Cablegate: South African Environment, Science, and Technology Monthly
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SUBJECT: SOUTH AFRICAN ENVIRONMENT, SCIENCE, AND TECHNOLOGY MONTHLY
BRIEFINGS, APRIL 2007
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1. (U). Summary: This is the South African Environment, Science
and Technology newsletter, April 2007, Volume 2, Number 1, prepared
by the U.S. Embassy Pretoria, South Africa.
Topics of the newsletter:
-- SA Farmers Reluctant to Plant GMO Sugar Cane
-- South African Giant Retailers Go Green
-- Ministry Sells Marine Patrol Vessel at Well-Below Market Value
-- Environmental Minister Refutes Inertia Claims Regarding
-- Revised EIA Regulations Benefit Development Projects
SA FARMERS RELUCTANT TO PLANT GMO SUGAR CANE
2. (U) South Africa is one of the top ten in sugar exporting
countries in the world, producing about 2.5 million tons of sugar
per year, half of which is exported. South African Cane Growers
Association spokesperson Adrian Wynn said recently that local sugar
cane farmers remain sensitive about genetically modified (GM) sugar,
and are reluctant to plant it. According to Wynn, the South African
Sugar Research Institute, which has been conducting GM research
since 1993, has already developed insect repellent and
herbicide-resistant cane, and an increased sucrose-yielding strain.
Wynn said that the local industry will continue to refrain from
planting GM sugar cane for commercial use, despite the benefits,
until world opinion changes.
SOUTH AFRICAN GIANT RETAILERS GO GREEN
3. (U) Two South African supermarket retailers announced new climate
change/carbon foot print reduction programs. Pick n' Pay Stores
plan to become the first local retailer to disclose their carbon
dioxide emissions, while Woolworths plans to reduce its "relative
carbon footprints" by 30 percent in the next five years. Pick n'
Pay announced that it would also stock only fish that had been
managed in a sustainable way, such as hake, snoek and tuna.
Woolworths CEO Simon Sussman said they would cut electricity
consumption and transportation emissions by 30 and 20 percent,
MINISTRY SELLS MARINE PATROL VESSEL AT WELL-BELOW MARKET VALUE
4. (U) The Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism's (DEAT)
Marine Coastal Management (MCM) Division sold their 50-meter marine
patrol vessel "Eagle Star" in November 2006 at well below market
value, raising concerns regarding corruption and/ or incompetence.
MCM sold the Eagle Star for $42,000 through an auction process in
which only two bidders participated. When the vessel was sold, its
fuel tanks held diesel valued at $31,900. The new owner, Rudolf Van
Der Werf, immediately resold that fuel. Van Der Werf stated that he
intended to lease the vessel to the government of Mozambique.
Recent refits to the "Eagle Star" cost the taxpayers $486,000. DEAT
spokesperson Blessing Manale said the sale had stunned senior
government officials and opposition party members.
5. (U) DEAT has announced the appointment of an external auditor to
investigate how the auction was conducted, including how it was
advertised, the choice of the auctioneers and how the final sale
price had been determined. Manale said MCM Deputy Director General
Monde Mayekiso had been given a mandate from DEAT to sell the vessel
because it was considered obsolete and too expensive to keep.
Manale noted that Mayekiso did not set a minimum price for the
vessel prior to the auction because he feared driving away potential
bidders. The MCM Finance Chief has allegedly conceded the sale
price was too low, blaming the two auction houses that conducted the
sale. Replying to parliamentary questions, DEAT Minister Marthinus
Van Schalkwyk acknowledged that DEAT had spent considerable sums to
convert the vessel from a fishing trawler to a marine patrol
training ship, and noted that the vessel had been used by MCM for
over four years. The Democratic Alliance, an opposition political
party, noted that the 2003 value of the vessel was $1.1 million, and
that DEAT had subsequently revamped the vessel and fitted with
vessel-monitoring systems, radar, IT and satellite facilities.
ENVRIONMENTAL MINISTER REFUTES INERTIA CLAIMS REGARDING CLIMATE
6. (U) The Democratic Alliance (DA), South African opposition
political party, accused Minister of Environmental Affairs and
Tourism (DEAT) Marthinus Van Schalkwyk of inertia in dealing with
climate change. DA environmental spokesman Rafeek Shah claimed that
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although Van Schalkwyk spends a great deal of time speaking at
international forums about the need for serious and immediate action
against climate change, he had "dropped the ball" in South Africa.
Shah stated that DEAT had not produced anything concrete that
mitigated or minimized climate change impact, in spite of the
Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change's (IPCC) recent warnings
regarding potentially severe climate change impacts on South Africa.
Minister Van Schalkwyk's office responded to the DA allegations
stating that DEAT had produced a "climate roadmap". This "road map"
sets forth a series of inter-ministerial climate change intervention
programs, such as the long-term mitigation scenario process. A
panel of DEAT researchers is also analyzing the IPCC assessment
report. The Minister's spokesman commented that the Department of
Agriculture is also developing a climate change response plan, in
coordination with DEAT. The Minister's office further noted that
the Department of Minerals and Energy (DME) is working towards full
implementation of South Africa's national energy efficiency accord.
REVISED EIA REGULATIONS BENEFIT DEVELOPMENT PROJECTS
7. (U) In 2006 DEAT sought public comments on the 1997 Environmental
Impact Assessment (EIA) regulations. Based upon these comments,
DEAT has proposed a set of revised EIA regulations addressing
technical and legal errors, eliminating minor procedures, and
providing definitions and time frames for appeals. South African
CEO Nils Flaaten noted that the proposed amendments will provide a
positive impetus to the South African investment climate. The Cape
Town Regional Chamber of Commerce also welcomed the proposed
amendments, noting that they would simplify the EIA process. The
Minster of Environmental Affairs and Tourism Marthinus Schalkwyk
said that economic development, investment and conservation need not
be opposing end goals. There must be a balance between economic
development and conservation. The amendment process is expected to
be completed by the end of July.