Frequently Asked Questions and Model Answers (FAQ’s: Forestry)



The Forestry and Natural Resources Management Branch of the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries is responsible for the administration of the National Forests Act (NFA), 1998 (Act No. 84 of 1998), as amended and the National Veld and Forests Fire Act, 1998 (Act No. 101 of 1998), as amended.

The main objective of the National Forests Act, 1998 is to promote the sustainable management and development of forests and to provide protection for certain forests and trees. This said protection is provided through the protection of all natural forests (Section 7 (1), the protection of all trees declared to be protected in terms of section 12(1) of the Act, and the regulation of certain activities in a proclaimed State forest (Section 23(1)(a) – (k)). It should be noted that there are other environmental legislation administered by other State Departments that also regulate natural resources.

Which trees are protected and what does this protection entail?

There are at the moment 47 protected tree species in terms of the National Forests Act of 1998. You can access the information on our website www.daff.gov.za/ under Forestry. In terms of the Act these trees may not be cut, destroyed, damaged or removed. Neither may the tree or their products be collected, removed, exported or donated, unless a licence has been granted by the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries. The National Forests Act also protects live trees occurring in natural forests.

If I want to undertake any activity relating to protected trees (such as cutting a protected tree or transporting its products), how and where do I apply for a licence?

Licence forms and a contact list of officials dealing with protected trees are available on the website www.daff.gov.za/ under Forestry. Forms can also be obtained from the Head office of the Department or any regional office. The relevant official will then arrange a site visit, if necessary. A licence may or may not be issued depending on the outcome of the investigation.

When do I need a License?

You need a license if you want to conduct activity in terms of Section 7 (1), 15 (1) and 23 (1) of the National Forest Act.
Section 7(1) requires any person wishing to cut, disturb, damage or destroy any indigenous tree in a natural forest, or posses, collect, remove, transport, export, purchase, sell, donate or in any other manner acquire or dispose of any tree or any forest product derived from a natural forest to apply for a license from the Minister or any delegated institution or authority

Where should I submit the application form after completing?

The application should be submitted to the nearest office in the area where the activity will be conducted.

Applications can be hand delivered, however, in utilizing this method; it is the responsibility of the applicant to ensure that the documents are signed for.

 Furthermore, the forms can be emailed (the forms should still be signed) and posted. Although it is not strict administrative requirement, it is recommended that the applications posted should be registered.

What action can results in an offence?

(1) A person who is guilty of a first category offence referred to in sections 62 and 63 may be sentenced to a fine or imprisonment for a period of up to three years, or to both a fine and such imprisonment.

(2)A person who is guilty of a second category offence referred to in sections 62, 63 and 64 may be sentenced on a first conviction for that offence to a fine or imprisonment for a period of up to two years, or to both a fine and such imprisonment.

(3)A person who is guilty of a third category offence referred to in sections 62 and 63 may be sentenced on a first conviction for that offence to a fine or imprisonment for a period of up to one year, or to both a fine and such imprisonment.

(4)A person who is guilty of a fourth category offence referred to in sections 63 and 64 may be sentenced on a first conviction for that offence to a fine or community service for a period of up to six months or to both a fine and such service.

(5)A person who is guilty of a second, third or fourth category offence may be sentenced on a second conviction for that offence as if he or she has committed a first, second or third category offence, respectively.
(6) A person who is guilty of a fifth category offence referred to in section 61 may not be sentenced to imprisonment, but may be sentenced to a fine up to R50 000.

Do I need a license to cut / fell Alien Invasive Plants?

For Alien Invasive Plants, contact the Working for Water Programme at 0800 005 376 or: http://www.environment.gov.za/workingforwater/contacts/index.htm .

What does the champion tree project entail, and how can I nominate a tree as a champion tree?

The project was initiated by the Department and involves individual or groups of trees being declared as protected. The nomination period runs from 1 July to 31 August of each year. The short lists of selected trees are published in the Government Gazette every year. These trees will then have the same protection as protected species. The public may nominate trees, nomination forms may be obtained either from the website www.daff.gov.za/ under Forestry or from one of the Department’s offices. The offices are listed on the website as well.

Is any licence needed to propagate protected trees, to transplant seedlings or collect seed?

A licence to propagate protected species (to reproduce trees/plants by cutting or grafting) is not necessary, since it will actually promote the protection of these trees. Transplanting of seedling or collecting of seeds from the wild does require a licence as this could affect natural regrowth of certain species of trees.

What is a natural forest and how does it differ from a plantation, woodland or thicket?

A natural forest is a complex and dynamic ecosystem consisting of many trees and other plant species intermingled.  These forests usually occur in layers-with a ground layer of plants, a shrub layer and various other layers of trees. There are many types of natural forests in the country, they cover about 500 000 hectares of the country. More information is available on the websitewww.daff.gov.za/ under Forestry.
Tree plantations are man made forests planted trees (pine, blue gum or wattle), they provide most of the country’s timber needs.
Woodland, Savannah or Bushveld is made up of grassland with scattered trees. These trees vary in species in different woodland area. Thickets are usually very dense and almost impossible to get through. Most of the plants are succulents.

Where can I get a copy of the annual report on Commercial Timber Statistics?

On the Department website: www.daff.gov.za/ under Forestry, under the link news. The document is titled “Report on Commercial Timber Resources and Primary Roundwood Processing in South Africa”. Hard copies are also available on request from the DAFF National Office in Pretoria.

I would like to do research on some of the State Forests. Where can I get permission and what should I do?

You need to apply for a licence to do research on a State Forest. Application forms are available on the Forestry website under the link licences and registration.

What does the Act say about Firebreaks?

On land where there is a reasonable chance of fires breaking out or spreading once they have broken out, firebreaks must be put in place to protect the boundaries. In terms of section 1 of National Veld and Forest Fire Act, 1998 (Act No 101 of 1998 (NVFFA), the firebreak must take cognizance of weather, climate, terrain and vegetation of the area. It must be wide enough and sufficiently cleared of inflammable material to prevent fire from crossing over to neighbouring land under reasonable conditions. A landowner who fails to make a firebreak when he or she will be guilty of a second category offence, and liable to imprisonment for up to one year, a fine or both.

What is a Fire Protection Association?

A Fire Protection Association (FPA) is an institution made up of affected landowners and land occupiers who work together to put in place strategies to address all aspects of fighting and preventing veld and forest fires. 

Who can form an FPA?

Any group of owners who wish to co-operate to predict, prevent, manage and extinguish veldfires may form an FPA.

Who is an owner?

An “owner” means any landowner with a title deed as well as a lessee or other  person  legally controlling land , the executive body of a community, the manager of State land,  and the chief executive  officer  of any local authority, or their duly appointed agents in the cases of State land ( including SANDF land) and local authorities.

Am I obliged to join an FPA if one formed in my area?

Membership of FPAs is voluntary for most landowners. This is because the right to freedom of association in the Constitution must be upheld, but also because landowners themselves need to make a firm commitment, voluntarily, co-operation through FPAs. The owners of State and municipal land must join an FPA if one forms in their area. This includes communities who are in control of land held in trust for them by the State.

How long will it take to register an FPA?

DAFF will take a maximum of 30 days to process Form 1, giving FPAs the go-ahead to complete Form 2. When Form 2 is submitted, DAFF needs another 30 days to evaluate it. If the Minister agrees that the FPA should be registered, a registration number and certificate will be issued to the FPA and it will be entered into a register of FPAs. If the Minister decides not to register the FPA, he or she must give reasons and indicate what actions the FPA should take to remedy its shortcomings.

What action can results in an offence?

The Act delineates penalties by reference to different categories of offences. First-category offences attract the heaviest penalties, with third-category offences attracting the least onerous penalties. A first-category offence is the lighting, use or maintenance of open-air fires in contravention of a Ministerial directive forbidding fires in a region where the fire danger is high. Any person guilty of a second-category offence (leaving fires unattended or lighting a fire which spreads and causes injury or damage) and a third-category offence (failing to comply with the requirements regarding firebreaks) can, upon a second conviction for that offence, be sentenced as if he or she committed an offence in the category higher than the category in which he or she would ordinarily be convicted or sentenced. The penalties provided for appear to be commensurate with the gravity of the offence.

What is the total area of planted (commercial) forests in South Africa?

In terms of land use, the area under forestry is about 1,3 million hectares (ha) or approximately 1% of the total South African land area of 122,3 million hectares (ha).

What is broad based BEE and why do we need it?

Broad based BEE is the strategy government has put in place to bring about greater participation of black people in the economy, and to spread the benefits of the economy more widely. This is of great importance to the growth and stability of our country, where the majority of the population were excluded from participating in the economy, and many are poor and rely on welfare support. B-BBEE is a strategy to enable the population to meet their own livelihood needs, whilst at the same time building the economy. B-BBEE is not about replacing white people with black people, but rather about growing the overall size of the economy and making sure that opportunities previously enjoyed by a minority are extended to the majority. Whereas the earlier definition of BEE focused mainly ownership and management of businesses by black people, broad based BEE aims to extend economic opportunities to a much wider range of black people, including women, youth, people with disabilities and those living in rural areas.

What are the aims of the Forest Sector Charter?

The forest sector charter outlines the following vision for the sector:

  • An inclusive and equitable forest sector in which black women and men fully participate.
  • A forest sector that is characterised by sustainable use of resources, sustainable growth, international competitiveness and profitability for all its participants.
  • A forest sector that contributes meaningfully to poverty eradication, job creation, rural development and economic value adding activities in the country.


What does the Forest Sector Charter contain?

The Forest Sector Charter contains the following five key elements:

  • A set of Objectives and Principles to guide the B-BBEE process in the forest sector.
  • A summary of challenges facing the sector
  • The B-BBEE Scorecard and Targets that will apply to measured enterprises operating within the Forest Sector. Undertakings by government, industry and labour to put in place instruments to enable the forest sector as a whole, as well as individual businesses, to achieve their B-BBEE targets.
  • Agreement to establish a Forest Sector Charter Council to oversee and facilitate the implementation of the Charter, as well as procedures for progress reporting and review. The Forest Sector Charter contains a summary of the above elements; more detail can be found in the Companion Document to the Charter.

For more information about forest transformation Charter Users Guide and Companion Booklet visit forestry website www.daff.gov.za/ under Forestry.

What is National Arbor Week?

A: National Arbor Week (Iviki Lezihlahla) serves to promote awareness for the need to plant and maintain indigenous trees throughout South Africa, especially for the many disadvantaged communities who often live in barren areas. Every Arbor Week celebration highlights (two specific trees, one common and one rare species www.daff.gov.za/ under Forestry. In 1999 the Government extended it to National Arbor week which is celebrated annually from 1 to 7 September.

Arbor Week intends to:

  • promote a better understanding of trees, particularly indigenous trees
  • highlight the important role trees play in sustainable development and the livelihoods of people and their environment
  • encourage communities to participate in various greening activities within their own surroundings; and
  • raise awareness of South Africa’s urban greening initiatives