Land Bank Budget and Strategic Plans 2007/08: Cancelled by Committee

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Meeting report

AGRICULTURE AND LAND AFFAIRS PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
07 August 2007
LAND BANK BUDGET AND STRATEGIC PLANS 2007/08: CANCELLED BY COMMITTEE

Chairperson:
Ms D Hlengethwa (ANC)

Documents handed out:
Committee minutes for 5 and 12 June 2007
 
Audio recording of meeting

SUMMARY
Given the Land Bank’s critical financial challenges and institutional turmoil throughout 2005/06, its leadership were called to brief the Committee on its strategic plans for 2007/08 to reverse those trends. Land Bank representatives began their presentation, but Committee members halted the proceedings after realising that the Land Bank Chairman and CEO were both absent and had sent subordinates in their place. Committee members admonished the Land Bank representatives, as timely notice had been given to the absent officials, and their absence amounted to a breach of the Constitution. The Chair was encouraged by Committee members to write formal letters to the absent Land Bank leadership to both convey their disgust with the absent officials and compel their future compliance with the oversight committee. After debate as to whether or not the Minister should be called to the next meeting, members voted to wait on that demand and a following meeting was set for 4 September with the stipulations that the Land Bank strategic plan be submitted seven days prior and that the leadership would be in attendance.

MINUTES
Land Bank interaction
Ms Nopasika Lila, Land Bank Deputy Chairperson, greeted the Committee and extended apologies on behalf of the Chairperson, Mr Lungile Mazwai, and the acting CEO, Dr Philemon Mohlahlane, who could not be in attendance.

Mr S Abraham (ANC) interrupted and wanted to know if timely notice had been given to the Land Bank Chairperson and CEO regarding the Committee meeting.

The Chair acknowledged her own disappointment with their absence and asserted that each had been given a month’s advance notice and were constitutionally obliged to be present.

Mr Abraham labelled their absence as totally unacceptable, insisted Ms Lila convey the Committee’s serious misgivings to her superiors, and moved to postpone the meeting until a future date designated by the Committee. Mr D Dlali (ANC) seconded the proposal.

Dr A Van Niekerk (DA) agreed with the motion and said the Committee should take further punitive action after being presented with stand-in representatives of the Land Bank when its leadership was required to explain exactly what had happened to the once powerful institution that was now in a thoroughly weakened state. The Committee needed to know were the Land Bank currently stood, what instructions it has been given, and what steps it had taken. They must respond. The Minister should be summoned to the next meeting to illustrate the Committee’s displeasure and highlight the serious nature of the issue.

Mr Dlali suggested that Mr Van Niekerk’s proposal about calling in the Minister was too hasty and that the Committee need not rush things. A summons to the Minister was not necessary. Instead the Land Bank should be given a timeframe for completing the Strategic plan.

Mr Van Niekerk suggested a Minster was necessary because nobody at the Land Bank had a final say on anything on account of the entire organisation being in limbo. The Minister needed to be present as chief representative of the Government. The Committee needed to make a ruling because the Land Bank had already cost the Government 2.2 million Rand and it was essential to get the vehicle running again. How much more wasted time and money could the government afford?

Mr Ntuli insisted that it was still too early for the Minister.

Mr S Bici (UDP) asked if the Land Bank representatives had come to report anything, or to just show that their leadership was absent.

The Chair pointed out that their Strategic plan was still needed and asked how long it would take to complete.

Ms Lila said the Land Bank needed until the end of the month to complete its Strategic plan.

Mr Abraham noted that the end of the month was in three weeks time and asked how soon after that point could a Committee meeting be scheduled. A meeting with Land Bank leaders must be held before calling the Minister so that the Committee could appraise itself of the facts at the ground level. When the letters were sent to the absent Land Bank leaders expressing the Committee’s disgust, a specific date had to be given for their forthcoming appearance. The Committee as an oversight body, had to be taken seriously.

The Chair asked if there were any problems with Tuesday 4 September for the proposed meeting and said the Committee would wait on calling the Minister.

Mr Van Niekerk requested a note be made in the minutes reflecting the Democratic Alliance’s firm stance that the Minister be present.

The Chair confirmed 4 September for the next meeting and said that letters would be sent to the Land Bank Chairperson, Mr Lungile Mazwai, and the Land Bank acting CEO, Dr Philemon Mohlahlane, stating that their absence was unacceptable and in violation of the Constitution, while demanding their presence at the 4 September meeting.

Mr Bici noted that a 4 September meeting would only give the Committee three days to review the Land Bank Strategic plan.

Mr Abraham agreed and suggested the Committee demand the report by 28 August, seven days before the scheduled meeting.

The Chair agreed and dismissed the Land Bank representatives to relay the news to their superiors.

Adoption of Committee minutes
The Chair asked if there were any corrections, additions, or omissions to be made before adopting the minutes of Committee meetings from 5 and 12 June.

Mr Ntuli suggested that some grammatical errors were all that needed addressing.

Mr Van Niekerk moved to adopt the minutes. Mr Sici seconded the motion.

The Chair noted the importance of grammatical correctness.

Mr S Holomisa issued concerns with the language on page four paragraph two of the12 June minutes.

The Chair noted that again, the issue seemed to be one of improper grammar despite the secretary having proofread the document. Such errors were an embarrassment to the Committee.

Mr Holomisa suggested that in order to prevent such embarrassing mistakes, the Chair should review the minutes prior to the Committee meeting.

The Chair replied that currently she did not receive the minutes early enough to review them, but that the situation would be rectified.

Mr Ntuli suggested that the Chair be given previous minutes to review three days before the next scheduled meeting.

The Chair agreed and dismissed Committee members thanking them for their presence.

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