Sakeliga is taking further steps to ensure accountability at the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform, and Rural Development regarding its unlawful AgriBEE plans and possible violation of international trade agreements.
This follows Sakeliga’s publication last week of confidential internal plans by the Department to impose unlawful BEE requirements on the agricultural industry.
Sakeliga has now formally requested the Minister to withdraw the plans and provide us with feedback by 8 December 2023. Today, we are also submitting four PAIA (Promotion of Access to Information Act) requests to the Department to disclose further information about the confidential AgriBEE plans. The PAIA requests concern how the AgriBEE plans were developed, their application, as well as implications for international trade agreements.
Three of the four PAIA requests focus on how the Department believes the AgriBEE plans align with international trade agreements with the European Union, the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland, and the World Trade Organisation. Between 30 October and 2 November 2023, the Department published three regulations concerning these trade agreements in the Government Gazette. In all three cases, the Department introduces BEE (Black Economic Empowerment) requirements—two regarding preferential-tariff exports and the third regarding preferential-tariff imports.
The first two regulations pertain to how the Department intends to allocate quotas for preferential-tariff exports to the EU, the United Kingdom, and Northern Ireland. Under the relevant Economic Partnership Agreements, these jurisdictions make certain quotas available for exporting agricultural products at preferential tariff rates.
The third regulation concerns permits for preferential-tariff imports of agricultural products, in which the Department also stipulates BEE requirements. According to the Department, this regulation was created to comply with the World Trade Organisation’s Marrakesh Agreement.
However, it is unclear how the Department believes that the Marrakesh Agreement and the respective Economic Partnership Agreements with the EU, the UK, and Northern Ireland provide for BEE provisions. The information we aim to obtain through these three PAIA requests will help shed light on the extent to which the Department takes international trade agreements seriously and how it interprets them.
The fourth PAIA request seeks access to all records held by the Department regarding the development of the AgriBEE Sector Codes, the AgriBEE Plan, and the AgriBEE Enforcement Guidelines. This would enable the public and the industry to see how the Department developed these documents, who they consulted, what impact studies have been conducted, how the state legal advisor has considered them, what enforcement is already underway, and what future enforcement is planned.
For Sakeliga’s letter to the Minister, click here.
For Sakeliga’s four PAIA requests, click here.