Media Briefing by Deputy Minister of Rural Development and Land Reform
12 Oct 2009
The main objective of the briefing was to give an update on progress made in implementing the mandate of the new department of Rural Development and Land Reform.
Journalist: The Auditor General, Mr. Nombembe said last week that the big problem was that there is no register of immovable land state assets, what impact does have this on Land Reform if the state doesn’t know how much land it owns? Are you looking at communal land ownership as a problem if you want to empower individuals? Are you going to look at individual land ownership?
Thirdly on the issue of willing buyer and willing seller, would you not find that those prices are artificially depressed by the fact that no one can buy the farm while there is a land claim on it if the state is the only person or only entity that can. Perhaps this is just a correction of a depressed price to start off with.
Finally is there any single example of a land restitution project which for two years has actually turned enough profit so that the seeming cost profit between Government’s possession on food security on the one hand and land restitution on the other can be addressed.
Journalist: Is there any progress with the new alternative for willing buyer willing seller and what will the agreement be for agricultural finance with banks regarding to this new alternative? If not how far are you with this process? Can you give examples of illegal evictions so that most of the evictions have been done by beneficiaries of land reform? Contrary to the believe that it’s from farmers and not beneficiaries.
Evictions that has been done by beneficiaries of Land Reform and not to the believe that it’s from commercial farmers. In the recent past there has been allegations of corruption in your department, officials asked for large sums of commission in these land transactions. Would you be open to a full-scale independent inquiry to correct the working of your Department? What happens to farms where the beneficiaries leave the farm because they can’t farm anymore?
Deputy DG Shabane: Let me start with the question of the Asset Register. The State is one of the biggest land owners in the country in terms of land that was mainly in the former homelands. When this Government took over there was no Asset Register. Many properties owned by the State were not even registered or surveyed. So it has been a very complexed exercise to identify this land and survey and register so that we have a complete Asset Register.
Our Department over the last 3yrs conducted an investigation where we identified over 220 000 parcels of land. In many instances we found that this land is incumbent by people who use it for residential purposes. We have a clear picture of what our assets as far as State land is concerned. We are finalizing the surveying and registration of this land in some provinces, specifically in
If you look at the Land Reform Program, it allows for individual ownership of land. Some of these people that we are talking about that are in distressed with the Land Bank are some of the people that the Department has assisted through the Elrad Program. So we have a mix of land ownership. We have a number of examples of successful projects; we can take you to some of them to see for yourself.
Examples of evictions we have a number of those we will release a report to show there are a number of evictions we have about. We will be releasing this report quite soon that will show that there are a number of evictions. We have about 500 that we have dealt with through our Land Rights Management facility, which is our intervention to protect farm workers and farm dwellers and labour tenants from unfair evictions. We will be releasing the report soon. We have made tremendous strides including enforcement of ESTER which people say it’s a toothless peace of Legislation.
Black owners and white land owners are the same when it comes to land rights violations. We have seen some people being evicted by some black land owners.
Deputy Minister Phaahla: On the issue of willing buyer and willing seller, what we are saying is that as an exclusive model of acquisition it is problematic. We respect the fact that the Constitution guarantees the property rights, so we are not talking about any violation of the Constitution. We are looking at various ways in which there can be some balance in terms of, I want o disagree that it is the State which causes the depression of land prices.
There are some arguments but interesting that in the last conference of Agri South
Part of the discussion with the Minister of Finance and Agriculture concerning some of the examples like with the Land Bank. We are looking at where we can enter, not only in terms of the problems with the Land Bank. We are also talking to Commercial banks to look at ways. Because some of them, almost all of them also hold bonds of land owners where others can be able to acquire some of those properties at a reasonable competitive price.
But because of the nature in which as a Government are structured we are not able to play in that market. So we are discussing with other financiers to look at ways we could also be able to acquire land at a better price. We are not about to violate the Constitution.
Journalist: What is your Department doing about the killing of black farm workers by white farmers? We get press statements from especially COSATU North West on a regular basis talking about workers being electrocuted or beaten to death and how the local police won’t investigate. What are you doing about that? There has been mixed messages from Government since April on the repossession of black farms who owe debts to the Land Bank.
In June the Minister of Agriculture said that definitely came to an end. She said the ANC wouldn’t achieve its goal of redistributing 30% of land if that continued, yet we do hear that farms are still being repossessed. What is the approach on that?
Journalist: The Minister of Agriculture said she is looking into the possible investigation into the condition of farm workers, and whether your Department is also on board. You talked about the collusion in the land market, what happens to people who are found to have been colluded. Is it something you refer to as a criminal matter or for investigation by the Competition Commission?
Journalist: Have you been involved in the review of the Expropriation Bill by the Minister of Public Works?
Journalist: The redistribution of 30% by 2014, are thinking of moving that deadline?
Journalist: There’s been little said about rural development, can you comment on this? I see the interest is not only on emerging farmers but also some focus on uplifting the small businesses in rural areas which a lot of people are saying is a waste of time, but what is the plan there?
Deputy DG Shabane: We have legislation that we administer that regulates the relationship between land owners and farm workers. In instances where our legislation is violated, we intervene in those cases. We received several reports where there has been killing and all sorts of violence against farm workers. Recently even the Commissioner of Police addressed this issue in KZN where this problem is rife. The commissioner said he will be looking at this matter strongly to address it.
With regard to the issue of collusion we are improving our approaches to this, because farmers are business people, they know this game well. So we have to find ways to improve our own systems. In cases where our own people are involved we will take disciplinary steps and will report these cases to the police. There have been cases where officials have been charged and arrested. So we remain vigilant on an ongoing basis.
Deputy Minister Phaahla We are concerned it can be in the interest of the country when there is conflictual relationship between farm owners and farm workers. The Agricultural production is fundamental to the success of any country. And that’s why while on the one hand the law must take its course; we would like the organised farm workers and other non Governmental organisations to assist in terms of making sure where this kind of ill treatment and abuse happens, it must be reported so that the law can take its course.
From our side together with Agriculture we are constantly engaging the organised agriculture, because we would want to prevent this before it happens. Our approach is more of encouraging and collaboration between the farm owners and farm workers in terms of preventing this kind of occurrences. The question of the Land Bank that despite what the Minister of Agriculture indicated earlier on. I don’t think at the moment in the last two months or so the discussions have been going on, tomorrow there will be a meeting where this matter is still on the table.
I don’t think in the last two months you would be aware of any repossessions. We hope that we will be able to arrive at the common agreement. From the Agricultural Department where there specifically come in terms of supporting the production aspect, assisting the farmers financially or technically, to make sure that those farms are productive.
The problem comes when there has been default on the actual repayment of the land itself, that’s where the more complex discussions are taking place. It’s at the highest level and we hope to reach a workable agreement in terms of this. The review of the Expropriation Bill, we are the interested party in terms of this bill. We need all kind of legal methods including through the law and bill like this gives an alternative opportunity to acquire land. We are not the primary drivers because this Bill resides in the Department of Public Works. We are in discussions because we are an interested party. Any Government Department which tables a Bill, it’s a requirement that they must consult other interested Departments.
When we are saying we are looking at various methods, expropriation would be one of the last resorts if it’s possible to arrive at something to which parties can agree. Calculations done in terms of the current market prices, if we had to move from the 5% where we are now to the 30%, at today’s values we are talking huge amounts of values. Looking at the current revenue deficits, it doesn’t look like we will be reasonable in expecting that Treasure would provide that.
I’m reluctant to say that, there is no formal Government decision to say or even from the ruling party to say we are now moving away from that target. Once all the factors put together there will be a pronouncement. But we as being in the coalface of the acquisition of land, we are saying that it’s unlikely at this stage just practically, looking at the pace at which we are able to move. Unless something revolutionary happens. There is definitely no formal decision either from Cabinet or even at the ruling party level.
Until that assessment has been made I will be able to pronounce on that, expect to say if things happen at the current pace we are unlikely, but you never know what may come up. In terms of Rural Development, Indeed there are other opinion makers including the Land Bank, we are convinced that we are on the right track in terms of making sure that when we talk about economic growth we are talking about the entire South Africa, not only the small portions in the urban areas.
As we have indicated in our statement, our approach is on the comprehensive Rural Development which looks at the infrastructure that together with other Departments, such as Public Works and Housing, Water, Roads and transport. In the areas where we are doing those pilots, you would find we identified over 21 projects which cover a wide range of interventions which we believe that if effected, we will make a fundamental change in terms of opportunities in that focused area.
Our focus is to make sure that we want the ultimate goal is the creation of vibrant communities in that rural area. We are looking at economic opportunities. We say that agrarian reform is the backbone of economy in the rural area, but we are looking beyond just agriculture. We are looking at tourism and small manufacturing and we are saying that if you improve the infrastructure and skills thee opportunities will be there for vibrant communities.
Journalist: Firstly I wanted to get some clarity on the Farm Worker Equity Scheme what has led to its failure and why has it taken so long to identity that problem. If you are saying only 9 out of the 88 projects have declared dividends since 1994 why is it taking so long to identify that. Secondly on the R300m for the post settlement support program, is that a once off thing or is that a long term program. If so have it been cost with treasury over a long term.
Journalist: Minister to help you out in terms of Rural Development, surely the key to Rural Development is freehold title to the land when are you going to start a program granting the people who live on the land a title to it.
Journalist: My question is on food security you identified it as one of the key priorities in the Department are there any measures in place to guarantee that productive agricultural land that is required for redistribution does in fact stay in production.
Journalist: What is unlikely is it unlikely that at this stage the 30% by 2014 won’t change or unlikely that you will get the R74bn?
Journalist: You said unless something revolutionary happens, what could happen that could be revolutionary and are you yearning for it?
Deputy DG Shabane: Let me deal with the issue of Farm Worker Equity Scheme, agriculture by its nature is quite long term. If you look at the
We do believe that over and above the support that is provided by the National Department of Agriculture and other Provincial Government Departments. Our own Department should at least give a kind of startup capital to Land Reform beneficiaries going forward. On the issue of freehold, the titling issue that you are raising is just but open option among many other options.
I don’t believe it will completely be the panacea for underdevelopment and poverty. We can look at a whole range of options like many other African countries that have mainly communal land as the main asset you can look at Mozambique they are looking at long term concessions of fifty years, so if our banks can be more outward looking than just looking at title as the only collateral that they can use to provide finance, I think it would be helpful.
Deputy Minister Phaahla Just to add on your focus on freehold titles, we do agree that in terms of the Clara Act it was meant to address that, we do agree that some element of a freehold even to individuals would be useful depending on what kind of economic activity and so on, in fact even in the current scenario there are people who are holding titles even in communal land. But we are aware of the fact that it has its own downfalls, I mean I come from a village and what gives me comfort in terms of having a communal plot in my own area, even if come next year I’m no more Deputy Minister, I’m no longer in parliament, if I don’t have any income, I have so much debt that anything I have is repossessed nobody is going to touch my plot in my village. I can retire there and plant some maize and be able to eat, no matter what bank have what court order they can’t take away that plot in that communal village but you can imagine, we got excited to say let’s cut out all those plots so I would probably have my village plot as a security for my car or something and the day I fail to pay they will repossess my village plot and for many people they can fall back on those communal pieces of land. So you have to look at it both ways.
A week ago I was at home to install a new Chief he was told that he doesn’t own the land, the elders told him this land you are holding in trust for the Phaahla people so he can’t make a decision to evict me. So unless if it’s a communal decision and I must have done something wrong or my family must have wrong the village so much that they can’t evict us, so it’s a good security if you look at from a different angle. So we accept the fact there is some security, we interact with farmers in the rural areas they do express some reservation some time about their ability to raise loans and so on, but we have to look at with that kind of balance and see how do you balance it so that in the end you don’t find the entire village is mortgaged and when people fail to pay their debts the whole village can be taken over by Standard Bank and be sold to somebody and all the people become tenants and they can be evicted because somebody has bought that village so we need to balance that.
The issue of food security, we learn from some of the shortfalls some of the mistakes over the last 15 years in terms of upping support we are saying that even as we process all this schemes of making sure people do access land. It’s a different thing as I said with restitution remember as I said restitution is a right once somebody has applied for restitution it’s been researched and it has been agreed that they are entitled unless there is any other reason why you can’t restitute that land to that community you have to give it back to them the State has to do that.
But even in that case we are saying it’s our responsibility to support those communities who have acquired land through restitution and we are looking at the experience where there have been short comings how do we improve together with our colleagues in Agriculture and other Departments. The Minister of Agriculture has said it many times it can’t be correct for
What I said was unlikely was in terms of meeting the target of 30% at the current pace if we continue at the current pace. If you look at the achievement so far, well revolution doesn’t have to be violent if you think maybe of some veteran somewhere. We are engaging various players in this regard and as I say we may not be able to give you details now but we are looking at various innovations because for the very purpose.
I know it’s something the media likes to jump for that we must not say it because of the fact that we don’t have a way out this must be done we are constitutionally bound to make sure there is a correction of the wrongs of the past it’s not an option we must do it. Because if we don’t, what you see in Sakhile in the various places from time to time, blocking of highways this is a social matter, we are not saying this as a threat but as a social reality, unless we do it and find ways to make sure as a responsible leaders together with other role players, unless we address this matter it’s going to reach a stage where it may be out of our hands and we don’t what it to get out of our hands, so revolution doesn’t have to be a violent one quite an intellectual revolution may result in a scheme whereby we may be able to acquire more land. Thank You.
The media briefing adourned.
Media statement by the Ministry for Rural Development and Land Reform 13th October 2009
The main objective of this briefing is to give an update on progress made in implementing the mandate of the new department of Rural Development and Land Reform.
Briefing contextual background
The Ministry of Rural Development and Land Reform was established by President Jacob Zuma on 11 May 2009 when he announced his new cabinet. The Land Reform component of the new department took over from the former department of Land Affairs while the Rural Development component is completely new.
The need for this development had been articulated over many years in the various ANC policy making forums such as the July 2007 Policy Conference, the December 2007 National Conference and ultimately the 2009 ANC Election Manifesto.
COMPREHENSIVE RURAL DEVELOPMENT PROPGRAMME (CROP):
The department has finalised the framework for the CROP with a vision of creating vibrant, equitable and sustainable rural communities. The strategy is to realise rapid and fundamental change in the relation of land, livestock, cropping and community. The department has also begun developing a Green Paper on Rural Development an Land Reform. Significant strides have been made in this regard and it should be ready by year-end. We will draw significantly from the pilots that we have established in the various provinces.
Subsequent to the national launch of the CROP by the president of the Republic on 17 August 2009 at Muyexe in Limpopo, we have moved to six other provinces where pilot sites have been identified. These are Riemvasmaak in the NC, Mhlonhlo in the EC, Mkhondo in MP, Diatalawa in the FS and Msinga in KZN.
The key features of this approach in all these pilot sites include extensive community consultations and needs analysis to determine their needs. We work together with the Presidency on the War on Poverty and all other spheres of government. The second critical feature is that we mobilised all spheres of government, civil society and the private sector to work together with us to achieve our objectives.
Finally, in the short term, we are focussing on breaking the back of hunger and revitalising communities to fully participate in the process of their own emancipation while in the long term our key focus is job creation, food security and the development of the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises across all sectors of the economy where opportunities allow.
In the next financial year we plan to aggressively expand the roll-out of the CRDP throughout the country, specifically in the poorest wards of our rural communities.
The Restitution component:
Contrary to popular belief or sentiment, this component of Land Reform has progressed well since its inception. Ninety six percent of all claims lodged have been settled. In the Gauteng province for example, we have settled 99,9% of the claims whilst the North West, Northern Cape and the Free State provinces have settled around 95% of their claims. The Western Cape is left with 553 outstanding claims most of which are in Cape Town and the southern Cape area.
The most trumpeted outstanding claims are those in KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga and Limpopo. The reasons for this are well-documented. This is because of the complexities around rural claims including competing claims on the same properties, exorbitant land prices; especially for land under cane and forestry.
As government, we have to express our deep concern with regards to the escalating land prices. It is interesting to note that land prices skyrocket as soon as government is the interested buyer. It is a view that we share with AgriSA that there is collusion in the land market. This is not only confined to land owners, but includes estate agents, valuers and corrupt government officials. As a sector, there is a need to cooperate in rooting out these practices as they compromise the integrity of the programme and potentially the country's social stability.
To address the current funding constrains facing the programme, we have conducted a reprioritisation exercise within the department and funds have been identified for settlement of approved claims in the current financial year.
In this regard we continue to implement our Proactive Land Acquisition Strategy and related sub-programmes for the benefit of farm workers, emerging farmers and other targeted beneficiaries of the programme. In May this year, we put a moratorium on the implementation of the Farm worker Equity Scheme (FES) after our review established that the programme was not achieving the desired objective. For example, in many instances, power relations between the land owners and the farm workers have not changed. Only nine out of the 88 projects nationwide have declared dividends since 1994. Even in cases where these were paid, the dividends were miniscule.
In the context of the Western Cape where several projects had already been approved when the moratorium was put in place we have commissioned a due diligence exercise to scrutinise the viability and sustainability of these before we consider processing any payments.
The Ministries of Finance, Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries and Rural Development and Land Reform are currently in discussions to explore ways and means to assist approximately 400 farmers indebted to the Land Bank. These discussions are ongoing and the outcome thereof will be announced in due course.
The department is also finalising the post-settlement support programme for all land reform beneficiaries (Restitution and Redistribution). The support will include provision of mentorship, skills transfer, inputs and mechanisation. An amount of R300 million has been set aside for this purpose.
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