and township enterprises.

We call on every South African to contribute to our recovery effort by choosing to buy local goods and support local businesses.

This is one way that each and every one of us can contribute to building a new economy.

A vital part of growing our industrialisation effort are the sectoral masterplans, which bring all partners together to agree on specific measures to improve productivity, investment and competitiveness.

There are currently masterplans in the automotive, clothing and textile, poultry and sugar sectors.

We are now working to finalise masterplans in the digital economy, forestry, agriculture and agro-processing, creative industries, aerospace and defence, renewable energy, steel and metal fabrication and furniture.

A central pillar of this work is the transformation of our economy, creating space for new black and women entrants and take deliberate steps to change ownership and production patterns.

In promoting localisation and industrialisation, we will be focusing in particular on the development of small, medium and micro enterprises.

This will take place alongside the development of rural and township economies, 

There are between 2.4 million and 3.5 million SMMEs in the country, with the largest number in the informal and micro sectors.

They offer the greatest untapped potential for growth, employment and fundamental economic transformation.

Through a focused support programme, we will support SMME participation in the manufacturing value chain.

This will include the targeting specific products for manufacture by SMMEs for both the domestic market and for export.

It will also include the provision of business infrastructure support, financial assistance through loans and blended funding, facilitating routes to market, and assistance with technical skills, product certification, testing and quality assurance.

Economic growth cannot be realised without the inclusion and active participation of women.

Among the other measures we have outlined, we will be working with women-empowered companies to progressively reach our target of directing at least 40% of procurement spend to such enterprises.  

This is also a vital part of our programme to end gender-based violence and femicide, which is fuelled by gender inequality, particularly economic disparities between men and women and gender-non conforming persons.

In addition to these priority interventions, we will create enabling conditions for a competitive, inclusive and fast-growing economy.

We are fast-tracking reforms to reduce the cost of doing business and lower barriers to entry.

The current timeframes for mining, prospecting, water and environmental licenses will be reduced by at least 50% to facilitate new investment. 

The Petroleum Resources Development Bill will be finalised to unlock our country’s enormous untapped potential in upstream oil and gas reserves.

Although international tourist travel is likely only to recover in the medium term, our efforts are now focused on implementing an efficient e-visa system and extending visa waivers to new tourism markets.

To support tourism over this peak tourism season, we will shortly be publishing an expanded list of countries from where resumption of international travel will be permitted, which will be supported by targeted marketing in partnership with the private sector. 

We urge South African to continue to explore their country in support of the tourism recovery as one of the hard hit sectors by the Covid-19 pandemic.

We will shortly publish the revised list of critical skills, occupations in high demand and priority occupations to enable highly skilled individuals to be speedily recruited, and expedite the issuing of special skills visas to support local firms.

We are promoting greater private sector participation in rail, including through granting third-party access to the core rail network and the revitalisation of branch lines. 

We will establish a single economic regulator in transport as a matter of urgency to promote competition and efficiency.

Work is underway to improve the efficiency and capacity of the ports of Durban, East London, Ngqura and Cape Town. 

The release of high-frequency spectrum by March 2021 and the completion of digital migration will reduce data costs for firms and households.

This process is being managed by ICASA and will promote transformation, reduce costs and increase access.

We are developing innovative new models to provide low-income households with access to affordable, high-speed internet through connection subsidies for broadband and support for public WiFi hotspots.

Decisive action against crime and corruption is essential to inclusive growth. 

Criminal elements in our country have taken to the illegal occupation of construction sites and soliciting protection money from businesses.

To combat these practices, a Joint Rapid Response Team at a national and provincial level will respond to the problem of violent disruptions at construction sites and other business activities.

A well-functioning revenue service is central to our economic recovery programme.

The turnaround at the South African Revenue Service has begun in earnest, and significant areas of tax evasion and tax fraud have already been identified. 

SARS is rebuilding its capacity to reverse the decline, improve compliance and recover lost tax revenue.

We are working to clamp down on the illegal economy and illicit financial flows, including transfer pricing abuse, profit shifting, VAT and customs duty fraud, under-invoicing of manufactured imports, corruption and other illegal schemes. 

The decisive action we have taken to prevent, detect and act against Covid-19-related corruption will strengthen the broader fight against crime.

The Special Investigating Unit has made significant progress in probing allegations of criminal conduct in all public entities during the national state of disaster.

The work of the SIU continues and the outcomes of the investigations will be made public once all the due process have been completed. 

Law enforcement agencies are being strengthened and provided with adequate resources to enable the identification and swift prosecution of corruption and fraud. 

We wish to assure all South African that there will be no political interference with the work of law enforcement agencies.

We will strengthen the framework to ensure that political office-bearers at all spheres of government do not do business with the state and we welcome the agreement at NEDLAC that all social partners will act decisively against corruption and fraud in their ranks.

The Public Procurement Bill will be fast-tracked and transversal contracts put in place for large-volume items.

We will soon finalise and begin implementation of the new National Anti-Corruption Strategy, which will improve transparency, monitoring and accountability in government and across society.

Through these actions, we will ensure that every Rand of public expenditure is spent productively to benefit our people and support our recovery effort.

All of these actions will be taken within a supportive macroeconomic framework, which balances the need to restore fiscal sustainability with economic growth. 

A critical pillar of this plan is the fiscal framework that will be outlined by the Minister of Finance in the Medium Term Budget Policy Statement.

Among other things, this framework will provide a path of fiscal consolidation, debt reduction and reprioritisation that is supportive of growth and recovery.

We cannot sustain the current levels of debt, particularly as increasing borrowing costs are diverting resources that should be going to economic and social development.

That is why we are urgently implementing the economic reforms that we have agreed with our social partners at NEDLAC to unlock investment, stimulate economic activity and generate revenue for the fiscus.

In reducing government expenditure, we are ensuring that funds are reprioritised towards poverty alleviation, infrastructure investment, support for economic development and fighting crime and corruption.

We are also reducing the reliance of SOEs on the fiscus by intensifying efforts to stabilise strategic companies, accelerating the rationalisation of SOEs and, where appropriate, identifying strategic partners.

It is clear that implementation is going to be the key in giving effect to this recovery and reconstruction plan.

This requires a more effective and efficient state, with greater coordination and integration between national, provincial and local government.

Through the District Development Model, we are beginning to see progress in the alignment of the work of the different spheres.

To ensure focused and urgent implementation of the Plan, dedicated capacity is being created in the Presidency to drive progress and support departments and agencies in the implementation of their mandate.

To fast-track the delivery of economic reforms, Operation Vulindlela will be implemented as a joint initiative of the Presidency and National Treasury reporting directly to the President on a regular basis.

It will work closely with Cabinet’s Economic Cluster to ensure that the priority interventions and key enabling reforms are implemented rapidly and effectively and that those responsible for their implementation are held accountable. 

A National Economic Recovery Council comprising relevant members of Cabinet will provide political oversight and enable rapid decision-making.

The Department of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation remains the backbone of government reporting on the five-year Medium Term Strategic Framework.

This will take place alongside the implementation arrangements which have been agreed among the social partners at NEDLAC.

We will be releasing the Nedlac Social Partner Economic Recovery Action Plan and the Social Compact for Energy Security. These contain very significant measures that we will be working with social partners to implement.  

A Presidential Working Committee, chaired by the President, will meet regularly to receive reports from each social partner on the extent to which it has implemented its commitments.

It will be supported by an Economic Recovery Leadership Team and working groups on particular areas of the recovery action plan.

Fellow South Africans,

In the aftermath of a fire, green shoots begin to emerge. 

The ashes enrich the soil, and new life takes root to replace what was lost.

Our country is emerging from one of the most difficult periods in living memory.

South Africans have suffered and have made great sacrifices, sharing in this hardship with people all over the world.

But as South Africans, we have a deep reservoir of resilience to draw upon.

We have endured much, and have always emerged stronger and more united.

We stand together at a crucial turning point in the history of our country.

Our ability to reignite our economy rests on the decisions we take in this moment, and the urgency with which we address this crisis.

We shall not rest until we have fulfilled the potential of our country.

We shall not rest until we have built a new economy based on fairness, justice and equality.

This is the task of our generation: to renew, to repair, to rebuild.

We dare not take a moment to pause.

Together, we will build a new economy.

The time is now. Ke nako.

I thank you.

View more

Wildlife zones introduced to Project Rhino

Seven Integrated Wildlife Zones are being introduced across South Africa to protect the country’s rhino.

Continue reading View more

There is only one Succulent Karoo – help us secure it

There are many reasons to love the Succulent Karoo.

Continue reading View more

Cape Town flower season is upon us

Spring is just around the corner, a time when Cape Town’s spring flowers are showcased across the city. The flower viewing period only lasts for a short window between now and the end of September. The City encourages residents to visit the City’s nature reserves over the flower season. Many of the reserves boast beautiful blooms annually.

A number of City of Cape Town nature reserves blossom with flowers such as the Cape White Daisy, Vygies, Gazanias, Pelargoniums, Arum Lilies, Kelkiewyn, Viooltjie and Bobbejaantjie to name a few. Many areas across the city are already covered with spring flowers, but the City reserves are truly worth visiting as these conservation areas offer the perfect spots to enjoy these sights while exploring the rest of the natural beauty showcased at the reserves.

The City of Cape Town manages 21 nature reserves in Cape Town – many of which are in very close proximity to urban areas. Residents are spoilt for choice with access to reserves located right on their doorstep.

‘With the recent rains Cape Town has been receiving, we can expect a show of blooms across the city this year. Our reserves are rich in vegetation and animal life and I believe many Capetonians have not yet discovered these magnificent reserves. If a road trip to view this year’s blooms are not on the cards, I encourage you to seriously consider one. The City nature reserves boast beautiful spring flowers each year and residents should not miss out on the spectacle.

The City’s Mayoral Committee Member for Spatial Planning and Environment, Alderman Marian Nieuwoudt, said that one of the areas she enjoys visiting during the flower season include the Coastal Hiking Trail that is part of the City’s Blaauwberg Nature Reserve. 

“This area showcases spectacular flowers each year. Many of our reserves have hiking trails which offer visitors and residents an opportunity to access certain parts of the natural environment which they may not have been exposed to before.”

She added that another favourite place to visit is the City’s Bracken Nature Reserve in Brackenfell.

“One is sure to come across the bright coloured blooms while taking a stroll along the reserve’s pathways,” said Nieuwoudt.

It should be noted that the best time to view flowers are in the afternoon when the sun is out. Any time between late morning and 15:00 is advised, while the sun is still high in the sky.

Visitors are also reminded to please wear a mask to cover their nose and mouth at all times, to wash their hands often with soap and water, or to use hand sanitiser, and to observe the social distancing that is required in terms of the Covid-19 health and safety protocols.

View more

The buck stops at Vergelegen

The arrival of the eland (Taurotragus oryx) at Vergelegen in Somerset West forms the latest stage of the Gantouw Project.  This is a programme of the non-profit organisation Cape Town Environmental Education Trust (CTEET) and has been in operation since 2015 under its Nature Care Fund. The project mimics the historic migration of eland, using them as a natural driver to boost ecosystem diversity.

The CEO of CTEET, Dr Anthony Roberts explained that the word “Gantouw” derives from the Koi language and means “the way of the eland.” He added that this refers to the path that the eland carved into the land as they migrated back and forth from the Cape Flats over the Hottentots Holland Mountains. 

Roberts further explained that introducing eland would help restore the ecosystems that have been damaged by urbanisation. 

“Urbanisation has resulted in fragmented ecosystems, many of which are collapsing. By introducing eland and allowing them to browse vegetation and prevent bush encroachment ‒ one of the main threats to the ecological health of these systems ‒ the characteristic diversity of the veld starts to return and the ecosystem functions more effectively,” Roberts said. 

The impact of the eland on the Vergelegen veld will be monitored using drones and spectral imaging, as well as on-the-ground flora and fauna surveys. This will indicate the animals’ grazing preferences, their impact on flora and fauna, and estimations of veld carrying capacity.

The eland group comprises three cows and two neutered bulls, transported from Elandsberg, Wellington.  The project will run for five years then be reviewed. 

Vergelegen has provided a fenced 10 hectare camp near the hilltop wine cellar, secluded from its hospitality and management operations. CTEET has erected a boma in this camp to shelter the eland and estate management has undertaken to monitor their health. CTEET will conduct research to obtain baseline data as well as ongoing ecological monitoring and will submit an annual report.

The first phase of the Gantouw Project focused on Cape Flats Dune Strandveld, which is endangered and only found on the lowlands of Cape Town. At Vergelegen the eland will graze on various species of fynbos including renosterbos, osteospermum, searsia, helichrysum, oxalis, various grasses and restios.

Vergelegen MD Wayne Coetzer explained that much of the original vegetation at Vergelegen has revived since the estate management embarked on South Africa’s largest privately funded alien vegetation clearing project. Completed in 2018, the project has restored 2200 hectares of fynbos vegetation, while supporting job creation and skills development in local communities.

“We are delighted to be able to play a part in this far-sighted project and look forward to seeing the research findings in due course. We hope the knowledge gained at the estate will help to protect other precious natural habitats,” said Coetzer

The eland research will form part of a PhD thesis by ecologist Petro Botha, the Gantouw Project Manager.

The estate has a long history of collaborating with both local and international universities so that students and professionals can further their education through various projects at Vergelegen, said Coetzer. By end-2018 there had been 24 formal studies: seven undergraduate, eleven postgraduate and six PhD studies. Of these, 19 were from local institutions and five from international institutions.

Vergelegen was the first Biodiversity and Wine Initiative Champion in 2005 and was awarded the Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa (WESSA) 2019 corporate award, which recognises the wine estate’s sustained commitment to environmental initiatives.

The Gantouw Project is proudly sponsored as an environmental responsibility project by Quemic, a unique and dynamic provider of integrated risk solutions within the safety and security environment.

View more

Speech by the Minister of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries, Honourable Barbara Creecy on the revised budget

23 July 2020: Last Saturday on Mandela Day, I spent my sixty-seven minutes with the World Wildlife Fund, meeting representatives from fishing communities in the Overberg Region of the Western Cape.

The representatives spoke of the hardship small-scale fisher men and women face in this difficult industry: including their exclusion from the more profitable aspects of the fish processing value chain through lack of access to affordable loans for tools of trade and investment;  of lives burdened by debt to marketers; and their hunt for viable catch in the face of dwindling wild fish stocks.

By October this year, we hope to issue 15 year fishing rights to small scale fishers in the Western Cape. For the first time in our country’s history, this will conclude a Small Scale 15 year Rights Allocation Process to over ten thousand five hundred fisher men and women organised into 110 co-operatives nationwide.

The rights allocation process is a first step to formalising and developing small scale fishers, who even before the Covid 19 Pandemic, faced enormous inequality, insecurity and barriers to economic participation.

And so, Honourable members, we must today ask the question as to how our road to recovery from this pandemic will promote a more sustainable growth path for our people and our country.

One that protects our natural resources, while at the same time confronting the inherent contradictions and constraints to human development, including skewed and exclusive patterns of production and distribution.

At a continental level, as President of the African Ministerial Conference on the Environment (AMCEN), South Africa convened a virtual meeting of the AMCEN Bureau on 28 May 2020, to discuss a proposed Green Stimulus Programme, which has 12 focus areas and includes a key area on enhancing Climate Action.

The Green Stimulus Recovery Programme will be presented to the African Union with a view to it being incorporated into the overall COVID-19 Recovery Programme for Africa, to ensure our recovery is sustainable and contributes to a Just Transition.

Throughout the world countries and formations as diverse as the European Union, India, Canada, Rwanda, Gabon, China, and Japan are recognising that what the World Economic Forum terms a “nature positive future”, can unlock enormous potential and investment opportunities for both developed and developing countries.

A nature positive future can enable economies to recover and to grow; successfully service their national debts; and carry out their governmental responsibilities to citizens. This can be done in a way that sustains both the natural environment and human health and well-being.

For South Africa, embracing a nature positive future as part of our overall economic recovery would have four advantages.  First and foremost it will have a positive impact on job creation in new industries which offer potential for the creation of new enterprises using new technologies.

Secondly, dedicated international “green funds” offer an investment source for these new industries. Thirdly, green bonds have been shown to be cheaper than traditional vanilla bonds and finally, investment in green and sustainable solutions offers us opportunities to promote our long term economic competitiveness and climate resilience.

And as our government develops our medium-term recovery plan, attention must be focused immediately on stabilising sectors hard hit by the pandemic. In our space, this includes particularly nature-based tourism, the oceans economy, and the circular economy.

The revised budget and plans we table for consideration today, represent our Department’s response to the difficult choices that confront us in stabilising our sector and opening possibilities for future growth.  Allow me to explain.

Firstly, our Department received a net budget loss of 8.6%, amounting to a budget cut of R766 million. This money we surrendered as part of our collective contribution to the national COVID-19 response plan and to the post-lockdown economic recovery initiatives.

To ensure the budget cut had a minimal effect on our programmes, we effected savings on advertorials, domestic and international travel, public meetings, stakeholder consultation and events, most of which are no longer possible under current conditions.

Our four Entities: Sanparks, Sanbi, Isimangaliso and the Weather Service, all of which have a good record of revenue generation and financial self-sustainablity, are unable to realise their usual income streams.

In the first quarter or this financial year, our “Working For” programmes were not able to operate due to lockdown conditions. By cutting back on now unachievable targets in this programme, we have been able to transfer R39 million to the Isimangaliso Wetland Park Authority and R961million to Sanparks.

In doing this we have ensured the sustainability of our protected areas and the significant role they play in supporting our country’s mega-biodiversity. We have also ensured the future sustainability of our contribution to nature based tourism and its longer term employment potential.

To further secure the financial viability of our four entities we have taken the following decisions:

·        Capital spending in all four entities has been postponed while we look for alternative funding sources through the agency of the Presidential Sustainable Infrastructure Development Programme (SIDS).  In total twenty-nine projects have been submitted for project preparation.

·        Budgets initially earmarked for capital spending have been shifted to prevent job losses and ensure we have the human resources to continue with the valuable work performed by these entities, including anti-poaching and ranger services, wildlife management; the day to day running of our botanical gardens and the Tshwane Zoo; weather prediction services which remain essential for shipping and aviation purposes; and the extensive programmes of scientific research co-ordinated by SANBI.

Our national parks are not the only conservation formations facing distress during these times. Our provincial parks also face revenue shortfalls and tough choices.

To assist in this regard, all Members of the Provincial Executive Councils have agreed that the recommendations of a 2012 study entitled “Review of Institutional Arrangements for Management of Protected Areas” must be revisited. Work is currently underway to review these recommendations for consideration over the coming year.

Several non-governmental organisations in the conservation space are also facing financial distress due to cessation of international visitors who provided the lifeblood of their projects.

As a result, conservation authorities across the continent are facing severe funding constraints that will over time impact negatively on their operations, efforts to protect species and ecosystems, and on the lives of rural communities dependent on revenues and jobs from protected area estates.

In response to this situation I have taken a two-pronged approach informed by South Africa’s current position as the President  of AMCEN and the important role that the biodiversity economy plays in the country’s development plan.

Firstly, I have established a Ministerial Task Team on resource mobilisation for conservation COVID-19 responses, comprising experts from diverse backgrounds to consider innovative approaches to sustainable funding for the conservation sector. The task team will also identify potential funding sources that could be mobilised.

Initial work is focusing on an emergency response, but with the view to longer term sustainable funding mechanisms and models.  Diverse investment sources are being considered, including innovative financing solutions, debt-for-nature swaps, grants, and impact investments.

The second initiative is one our Department is working on together with the IUCN, and the Endangered Wildlife Trust. We have established a number of working groups to make recommendations on how we support the post Covid Recovery of the Biodiversity and Conservation sector and build our nature positive future.

While this work is still at an early stage, future success will require much greater co-ordination between government and non-governmental sectors.  Together we will have to rethink how we co-operate to restore ecosystem services, protect strategic water sources and develop green infrastructure.

It will require us to rethink the form and nature of our current Environmental Programmes and how we will share resources we mobilise from both domestic and international sources.

Despite budget cuts and a late start to our expanded public works programme, we still aim to create 16 315 work opportunities this year. We will ensure that 60% of the people who benefit from the implementation of our programmes are women, 65% are young people, and 2% percent are people with disabilities.

Honourable members, this year the Paris Agreement that falls under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) comes fully into force. Our country is a signatory to the Paris Agreement and together with other signatories, we are reviewing our contributions to reducing emissions and building our resilience to the impacts of climate change, through our Nationally Determined Contributions—or NDCs. We aim to commence with the public participation process on South Africa’s Nationally Determined Contributions, while adhering to the Covid 19 lockdown regulations in September.

Work also continues on our Climate Change Bill with processes in Nedlac hopefully reaching conclusion in August, so we can still submit to this House before the end of the current financial year.

To fast-track the development of renewable energy projects in line with the Integrated Resource Plan, our Department last week called for public comment on three more Renewable Energy Development Zones (REDZ) namely Emalahleni in Mpumalanga, Klerksdorp in North West and Beaufort West in the Western Cape. This will bring to eleven the number of REDZ in the country.

The declaration of Emalahleni and Klerksdorp officially earmarks these coal and gold towns as regions in which large-scale solar photo voltaic (PV) facilities could be deployed.

The REDZ represent priority areas for investment in the electricity grid, regarded as an enabler of higher levels of renewable penetration in our country. Projects located within the boundaries of the REDZ are beneficiaries of streamlined environmental authorisation processes.

Honourable Members, waste recycling and the transition to a circular economy is an area where our Department must speedily and  dramatically upscale its interventions to create jobs, formalise micro waste recovery enterprises, divert waste from landfills and the environment and improve the overall system of waste management.

In this regard I am happy to share with this house today that the waste tyre management plan and the extended producer responsibility plans, for sectors including paper and packaging, lighting and e-waste, have been published for public comment and will soon be gazetted.  These plans have been developed under sections 29 and 18 of the Waste Act respectively.

As I conclude allow me to return to the Blue Economy. The South African fishing sector remains a significant contributor to food security and the economy. Stabilising the sub-sector through the allocation of longer-term fishing rights is critical to attracting investment into the industry.

To this end, in 2019, the Cabinet extended the timeline for dealing with the fishing rights allocation process (FRAP). The revised period for the commencement of the 2020/21 FRAP process for the granting of commercial fishing rights was published on the 26th June 2020 for comments. We have revised our project plan to meet the new deliverables and timeframes. 

Of crucial importance at this point in time is to stabilise our Aquaculture sector and the 4 875 jobs it currently sustains. In this regard we are finalising consultations on the Aquaculture Bill so that we provide policy certainty without over-regulation. We hope to bring this Bill to the house next year.

Securing sustainable markets for our aquaculture products remains of crucial importance at this time when Asian markets have been disrupted by the Covid 19 pandemic and SA producers face competition from cheap imports. Our team is currently working with the DTI and the industry to identify and secure new international and domestic markets.

Securing the safety of our domestic fish stocks is a central requirement for a sustainable fishing industry.  High quality scientific information to inform management decisions is the cornerstone of sound fisheries management. Under tight resource constraints the department must rebuild this capacity in partnership with other branches, the industry and tertiary institutions.  This year we will deploy 300 catch data monitors across the four coastal provinces to record catch information.

Under the auspices of Phakisa Initiative 5, we have, together with other law enforcement authorities, focused on preventing illegal harvesting of marine resources. To date total confiscations of illegal catch have amounted to more than R13 million.

To ensure more permanent deployment of security personnel, the next step is to undertake a marine and coastal sectoral threat, risk and opportunity analysis to inform where we should focus at a strategic and operational level.

Allow me to thank our Deputy Minister Ms Makhotso Sotyu, our Acting Director General Mr Ishaam Abader and team Environment Forestry and Fisheries as well as the CEOs of our Entities for all their support and hard work over the past year.

My appreciation goes to Honourable Fikile Xasa and members of the Portfolio Committee for their oversight role and for ensuring we remain accountable in the public domain for all we do.

I also take this opportunity to thank the many non-governmental organisations and individuals who dedicate their time and efforts to the sustainable management of our environment and our natural resource base. Your passion and commitment inspires us each and every day.

I thank you

View more

Environment, Forestry and Fisheries budget reprioritised for a nature-based post-Covid-19 recovery: Creecy

The Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries has been allocated R8.2 billion for the 2020/21 financial year to help in the implementation of our environmental programmes and post-lockdown economic recovery initiatives.

Delivering the Department’s reprioritised budget policy statement for the 2020/21 financial year during a virtual Parliamentary sitting today, the Minister of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment Barbara Creecy (pictured) said the monies allocated for the present financial year will be utilised to create a “nature-positive future” for the country.   

During the National Lockdown to stem the spread of Covid-19, the Department’s four entities – SANParks, SANBI, iSimangaliso Wetland Park, and the SA Weather Service – have been unable to realise their usual income and remain self-sustainable. To ensure these are able to continue to deliver on their mandate despite the pandemic, the Department has shifted a considerable amount of funding (R1.1 billion) to the four entities, from the departmental budget.

An amount of R961 million has been transferred to SANParks and R39 million to iSimangaliso Wetland Park Authority to cover the loss of income with regards to gate fees and accommodation. Also assigned has been the amount of R44 million to the Department’s Environmental Programmes to cover Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and sanitising agents for the participants in the Expanded Public Works Programme projects.

“In doing this we have ensured the sustainability of our protected areas and the significant role they play in supporting our country’s mega-biodiversity. We have also ensured the future sustainability of our contribution to nature-based tourism and its longer-term employment potential,” said the Minister.

To further secure the financial viability of the four entities the following decisions have been made:

  • Capital spending in all four entities has been postponed while alternative funding sources are sought for 29 projects through the Presidential Sustainable Infrastructure Development Programme (SIDS). 
  • Budgets initially earmarked for capital spending have been shifted to prevent job losses and ensure duties such as anti-poaching and ranger services, wildlife management, the day to day running of the country’s botanical gardens and the Tshwane Zoo, weather prediction services essential for shipping and aviation purposes, and the extensive programmes of scientific research co-ordinated by SANBI, continue.

Minister Creecy said national and provincial parks face revenue shortfalls and tough choices at this time.  To assist, the institutional arrangements for the management of protected areas are being reviewed to find ways to ensure their survival.

In response to the present crisis, the Minister has adopted a two-pronged approach informed by South Africa’s current position as the President of AMCEN, and the important role that the biodiversity economy plays in the country’s development plan.

Firstly, a Ministerial Task Team on resource mobilisation for conservation Covid-19 responses has been established. It comprises experts from diverse backgrounds to consider innovative approaches to sustainable funding for the conservation sector. The task team will also identify potential funding sources that could be mobilised. 

“Initial work is focusing on an emergency response particularly for NGOs in distress, but with the view to longer-term sustainable funding mechanisms and models,” said the Minister. 

Diverse investment sources are being considered, including innovative financing solutions, debt for nature swops, grants, and impact investments.

The second initiative is being worked on by the Department with the IUCN and the Endangered Wildlife Trust which will find ways to support the post-Covid Recovery of the biodiversity and conservation sector and build a nature positive future.

Minister Creecy said greater co-ordination between government and non-governmental sectors is required to restore ecosystem services, protect strategic water sources and develop of green infrastructure.

“Despite budget cuts and a late start to our expanded public works programme, we still aim to create 16 315 job opportunities this year. We will ensure that 60% of the people who benefit from the implementation of our programmes are women, 65% are young people and 2% percent are people with disabilities,” she said.

Work is continuing on delineating 11 strategic water sources, the development of a National Joint Wetlands Management Framework, and the clearing of invasive plant species and rehabilitation of wetlands, riparian zones and degraded land.

The fishing sector remains a significant contributor to food security and the economy. Stabilising the sub-sector through the allocation of longer-term fishing rights is critical to attracting investment into the industry.

When the Department issues 15-year fishing rights to small-scale fishers in the Western Cape later this year, it will, for the first time, mark the completion of the Small-Scale 15-year Rights Allocation Process to over ten thousand five hundred fisher men and women organised into 110 co-operatives nationwide.

Minister Creecy said the rights allocation process is a first step to formalising and developing small-scale fishers who even before the Covid-19 Pandemic, faced enormous inequality, insecurity and barriers to economic participation.

The revised period for the commencement of the 2020/21 FRAP process for the granting of commercial fishing rights was published on the 26th June 2020 for comments. The FRAP2020/21 Project Plan has been revised to meet the new deliverables and timeframes. 

The Minister said of crucial importance at this point in time was the stablisation of the Aquaculture sector and the 4 875 jobs it sustains. In this regard, consultations on the Aquaculture Bill are being finalised.

2020 also marks the coming into force of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.  The Department is reviewing contributions to reducing emissions and building resilience to the impacts of climate change, through it Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs).

As the country moved to a “nature-positive future”, the Department has called for public comment on three more Renewable Energy Development Zones (REDZ) namely Emalahleni in Mpumalanga, Klerksdorp in North West and Beaufort West in the Western Cape.

This will bring to eleven the number of REDZ in the country.  The declaration of these zones will fast-track the development of renewable energy projects in line with the Integrated Resource Plan.

Minister Creecy said waste recycling and the transition to a Circular Economy are areas that need to be speedily up-scaled to create jobs, formalise micro-waste recovery enterprises, divert waste from landfills and the environment and improve the overall system of waste management.

READ THE FULL SPEECH HERE

View more

Mysterious death of Botswana’s elephants being investigated

In recent reports, Botswana has had to requests be done to determine what is killing hundreds of elephants in the Okavango Delta region. Tests that were sent to Zimbabwe have arrived in Botswana while they await tests to arrive from South Africa. 

Samples were collected and sent to Zimbabwe and South Africa to determine the cause. However, the Covid-19 pandemic has led to delays in the samples being sent out.

A senior official in the Environment and Tourism Ministry, Oduetse Kaboto, recently stated in a televised briefing that once all the results have been received they would be able to find definitive answers.

“We have to wait for another set of results and reconcile the two to see if they are saying the same thing before we come to a definitive conclusion,” said Koboto.

Public outcry over Elephant deaths

Botswana officials were compelled to act when photographs of the carcasses were widely published. The country has an elephant population of more than 130 000 which makes it a popular tourist destination for wildlife lovers. In the Okavango Delta, more than 280 elephants have died. The region is home to approximately 18000 elephants. 

According to one of the co-founders for the National Park Rescue, Mark Hiley, the first elephants started dying in May. To date, officials have found elephants have died. The Botswana government has been criticised for not acting sooner to discover the cause of these deaths. 

“The government would normally respond within days to an event of this scale. Yet here we are, months later, with no testing completed and with no more information than we had at the start,” Hiley said. 

Poaching & Anthrax ruled out

Officials have been able to rule out poaching and anthrax poisoning as the cause of the elephant deaths. The acting director of the department of Wildlife and National Parks, Cyril Taolo, stated that the carcasses had been found intact and that the tusks were not missing.

“We do not suspect poaching since (the) animals were found with tusks,” Taolo said.

View more

Ecotourism now endangers wildlife as visitors scramble for remote experiences

Ecotourism in distant and remote spots around the planet is popular indeed with tourists and tour guides alike. The animals, not so much, perhaps.

Protected areas around the globe are being inundated – tourists make 8 billion visits a year to fragile sites around the world, says Daniel Blumstein, a professor of ecology and evolutionary biology with the University of California, Los Angeles.

“This massive amount of nature-based and eco-tourism can be added to the long list of drivers of human-induced rapid environmental change.”

It is a booming industry. “Shark ecotourism” alone in the Caribbean and Australia waters brings in $314 million annually worldwide, according to industry figures. That can come at a price, though. Mr Blumstein has published a new report in Trends in Ecology & Evolution, an academic journal, suggesting all this cosiness in the wild can upset a natural balance.

Animal behaviour itself is changing, he says.

“When animals interact in ‘benign’ ways with humans, they may let down their guard,” he says, concluding that the newly friendly beasts could be killed off in an encounter with real predators in nature.”

Those who support ecotourism are very clear about their mission, however. The International Ecotourism Society defines ecotourism as “responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment, sustains the well-being of the local people and involves interpretation and education.”

The organization encourages both tourists and tour providers to “minimize physical, social, behavioural, and psychological impacts,” in the pristine or far-flung spots they visit.

Mr Blumstein compares ecotourism to domestication or urbanization, citing the phenomenon of wild animals that become increasingly tame and docile in city environments.

“If individuals selectively habituate to humans – particularly tourists – and if invasive tourism practices enhance this habituation, we might be selecting for or creating traits or syndromes that have unintended consequences, such as increased predation risk. Even a small human-induced perturbation could affect the behaviour or population biology of a species and influence the species’ function in its community.” Mr Blumstein writes in his research.

He adds that it’s essential to figure out what precise conditions put wildlife at risk when humans suddenly show up for a tourism experience.

In his research, Mr Blumstein’s advises all concerned to find “a new way of thinking about possible long-term effects of nature-based tourism and encourages scientists and reserve managers to take into account these deleterious impacts to assess the sustainability of a type of tourism, which typically aims to enhance, not deplete biodiversity.”

View more

Asia Qatari tourists to South Africa on the rise

DOHA: The number of Qataris travelling to South Africa has increased six times in recent years, as the country is becoming a popular destination for tourists from here.

The average number of Qatari tourists visiting South Africa annually has increased from 100 to 600 in the past four years, Saad Cachalia, South African Ambassador to Qatar, told this daily yesterday.

However, he said the total number of people travelling from Qatar would be higher as some residents here could enter South Africa without a prior visa.

“The tourism market is relatively new, but we need to look at Qatar in terms of people. We have 2.3 million people of more than 130 nationalities living here and many who live in Qatar, do not require a visa to go to South Africa — Europeans in particular,” said Cachalia.

Since such tourists to South Africa don’t apply for a visa from Qatar, they will not be counted as travelling from here.

“But there has been a real increase in the number of Qataris going to South Africa over the years… In the last four years, we have seen figures rising from merely 100 to 600 yearly,” said Cachalia.

He also explained about the possibility of Qataris getting to enter South Africa without a prior visa in future.

“We are trying to work on another level in bilateral relations. Over the time, we have begun to look at people from Qatar, particularly Qataris, travelling to South Africa without the hassles applying for visas,” Cachalia said on the sidelines of ‘The South Africa Tourism Experience’ seminar yesterday.

The seminar was held for travel industry representatives to explain what South Africa has to offer to tourists.

In his presentation on ‘Meet South Africa’, Sadiq Dinar, Manager, Trade Relations, Global, South African Tourism, said the number of tourist travelling from Qatar and neighbouring countries is increasing.

“Demand for this (tourism) market is growing, because you see an increased airlift to South Africa,” he said.

According to him, there are at least 21 flights to South Africa from Qatar, the UAE, Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries.

South Africa is a popular tourist destination and ranks in top 10, with some 14 million arrivals in 2013. It has strong facilities for adventure, sport, nature and wildlife, and is a pioneer and global leader in responsible tourism.

Although known for safari rides, South Africa has much more in offering for tourists.

“South Africa is a destination that offers many experiences. It’s a good destination, with culture, strong heritage and lots of natural beauty,” said Dinar.

The Peninsula

Source: thepeninsulaqatar

View more