Department of Land Affairs Strategic Plan: Members' discussion

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Meeting Summary

During their previous meeting, Members of the Committee had received inputs and presentations from the Department of Land Affairs. Although it had been lengthy, and there were time constraints, the Chairperson urged the members, most of whom were new to this Committee's work, to study in depth the documentation provided and to track whether the Strategic Plan measured up to goals and targets outlined in the President's opening address to Parliament. This meeting did not hear any formal presentations but gave Members the opportunity to raise and debate some issues with the Department.

Members asked questions about the education mentioned in the Strategic Plan, asking what cooperation there was with the Department of Education, what research centres were being referred to, and suggesting, although the Department was not directly responsible for education, that there be more emphasis on the gathering and collating of indigenous knowledge. They further questioned the interaction with non government organisations, and the need to debate the whole process. Several questions were asked about land redistribution, including the length of time taken, the fact that many tenants being evicted were not being protected by the South African Police Services, but were being victimised, who would receive the title deeds of ownership, and the fact that many Tribal Chiefs were claiming entitlement to the land by virtue of holding title deeds. The Department clarified that they must be seen as trustees or administrative representatives, and did not have a personal claim. The situation of the Ingonyama Trust was clarified. Members questioned why some of the kings had been given recognition over others, and the role of the Department in these matters. Members also had previously asked that information be given to enable them to compare land prices, and the Department, whilst explaining that comparisons were very difficult, nonetheless agreed to provide a list within two weeks. The Department would also provide a report on land claims within the same time. There was not sufficient budget to meet all the claims that had been lodged and there were severe capacity constraints at all levels.

Members finally adopted the Minutes of meetings on 28 May, 4 June, 9 June and 11 June.

Meeting report

Members' follow up discussions on Department of Land Affairs Strategic Plan
The Chairperson reminded the Members that this meeting was their opportunity of meeting to consider the business and work of the Committee. He extended a special welcome to Ms P de Lille (ID). He reminded Members that they had previously been asked to study the Strategic Plan in more depth and asked for any comments upon it.

Mr M Dandala (COPE) stated that the Strategic Plan had a strong emphasis on education and he was concerned about what co-operation there might be between the Departments of Land Affairs and of Education, and, if there was none, how such collaboration could be achieved. Arising from this, he commented that the Department had made several reference to "research centres" and he wondered why these were not specifically named. He also felt that any co-operation by the Universities should be emphasised so that transformation could be achieved.

Mr Thozi Gwanya, Director General, Department of Land Affairs, said that the Department was encouraged by the questions, and especially the amount of detail asked by the Members, as the Department saw land affairs issues as a challenge. Although education was an important aspect the Department of Land Affairs did not control the Department of Education, and the differences must be debated. He added that it was  often alleged that the teachers in the rural schools were not present at their classes. However, it must be remembered that since most of these teachers lived in urban areas, they often had to travel, on a daily basis, for long distances to posts in the rural schools, that this travel was time consuming and, because of the condition of the roads, also expensive and dangerous. Additionally, whereas formerly most schools had a garden, allowing for agricultural methods and practices to be conveyed to the learners, this was now not so and this practical mechanism of conveying knowledge had fallen away. He added that there must be provision for the re introduction of school gardens to the education process as this had many advantages. He suggested that parameters should be set out, and maintained.

In regard to the centres of excellence Mr Gwanya stated that Cedara College in KwaZulu Natal was one  example. There had been talks and negotiations with the University of Kwazulu Natal regarding the absorption of this College, to the benefit of all concerned, but these negotiations were still ongoing.

Ms Steyn said that she felt that details about Research and Development (R&D) and about interaction with non-government organisations (NGOs) should be spelt out.

Mr Gwanya responded that NGOs and State Owned Enterprises (SOEs) were viewed as very important; and stock must be taken of them and questions asked. For instance, he said that the purpose of Ithala Bank in Kwazulu Natal must be questioned, and reasons for the existence of this and similar institutions must be established, and expanded. In addition, NGOs needed to be examined critically and the reason for their existence established, and expanded. Associated with this was the need to debate the existing projects and learn lessons from them, followed by reports to all associated with their activities.

Mr M Nchabeleng (ANC) addressed himself to redistribution and wanted to know the reason why the process took so long. He noted that some claims took as long as eight years to be settled and he wondered about the mechanism and how it could be speeded up. He also stated that the South African Police Services (SAPS) either did not understand, or did not apply the laws relating to evictions from land of tenants and rural communities and that landlords, in ejecting tenants and labourers from their land, acted with impunity. He asked that the supposed enforcers of the law be compelled to enforce it properly and that the lawbreakers, and not the victims, should be pursued.

A representative from the Department of Land Affairs, said that the Department had workshops with magistrates and SAPS but it took a long time for the message to be received. He reminded the Members that the SAPS had taken a long time to implement the laws protecting women and children and other vulnerable groups and although progress was being made in that area much still remained to be done.  The same was true of the laws protecting tenants and former employees.

Mr Swathe asked who actually received the title deeds of ownership where there was a successful land reform matter. He continued that the communities, through the Tribal and other Chiefs, were apparently receiving the Title deeds but the Tribal Chiefs then claimed that they, as individuals and not as representatives of the communities, were the new owners of the land concerned, as they were holding the title deeds. He sought clarity on this practice.

The Chairperson stated that the raising of more questions today would not advance the purpose of the meeting, as the Members should be concentrating upon debating the submissions that the Department had made previously.

Mr Gwanya responded that the policy of the Government was that land should be returned to the people, as individuals, not to the Tribal Leaders or even the communities. The Tribal Chief was merely the administrative head of that community and he received the Title Deeds in a representative capacity, and not  personally. A comparison may be drawn with Municipalities; where the Mayor was the administrative head, but not the owner of the properties situated within that municipality. There was no conflict in the Municipalities between the Mayor and the true owners of the properties and similarly there should be no conflict between the Tribal Head and the tribal community, as the community members owned the land.

The Chairperson said that the Ingonyama Trust was an example that in fact negated that explanation, as in this case in fact the community was using the land with the consent of the Tribal Leader.

Mr Gwanya explained that in this case, the land had been legally given to the King of the Zulus, as a Trustee for the community, or on behalf of the community, for the King was the representative of the Government towards the community under rural development. He suggested that the misunderstanding might have crept in through pronouncements of Magistrate Shepstone and his mis-interpretation of the law and the position of the King. The position in South Africa was that the land was owned by the people and the title deeds were held in a position of trust, by an administrative authority.

He added that the community had ownership of the land, and the King's trusteeship was a "sacred trust".

The Chairperson noted that one of the Members had asked for information to be given, by district, in order to compare land prices, as he felt that there were exorbitant prices being asked for takeover of land by government in order to address the requests of the claimants. He added that the budget presented by the Department contained only a figure of R500 million rand for land purchases and this allocation would require a second budget.

The Department of Land Affairs said that the 3 million hectares of land to be redistributed was the target  to be achieved by 2014, not today, and it was certainly not that 3 million hectares would be redistributed each year. The Department was engaged in building processes and did not have have the money to embark upon such a purchase programme.

Mr Gwanya added that the R500 million set aside in the budget related to a pilot project. This had been agreed to in conjunction with National Treasury and would only commence in October.

Mr Mduli noted that reference had been made to a question asked about land acquisition prices, during a previous meeting. He said that where land claims had already been settled, it was necessary to guard against adopting too simplistic an approach, and comparing prices across different administrative regions. In fact, even in the same administrative regions the values of land could  differ vastly, for good and proper reasons. Both owners and claimants would often attach a sentimental value to their land. Often a claim would be lodged, then further claims to the very same land would emerge or be advanced by parties having their own agendas.  Making a comparison of land and prices would take a little time.

The Chairperson asked that a comparative sample list would be produced by the Department within two weeks from today's meeting.

Mr Z Mandela (ANC) said that the Nhlala Commission had reduced the number of kings in the land across the Kei river to three, down from six, and yet ownership of the Ingonyama Trust was still retained by the King of the Zulus. He asked why this was so.

Mr Gwanya explained that this was not part of the redistribution of land but was a political device brought into operation after 1994. He added that all the kings had suitable, small pieces, of personal land surrounding their palaces identified, and given to them. This exercise must not be seen to be part of land redistribution.

Mr Nchabeleng said he was still concerned about the length of time the land restitution process took. He asked for the reasons for the delay to be set out on a case-by-case basis and expressed great concern about Mthatha, East Pondoland, East Griqualand and Magoeboes Kloof. He pointed out that in Sekukini's land there had been three kings and now there were seventy two or seventy three kings, all claiming pre-eminence. The three Kings had been awarded powers in terms of the Bantu Authorities Act, Act 27 of 1927, yet the other claims had legal and political consequences.

Mr Gwanya  explained that land claims were emerging and, for example, if all the land claims for the Kruger National Park were to be justified, recognised and awarded, it would cost the taxpayers an estimated R40 billion to R50-billion. There were, furthermore, claims in Cape Town to areas of Constantia, District 6 and Hout Bay and even in Paarl. He said that the claims had been referred to the Land Claims Court but this Court lacked researchers and administrative staff and even its judges had been deployed to other courts. Simply put, there was insufficient capacity to handle all the claims. It must not be forgotten that there were still claims in respect of the Wild Coast Sun, the Fish River Sun and the Wild Coast, and the Dube area in Natal, which the country simply could not afford.

The Chairperson and the Director General agreed, however, that the required report would be presented within two weeks of the meeting.

A Member said that although he recognised that the Department of Land Affairs was not responsible ultimately for education, something must be done about collaborating in the greater education field. In this regard he had in mind the collection and retention of indigenous knowledge pertaining to all sorts of areas of land and life which would otherwise be lost to the future generations. He urged that this knowledge be collected, codified and disseminated.

Mr Gwanya said that he was most encouraged by the approach of the Committee, and their questions. He  referred the members to Slide 22 of the presentation and stated that the most appropriate technologies were being sought and applied in the most practical ways.

The Chairperson urged all Members to familiarise themselves with the document, so that there could be deeper debate.

Consideration of Minutes
Mr M Swathe (DA) pointed out that the Minutes of the Committee meeting on 4 June 2009 were phrased in an ambiguous way, especially paragraphs 5.8 and 5.9.

It was agreed that the word "SALGA" would be inserted, which would make the paragraphs more easily understood.

Ms A Steyn (DA) requested that not so many acronyms should be used, at least until the members were more familiar with them.

The Chairperson agreed to this reasonable request.

The Minutes of the meetings of 28 May, 4 June, 9 June and 11 June were then adopted.

The meeting was adjourned.


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