fbpx

Kwanalu

The voice of agriculture . Die stem van landbou . Izwe lezokulima

Voorgestelde waterlisensie regulasies vereis tot 75% swart Suid-Afrikaanse aandeelhouding, plaas voedselsekerheid op verdere risiko | Proposed water licensing regulations requiring up to 75% black South African shareholding place tenuous food security at further risk

English to follow:

1 Junie 2023

Die Departement van Water en Sanitasie (DWS) het onlangs konsep hersiene regulasies rakende die prosedurevereistes vir watergebruiklisensie-aansoeke en -wysigings vir kommentaar gepubliseer. Volgens die konsepregulasies sal sekere ondernemings wat aansoek doen vir watergebruikslisensies om water te neem of op te berg, in die toekoms aandele van tot 75% aan swart Suid-Afrikaners moet toeken vir sulke watergebruikslisensies om toegestaan te kan word. Die gevolge vir voedselsekuriteit en die volhoubaarheid van die landbousektor, sou hierdie regulasies in die huidige vorm aanvaar word, kan nie onderskat word nie – dit sal ‘n verwoestende impak hê op die sektor en sy vermoë om die land van voedsel te voorsien. Deur die fokus uitsluitlik op swart aandeelhouding te plaas, tot uitsluiting van alle ander relevante faktore, sal dit tot die verlies (of gedeeltelike verlies) van die vermoë om water regmatig te kan gebruik vir talle tans lewensvatbare kommersiële boerdery-ondernemings beteken.

Soortgelyke vereistes word ook voorgeskryf in die konsep regulasies ten opsigte van sogenaamde “stroomvloeiverminderings-aktiwiteite” (in wese kommersiële bosbouplantasies). Die regulasies maak ook voorsiening vir hidrobreking (wat ‘n verdere risiko en bedreiging vir voedselsekerheid is).

Die voorgeskrewe minimum vereistes vir swart aandeelhouding van 25%, 50% of 75%, wat vereis word vir ‘n watergebruikslisensie om te slaag, hang af van die volume water wat onttrek of gestoor word, of die oppervlak (in die geval van kommersiële bosbouplantasies).

Die voorgestelde regulasies word beskou as die DWS se mees radikale en ingrypende poging tot nog toe om die demografie ten opsigte van watergebruik in Suid-Afrika te verander. Die landbou- en bosbousektore blyk die primêre teiken van die voorgestelde regulasies te wees. Die landbousektor is verantwoordelik vir ongeveer 60% van Suid-Afrika se totale watergebruik. Dit is opmerklik dat die voorgestelde regulasies mynmaatskappye, die staat en staatsbeheerde entiteite, asook entiteite 100% in swart besit vrystel.

“Agri SA is van mening dat die voorgestelde regulasies ’n verwoestende uitwerking op Suid-Afrika se kommersiële landbousektor sal hê indien dit in hul huidige vorm aanvaar word,” sê Janse Rabie, regs- en beleidsbestuurder by Agri SA. “Dit is welbekend dat die DWS verpligte lisensiëring van bestaande regmatige watergebruike in die nabye toekoms beoog (’n feit wat deur regulasie 13 van die voorgestelde regulasies beklemtoon word). Verreweg die grootste aantal landbouwatergebruike word uitgeoefen in terme van historiese bestaande regmatige watergebruike.”

Ook kommerwekkend is dat dit wil voorkom asof die konsepregulasies poog om die huidige reeks oorwegings wat van toepassing is op die toestaan van waterlisensies slegs met eienaarskapdemografie te vervang. Ingevolge artikel 27 van die Nasionale Waterwet moet die DWS alle relevante faktore in ag neem wanneer ‘n watergebruikslisensie uitgereik word. Dit sluit reeds die behoefte in om die resultate van vorige rasse- en geslagsdiskriminasie reg te stel.

“Artikel 27 van die Nasionale Waterwet bevat egter ook minstens 10 ander oorwegings wat die DWS (die verantwoordelike owerheid vir die toekenning van watergebruikslisensies) in ag moet neem voordat enige aansoek om ’n watergebruikslisensie toegestaan word. Wat die voorgestelde regulasies wil bereik, is om BBSEB die enigste oorweging vir die toekenning van lisensies te maak,” sê Rabie.

Die Hoogste Hof van Appèl (HHA) het hierdie kwessie in 2012 hanteer in ’n saak wat destyds deur Agri SA ondersteun is. “In die sogenaamde Goede Wellington-saak het die HHA spesifiek gesê dat al die toepaslike faktore vervat in artikel 27 van die Nasionale Waterwet saam oorweeg moet word om te besluit of ’n aansoek om ’n watergebruikslisensie toegestaan moet word al dan nie. Dit sluit faktore in soos doeltreffende en voordelige gebruik van water in die openbare belang, sosio-ekonomiese impak en beleggings wat reeds deur ’n watergebruiker gemaak is ten opsigte van die betrokke watergebruik.”

Hierdie oorwegings bly belangrik en is veral so wanneer die fundamentele rol wat die sektor speel ten opsigte van voedselsekerheid, indiensneming asook die baie beduidende uitdagings wat boere tans in die gesig staar, in ag geneem word. Water is die belangrikste inset vir die sektor en as boere die wettige gebruik van hierdie inset verloor, sal die impak katastrofies wees.

Agri SA erken dat water aan alle Suid-Afrika se mense behoort en besef ten volle die belangrikheid daarvan om ‘n inklusiewe en verteenwoordigende landbousektor in ons land te bereik. “Die gevolge wat die konsepregulasies in hul huidige vorm met betrekking tot landbou en voedselproduksie in Suid-Afrika sal hê, sal egter noodlottig wees. Water is een van die kommersiële landbousektor se belangrikste insette”, sê Rabie..

Wat dit betref, is dit ook onwaarskynlik dat hierdie regulasies die doelwit van verdere transformasie in die sektor sal bereik. Om dit te bereik sal ‘n omgewing geskep moet word wat bevorderlik is vir groei en belegging in die sektor, en wat betekenisvolle ondersteuning vir nuwe toetreders bied.

Daarenteen beklemtoon Rabie dat hierdie poging deur die regering nie op ‘n slegter tyd kon gekom het vir die sektor en die ekonomie nie, wat reeds steier onder die impak van beurtkrag, landelike misdaad en verswakkende openbare infrastruktuur.

Die kommentaartydperk op die voorgestelde Hersiening van Regulasies rakende die Prosedurevereistes vir Watergebruiklisensie-aansoeke en -wysigings sal op 18 Julie 2023 verstryk.

Navrae:

Janse Rabie

Regs- en beleidsbestuurder, Agri SA

**********************

 1 June 2023

The Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) recently published draft revised Regulations regarding the Procedural Requirements for Water Use Licence Applications and Amendments for comment. According to the draft regulations, certain enterprises applying for water use licenses to take or store water, will in the future have to allocate shares of up to 75% to black South Africans in order for such water use licenses to be granted. The consequences for food security and the sustainability of the agricultural sector should these regulations be passed in the current form cannot be understated – they would have a devastating impact on the sector and its ability to provide the country with a secure supply of food. This is because focussing solely on ownership, to the exclusion of all other relevant factors, will mean the loss (or partial loss) of water resources for numerous currently viable commercial farming enterprises.

Similar requirements are also prescribed in the draft with respect to so-called “stream flow reduction activities” (essentially commercial forestry plantations). The regulations also make provision for hydraulic fracturing (which is a further risk and threat to food security).

The prescribed minimum black South African shareholding requirements of 25%, 50%, or 75%, required for a water use license to succeed depends on the volume of water abstracted or stored, or the area covered (in the case of commercial forest plantations).

The proposed regulations are seen as the DWS’s most radical and sweeping effort to date toward changing the demographics with respect to water use in South Africa. The agricultural and forestry sectors appear to be the primary target of the proposed regulations. The agricultural sector accounts for approximately 60% of South Africa’s total water use. It is worth noting that the proposed regulations exempt mining companies, the state and state-owned entities, as well as 100% black-owned entities.

“Agri SA is of the view that the proposed regulations will have a devastating effect on South Africa’s commercial agricultural sector if adopted in their current form,” says Janse Rabie, legal and policy executive at Agri SA. “It is well known that the DWS envisages compulsory licensing of existing lawful water uses in the near future (a fact which is emphasised by regulation 13 of the proposed regulations). By far the greatest number of agricultural water uses are exercised in terms of historic existing lawful water uses.”

Concerningly, the draft regulations would seem to be attempting to replace the current suite of considerations which apply to granting water licenses with ownership demographics. In terms of section 27 of the National Water Act, the DWS must take all relevant factors into account when issuing a water use license. This already includes the need to redress the results of past racial and gender discrimination.

“Section 27 of the National Water Act however also contains at least 10 other considerations that the DWS (as being the responsible authority for granting water use licenses) needs to consider before granting any application for a water use license. What the proposed regulations seek to achieve is to make BBBEE the sole consideration for granting licenses,” says Rabie.

The Supreme Court of Appeal dealt with this issue in 2012 in a matter supported at the time by Agri SA. “In the so-called Goede Wellington case, the SCA specifically stated that all the relevant factors contained in section 27 of the National Water Act had to be considered together in deciding whether to grant an application for a water use license. These include factors such as efficient and beneficial use of water in the public interest, socio-economic impact, and investments already made by a water user in respect of the water use in question.”

These considerations remain important and are especially so when considering the foundational role played by the sector in terms of food security, employment as well as the very significant headwinds farmers are currently facing. Water is the most vital input for the sector and if farmers lose the lawful use of this input, the impact will be catastrophic.

Agri SA acknowledges that water belongs to all South Africa’s people and fully appreciates the importance of achieving an inclusive and fairly representative agricultural sector in our country. “The consequences that the draft regulations in their current form will have with respect to agriculture and food production in South Africa, will be fatal as it will essentially force the transfer of ownership of the ability to lawfully use water, commercial agriculture’s most crucial input factor” said Rabie.

Concerningly, these regulations are also unlikely to achieve the goal of further transformation in the sector. Achieving this will require creating an environment which is conducive to growth and investment in the sector, and which provides meaningful support for new entrants.

By contrast, Rabie stresses that this effort by government cannot have come at a worse time for the sector and the economy, which is already reeling from the impact of load shedding, rural crime and deteriorating public infrastructure.

The commentary period on the proposed Revision of Regulations regarding the Procedural Requirements for Water Use Licence Applications and Amendments will expire on 18 July 2023.

Enquiries:

Janse Rabie

Legal and Policy Executive, Agri SA