Rural Development & Land Reform Minister on Strategic Plan & Budget 2009/10

NCOP Land Reform, Environment, Mineral Resources and Energy

22 June 2009
Chairperson: Ms A Qikani (ANC, Eastern Cape)
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Meeting Summary

After a brief introduction by the Minister, the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform gave a briefing on its Strategic Plan and Estimates of National Expenditure 2009/10. The presentation provided a broad overview of the new Department’s mandate and vision, according to strategic priorities set by the new administration. It provided an outline of old and new services and programmes provided or spearheaded by the Department. The new strategic priorities of the Department’s draft Comprehensive Rural Development Programme, its pilot projects, and its coordinating role as Rural Development Agency received particular attention. Constraints and clarifications to the Budget as well as staff turnover were highlighted. A broad categorisation of the targeted beneficiaries of land reform was also outlined, and the general current status of land reform was reviewed. This included land transferred under redistribution to date and targets for 2014; the progress, constraints and budgetary requirements of restitution; and the movement for review of existing legislation for tenure reform.

The major themes of discussion included the Department’s budgetary decisions, the Department’s plan for internal skills development, tension between the imperatives of restitution, and the rulings in regard to land with mineral rights or protected areas, the role of consultants in the design of municipal Integrated Development Plans, whether the former ‘use it or lose it policy’ would continue to apply, the coordinating role of the Rural Development Agency, and the meaning of rural development.

The Committee adopted the Minutes of the meeting on 17 June 2009.

Meeting report


Ministerial briefing on Department of Rural Development and Land Reform (DRDLR)
Hon Gugile Nkwinti, Minister of Rural Development and Land Reform gave a brief overview of the new Department of Rural Development and Land Reform (DRDLR) agenda and the three broad pillars of its mandate, which were agrarian transformation, land reform, and rural development. Pursuit of its objectives would necessitate a strategy for broad consultation and coordination amongst other government and non-government stakeholders. The concept of rural development was emphasised as not being limited to agricultural activities, but instead one that spoke to a transitive process that encompassed a better life for all in the rural areas.

Much of the new Department’s work to date had been based on three pilot villages of 2 500 households. Work began before a formal budget had been presented in the interest of speedy implementation. The Rural Development Agency proposed to use R500 million previously allocated to land redistribution and tenure feform to fund its operations.

A change of direction from the previous administration would also be marked by the review of some thirty pieces of legislation, as detailed in an upcoming White Paper.

Mr Nkwinti noted that the DRDLR had fewer staff members than its predecessor, the Department of Land Affairs, but it would not be a standalone department. It had been charged with the mandate to initiate, facilitate and coordinate rural development amongst other departments in order to promote a more rationalised and coherent approach to rural development.

Department’s Strategic Framework briefing
Mr Thozi Gwanya, Director General, DRDLR, apologised to the Committee for the late distribution of documents, which had arrived only on Monday, instead of the previous Friday. He tabled the Department’s Strategic Plan and Estimates of National Expenditure. The DRDLR’s responsibilities were outlined as comprising seven key programmes: administration, surveys and mapping, cadastral surveys management, restitution, land redistribution and tenure reform, spatial planning and information, and deeds registration. Within these areas its mandate had been drawn from the Cabinet’s 2009 Medium Term Strategic Framework (MTSF) third ‘strategic priority’ for government clusters, to provide comprehensive rural development linked to land and agrarian reform and assuring food security.

In fulfilment of this mandate, the Department had developed a Comprehensive Rural Development Programme (CRDP) prioritising a number of key areas. These included the aggressive implementation of land reform policies, stimulating agricultural production with a view to contributing to food security, improving rural livelihoods and food security, improving delivery to ensure quality of life, revitalisation of rural towns, skills development, exploration and support of farm and non-farm activities, institutional capacity development and cooperative development.

Mr Gwanya noted that the Department had taken very seriously its task to link the implementation of land reform to the greater objective of rural development. He highlighted the Department’s responsibility to protect the rights of farm workers and dwellers, particularly women and youth; and provide post-settlement support to beneficiaries of the 5,2 million hectares of land that had already been redistributed.

The Government’s objective of redistributing 30% of South Africa’s land by 2014 had not changed with the new administration, and approximately 19 million hectares had yet to be delivered. To this end government had adopted the Proactive Land Acquisition Strategy (PLAS), allowing government to purchase, via a trading entity, land with moveable assets.

The targeted beneficiaries of land were described as being heterogeneous both in their land needs and patterns of land use. The main categories included landless households who required land for subsistence purposes, subsistence producers facing congestion in the former homelands, those  needing land and support to shift to commercial production, commercial small-holders who were currently constrained by lack of resources, and established black commercial farmers. Government would thus need to design its programmes to take into account these different needs and capabilities.

Within the area of tenure reform, some legislation, such as the Extension of Security of Tenure Act (ESTA) and Labour Tenants Act (LTA), had been put up for review. In facing the challenges of illegal eviction, successful assistance had been provided through the Land Rights Management Facility and the Land Tenure Meditation Services Panel, though many victims still did not have access to these services. The Communal Land Rights Act (CLaRA), which was established to secure traditional communities’ title to land, had also been legally disputed by some who felt that land ownership had been placed in the hands of chiefs rather than the communities themselves, and there was a pending court judgement.

The Restitution Commission had settled 95% of land claims, with 4 200 claims remaining, many of them being rural claims. Constraints in settling the final 5% had been largely budgetary. Land Restitution had spent 75% of the current budget. Other challenges included escalating land prices, disputes surrounding the boundaries and validity of claims, and complex claims involving land used in mining, forestry, large-scale plantations, protected areas, and other intensive or exclusive use. The Commission estimated that it would need no less than R11 billion to resolve outstanding claims.

The Department’s land planning and information branch comprised of deeds and registration, Surveys and mapping, cadastral surveys, and spatial planning information, had been responsible for national mapping, aerial photography, integrated spatial reference frameworks, and other geo-spatial information that municipalities needed to complete their Integrated Development Plans (IDPs). The Land Use Management Bill, approved by Cabinet in 2001, had been passed by State law advisors and was being referred to the NCOP for consultation.

In the corporate services programme the previous year’s employee vacancy rate of 27% was reduced to 16.5%, seen against the norm of 10%. This was largely attributed to a “revolving-door” experience whereby staff would move between departments, a phenomenon which had been felt across government and was affecting its operation.

The DRDLR’s statutory bodies included the Ingonyama Trust Board, the South African Council of Technical and Professional Surveyors, South African Council for Planners, the Committee for Spatial Information, the Deeds Registries Registration Board and Sectional Titles Regulation Board.

Mr Gwanya said that in the area of policy development, there had been drafting of legislation on the regulation of access to and ownership of land by non-South Africans (PLOF), but this would need to go through further consultations before being submitted to Cabinet for approval. The DRDLR had also been in the process of reviewing the Willing-Buyer, Willing Seller Policy, and the development of a White Paper on Comprehensive Rural Development Programme building on the Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP).

Legislation which would soon be presented by the DRDLR included the Black Authorities Act Repeal Bill, Deeds Registries Amendment Bill, Sectional Titles Amendment Bill, Surveying Profession Bill and Land Protection Bill, and regulations for CLaRA.

Mr Gwanya then reiterated the Minister’s point that the concept of the CRDP would hang on land and agrarian transformation, which encompassed a number of issues including food security, rural livelihood, increased agricultural production, sustainable use of natural resources, and economic and social infrastructure and the imperative of fostering agricultural entrepreneurship.

Mr Gwanya also reiterated the Minister’s point that the DRDLR would not be the only Department acting in the interest of rural development, but that as a rural development agency it would have a strong coordinating role amongst relevant departments, municipalities, State-owned enterprises, non-governmental institutions, donors and financial institutions. It would be responsible for planning and resource mobilisation, monitoring and evaluation, and reporting systems and accountability.

Mr Gwanya then addressed the lessons from the DRDLR’s pilot project at Giyani, Limpopo, and emphasised the critical role of provincial government’s leadership in rural development. He said that it there was an important duty placed on premiers to take the lead to assure that the integrated approach was translated from mere theory to on-the-ground reality. In consultation with the communities of Giyani, 21 points of intervention for provincial government were identified and were acted upon. The Department was optimistic that Giyani’s success could and would be carried over to other communities. Ultimately the lessons learned this year from the pilot projects would inform an expanded policy next year. He encouraged Members to visit the various pilots, so that they could learn from their own observations.

Mr Gwanyi reverted to the inadequacy of the budget of R6 billion, and said that some ministers had recommended borrowing 25%. Nonetheless the Department’s overall budget from 2009 through to 2014 was projected to have a shortfall of some R71 billion. The February national budget’s additional allocation of R1.8 billion for rural development would not alleviate these issues, as it was earmarked for previously existing projects, and not new initiatives.

Mr Gwanya reiterated that the DRDLR’s vision for vibrant, comprehensive and sustainable rural development emanated from the ruling party’s manifesto and the priorities of the MTSF. Ultimately the people would have to take charge of rural development, and their own destiny, with government playing an integrated facilitating role along with other non-governmental institutions.

Mr B Mashile (ANC, Mpumalanga) responded to the Mr Gwanya’s comment on the review of some 30 pieces of legislation, asking if these were still relevant to current priorities, and whether there would be adjustments and interventions by the DRDLR.

Mr Gwanya replied that, while he could not comment on the unasked political question of whether the Constitution should be changed, that it was the basis of the DRDLR’s programmes, and he referred to the Strategic Report, which detailed the relevant pieces of legislation and the programmes the Department would effect.

Mr Mashile then asked how the allocation of financial resources had been affected by the DRDLR’s restructuring, questioned the dearth of budgetary allocation for the CRDP in Gauteng and the Western Cape, and asked whether this was due to some provinces being typecast as either ‘urban’ or ‘rural’.

Mr Gwanya then partially replied by repeating the DRDLR’s finding that its current budgetary allocation was inadequate to meet its new mandate.

Hon Joe Phaala, Deputy Minister of Rural Development and Land Reform, commented on the absence of the Western Cape and Gauteng from the budgetary allocations for the CRDP. As the CRDP was still in pilot phase, it was necessary to prioritise predominately rural areas due to limited time and resources. Nonetheless, the proposed allocation would not be final. Firstly, some projects, like fencing would cut across provinces, and secondly, the Department would be open to provinces requesting the DRDLR looking into other municipalities for possible projects. 

Mr Mashile also noted that the presentation made no mention of internal skills development within the DRDLR, and asked whether it was simply accepted that trainees would be imported. If this was not the case, then he asked what contribution the Department would be making to ensure an ample and capable staff base.

Mr Gwanya explained that the DRDLR had put 420 unemployed graduates on a four-year government contract, something which had not been done by any other government department. Those who would perform would then be permanently employable after the four year period. In terms of training, the Department had developed a human resource plan for a working programme with universities to link and train land beneficiaries.

Mr S Plaajtie (COPE, North West) asked, in regard to the restitution programme, how the Department was to resolve tension and confusion in cases where land claimants laid stake to land carrying valuable minerals, to whom rights would accrue in such cases, and how the outcome would satisfy claimants’ right to land.

Mr G Mokgoro (ANC, Northern Cape) reiterated Mr Plaajtie’s concern over the status of mineral rights.

Mr Eddie Mohoebi, Chief Director: Land Restitution, DRDLR, noted that mineral rights were a complex issue, and said that though others held surface rights, the State was the effective custodian of mineral rights. Claimants meanwhile held the right to compensation and to consultation on the form that compensation would take.

Mr Gwanya added there was something of a legal contradiction in the rulings by the Land Claims Court (LCC), which had awarded mineral rights to several communities, and the Mineral and Petroleum Rights Act (MPRA), which placed rights in the hands of the State, and there did not seem to be a clear legal solution. Mining interests thus far had complied with the court rulings, and there had not been appeals against the decision.

Mr Plaajtie also asked how the DRDLR would ensure that IDPs reflected primarily the needs of the people rather than the opinions of professional paid consultants.

Mr Gwanya agreed with Mr Plaatjie’s concern about the role of consultants, but was delighted to report that the Department’s preliminary reports on the Giyani pilot project did not make any use of external consultants. Through effective utilisation of expertise already within government, it would be unnecessary to rely on private consultants, other than in exceptionally specialised areas.

Mr D Worth (DA, Free State) asked for comment from the Ministry on the ‘use it or lose it policy’, which had been rather controversially implemented in some places.

Minister Nkwinti replied to Mr Worth by saying the Department would not renew a commitment to the ‘use it or lose it’ policy’, which had been applied “ad hoc” in an attempt to encourage productive land use, and which was defeated when contested in court. Instead the Department would be focusing on the issue of post-settlement support, which could not previously be implemented due to lack of capacity. Existing legislation might not be repealed, but might be altered with the change in policy, which would become clear with the completion of the forthcoming White Paper on the CRDP.

Mr Mokgoro also expressed his pleasure with the new administration’s adoption of the approach to land and rural development, and noted that land was considered economically central to the lives of many black men and the centre of other social challenges. He further spoke of his experience as a small farmer, remarking on some of the constraints to progress that were inherent to farming on communal land. He suggested that title be shifted to former farm workers who could bring experience and expertise to management of the land.

The Chairperson asked what international donors had been identified and signed for compliance.

Mr Gwanya said the Department had received some small but critical donations, including a three-year contract with the Belgians, who donated about R50 million for post-settlement support in restitution, with other donor countries including Britain and Austria.

The Chairperson then asked how effective the Kruger National Park model had been in empowering the Makuleke communities, and whether this model could be reproduced in other protected areas, even in areas not economically viable.

Mr Mohoebi said that there were some contentious and different interests and disputes between claimant communities and the former Department of Environmental Affairs, eventually involving the new Cabinet of the previous administration. The current consultative process seeking a compensatory solution had not advanced very far, and was awaiting further directives from the new administration.

Minister Nkwinti continued to expound on the Department’s new mandate and vision for agrarian transformation. Fundamental to the latter were patterns of land ownership, which if not dealt with, ran the risk of polarising Government from the traditional areas, commercial farmers, and most importantly the poor. If the poor were to become angry, perceiving that they had not gained anything, then this country would be in a worse state than Zimbabwe.

Minister Nkwinti noted moreover, that little had been said on the issue of land and gender, with women featuring very little in questions of ownership, despite the reality that many women were working the land.

The Minister said that above all that the central task before the DRDLR, and the object of agrarian transformation, was to talk to communities, to see what communities were looking like and what could sustain them in terms of creating conditions for a better life. Rural development was emphasized as being not just about physical infrastructure, but rather about establishing a complete value chain, including markets, the means to grow crops, and other necessary features, as well as how these were managed to create a certain level of social development sufficient in the pursuit of an egalitarian South Africa.

Mr Mashile then asked for clarity on exactly how rural development plans would link with municipal IDPs, and whether there would be any conflict with other national goals that they must reflect.

Mr Mashile also asked what sort of commitments the CRDP expected from municipalities and, if these were financial resources, whether it would create contradictions or starve them of funds.

Mr Gwanya noted that the Rural Development Agency would not be acting alone, but as an arm of government. Even after the Intergovernmental Relations Framework Act, coordinated action from Government had not been forthcoming. As in the case of Giyani, coordination would focus more on the effective mobilisation and use of resources, and an approach that analysed conditions before and after intervention.

Minister Nkwinti put emphasis on the Giyani approach’s use of correspondence with communities in evaluating the effectiveness of the IDPs developed by local and provincial authorities, which was lacking in the past.

Mr Gwanya further added that the IDPs and rural development plans would be overlaid on one another. The Department would be coordinating with municipalities to respond to the needs of their rural constituents, and, far from straining the municipalities, would in fact be assisting.

Mr Mokgoro asked, in regard to the conflict between the LCC and MPRA, what the Constitution had to say about the matter.

Mr Gwanya noted that the issue was covered by Section 25 of the Constitution, which stated that the land should be given to its rightful owners. Constitutional debate had centred on the MPRA, with the State accused of nationalising mineral rights, previously owned by the mining industry. The State Law Advisors responded that there was Constitutional compliance with the legislation, that such interests belonged to the State, and there were many international precedents to support this. Moreover, as the State had constitutional licence to protect its own national interests, and as the individuals contesting the act were foreign, the Act was upheld.

Mr Worth asked why the budget for each individual Department programme did not seem to total the R6 billion at the end.

Mr U Mahlangu, Acting CFO, DRDLR, tabulated the department’s budgetary allocations to each programme and said that the additions were correct.

Mr Worth thanked him for the explanation, saying that his copy of the report had contained unclear figures.

The Chairperson then asked when the Select Committee would be able to visit the Giyani pilot, before the final stages.

Minister Nkwinti immediately replied that he would be keen for the Committee to visit at the first available opportunity.

Adoption of Minutes
The Committee adopted the Minutes of the meeting on 17 June 2009.

The meeting was adjourned.


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