The Guard

The Truth On Board

New TOPS regulations come into force

By Emily Setona

GOLDEN GATE – The Department of Forestry, Fisheries and Environment (DFFE) is running a roadshow aimed at facilitating the implementation and compliance with the revised Threatened Or Protected Species (TOPS) regulations for the norms and standards for using biological resources.

According to the deputy director from DFFE in the TOPS policy development division, Magdel Boshoff, the National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act, 2004. (Act No. 10 of 2004) (NEMBA) provides for the use of indigenous biological resources in a sustainable manner.

The purpose of the TOPS regulations is to regulate the permit system that applies to listed threatened or protected species, provide for the registration of facilities and persons, to regulate a specific restricted activity which is and prohibit specific restricted activities.

“These regulations are not necessarily new as they have been revised and a few new elements have been added, so the roadshow is all about explaining to people what the new and revised legislature requires of them. These are information sessions to get as many people as possible to know what the new legislation requires because this new framework will be put in place on April 1 2023,” Boshoff said.

Any person can apply for a permit by submitting a complete application form to the relevant issuing authority.
According to the DFFE, South Africa is a country with exceptional biodiversity that is why there is a responsibility and challenge of ensuring that our ecosystem, species, and genetic diversity is conserved and used sustainably for the benefit of present and future generations. In this regard, South Africa’s policy and legislative framework for biodiversity provides a strong basis for conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity.

Busisiwe Xaba a traditional healer from the Traditional Healers’ Organisation (THO) from Reitz asked if it is necessary for traditional healers to apply for a permit for them to collect some of the medicinal plants and natural resources they use for their rituals and practices.

“When we come to Golden Gate to perform some of our rituals and use the waterfalls and collect some plants, will we need to apply for a permit to continue doing this?” Xaba queried.
In response, Boshoff said the national park does not require a permit, but traditional healers need to arrange with the national park and make sure that they comply with their park regulations.

“The constitution states that nature conservation is a concurrent component, which means that the minister has the mandate or power to make biodiversity legislature, but that the MEC also has the power to do the same thing.

“The national permit, according to NEMBA, does not override the need to apply for a provincial permit, because some biodiversity species exits only in certain provinces, therefore a person may need to apply for a permit at provincial level while still having a national permit,” he explained.

The National Electronic Permit System comes into operation April 1 2023. It has taken years to develop, and some issuing authorities use electronic permit systems, therefore people may be required to submit their application using the electronic permit system. People will have to register online to apply for their permits.