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LAND AND ENVIRONMENTAL AFFAIRS SELECT COMMITTEE
19 June 2007
DEPARTMENT OF LAND AFFAIRS ANNUAL REPORT 2005/06
Chairperson: Rev P Moatshe (ANC, North-West)
Documents handed out:
Department of Land Affairs on 2005/06 Annual Report presentation
Annual Report- Department of Land Affairs [available at www.land.pwv.gov.za]
Audio Recording of the meeting
The Department of Land Affairs presented its Annual Report for 2005/6. It focussed on the strategic objectives and outlined the 2005/06 Operational Performance per programme. The briefing touched on the reasons for postponement of the review of land policy, tabled the performance statistics for urban claims, and updated the Committee on the more complex claims, citing boundary disputes and problems with traditional leaders in rural areas as examples. The briefing described the post settlement processes, and the alignment of restitution projects with Municipalities, the Department of Agriculture and the Provinces. The performance in the redistribution was outlined. The legislation related to communal property association and land had to be reviewed. The security of tenure targets and performance were explained and the problems were described in respect of the implementation of the Communal Land Rights Act. The target date for consolidated legislation for land reform had been extended, and there was still a need to have legislation to manage the provision of land. The Department was working on preparation of the Land Use Management Bill by Parliament. Electronic methods of deeds registration were to be adopted. The financial performance was described per programme. There had been a variance of slightly over R1 billion in regard to spending and this amount was returned to Treasury. The challenges facing the Department were described. Questions by Members addressed the challenges relating to the "willing buyer, willing seller" principles, a request for progress reports, the relationship between the Department and the Communal Property Associations, the Land Claims Commission and other departments, dissemination of skills and information to new land beneficiaries, and the pilot projects under the Communal Land Rights Act. Further questions related to the budget, the surrender of funds, the relationship with municipalities, updating of the asset register, the consolidation of legislation, and the possibility that the Commission could become autonomous.
Department of Land Affairs (DLA) Annual Report 2005/06
Mr Glen Thomas, Director General, Department of Land Affairs, briefed the Committee on the Department's performance for the 2005/06 financial year. He indicated the strategic objectives of the Department and outlined the various programmes (see attached document)
In regard to Programme 1 (Administration) Mr Thomas explained to the Committee the reasons for the postponement of the review of land policy pending the outcome of the Land Summit. New demands had resulted from the restructuring of the Department and approval of the recommendations and the implementation of Project Tsoseletso had caused a culture change strategy that was presently being implemented. He stressed the importance of the draft that had been developed on the monitoring and evaluation framework. He furthermore said that the report on State land leases in fact had the status of a qualified audit report.
In regard to restitution, Mr Thomas tabled the performance statistics for urban claims that had been settled in accordance with the Act, indicating also where the targets had been exceeded. He also informed the Committee on the more complex claims that the Department had to deal with, citing boundary disputes and problems with traditional leaders in rural areas as examples.
Mr Thomas outlined the process in regard to the facilitation of sustainable development (Post Settlement Process) and the alignment of restitution projects with Municipalities, the Department of Agriculture and the Provinces. He furthermore touched on the aspects of skills development and training for beneficiaries regarding sustainable development of restored land. With regard to the land reform programme, Mr Thomas outlined the performance reached with redistribution targets, and explained the reasons for not achieving certain targets. He briefed the Committee on the acceleration of the disposal and improvement of the administration of State-owned land. He said that the legislation related to communal property association and land had to be reviewed and he outlined and explained the challenges and reasons for the amendments.
With regard to security of tenure issues, he elaborated on the service delivery indicators, the targets set and the actual performance attained. With regard to the implementation of the Communal Land Rights Act (CLaRA), the DG explained to the Committee the reasons for identifying the pilot sites in KZN and the decision for not going ahead with the project. He added that the Department would have to formulate a different approach. In respect of land reform, he said that the target date for the availability of consolidated legislation was November 2005. However, the Department decided to abandon this by reason of legal and constitutional problems as well as issues pertaining to property rights. Mr Thomas furthermore explained to the Committee why the amendment of the particular legislation would not help the Department very much. He emphasised the need to provide land, and the necessity to have legislation that would manage the provision of land. He proceeded to identify the land delivered since 1994
With regard to spatial development frameworks( SDF) he mentioned the grant that was awarded to the OR Tambo Municipality and said that the Department was working towards the tabling and the adoption of the Land Use Management Bill by Parliament. He then briefed the Committee on the process of transforming deeds registration to electronically methods to enable the service provider to offer quicker and more efficient service.
Ms Sarah Choane, Deputy Director General, Corporate and Financial Affairs (CFO), DLA, then proceeded to brief the Committee on the financial performance per programme and explained the variance of R1, 05 billion (26.06%) of actual expenditure, largely due to underspending on the restitution programme. She said that although the under spending wasa cause for concern, in real terms year on year expenditure had actually increased, as illustrated by a bar chart
Mr Thomas briefed the Committee on the various challenges that faced the Department. These includedhigh staff turnover, development taking longer than the settlement process, high land cost based on market values, un-surveyed and unregistered land rights requiring detailed mapping, protracted negotiations with landowners and claimants and community disputes, which involved Traditional authorities’ jurisdictional issues and landowner disputes on the validity of claims. There was also a need to align priorities of communal and commercial land use. There was also poor level of alignment between this Department and Provincial Departments of Agriculture and other budget constraints pertaining to the land reform programme. The issue of the willing buyer and willing seller was also a challenge to the Department and proposals to address these issues were being considered and were outlined. These included a pro-active land acquisition strategy, bio-fuels strategies, new land delivery models, decentralisation and a business re-engineering process to re-position the Department to fast track delivery.
Mr G Krumbock (DA, Kwazulu-Natal) raised the question why the challenges of the willing buyer/ willing seller and that of the cost of land could not be addressed now.
Mr Thomas replied that the preparations to formulate the strategic approach regarding the willing buyer/willing seller would appear in the 2006/07 reports and the strategy plan would be contained in the report of the following year.
Mr Krumbock insisted that the Committee was entitled to a report from the Department now and requested an answer.
The Chairperson acknowledged that the Department was not ready to comment on the progress on this.
Mr R Tau (ANC, Northern Cape) said that the report on the challenges did not mean there was no progress, or withholding of information.
Mr A Watson (DA, Mpumalanga) said that it was also his understanding that the Department was not ready to submit a report on this challenge but asked why the Department could not answer questions on the matter or indicate its plans.
Mr Tau said that the report was with the Auditor General and that the Committee should wait until it was finalised. The Department should not be put on the spot.
The Chairperson agreed with this understanding, and suggested that progress should be requested from the Department in writing.
Mr Thomas said that the Department was not hiding anything. The matter had been raised as a challenge in 2005/06 and what had to be done had been identified and would be reported during 2006/07 .A strategy plan would be contained in the report for that year. Mr Thomas also referred to the State of the Nation Address in which the President had said that the willing buyer/willing seller issue must be reviewed. The Department was doing so.
The Chairperson said that the request was valid and the Committee would wait for the report.
Ms M Oliphant (ANC, Kwazulu-Natal ) questioned the relationship between the Communal Property Association ( CPA) and the Department , the structures of participation and the Department’s role. She also asked how the pilot sites for the implementation plan of CLaRA were identified, and when the Land Use Management Bill would be tabled in Parliament.
Dr Nozizwe Makgalemele, Deputy Director General: Land Planning and Information, DLA, said that the Bill was in the process of being submitted to the Minister who would then present it to Cabinet for consideration. The Cabinet’s decision would determine further procedures and timing.
Mr Thomas noted that the CPAs were not part of the Department. They were legal entities formed independently and were community structures. They managed the land that they had acquired.
Ms Oliphant raised the issue of new landowners that were beneficiaries, who were not fully informed of the rights they had pertaining to the new land, especially in regard to mining. She asked if there was a problem regarding the dissemination of information.
Mr Thomas said that the CPA represented all parties, and all participated in decision-making and in seeking advice. However, a committee ran the CPA’s affairs and the committee did not involve the members in all of the decision-making. This must be reviewed. It was the right of members to lodge a complaint, to consult or to request investigation of any form of redress.
Mr Thomas added in respect of the pilot projects that not all Provinces were suitable, for various reasons, and that most of the work required in the implementation of CLARA was more suitable for Kwazulu-Natal. He acknowledged that there had been objections to this. In addition, a decision had been made to suspend the implementation of the proposed system and to investigate a better way of doing it
Mr Tau referred to issues dealt with in the Budget Vote and the legislation pertaining to farm dwellers. He raised his concerns regarding the relationship between the Department and the Land Claims Commission, especially in the provinces, and enquired whether the Commission operated independently or reported to the Department.
Mr Thomas said that the main problem was that the role and functions of the Commission were not clarified. The Commission’s mandate was to deal with the claims. The Commission's role after settlement of claims was not clear, although they should bear some responsibility. The Department could not allow that new landowners were put into new poverty traps. Mr Thomas mentioned the lessons learnt from Riemvasmaak when, after settlement of the claims, other tiers of Government and other Departments had to come in to provide services and housing. Nothing had happened for years and this led to restitution problems and people becoming more poverty stricken than before. Development was not in the mandate of the Commission, therefore there was a need for the Restitution Act to be amended to allow the Commission to get money for development. The money could only be utilised through other agencies or municipalities because the Commission did not have the capacity.
Mr Tau also commented on the R1bn that had to be surrendered in the Budget, and asked how to avoid this surrender in future. He would rather that the Committee received requests for surpluses to support programmes to fast track transformation.
Ms Choane said the root causes could be attributed to programmes 5 (Land Reform), 6 (Spatial Planning and Information) and 7 (Auxiliary Services). The amount that the Department had made provision for included the larger claims to be settled. In future provision had been made for development funding, and the bulk of the budget this year would be spent on restitutions. The trend of spending was focussed unexpectedly on the settlement of claims. She mentioned some of the percentages of budget spent already on restitution in the last few months. There were indications that the budget would be spent rather quickly and the Department would monitor the issue.
Ms B Dlulane (ANC, Eastern Cape) asked if reports to the Committee could not be formalised at an earlier stage, so that they could be considered sooner. In regard to the surrendered funds, she asked what the Department’s role could be to transfer such a large amount to another tier of Government
Mr Thomas raised the issue of assistance to Municipalities. He said that the because of the problems faced by local government all national departments were requested by Cabinet to give hands-on support to municipalities for development. He referred to the Department’s report on development frameworks and noted that these funds were linked to the Integrated Development Planning (IDP) processes. Support was given to OR Tambo municipality, and there were more support programmes currently in place National departments were also requested by Cabinet for a master plan for support to municipalities. The area-based plan formed part of the Department’s mandate to ensure that land reform issues were captured in the IDP. The Department would also provide the local governments with their own body to assist them, and in the new structure a unit specifically for that purpose was proposed. It was anticipated that this unit would be transferred to the local governments to enable them to have the capacity to deal with land transformation.
Mr Tau referred to the deeds registration and enquired how the different role players could work together to update the asset register.
Mr Thomas commented on the State Asset Register and said that the Department of Land Affairs had its own register of state land. He said that there was state land controlled by the Minister. He referred to former South African Development Trust (SADT) land and noted that in 1994 there were pieces of land that were expropriated from white farmers to consolidate the former Bantustans. This land was never transferred and remained SADT land, which was then inherited by the Minister and therefore by the Department. This was part of the Department’s history. He added that during the mid nineties1990s R1 million was provided to do an audit of all State land including that under the control of various departments like Forestry and Water Affairs. It was not known what had happened but the audit was never concluded. An audit of all State land, and compilation of a national register of all State land, was the responsibility of the Department of Public Works. .
Mr Thomas then briefed the Committee on the consolidated Extension of Security of Tenure (ESTA) and Land Reform (Labour Tenants) Act (LTA ). He said that for the last ten years the Department had tried to implement these without real success. A major issue with the legislation was that it regulated rather than protected, and that was a major challenge. In dealing with that challenge the Department considered a proposal to create a class of non-evictable occupiers but after engagement with the previous Minister it became clear that if the Department went that way there would be two problems. One concerned who would carry the costs of providing services - the landowner or municipalities. The other issue concerned the handling of people who needed legally to be evicted. It was therefore decided that amendments of the ESAT and LTA were not viable but that legislation to regulate eviction was needed, as very valid reasons could exist for evictions. The best solution to deal with eviction was to buy land for people, if it were in the public interest to create sustainable development for larger communities The Department therefore had to negotiate with the farm owners to buy the whole land required. The ideal situation would be to purchase land closer to towns where job opportunities, services and transport were more easily accessible. This would involve the Departments of Public Works and Transport in the planning. The best option would be for the Department to develop a smallholding where communities could be given sustainable living opportunities.
Mr Thomas referred to the Department’s relationship with the Land Claims Commission, noting that the Commission was autonomous. The Commission dealt with settlement of claims according to the Act, and the Director General of DLA had no say in the matter. However, the Minister could intervene in disputes between the Commission and claimants. The Director General of DLA could not process cases. Although, as Head of the Department he was the Accounting Officer of the Commission, he has no authority over their actions and this created tension. There was no control as to how the Commission acted. Mr Thomas had recommended to the Minister that the Commission be totally autonomous and that it be accountable for its own actions. However, it would take time for the Commission to establish itself with its own financial management. The Department’s role was therefore presently only to provide the Commission with the facilities for the usage of resources, and not to determine the validity of claims submitted.
Mr Thomas noted that the Department would have no problem in submitting quarterly reports and awaited notification of the dates for submission.
The meeting was adjourned
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