Ministerial briefing on progress, Comprehensive Rural Development Programme briefing by Department of Rural Development & Land Reform

NCOP Land Reform, Environment, Mineral Resources and Energy

24 August 2009
Chairperson: Mr D Gamede (ANC, KwaZulu-Natal)
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Meeting Summary

The Deputy Minister of Rural Development and Land Reform Dr Joe Phaala brought the Committee up to date with progress and developments of the Department since its establishment in June 2009. He emphasised that the Department was geared towards transforming rural communities by promoting sustainable socio-economic development, in accordance with the Department's new mandate of rural development and agrarian transformation. The Department was seen as the catalyst, and the initiator of development in the rural areas of South Africa, and would ensure that those areas which had for many years become regarded merely as reservoirs of labour now became vibrant communities. The needs of South African communities were at the forefront of the Department's Comprehensive Rural Development Programme.

The Department then gave a presentation on the Giyani and Riemvasmaak projects, by way of illustrating the Department’s strategies and approach under the Comprehensive Rural Development Programme. This set out how the areas had been identified for pilot projects, what challenges communities faced in those areas, and the appointment of a special technical team from within the Department who conducted a needs analysis. This Department also collaborated with a number of other departments to provide a broad-based platform for tackling the various challenges that they would encounter.

Members were generally appreciative of the report, but commented that the running of pilot projects should not be done at the expense of finally addressing the problems of people on the ground. They questioned whether the Department had the capacity to effectively implement their programme, considering the possible overlap of budget and mandate with other government departments. They requested a breakdown of the budget by province, and the contributions of any other funders. Members questioned the inclusion of certain groups under the term “civil society” and said that it was necessary for the Department to try to reach consensus with the whole community, and to work closely with the people on the ground. A Member of the Committee was also dissatisfied with the belated establishment of this Department, commenting that the whole programme was several years behind. Members asked about the references to the failure of the willing buyer, willing seller policy, what the Department intended to do, and asked for progress reports.

The Committee also considered and adopted its Report on the launch of the Comprehensive Rural Development Program in Giyani, with some minor amendments.

Meeting report

Briefing by the Deputy Minister of Rural Development and Land Reform
Dr Joe Phaala, Deputy Minister of Rural Development and Land Reform,briefed the Committee on the progress that had been made in the past three months, since the establishment of the Department. The Minister, Mr Gugile Nkwinti, the Deputy Minister and the Department’s management team had spent a great deal of time ensuring that they had a clear conceptual understanding of the new Department's mandate, and what the President and people of South Africa expected of the Department. They had to ensure that the Ministry and Department would, over the next five years, make a difference to the quality of the lives of people in the rural areas. Their vision over this period was to attain very vibrant and sustainable rural communities. The Department of Rural Development and Land Reform (the Department) had to be the catalyst and the initiator of development in the rural areas of South Africa, and had to ensure that those areas which had for many years been treated as mere reservoirs of labour now became vibrant communities. A strategy had been developed within that vision, with South Africans' need for a productive livelihood at heart.

The question of agrarian transformation was central to that issue and would be a key priority. The productive use of land took centre stage because of its direct link with the two core mandates of rural development and land reform. The Department must, on the one hand, address the imbalances of the past that had brought about the dispossession of the majority of South Africans from the land, but on the other hand ensure that land that was given to previously disadvantaged groups was put to good use. The first leg of the strategy was to ensure that there was economic and social infrastructure development in South Africa's rural communities. This would be done through a proactive strategy of upgrading infrastructure, some of which would also serve as a tool of social transformation, by providing roads, electricity, water and telecommunications to support sustainable economic development.

Economic activity alone, without a strong social organisation of the rural communities, would not result in complete transformation. The Department also had to look to the cultural life of the people of South Africa. The Department’s approach was to try to identify particular areas in which to pilot this framework. The first area identified was the Greater Giyani Local Municipality, and the second one was the Riemvasmaak area of the Northern Cape. This Department would act as initiators and catalysts, whilst the actual work on the ground was the responsibility of the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (DCGTA). Other pilot areas were also identified, in consultation with the Premiers in the Free State, Mpumulanga, KwaZulu Natal, Eastern Cape and the Western Cape. Although concerns were raised in some discussions that the Department was focusing on small areas for the pilot studies, although there were many people who should benefit from this programme, the Department noted that it would not spend too much time on the piloting exercise, and several pilots could run consecutively, with the first bringing valuable information to the others. The Department would have a presence in the eight rural provinces (excluding Gauteng) by the end of the year. The pilots would be perfected in the following financial year, whilst the Department would also identify other areas, in consultation with the municipalities, where the project could be rolled out.

Comprehensive Rural Development Framework (CRDF): Department of Rural Development and Land Reform (the Department) briefing
Mr Thozi Gwanya, Director General, Department of Rural Development and Land Reform, referred the Committee to the documents that had been circulated to Parliament, noting that many of the issues covered by the Deputy Minister were in the document entitled “Version 1: July 2009 The Comprehensive Rural Development Framework”. This document set out what the Comprehensive Rural Development Framework (CRDF) was all about, and what progress had been made to date. His presentation covered the issue of the Giyani and Riemvasmaak projects, and in that way reinforced some of the approaches of the Comprehensive Rural Development Programme (CRDP).

Mr Gwanya took the Committee straight through to Page 7 of the document entitled “Comprehensive Rural Development Programme (CRDP) Greater Giyani Local Municipality (GGLM) Pilot -Muyexe- Progress Report, Edition 1.” He explained that the Department had appointed a technical team led by the Department's staff, rather than consultants, and that this team had prepared the report. The team had gone on site and conducted a needs analysis, which had identified 25 areas of needs that had been prioritised. These needs were illustrated in the form of a diagram on page 7, which spoke to access roads, housing, water, infrastructure, food security, agriculture, education, employment, health and community facilities. Because of the participatory process, there was an emphasis on social facilities. The team had established that water was the greatest challenge in Giyani. This prompted the team, in consultation with the Premier, to contact all fourteen other departments to consider what they could offer or assist with respect to those identified 25 areas of need.

In a demonstration of how co-operative governance worked, each Department was incorporated into the task team in Muyexe, and then conducted an analysis and interacted with the community. Sectors such as education, agriculture, water, safety and security were identified, and twelve committees were set up where the communities had representatives. These committees were linked to various State departments to determine how they would work together in responding to the identified needs. Out of that process, the Department had established that the people in Muyexe were very keen to participate in the programme.

Mr Gwanya pointed out that the technical team had done a detailed study, including matters such as analysis of soil, an inventory of assets in the area, counting the numbers of animals in the area, and had identified also that  challenges in the area included a widespread prevalence of foot and mouth disease, whilst water scarcity was the greatest challenge.

The remainder of the presentation followed the document attached to this Minute.

The Chairperson commented that she hoped that the Department would not concentrate too much on pilot projects, and forget that people on the ground required urgent assistance.

Mr G Mokgoro (ANC, Northern Cape) commented that this was a comprehensive report from the Department. It was an intensive presentation that contained plans and a programme for implementation. The Committee was also impressed with what had been presented on the Greater Giyani Local Municipality (GGLM) Pilot Project. However, Mr Mokgoro felt quite strongly that the establishment of this Department had come fifteen years too late, and there were still severe problems in addressing historical imbalances in land distribution. The Committee was nonetheless confident in the Department's leadership and its ability to spearhead transformation.

Deputy Minister Joe Phaala responded that whilst in some ways it was true that the Department should have been established much earlier, Government had nonetheless embarked on land reform as early as 1995,through the Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP), which had made considerable inroads into the problems.

Mr Mokgoro asked whether there was a budget set aside for this programme to be implemented. He noted that there were other communities such as one in the Northern Cape who had been the first to submit a claim for land restitution. He asked whether the Department's plans for the Northern Cape included a plan for that specific community.

Ms B Mabe (ANC, Gauteng) commented that the presentation was silent about the role that local government should play in implementing these programmes, in accordance with the spirit of co-operative governance. She asked the Department to provide a breakdown of the budget by province.

Deputy Minister Joe Phaala responded that the Department's focus was on energising local leadership and initiating structures that were aligned to the Integrated Development Plan (IDP) for those particular spheres of local governance. He stated further that the Department was not expecting an astronomical budget and that it was aware of the financial constraints within which the Department was operating.

Mr D Worth (DA, Free State), following up on Ms Mabe's request for a break-down, commented that it was possible that some of the pilot projects would be more expensive than others because of their specific conditions. For instance, drought in Giyana and the water shortages there could require water to be piped into the area. He asked whether there were other departments who would be contributing in terms of budget, whether there would be any donor funding, and if there were other sources of finance, such as the private sector.

Deputy Minister Joe Phaala responded that the Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs had listed Giyani as a disaster area, in view of the water problems that were experienced there. Another problem was that of recurrent drought, which affected the dams in the area. The Department was looking at alternative water sources, such as boreholes, although these were often hampered by high levels of contamination of the ground water, which in turn affected water quality.

Mr B Mashile (ANC, Mpumalanga) commented that the document on Muyexe was using the term “civil society” as including ward committees, councilors and so on, all of whom in fact formed part of government and not civil society. He was not sure if this was deliberate or accidental. This definition sidelined key stakeholders in the community and created uncertainty in terms of the consultative processes between the Department and the community. In the past, the experience had shown that the Department might agree on something with one group of community representatives, only to find, at another meeting, that there was a totally different group that did not subscribe to the first agreement.

Deputy Minister Joe Phaala responded that this had been an oversight, and was not a deliberate ploy by the Department to sideline certain community stakeholders in consultative meetings with the Department. The Department was conscious of the need for social cohesion and capacity. However it was only able to improve the co-ordination of what already existed in these communities at the pilot sites.

Mr O De Beer (COPE) asked what was being done about the failure of the willing buyer, willing seller policy, in light of the need to accelerate land redistribution.

Mr Gwanya responded that the statement by the President on the failure of the willing buyer, willing seller policy had not been the first time that this issue had been raised. The Government had set a target of at least 30% in terms of the amount of land to be made available for restitution, but not much progress had been made. Government did not have the resources to reach this target, as a result of exorbitant land prices. At current market rates, Government would require R70 billion to successfully acquire land for redistribution. The Department was considering several options, and there was a debate on expropriation as an alternative.

Mr De Beer (COPE) also asked whether this Department was not overlapping with other Departments in terms of their budget.

Mr S Abram (ANC) commended the Department and reminded the Committee of agriculture's potential for contributing towards economic growth, if it was handled in the right way. He asked the Committee to bear in mind the saying among farmers that “a plan must be thick like thunder, otherwise it does not rain”. He strongly urged the Department to work closely with the people on the ground to ensure that its plans on paper were translated into actions that brought positive results and development to the people of South Africa. This required a co-ordinated effort that would have to bring together all the major players in agriculture.

Mr Abram asked the Director-General whether he had learnt any lessons from the failures of his predecessor Department, and if the lessons were being addressed in the new Department.

Mr Gwanya responded that the Department had learned that if it tried to do things on its own it would encounter failure. This Department was now co-ordinating with other Departments to share responsibility.

The Chairperson asked whether there was any mining project taking place at any of the pilot sites.

Mr Gwanya responded that there were mining rights at Riemvasmaak.

The Chairperson stated that the Committee would continue to exercise oversight over the Department to see what progress was being made with the programmes.

Committee's Report on the Presidential Launch of the Comprehensive Rural Development Programme: Muyexe, Giyani District Municipality in Limpopo Province
The Chairperson tabled the Committee Report for consideration and adoption by the Committee.


Mr Worth suggested that the Committee could propose to the Department in the report that the Department must consider alternative energy sources to electricity, such as the use of solar energy for lighting and heating. He also recommended that the Committee should highlight the possibility that water would need to be piped into the Giyani area because of drought and the resulting water scarcity.

Mr Mashile stressed that the Department had to recognise organised society, show the correct consciousness of the community, and encourage consistency in terms of the resolutions adopted at consultative meetings.

Ms Mabe responded to Mr Mashile's earlier reference to a civic society group, which was an alliance organisation of the ANC. She commented that if the Committee made reference to that organisation it could create a problem, as this might lead to allegations that it was politicising development. She suggested that the Committee should rather refer to the need to encourage public participation, without singling out any named organisations.

The Chairperson accepted that the Report should make reference to public participation without singling out any specific organisations.

The report was adopted by the Committee, subject to the minor amendments discussed.

The meeting was adjourned 



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