Land Restitution Programme & land claims completion strategies: Research Unit briefings

Rural Development and Land Reform

30 June 2009
Chairperson: Mr S Sizani (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Parliamentary Research Unit gave a presentation on South African Land Reform, describing the progress and challenges to date. The background was detailed, and the steps leading to initiation of the process. The document detailed the redistribution challenges, the processes and challenges of restitution and the challenges around rural development. The implications of some of the decisions and problems were outlined. The main challenges, as identified both by the researchers and later commented and expanded upon by Members, included the ever-increasing land prices, the inadequate budget for land acquisition, and poor capacity within the department. The details around tenure reform centred on the Extension of Security of Tenure Act and Communal Land Rights Act, and the pilot projects, and it was noted that no reports had been sent from KwaZulu Natal. Restitution claims were plagued by corrupt officials, fraudulent and ghost claimants. Once again, high land places, the slow pace, inadequate funding and capacity problems were raised. The Research Unit suggested a need for a wide-ranging discussion on policy.

Members highlighted key themes and problems in their discussions. Several felt that land prices were exorbitant and demanded the names of sellers and colluding officials, as also the names of farmers who were unwilling to sell, and wanted further information on the fraudulent claims, the action taken, and how much benefit there had actually been. A report was given by a Member whose family had been willing to sell their land for resettlement, but who had been endlessly frustrated by the slow and tortuous process. They noted that delays in transfer resulted in non-productive and much lower-valued land eventually being handed over. There had also been problems of land that was due to be resettled having been repurchased, a few years later, by the original seller. It was pointed out that many people did not want to be resettled on land far from infrastructure, particularly schools. Members also expressed concern over the lack of participation by traditional leaders, but noted that there was poor access to information, that the relevant information had been published in the Government Gazette, which was not circulated widely, if at all, in rural areas, and that this was exacerbated by lack of courts and legal practitioners in many areas. The approach of the Department to traditional leaders had often been heavy-handed and disrespectful, not fostering a spirit of cooperation. Other land claims were plagued by lack of certainty and disputes over entitlement to the land. Members noted that this Committee must look at the problems holistically. Parliament’s job was not just to enact legislation but also to monitor and evaluate the legislation to ensure that it was producing the desired results and, if not, to look into why it was failing.  Members would also have to look at how disputes were being settled, how the transfers would be effected, and how it would be ensured that the poor would benefit. Members were requested to put their queries, comments and recommendations into writing so that they could be conveyed to the Department.

Members adopted the minutes of the previous meeting and the draft Committee programme.

Meeting report


Parliamentary Research Unit’s Analysis of the Restitution programme and strategies for completion of land claims
The Chairperson highlighted that the focal point of the meeting was that the Committee grasp and grapple with the issues surrounding land reform in South Africa, particularly the progress and challenges so far. He tabled a document drawn by the Parliamentary Research Unit.

Ms Thembisa Pepeteka, Parliamentary Researcher, and Mr Tshililo Manenzhe, Parliamentary Researcher, presented the attached document. Ms Pepeteka specified the background to land development and the challenges. Mr Manenzhe addressed the Committee on redistribution, tenure reform, restitution, settled restitution claims and outstanding claims. He also described the prospects for rural development. He noted that the main challenges to redistribution were the increasing land prices, the inadequate budget for land acquisition, and poor capacity within the Department.

In respect of tenure reform, he dealt with the Extension of Security of Tenure Act (ESTA) and the Communal Land Rights Act (ClaRA) and the pilot projects in Kwazulu Natal, which were hindered by the fact that as yet no reports had emerged from there.

He said that restitution claims were plagued with corrupt officials, fraudulent and ghost claimants. There was also the problem of high land prices, capacity problems and inadequate funding. He ended his presentation with the implications of the process in the future. Both he and Ms Pepeteka emphasised the need for a wide policy discussion on the issues. 

The Chairperson reiterated the point that the purpose of the meeting was for the Committee to get a clearer understanding of the workings of the process, so that Members were better equipped to engage with the stakeholders and players, and could thus help to improve their performance.

The Chairperson mentioned that the President of Agri SA was willing to meet with the Committee, and he was looking forward to engaging with not only Agri SA but with the unions as well. He was of the opinion that this was the better approach to take instead of haggling with individual owners.

Mr E Nchabeleng (ANC) remarked that his concerns were centered around the restitution claims in Mpumalanga and Limpopo. He wanted full details on the number of fraudulent and ghost claimants, and the amount of money that went to corrupt officials. More importantly, he also would like to know if there were details of the identity of the corrupt officials and how they were being dealt with. He also wanted to know how much of the restitution claims paid actually benefited the people.

Ms V Bam-Mugwanya (ANC) thanked the researchers for their detailed research and their presentation. She and other Members asked that the numerous acronyms in the document be clarified.

Ms Bam-Mugwanya also suggested that the Committee should try to promote the Integrated Sustainable Rural Development Programme (ISRDP). Although this had failed to be fully set up, due to some problems, she was of the opinion that it could become a useful strategy.

Ms Bam-Mugwanya noted that there was no mention of participation from the traditional leaders, either in this presentation, or in the references in the ISRDP. She was of the opinion that no meaningful land development could occur without participation and contribution from the traditional leaders.

Ms P De Lille (ID) remarked that she was still new to the Committee and therefore she was still learning the pertinent issues. She emphasised the importance of the Committee evaluating the legislation, such as ESTA and ClaRA, to see if they were actually effecting the requisite transfers of land to the right people. Parliament’s job was not just to enact legislation, but also to monitor and evaluate it, to see if the desired results were being attained, and that the legislation was in fact meeting the requirement to bring about transformation.

Ms de Lille suggested that the Department and its entities should be consulting with people on the ground, not professional consultants, as the former were those with the best grasp of what was happening. This too would be a useful way of evaluating the effectiveness of the legislation.

Ms de Lille commented on the cut-off dates for lodging of claims, and commented that it would have been useful if communities had been given more time. A number of claims were dismissed due to their late filing. This, she argued, was directly attributable to lack of newspaper circulation and notification to many areas in the Northern Cape and Limpopo, to name but a few. Communities failed to benefit, due to lack of access to information. The rural areas lacked the infrastructure of urban towns, and it was important to develop the infrastructure of rural areas. A major problem in these areas was the lack of courts and legal practitioners, which meant that people had to travel vast distances to acquire legal expertise. She suggested more courts be set up in rural areas.

Ms de Lille asked if there was nothing that could be done to farmers who demanded exorbitant prices for their land, in some situations 15% more than the valuation.

Mr M Swathe (DA) also said that his major concern was the exorbitant land prices that the farmers were charging. The Committee would benefit if it was given the details of these farmers and the names of the officials who were colluding with them to bring about such an undesirable situation. Her also wanted the names of the individuals that were unwilling to sell.

Ms N Mnisi (ANC) asked why it took long for land that had been claimed, and in respect of which a settlement was reached, to be transferred to the beneficiary. In addition she asked how it came about that land assigned to a beneficiary was being leased.
Mr Swathe welcomed the Chairperson’s novel idea of arranging discussing with the unions and Agri SA, as he was in agreement that discussions were better than finding other litigious or undesirable strategies, particularly since the issue of land was very sensitive.

Ms A Steyn (DA) commented that her background had placed her in a situation where she might be the only Committee Member with land to sell, so she would play devil’s advocate and give the views of the seller’s side. Her family had been a willing to sell their land for land resettlement purposes. However, the negotiations took three years, and were exhausting. It was a huge task, but the family had eventually, through their tenacity and perseverance, managed to sell to the State for resettlement.  Therefore she said that it would be more effective for the Committee to analyse all cases, and see if the problem was really that farmers were unwilling to sell, or if it was that there were other underlying reasons. Unwillingness to sell might also be due to land prices.

Ms I Ditshetelo (UCDP) agreed with the rest of Committee that Members needed to look into the issue of exorbitant land prices. She was also concerned about reports that a white farmer had sold land, for a very high price, and had also managed to buy this land back after it had been for two or three years in the hands of the black beneficiary. This type of situation would make for land moving in circles, and the intended beneficiaries were clearly not benefiting.

Ms Steyn remarked that South Africa was now ten years into the land development programme, and it should be possible to assess its impact.  She was very concerned about the time frames to resettle people. She pointed out that when an individual was granted land, it could take as long as three to five years to have the land transferred, and another two to three years for the beneficiary to be settled. These time frames were alarming and she wanted to know the cause.

Ms I Ditshetelo (UCDP) agreed with Ms Steyn and also asked that the reasons for the delay in transferring land to the beneficiaries be made known.

Ms Steyn added that there were many unresolved issues about land that needed to be investigated and tackled head on. She mentioned that most people were unwilling to be settled on land that was not near infrastructure, so they would invariably favour land that was near towns or at least near schools for their families. Farmers, being well aware of these factors, took advantage of them, and that was one of the reasons why the prices soared. If the Committee wanted to solve the issues, they must look at all the factors holistically.

Mr C Msimang (IFP) raised the issue of land ownership in rural areas and the type of beneficiaries targeted. He mentioned that the issue of individual ownership in rural areas was not the only large problem, but there was another issue of the identification of the right beneficiaries. On the question of individual land ownership, he noted that Zululand in KwaZulu Natal had been originally divided into native reserves, which the community had owned communally, whilst other areas were designated for purchase. The Zulus refused to purchase this land as they argued that since the land historically belonged to their tribe, there was in fact no rightful seller. He asked how, in this situation, the land would be distributed. There was clearly not enough land to parcel out to everybody. If the redistribution was done by selling, then it was obvious that the rich would benefit, and the poorest of the poor would not. He felt that the subjects to be clarified were how the distribution would occur, how beneficiaries would acquire title, and what was done to protect the poor.

Mr Msimang was also concerned that between the time of the agreement to sell and the time that transfer was effected, the land would devalue. A beneficiary would receive land that no longer had a going concern, and which was now worth less than the selling price. He asked if it was not possible to ask the selling farmers to continue to farm until the beneficiaries were eventually settled, to avoid this problem.

Mr Z Mandela (ANC) commented that the reason why there was a limited role played by traditional leaders in land development, especially on issues such as submitting claims and cut off dates, was due to lack of information. He stayed in the rural areas, some 80km away from the closest town, Mthatha. If he wanted any information he had to travel to Mthatha, for the village had no electricity, hence no access to modern accessories and information. The lack of access to information was the biggest challenge in rural areas. Furthermore, the cut off dates had been published in the Government Gazette, which was not circulated in the rural areas. He suggested that the best solution was for Government officials to actually venture into the rural areas and talk to the traditional leaders. Another problem were the constant clashes about entitlement to land, as a king and a traditional leader might lay claim to the same land. There was therefore a need for the Department to take a more proactive role in reaching the traditional leaders and ensuring their participation. He added that on top of these problems faced by traditional leaders, some of the issues did not speak directly to anything affecting those traditional leaders.

Ms Ditshetelo reiterated Mr Mandela’s point. She had felt that the Department and Committee should evaluate the way in which traditional leaders had been approached in the past, because some had been unhappy with the disrespectful and sometimes commanding approaches adopted. As a result they either dug in their heels or they simply refused to co-operate.

Ms Ditshetelo mentioned that it would also be a good idea to find a market for the small scale farmers so that they might at least be able to produce income. She also suggested that if individuals wanted to start projects in the rural areas then the Government or the Department should at least train one or two people. This would ensure the security of the project. It seemed that most projects that were being financed ended in failure.
Ms H Matlanyane (ANC) asked how Members could ensure that there was capacity, since lack of capacity was affecting delivery, and she was weary of hearing that excuse. In addition she said that the Committee could benefit from some of the processes that the NCOP had initiated in respect of similar problems that this Committee was now facing; she had had the opportunity of being an NCOP Member as well.

Mr M Dandala suggested the creation of an oversight process unique to this Committee that would assist it. He was of the opinion that this should indicate clearly what the Committee wanted to evaluate, and the expected results – for instance, the Committee could evaluate the whole system around ESTA. This would greatly improve the Committee’s oversight function. He mentioned that he was concerned that no report had been received from KwaZulu Natal.

The Chairperson thanked Members for their input and asked that they put their comments, suggestions and questions in writing, for submission to the Department.

Draft Committee Programme
The Chairperson tabled the draft programme. He said that the purpose was to enable the Committee to gather as much information as possible, and also to evaluate the effects of the legislation. He agreed that Parliament could theorise for long on how it wished to help people, but this was of no use if Members did not talk to people on the ground and see the real effects. The Committee had therefore planned to visit the test pilot for ESTA in Limpopo, and would also visit KwaZulu Natal.

Members adopted the draft programme.

Adoption of Minutes
The Committee adopted the minutes of 17 June 2009 without any alterations.

The meeting was adjourned.


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