Consideration and Adoption of Report on Provincial Study Tour; Consideration of Proposed Statutory Levy in Deciduous Fruit Industry; briefing by Deputy Minister and Director-General on Foot and Mouth Disease Outbreak in Kwazulu-Natal

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Meeting report

agriculture and land affairs Portfolio Committee
1 November 2000
CONSIDERATION AND ADOPTION OF REPORT ON PROVINCIAL STUDY TOUR; CONSIDERATION OF PROPOSED STATUTORY LEVY IN DECIDUOUS FRUIT INDUSTRY; BRIEFING BY DEPUTY MINISTER AND DIRECTOR-GENERAL ON FOOT AND MOUTH DISEASE OUTBREAK IN KWAZULU-NATAL

Documents handed out:
- 4th Draft Report – The extent and nature of unfair farm evictions in Kwazulu-Natal, Freestate, Mpumalanga and the North West Province.
- An evaluation of alternate control strategies for foot-and-mouth disease in Australia: a regional approach (M.G. Garner and M.B. Lack)
- Office International des Epizooties Chapter 2.1.1 – Foot and Mouth Disease

SUMMARY
The Portfolio Committee discussed and approved the fourth Draft (with amendments) of the Report on Land Evictions in four provinces. The Committee then considered the draft levies on fresh and dry deciduous fruits proposed by Mr Walter Gordon of the National Agricultural Marketing Council (NAMC). Both were approved with amendments. The Committee was then briefed by the Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Land Affairs, Mr Dirk Du Toit and the Director-General of the Department of Agriculture, Ms B Njobe on the progress that has been made in controlling the recent outbreak of foot and mouth disease (FMD) in Kwazulu-Natal.

MINUTES
Fourth Draft of the Report on Land Evictions
After discussion, the report (see Appendix 1) was adopted by the Committee with one dissenter, Mr A Botha from the DP. His objection was that the anecdotal nature and unsubstantiated claims compromise the credibility of the document and that the tone should be changed.

The Chair, Adv. Holomisa, stated that Mr Botha should voice his concerns at the discussion in the National Assembly on 2 November.

National Agricultural Marketing Council (NAMC)
Mr Walter Gordon informed the committee that in 1997 the deciduous fruit industry was deregulated and all statutory levees were abolished in place of funding on a volunteer basis.  It was found that a problem arose to do with “free riding”, such that those who chose not to submit voluntary funds still receive the benefits of research information that others pay for.   This is the reason that statutory levees must be re-introduced into policy. 

On 23-30 August 2000 the Deciduous Fruit Producer’s Trust (DFPT) held an industry-wide referendum to ensure that every producer had the opportunity to cast his/her vote.  On 5 September 2000, the referendum results were finalised.  Subsequently, the DFPT submitted an amended application withdrawing the application for statutory measures on pome fruit (apples and pears) due to the low level of producer support.  The application now stands for only stone fruits and grapes. Mr Gordon pointed out to the committee that levee levels are all below the 5% of total selling price level recommended by the Act.  On 1 November 2000 the Act will have been implemented for four years and will be reinvestigated after two years. 

Mr D Hanekom (ANC) expressed concern that a statutory levy, which is mandatory to all producers, is being collected by a voluntary trust (the Deciduous Fruit Producer’s Trust) which by nature has no public accountability mechanisms in place. He suggested that the Fruit Industries Trust, a statutory trust already in existence, collect the levy on fresh deciduous fruit.  Mr Gordon agreed with this idea.

The Committee accepted both levees on the grounds that the funds were collected and held by a statutory body.

Outbreak of foot and mouth disease (FMD) in Kwazulu-Natal
Ms Njobe, Director-General of the Department of Agriculture (NDA), gave a brief history to the FMD problem in Kwazulu-Natal. Since the first and second outbreak in September there have been two new outbreaks within three kilometers of the first two. The new outbreaks are in kralls within a communal area and a slaughtering program has begun.

Ms Njobe stressed that there has been significant consultation with the community surrounding the agreements for compensation of slaughtered animals. The Department has created a new epicenter, 15km in radius, around the contaminated area. Preliminary figures show that there are around 1000 cattle, 1000 goats and numerous sheep and pig within the area.

The NDA has created a camp in the area where animals can be tested and slaughtered if necessary and compensation given immediately.

What is the cause of the spread? Initially, said Ms Njobe, it was thought that contaminated swill was the problem but evidence in this regard has not been conclusive. The subsequent spread was linked to human carriers. Humans can carry FMD on their clothing and it was thought that labourers carried the disease from the farm to the communal area where they live. The final spread also appears to be human carriers but animal movement has not been ruled out.

Ms Njobe commented with concern that the most recent cases are in a high risk area, a communal community where the animals roam freely, thereby spreading the disease. Along with the ‘stamping out’ approach (slaughter), the NDA has also instituted a door-to-door awareness program as well as holding community meetings to try and prevent future spread by human carriers. As part of the community campaign the NDA has established a surveillance program for the long term. This program will also have the added benefit that it will reassure export markets in the future.

The NDA is working on the assumption that the contaminated area is rather small. The national department is working with the provinces to ensure that if animals are slaughtered that there is a requisite increase in tools to fill the void created by the loss of the animals. One example is that the farmers need the cows for ploughing. As a result, the NDA has provided tractors for affected farmers.

The goal of the 15km zone is FMD-free zone rather than simply a contaminated zone. The NDA is working to eradicate rather than simply contain this disease.

The Deputy Minister, Mr Dirk Du Toit stated that in principle that it is important that members understand the impact that perceptions of the situation have on SA’s export market. This is a national crisis and cross-party cooperation is needed. Politicising the issue will hurt the country.

According to the Deputy Minister, a quick slaughter is the best solution but this entails extensive negotiations with communities. Good communication with the communities will also prevent illegal movement of animals out of the area. One of the major problems in containing the pandemic is the fragmentation of the veterinary services.

The Deputy Minister reiterated that the South African Defence Force (SADF) must remain in the area to prevent the movement of animals and contaminated clothing out of the area. He also wanted to see swill banned as a food source for animals unless it is heated and dried. This is an issue the Committee may want to look at next year.

Mr Van Niekerk (FA) commented that this is the fourth outbreak and the animals are still leaving the epicenter despite the measures in place. The implications of this outbreak are going to be felt in all areas of the economy, especially exports and tourism. Mr Van Niekerk was worried because some of the key decision makers were out of the country during this crisis and he had also heard that some of the vets involved have left the project. The member wanted to know how effective the control system was in making and implementing decisions. The problem is expanding and to what extent is international help being used to instill confidence in export markets that the measures put in place are sound. The former Minister of Agriculture also wished to know what the next step is if the outbreak continues to grow. Is there a contingency plan in place? SA could have a major disaster on its hands.

Bishop Mogoba (PAC) asked if the 15km radius is enough. Wouldn’t it be better to establish a larger area to work in rather than having the border pushed out? As the outbreak spreads towards Georgetown, a communal area, you run into the additional problem of cultural perceptions. In many cultures, cows are seen as holy creatures. Has the NDA worked closely with traditional leaders in confronting this issue?

The Chair, Adv. Holomisa (ANC) asked how many countries are currently boycotting SA products because of FMD.

The DG responded that as of yet, 16 countries have imposed partial or full bans on SA products. There are international experts on the control team, including a renowned Dutch scientist. The problem is that there is no formula for dealing with this type of situation. Most of the spread in developed countries is via aerosol spread (airborne). Animal and human carriers, as seen in SA, become a problem when informal movement is habitual. Therefore, the NDA is treating the communal areas as one farm. Another problem that the NDA is dealing with via extensive communication problems is that farm labourers are taking the disease back to the communal areas. This is the reality in SA, a dynamic interface between communal and commercial farming.

Another interesting dynamic that the Department is trying to deal with is the fact that the area in question was extremely violent during the apartheid years. As a result the population is very skeptical and mistrustful of the police and the government. Members of Parliament can be helpful in convincing the population that the government can be trusted, something which in their history has not been the case. The SA case is unique because the problems being confronted are not technical or epidemiological, they are socio-economic. This requires a creative and flexible approach.

The European Union has been very helpful and are very impressed by the measures put in place so far (though they still have a partial ban on the area). This pandemic is being controlled because of strong communication with traditional leaders and the citizens and the NDA is hopeful that it will soon be resolved.

The copyright in this material subsists with the Contact Trust.  Further distribution or copying of this material is prohibited without the prior agreement of the Contact Trust.
__________________________________________________________________

Appendix 1
4th DRAFT REPORT

THE EXTENT AND NATURE OF UNFAIR FARM EVICTIONS IN
KWAZULU-NATAL, FREESTATE, MPUMALANGA AND THE
NORTH WEST PROVINCE

Introduction
During June 2000 the Portfolio Committee on Agriculture and Land Affairs visited four provinces, viz. Kwazulu-Natal, Free State, Mpumalanga and the North West. The primary objective was to investigate reported incidents of unfair evictions in four provinces.  The four delegations were led respectively by Mr N. Masithela, Adv. S.P. Holomisa, Mrs. B.M. Ntuli and Mr D Hanekom.

The multiparty delegations to the provinces would use the visits to:

a. Determine  the extent and nature of the problem, i.e. on what scale are evictions occurring and under what circumstances,
b.Investigate the impact of the evictions,
c.Establish whether legal processes are being followed properly,
d.Establish whether the magistrates' courts are applying the laws properly,
e.Determine whether there are loopholes in the relevant laws which leave people vulnerable,
f.Investigate any other matters related to the reported evictions which have occurred in some parts of our country

This is a consolidated report of the delegations. This report will highlight the commonalities in each province with regard to unfair evictions and also include recommendations. For details of specific cases please refer to individual reports.

The Extent
and Nature of the Problem
It is nearly impossible to attach a figure to the total number of evictions taking place throughout these provinces. This is due to the fact that only some provinces do data capturing of eviction cases. The monitoring of evictions is also hampered by human resource shortages, as well as the failure by evictees to report their cases to the police because of the perception that the police are favoring the farmers in eviction cases.

A number of the reported eviction cases in the four provinces were to an extent labour related. Labour disputes between farm-workers and farm owners were often used by farm owners as a mechanism to evict workers. A large majority of farm-workers are not unionised because farm-owners often refuse union representatives access to their workers.

Shortcomings/loopholes in the relevant laws
Many of the problems that came to the fore during the provincial visits were rather implementation issues than loopholes within the relevant Acts. Basic necessities, like access to drinking water, are often deemed to farm-workers as a form of punishment This is clearly in contravention of the Extension of Security of Tenure Act [ESTA], 62 of 1997. Section 1(1) (vi) of ESTA, defines eviction as depriving a person against his/her will of his right to "residence on land or the use of land or access to water which is linked to a right of residence."

ESTA gives special rights to occupiers who are 60 years or older and who have lived on the land for longer than 10 years. The same rights are given to disabled people who were employed by the owner and who lived on the land for 10 years or longer. (See section 8(4a & 4b) Despite the special rights for long-term occupiers many cases that were reported concerned persons older than 60 years and who had lived longer than 10 years on a specific farm.
The eviction cases which were reported to the delegations, whether contested or not, show that the biggest flaw in ESTA is that the Act merely regulates tenure rights without actually providing security of tenure.

Investigations have also revealed that ESTA does not provide clarity on the rights of farm-workers and occupiers to bury their dead on the farms on which they live. Section 6(4) of the Act simply states that:

"Any person shall have the right to visit and maintain his or her family graves on land which belongs to another person, subject to any reasonable condition imposed by the owner or person in charge of such land in order to safeguard life and property or to prevent undue disruption of work on the land."

In spite of the above provisions certain farmers were reported to have barred persons who had been evicted from their farms from visiting or maintaining their family graves.  In some cases the graves were demolished by landowners who would plough over those graves.

Impact of Evictions
Communication and trust between the police, prosecutors and magistrates, on the one hand, and the farm worker communities, on the other, have reached breaking point in some areas; with the perception by those communities that these state officers arc siding with the farm-owners instead of implementing the law in an impartial manner.

Squatter camps, which are an urban- phenomenon, in and around tilt rural towns, are mushrooming due to the influx of evictees from neighbouring farMs This places a burden on state resources such as housing, water, health services, electricity, education, commonage land, etc.  These evictions, legal and illegal, result in the disruption of the children's schooling, the breakdown in the social fabric of the effected communities and a deterioration in race relations.

Legal Processes and the Magistrates Courts.
One of the impediments to the successful implementation of land laws such as ESTA and the Land Reform (Labour Tenants) Act, 3 of 1996, is the fact that most police officers are not familiar with the laws. This is evident from the statements made by the South African Police Service personnel in the four provinces.  The situation is further exacerbated by a lack of understanding on the part of farm-workers and some of the farm owners regarding their respective rights and obligations as provided for in ESTA and other related laws. Some farmers were reported to have tended to call on the police to carry out evictions of the occupiers even when there were no court orders for them to do so.

The position of the occupiers is worsened by the fact that, due to poverty and illiteracy, they are unable to gain access to legal assistance and the courts so as to either institute legal action or defend themselves.

General Remarks

Various forums, consisting of all major stakeholders, including the police, farm workers, labour and agricultural unions and the Department of Land Affairs, have been established in the respective provinces to deal with eviction probleMs These have proved a success in many instances.

A number of evictions tend to take place whenever there is a change in the ownership of farMs Some of the evictions are said to be racially motivated because pressure has been applied by white farmers on colleagues who sought to make their land available to farm workers.

The delegations were also told of the confiscation of livestock household properties in the course of the eviction of farm workers landowners. This happens illegally without any recourse to the law.

Recommendations
The following recommendations are made by the Portfolio Committee for consideration by Parliament and necessary action by the Executive:

The role of the commandos, the police and deputy sheriffs in farm evictions must be investigated and brought in line with the law and the constitution.

The Department of Safety and Security must ensure that the police conduct thorough investigations of eviction and assault cases on farms in order to ensure the proper and impartial implementation of the law.

The Directorate of Public Prosecutions must pursue all cases of farm worker abuse and victimization which, though reported to the police, were not followed by investigation and criminal trial.

The Department of Labour, and possibly that of Welfare and Population Development, must continue to carry out regular farm inspections to ensure that the law is being obeyed and that the working and living conditions of farm workers are improved.

The land reform programmes, including restitution and redistribution must give priority to the land needs of farm workers, and occupiers.

More farmers must be encouraged to make more land available to government for distribution to the landless occupier.

The government must ensure that the different organs and agencies of state, particularly those involved in the investigation, prosecution and trial of eviction cases, are given on-going special training on land related laws.

The state must provide adequate resources to ensure that the laws and policies aimed at the poor and the vulnerable are speedily and meaningfully implemented, and that legal assistance be provided for victims of eviction.

The Departments of Agriculture, Land Affairs and Labour must continue to run information campaigns throughout the country for both farmers and occupiers.

The extension of security of Tenure Act, the Land Reform (Labour Tenants) Act and other related laws must be reviewed and if necessary relevant amendments be effected as a matter of urgency.

The government must do everything possible to ensure that illegal and/or unfair evictions do not take place.

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