The Department of Rural Development and Land Reform briefed the Portfolio Committee on its institutional arrangements and capacity to implement its Comprehensive Rural Development Programmes (CRDP). It highlighted the formation of clusters that would be instrumental in driving and implementing the project. These clusters would range from the office of the national Minister filtering down to Premiers at provincial levels, through to the Council of Stakeholders and household co-operatives. The cooperatives would also be training people so that at the end of the project it was hoped that members of the households would have acquired skills that would assist them in becoming self-sustaining. The communities concerned would take full ownership of the project, but the government would put in place various conditionalities that communities should observe in order to ensure strategic monitoring on the part of the Government. The communities were given an opportunity to outline what they deemed to be their most important rural development priorities, and the Department had used this list as a basis to implement most of the initiatives.
Questions were asked regarding the role of traditional leaders as partners in this initiative, as there were concerns that traditional leaders were not regarded as key stakeholders in the CRDP and were not playing an important enough role. Similar questions were also raised concerning the role of the churches and organised labour in championing this project. Some Members were not clear as to why the championing of the CRDP was left at the office of the national Minister and Premiers at provincial levels. Other questions concerning skills development and the role of Sector Education and Training Authorities were raised, and Members also wanted to know what would happen to the individuals employed after conclusion of their two-year contracts. Members also noted that communities were given quite considerable autonomy over this project and they wanted to know how partisan politics would be addressed to ensure that squabbles and conflicts that often arose would be addressed. The Department conceded that perhaps it did not have much more stringent mechanisms for monitoring the implementation of the project but did say that the CRDP was structured and managed in a way that would leave no room for partisan politics to arise, and that it would further review conditionalities, code of conduct and the composition of the disciplinary panel.
Members adopted the minutes of the Committee’s previous meeting, without amendment.
Rural Development Programmes: Institutional arrangements, implementation capacity, links with provincial department and land reform offices: Department of Rural Development and Land Reform briefing
Mr Tozi Gwanya, Director-General, Department of Rural Development and Land Reform (DRDLR or the Department) gave a detailed presentation on his Department’s institutional and organisational arrangements for the Comprehensive Rural Development Programme (CRDP). He mentioned that the issue of rural development was identified by the ruling party, the African National Congress (ANC), as one of the key priorities in the betterment of the living standards of the people of South Africa.
The new CRDP management model would consist of clusters, which would range from the national Minister at the top, the Premier of a particular province, the relevant MEC for rural development functions and different kinds of stakeholders. The stakeholders would include, among others, organs of civil society, the business community, ward committees, traditional leaders and others. Mr Gwanya noted that part of the overall objective was to achieve social cohesion and development in the communities concerned.
At the helm of this initiative would be “the political champions of the CRDP”, namely the Minister of Rural Development and Land Reform and Premiers at the provincial level, together with their MECs. The Council of Stakeholders (COS) would also be of prime importance. It would ensure compliance with protocols that needed to be observed for the success of the project. Beneath the COS would be the technical committees, whose responsibilities would be to implement decisions undertaken by the COS. There would also be a role to be played by household co-operatives and other enterprises consisting of groups of twenty or less. Under this model, at least one member of the household would be employed on a two year contract, with the hope that after that period the household would be equipped with skills to create job opportunities. The issue of skills development would be tackled together with the support of the Department of Labour and Sector Education and Training Authorities (SETAs).
The employment creation model envisaged would evolve in three phases. Phase one would be aimed at meeting the basic needs, phase two was the entrepreneurial development stage and phase three would be focusing on small, micro and medium enterprises (SMMEs) and village markets.
Nkosi Z Mandela (ANC) asked why it was that traditional leaders were mentioned as partners in the entire project, but there was nothing more done to capacitate the functioning of traditional leaders in their communities. He also mentioned that he had observed during his trip to Giyani that the role of traditional leaders had been reduced to merely ceremonial; they were merely giving a vote of thanks. Further, he said he would have liked to see initiatives in rural areas such as the setting up of traditional courts.
Mr Gwanya explained that during the Department’s preliminary research, which sought to identify the key areas to be given priority, the issue of traditional leaders was not ranked in the top 25 matters on the priority list as identified by the communities concerned. He said it was not entirely true that traditional leaders were being relegated to the margins, and the Department still viewed them as key partners in this project.
Ms P Ngwenya-Mabila (ANC) asked for clarification on how, when championing the project the national Minister, the Premier and the MEC of Rural Development in a particular area were going to coordinate with ward committees.
Ms A Steyn (DA) asked about the issue of ownership and budget. She wanted to know how much had been allocated to the Department towards the implementation of its programmes and secondly, once this project was in motion, where ownership lay.
Mr Gwanya replied that the Department deliberately decided to vest more powers at the Premiers’ offices because it was convinced that the success of this project largely depended on cooperation of many different departments, and it was the Premier in a particular province who could facilitate this cooperation much more easily than, for example, the MEC for Rural Development.
Mr Gwanya said that the need for cooperation also stretched across to the area of the budget. He said his Department alone did not have the capacity to drive this initiative, and it often relied on budgets from other departments, especially those departments that had an overlapping mandate, such as water and forestry, agriculture, and social development. Sometimes his Department would use its budget as a trigger mechanism to entice other departments to step in with their resources. He said this method had helped save the DRDLR budget tremendously.
Rev M Dandala (COPE) said his concern was whether there was any vehicle created to monitor this project. He said that in his experience, initiatives like these needed to be closely monitored by the Department to avoid a situation where people might lose focus, or where internal squabbles or corruption took their toll, leading to the collapse of the project.
Rev Dandala also said his second concern was that projects of this kind were used in some communities as a tool to promote partisan style of politicking, and that members who did not belong to the ruling party were often marginalised.
Mr Gwanya said this project had been designed to benefit all South Africans, regardless of the political parties to which they belonged, and his Department was committed to ensuring that the ultimate aim of benefit was followed. The Department would not allow any politics to interfere in Government plans to deliver services.
Ms P Xaba (ANC) was concerned that the new institutional arrangements on rural development did not seem to be concerned about improving the levels of illiterate people. She said such a programme should have plans to teach the elderly basics such as reading and writing.
Mr B Zulu (ANC) asked why SETAs had disappeared in most rural areas. He also asked what the Department was planning to do with community infrastructure that was in urgent need of repair, such as boreholes.
Mr Gwanya responded that he was aware that Sector Education and Training Authorities (SETAs) were not present in all rural communities, but that in some of these communities it was just not feasible to have them. He then said that there were discussions with Minister of Higher Education, Hon Blade Nzimande, to ensure that the issue of SETAs was looked at again, in order to see how they could be slotted into this programme more effectively.
He also said, in response to Ms Xaba, that basic education for adults could also be addressed through the process of revisiting SETAs.
Ms P De Lille (ID) asked for the reasons why the churches and the unions were not identified as key stakeholders of the project. She asked for guidelines that were used in the identification of stakeholders.
Mr Gwanya noted that the Department, during its presentation, had indeed omitted to mention the involvement of churches and unions, but this did not mean they were less important. He did highlight that the church was a powerful mobilising tool in the community, and there was no way that churches could not be important partners in this initiative.
Ms H Matlanyane (ANC) wanted to know what would happen after the two years had lapsed in respect of those people who were taken in for the pilot project. She was concerned about whether they would have gained enough skills from the programme to be independent and be able to start their own businesses, or whether the government was going to employ them elsewhere.
Mr Gwanya noted that this project looked beyond the initial two years of training that would be given. He said the issue of sustainability was measured from phases two and three, which were the phases in which the skills, such as ability to create jobs and sustain them, would be transferred.
Mr S Ntapane (UDM) requested the Department to explain where it had sourced the experts to partner the Department in rolling out this project. He also asked how these experts were going to transfer this highly sought after knowledge to the communities.
Mr Gwanya said the Department had a large pool of experts from which to draw and the challenge was to select only those experts that were most relevant and cost effective to the needs of the project.
The Chairperson noted that there was provision for stakeholders to be a part of this initiative but he was concerned whether there were any conditions placed on the stakeholders in order to ensure compliance. He also echoed a question asked about mechanisms for monitoring, saying that he knew from his experience as an MEC in the Eastern Cape that there were often squabbles in communities, which made it more urgent to have effective monitoring mechanisms and strong conditionalities.
Mr Gwanya stated that he was aware that these issues often arose. He was grateful for the input that Members were bringing. He said his Department took very strongly the advice from Members about the need to strengthen conditions placed on beneficiaries in communities, to ensure that the Government did not adopt a hands-off approach once the projects were initiated.
Mr Gwanya also said that he was aware that the issue of maintenance of the equipment was important and he said that the Department’s programmes were also aimed at empowering communities to be able to fix some of their own property, especially where not such a great deal of expertise was needed. Someone in his Department was working on how the maintenance of infrastructure needed to be addressed, in order to provide a quality service at low maintenance costs. The question of who would pay for the maintenance was something that was still under discussion. However, he noted that the community where the projects were launched would take full ownership.
The Chairperson noted that time constraints did not allow for further questions to be asked, but asked that written questions should be forwarded to the Department if necessary.
Adoption of Committee Minutes
Members unanimously adopted the Minutes of the previous Committee meeting, without amendments.
The meeting was adjourned
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