A NEW policy has been drafted to regulate the granting of tourism and trophy hunting concessions on State land, which includes game parks, protected and communal areas.
Cabinet recently adopted the document.
"Some problems occurred because of the lack of standardisation in procedures, concession agreements and insufficient monitoring of compliance with applicable terms and conditions with the existing legislation in place," the Cabinet briefing paper states.
"A new concession policy was accordingly developed to serve as basis of new legal provisions concerning concessions that are to become part of the future Parks and Wildlife Management Bill which will replace current legislation."
The new 'Policy on Tourism and Wildlife Concessions on State Land' lays down clear objectives and principles for the granting of concessions, including empowerment objectives for the communities living in those areas.
At the same time, the policy ensures that such concessions do not result in environmental impact or management conflicts.
It also establishes a transparent and objective process for the awarding of concessions and provides comprehensive guidelines for its implementation.
The old Nature Conservation Ordinance of 1975, as amended by the Nature Conservation Amendment Act of 1996, allows the Minister of Environment and Tourism to authorise individuals or companies to conduct specified business activities in proclaimed protected areas.
This authorisation also allows the use of indigenous animal and plant resources belonging to the State.
The old legislation does not provide guidance on the methods or criteria to be used when granting concessions.
The new policy provides better protection to communities from possible exploitation by concession holders and joint venture partners.
"The Ministry will ensure that objectives in awarding a concession are properly achieved (inter alia) through ensuring that a realistic business plan is developed (and) in a transparent way and clearly shows the level of investment and projected levels of income as well as profit over time."
The new policy provides for the establishment of a special concession unit in the Ministry of Environment and Tourism (MET) to oversee the tendering process for concession rights and a concession committee.
It will operate on fulltime basis via a secretariat.
The committee will consist of representatives of the following ministries: Environment and Tourism, Justice, Finance, Agriculture, and Lands and Resettlement.
Additional members will be from the Regional Councils and "where appropriate, representatives of the private sector and civil society."
The Minister of Environment and Tourism will appoint the chairperson of that committee.
The concession unit in the MET will further advise communities on legal and policy issues regarding concessions.
The unit will undertake feasibility studies once applications have been received for concessions.
According to the policy paper, the need for an economic valuation study was identified "to determine the economic and other non-economic values of concessions."
In future, traditional authorities, regional councils and communal land boards will have to be consulted throughout the process to ensure that wildlife concessions complement regional development objectives.
Government further considers transferring specific responsibilities with regard to these concessions to regional councils.
Tourism and wildlife concessions can in future also be acquired through a tender process or on auction, in terms of the new policy.