Land Affairs General Amendment Bill: briefing by Department

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ENVIRONMENTAL AFFAIRS AND TOURISM PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE

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The aim of this report is to summarise the main events at the meeting and identify the key role players. This report is not a verbatim transcript of proceedings.

LAND AND ENVIRONMENTAL AFFAIRS SELECT COMMITTEE
30 October 2001
BRIEFING BY DEPARTMENT ON LAND AFFAIRS GENERAL AMENDMENT BILL

Chairperson:
Rev P Moatshe

Documents handed out:
Land Affairs General Amendment Bill [B 71B-2001]
Land Affairs General Amendment Bill - Select Committee Amendments (see "Appendix 1")
National Land Tenure Conference - Finding Solutions, Securing Rights

SUMMARY
The Select Committee was briefed by the Department of Land Affairs on the Land Affairs General Amendment Bill which made technical amendments to streamline the Land Reform (Labour Tenants) Act of 1996 and the Extension of Security of Tenure Act of 1997. The members discussed the amendments, the rights that would be extended, and to whom they would be extended. The Committee then agreed on the need for a general briefing early next year on the principal Act and moved on to finalising the Bill. The Committee agreed to the passage of the Bill with the proposed amendments. The Department informed the Committee of the National Land Tenure Conference, and there was discussion of the proposed visit to fishing communities.

MINUTES
The Chairperson stated that the Committee would be briefed by the Department on the Land Affairs General Amendment Bill and then proceed to voting on the Bill. He then introduced the representatives from the Department and asked them to begin with the briefing.

Land Affairs General Amendment Bill
Ms V. Nxasana of Land Reform Systems and Support Services for the Department thanked the Select Committee for the opportunity to brief them on the Land Affairs General Amendment Bill (LAGA Bill). She explained that the amendments were of a technical nature and would streamline the current legislation. The Department, having widely consulted on concerns over the legislation not accomplishing what it was meant to, was looking into consolidating the legislation and also to streamlining the two pieces of legislation affected: the Labour Tenants Act and the Extension of Security of Tenure Act. The Department would also look into correcting some of the hiccups in the implementation of the legislation.

Ms Nxasana proceeded to look at the amendments in detail. She began by distributing the amendment to the long title proposed by the Select Committee. There was a typing error on page 2, line 4, of the long title (for the proposed amendment, see "Appendix 1"). She continued the briefing by discussing the proposed amendments that the LAGA Bill would make to the Labour Reform (Labour Tenants) Act and the Extension of Securities of Tenure Act.

Land Reform (Labour Tenants) Act, 1996
Ms Nxasana discussed the proposed amendments to the Labour Tenants Act of 1996. The principal Act described a tenant but ignored associates, so the omission resulted in family members not being allowed to apply for rights. Associates would consist of family members of a tenant or others nominated. She said that the amendments of Section 1 of the Labour Tenants Act would correct the omission in the Act. The second amendment to Section 9 of the Labour Tenants Act involved the age at which a labour tenant who refused or failed to provide labour to an owner or lessee could be evicted. There was inconsistency in the legislation, with the Labour Tenants Act putting the limit at 65 years and the Extension of Security of Tenure Act putting the age limit at 60. The LAGA Bill would amend the Labour Tenants Act to make the age limit 60 years. Therefore, the LAGA Bill would protect a person over 60 years of age from being evicted if the person could no longer perform labour. The third amendment to Section 15 of the Labour Tenants Act involved owners seeking to evict tenants. The amendment made provisions to protect evictees in cases where eviction orders were turned down by the courts. If an order to evict should be turned down by the courts, the amendment would ensure that arrangements were made to reinstate those evicted. The fourth amendment, involving an insertion to Section 15 of the Labour Tenants Act, was aimed at ensuring that the procedures providing for offenses applicable under the Extension of Securities of Tenure Act were also included in the Labour Tenants Act. The fifth amendment, aimed at Section 27 of the Labour Tenants Act, was a consequential amendment resulting from the amendment to Section 1. The amendment would give the right to apply for land to members of an extended family as long as the application had been lodged by the cut-off date of 31 March 2001.

Extension of Securities of Tenure Act, 1997
The sixth amendment would amend Section 1(1) of the Extension of Securities of Tenure Act to ensure that owners who routinely gave permission to bury did not use the omission of that right from the Act to take that right away from their tenants. The inclusion of the definition of "established practice" in the Bill would make routinely given permission legally binding. The seventh amendment would amend Section 6 of the Extension of Securities of Tenure Act to allow tenants to bury deceased family members who were living with them at the time of death and also to allow family members of an occupier, according to Section 8(4) (long-term occupants, disabled occupants and those over 60 years of age), to bury the occupier on the land on which he or she was residing at the time of death subject to any reasonable conditions which were not more onerous than those prescribed and that may be imposed by the owner or person in charge. The inclusion of reasonable conditions was to balance the right of the landowners with that of the tenants. In concluding the briefing, Ms Nxasana stated that the Department would hold hearings to clarify the meaning of "onerous conditions".

Questions and Discussion
The Chairperson thanked Ms Nxasana for the clear briefing and opened the floor for questions and comments.

Mr R. Nyakane (UDM) asked to what extent extended families could be found.

Rev M. Chabaku (ANC) asked a question on the age limit. She stated that she did not feel comfortable with the age limit of 65 and accepted the amendment to make the age limit 60.

Mr Nyakane asked if there was any reason to make the age limit 65 because, the longer a person had worked, the more advantage he or she would have.

The Chairperson responded that the age limit was made 60 to streamline the two pieces of legislation, and making it 65 would be a disadvantage for the people.

Mr D. Kgware (ANC) stated that people were now aging faster and added that it might be necessary to amend the legislation again in the future.

Ms E. Gouws (DP), referring to the amendment on page six concerning long-term occupants, asked what would happen to a 60 year old person who was on the farm for less than the ten years required to qualify as a long-term occupant.

Ms Nxasana responded that the person would not be qualified as a long-term occupier unless he or she had lived on the land for more than ten years.

The Chairperson asked what would happen if a person who worked on the land for over ten years, but was not over 60 years of age, died.

Ms Nxasana responded that the amendment referred to those who could not be evicted. If their rights could not be terminated, they would also be allowed to be buried there.

Mr K. Mokoena (ANC) stated that farms were now changing hands quickly and asked which part of the legislation dealt with people who were buried on the land before the LAGA Bill would come into effect, and he explained his question by relating the story of a new farm owner in Mpumalanga who removed graves from his newly acquired farm.

Ms Nxasana responded that people would still have the rights regardless of who owned the land. Any rights they had with the original owner would continue to exist with a new owner. Also, rights that previous owners routinely gave to their tenants would also be legally binding on the new owner. She added that the destruction of graves was a criminal offense.

Mr Nyakane, as a follow-up to Mr Mokoena's question, stated that the sale of farms was taking place and asked what would happen to tenants if a fruit farm was sold and the new farm owner wanted to raise livestock instead of growing fruit. With the new owner not needing the labour of the tenants, what would happen to the workers, and who would protect them when the new owner defended himself by saying that his farm no longer needed the labour.

Ms Nxasana replied that this question involved the principal Act. The new owner would not be allowed to evict tenants without alternative accommodation.

Mr Kgware stated that a briefing session would be needed again to touch on the principal Act.

The Chairperson agreed with Mr Kgware's suggestion.

Rev Chabaku, referring to the offenses on page four of the LAGA Bill, stated that the 31 March 2001 deadline had already elapsed.

Ms Nxasana replied that, if an application was lodged by the cut-off date of 31 March 2001, the associates would be covered by the LAGA Bill. The amendment provided for extended families to be included in the application because the number of qualified persons would affect the amount of money granted, so the inclusion of associates was important.

Mr V. Windvoel (ANC), referring to the consultation mentioned in the section on the Memorandum on the Objects of the LAGA Bill on page ten, stated that only two institutions were consulted. He asked who was being consulted: the labourers or the landowners. He asked if an attempt had been made to consult with the tenants and labourers. He suggested that ways be found to reach out to the poorest of the poor in consulting on all legislation.

Ms Nxasana replied that there was an on-going campaign and stated that the consultation mentioned in the Memorandum on the Objects of the LAGA Bill was only on the amendments. She stated that the amendments themselves had come through consultation and added that a communication campaign had been conducted in all eleven official languages to inform people of the cut-off date and the legislation in general. She accepted the point on the need for an on-going campaign and communication.

The Chairperson stated that the Committee would have a general briefing early next year and asked the members to move on to finalising the LAGA Bill.

Finalisation of the LAGA Bill
The Chairperson read the Motion of Desirability to the Select Committee, and it was agreed to by all members. The amendment to the long title was agreed to, and the Chairperson covered the Bill clause by clause. The Committee agreed to the passage of the Bill with the proposed amendments. The Chairperson thanked the Department for the briefing and for cooperating with the Select Committee. He then gave the Department a chance to inform the Committee of the upcoming conference.

National Land Tenure Conference
Ms Nxasana announced that the Department of Land Affairs and USAID were holding a National Land Tenure Conference. The objectives of the Conference were to provide an opportunity for government, civil society and external participants to engage in debate and make recommendations on key policy and implementation issues; to review the current land rights legislation in order to identify a path to follow for strengthening and securing the rights of labour tenants, farm workers and other farm dwellers; to provide a forum for input into the Department's tenure reform and land administration framework on communal land; and to identify impediments and examine alternatives and proposals for developing rural communities. The Conference would be attended by government officials, relevant statutory bodies, rural communities, NGOs, local and international researchers and scholars, professionals, activists, traditional leaders, political parties, Parliamentarians, religious groups, business representatives, and organised agriculture. Ms Nxasana finished her announcement by stating that the purpose of the conference was to come up with legislation for stronger land tenure rights.

The Chairperson stated that the Committee would look into attending the Conference. He asked if it was financially possible for the Committee to attend. He said that the Committee Chairperson and Clerk would look into the possibilities and report back.

Visit to Fishing Communities
The Chairperson stated that the Committee had made a commitment to revisit fishing communities and had failed to visit the previous week, so 17 November 2001 was the proposed date. He said that it was necessary for the Committee to agree to the visit in order to begin making the necessary arrangements.

Mr Windvoel stated that the Committee had promised to return to the fishing communities for another visit and added that the Committee had an obligation to report back. He accepted the proposed date of 17 November 2001. He said that the members had made a commitment to serve the people of this country. He proposed that the Committee members split up and visit the various communities, in order to make the visits expeditious, and report back to the Committee.

Rev Chabaku asked if there was a possibility of visiting at an earlier date.

The Chairperson stated that the Committee could not make visit earlier than the 17th of November because time was needed to communicate with the communities and make arrangements.

Mr Mokoena suggested that the Committee visit one community and defer the other because the conference on land tenure would be more important to attend. Initially, the plan had been to visit eight communities, but only four communities had been visited. He stated that the 17th of November was unrealistic because Parliament would have already disbanded by that date. He asked if the visits could be deferred to the next year and suggested that the Committee use the little money available to send a delegation to the land tenure conference because legislation would be coming from that conference. He said that, in presenting his proposal, he did not intended to undermine the previous proposals.

Ms A. Versfeld (DP) stated that allocations were still taking place and suggested that it would be better to visit after all the allocations had been dispersed. She also agreed with Mr Mokoena.

Rev Chabaku said that the Committee had to report back to the communities, so it would be better to go on the 10th of November to tell the communities what the Committee had done and to pass on the Department's response. She suggested that the Committee Clerk check to see what would be best for the communities and stated that the issue should be left to the Chairperson and Clerk.

Mr Windvoel suggested that members state their availability for the visit and, referring to Ms Versfeld's suggestion, added that it would be better to re-visit the communities before the allocations were finished.

The Chairperson stated that the discussion would have an impact on the visit to Argentina. If the Committee did not roll over the money to next year but used the money for the Land Tenure Conference, other sources of funding would be needed for the proposed visit to Argentina. He said that the prioritising suggested by Mr Windvoel was key and asked members which was more important: the visit to Argentina or the Conference.

Mr Kgware asked if Parliament could assist with funding the Committee's attendance of the land tenure conference.

The Chairperson stated that the financial issues would be investigated further. In closing the meeting, he thanked all those present and stated that there was legislation still coming before the Committee. The meeting was adjourned.

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Appendix 1

LAND AFFAIRS GENERAL
AMENDMENT BILL
(B71 - 2001)


SELECT COMMITTEE AMENDMENTS
(Proposed by the Department)

LONG TITLE

On page 2, in line 4 of the long title, after "may" and before "be", to insert "not".

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