PLAAS on its book reviewing land reform process & alternatives; Provision of Legal Services to Farm Dwellers under threat of Eviction

Rural Development and Land Reform

06 October 2009
Chairperson: Mr S Sizana (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Institute for Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies at the University of the Western Cape presented the PLAAS's new book entitled “Another Countryside? Policy Options for Land and Agrarian Reforms in South Africa. She explained that the book had been published against a background of serious problems with the slow progress of land reform in South Africa. The book reviewed the land reform process and provided possible alternatives and discussed their implications for land redistribution and the alleviation of poverty in the rural communities of South Africa.

The Committee discussed the presentation to some depth but under the constraint of time as this matter had been added to the agenda at the last minute. Members asked questions about the causes of conflict amongst grouped beneficiaries of land reform; whether there were any models of successful land and agrarian reforms from which South Africa could learn; the extent of under utilisation and production decline in South African farms; and the effectiveness of the Comprehensive Agricultural Support Programme (CASP).

The Committee discussed the implementation of the Extension of Security of Tenure Act (ESTA) by municipalities, specifically on the matter of how municipalities dealt with evictees. Parliament’s Content Advisor on Rural Development and Land Reform presented to the Committee on the Land Rights Management Facility which was responsible for the provision of legal services to farm dwellers.

The Committee discussed its report on the outcome of the workshop on its capacity building needs.

Meeting report

The Chairperson mentioned that the agenda had been changed sightly to accommodate the presentation by the Institute for Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies (PLAAS). The Committee agreed to the agenda.

Presentation by the Institute for Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies (PLAAS)
Dr Ruth Hall, Senior Researcher: PLAAS, stated that the institute was focused on land issues, farms, and the rights of rural people. PLAAS had for many years been supportive of the process of land reform. They were also a critical voice and they did independent research and had the aim of being a constructive and informed voice that could assist government, civil society and the public at large to engage in the absolutely critical issue of land reform in South Africa. PLAAS engaged in research, training, policy development and advocacy in relation to a number of areas. They were known mostly for their work on land reform but their work also included poverty and rural-urban inequality, agrarian reform and agricultural livelihoods in rural areas such as fisheries, coastal communities' livelihoods, issues of water, forests and ranch lands, particularly the rights of rural communities to these resources. They also worked on the dynamics of chronic poverty, that is, in other words how the poor stay poor and how they cope or survive.

Dr Ruth Hall gave an introduction to the book that had been published by PLAAS entitled “Another Countryside? Policy Options for Land and Agrarian Reform in South Africa”. The World Social Forum said “another world is possible” as their slogan. They were asking the question whether in South Africa another countryside was possible and whether they were always going to have two different kinds of countryside. The wealthy commercial farming areas with their history of past state subsidies and good infrastructure and communal areas which were areas of poverty and overcrowding. The question was how land reform was part of a wider process of agrarian reform and could contribute to creating another countryside.

The background to the book was that there had been serious problems with the progress of land reform in terms of the amount of land that was being redistributed. In addition to that it had already become evident that where people had gotten access to land, they encountered enormous problems in using that land effectively to produce and improve their livelihood. So the concerns went far beyond how to get the land but also how to use it once it had been obtained. A new policy framework had been introduced by the former Minister known as the Land Redistribution for Agricultural Development (LRAD) which shifted the emphasis from the previous programme. It aimed to answer problems of poor people having land but with no money to invest in it. The focus was shifted to include among land beneficiaries a greater proportion of better off people who had their own resources to invest This had caused quite a response from the NGO sector who argued that the answer to the problem was not to shift it to people who had better resources but for the state to play a more proactive role in ensuring that pro-poor land reform could work.

PLAAS had been asked to explore this issue and to look into what were the practices of land reform, what information was available about the process, what some of the possible alternatives were and what would be their implications. The book was a product of that process [see document].

Ms P Xaba (ANC) asked whether there was a way to educate people in rural areas who did not want to act
co-operatively so that they could get assistance. She suggested that they could go to such communities as a Committee to empower them.

Dr Hall responded that there were advantages of people working together collectively. There were also   costs and difficulties, especially when people did not have a history of working together. There were situations where people wanted to work together and they had to be supported in order to do so. This often meant that there was a need for structured co-operatives in order for it to work. It was not to be assumed however that this was simple and easy. There had to be alternatives to forcing people into large groups and that had been one of the main problems with redistribution specifically.

Ms A Steyn (DA) commented that their own independent research had come to exactly the same conclusions as PLAAS. There were real problems and needs and there were all kinds of consequences like the issue of big groups not working together.

Rev M Dandala (COPE) thanked Dr Hall for an enlightening summary. He asked whether PLAAS had compared South Africa's situation to other situations of land reform, particularly in developing countries. Were there any comparative models of success? They could then say South Africa was failing in such a regard but Country A or B had succeeded on such a basis and so on.

Dr Hall responded that it was interesting that the major examples of the successes of land and agrarian reform internationally were during the Cold War era in places like Taiwan and South Korea. They were able to implement far reaching land reforms that re-structured them from a feudal system to a much more equitable and widespread system of land holding. They were widely recognised as having contributed to the economic development in the South-East Asian nations. She could not say that there were recent examples of success in land reforms, particularly in the post-Cold War era. Market based programmes had been adopted on the African continent in Kenya and in Zimbabwe as well as in South Africa although they used slightly different terminology. By and large they had replicated some of the mistakes that had been seen in Kenya and Zimbabwe. The market based approach that they had adopted had also been very difficult in Colombia, Brazil and Namibia. She therefore did not think that there were current examples of success although there were historical examples. This issue really went to the question of political leeway and the parameters of a process that directly confronted particular class interests.

Mr M Swathe (DA) asked whether, from the four policy choices given by Dr Hall, they could come up with a single framework to assist poor people who were suffering even as policy makers debated what to do about poverty.

Ms P Ngwenya-Mabila (ANC) asked if any research had been done on the impact of the Comprehensive Agricultural Support Programme (CASP).

Dr Hall responded that there had been a major review of CASP which had effectively shown that of the six different types of support that CASP was meant to provide to people there was only one that was effectively provided, namely, training. There had not been much emphasis on implements, infrastructure development and the other dimensions of CASP. The thing about CASP was that it had not been comprehensive. It had been very patchy, both in terms of who got access to it and the kind of support that they could get.

Ms Ngwenya-Mabila asked whether in their research on the implementation of the Extension of Security of Tenure Act (ESTA), PLAAS had investigated the role played by municipalities.

Dr Hall responded that under ESTA, Section 9(2)(d) notices had to go the municipalities and this was only if the case went to court. The majority of the cases did not go to court but if this happened then the Section 9(2)(d) notice would go to the municipality and also to the local office of the Department for Rural Development and Land Reform. They had obligations to respond to those notices - that were prescribed in the legislation. As far as the Institute could ascertain, most of those offices merely filed those notices and had a filing system rather than a response system. Many of the courts were therefore issuing eviction orders without having heard a response from either of these institutions. Their research had found that most municipalities had no system for prioritising evictees and providing alternative accommodation. There were incredibly weak and unresponsive systems in these institutions and this included not only municipalities but also district and provincial departments.

Ms Ngwenya-Mabila asked what were the causes of the conflict between groups of beneficiaries of land restitution.

 Dr Hall responded that clearly when you had a valuable resource and a large and often differentiated community, then conflict over resources could result. There were many reasons for conflict and not all of them were under the control of government.

Ms Ngwenya-Mabila asked what the Institute's findings were on post-settlement support.

Dr Ruth Hall responded that this was about access to appropriate support and also the timing of that because in many cases production declines resulted from the fact that the transfer and provision of support were not aligned. So to get these to work together had been an enormous challenge. Another aspect of post-settlement support that was often ignored was institutional post-settlement support. Post-settlement support, therefore was not just for using the land, it was also to ensure that the institutions were capable of managing the land.

Ms Ngwenya-Mabila asked for statistics on the under utilisation of land and the reason for decline in production.

Dr Hall responded that with under utilisation, PLAAS had relied on very conservative estimates. This was because a lot of land was not utilised within a productive farm although there were entire farms that were not utilised at all. They therefore did not have a lot of detail. They also knew that a lot of commercial farms had gone out of production and were being converted into game parks or into other non-agricultural uses such as golf estates.

Dr Hall said that the reason for production decline was not in her opinion because of the lack of skills. A lot of impact assessments had shown that it was the total absence of operating capital. There were large communities of poor people on the commercial farmers and the expectation in the business plan was that people had to replicate that form of farming.

Mr S Mmusi (ANC) asked if there was a speedy way of transferring land to beneficiaries that did not involve lengthy legal processes. He was thinking in his mind of a radical way, a speedy way of transferring land to the landless. But not radical in the sense of the Zimbabwean model but rather something that was quick, that would be done with speed and would transfer land to the landless.

Dr Hall responded that she thought that what they suggested in Chapter 3 of the book was that the alternative to willing-buyer willing-seller did not mean expropriate all the time. It meant that one had to have a strategic vision, and a process for engaging landless people around their needs. This could not be done unless people were highly skilled and resourceful. This actually required institution building. The current vacancy levels within the department showed that it did not have the capacity to really drive both the speeding up and improving the quality of the process. Investing in institutions involved in the process was crucial. There was need to develop a skilled team and to provide plans for transfer and for land use.

Dr Hall concluded by mentioning that PLAAS were committed to supplying the Committee with information that they required for their deliberations when requested. They had made presentations to the Committee in the past and had provided analysis of the Department's annual report. They also provided a shadow analysis of the budget every year to assist the Committee in its deliberations. PLAAS remained committed to doing primary research on the ground and they were constantly looking for success stories and whenever they could they would talk about them, not just at project level but also often there were wider levels. For instance Amatole district municipality was doing different things from many other districts when it came to land reform because the leadership was much more engaged. There were different examples of success stories and it was not just at project level. There was a need across the country to support work of that kind. Similarly they had engaged with the department directly. They also did not want to be in the business of always finding fault and they were trying to be constructive and to be a part of trying to find solutions. Solutions to the problems identified in their presentation did not lie with the department alone and so the question was what kind of inter-ministerial process could be brought about to assist.

Land Rights Management Facility briefing
Mr Tshililo Manenzhe, Parliamentary Content Advisor on the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform, presented to the Committee on the Land Rights Management Facility which was responsible for the provision of legal services to farm dwellers. The presentation was brief particularly because some of the issues had already been highlighted by Dr Ruth Hall. He said that it was important to look at land policy itself. At the core of this policy lay the vision to transform South African society into a society based on democratic values, social values and fundamental human rights. Mr Manenzhe proceeded with the presentation as reflected in the document.

The Chairperson explained that the purpose of the presentation was meant to enable members to read the report that had been circulated and engage with it. It related to ESTA which was not currently being enforced in the manner originally intended. The report had been compiled by a firm of lawyers who had been hired by the state to perform the function that would have been normally performed by the state. It did not say how much the potential evictions were prevented from taking place and the Committee needed to engage with it. This information was given to members regularly to ensure that they did their work. They needed to engage with the reports and come up with some solutions about what they needed the department to do in relation to not only its own obligations but also in relation to their protecting the rights of farm workers.

Ms A Steyn (DA) stated that she had read somewhere that the department had been taken to court and she wanted to know what this involvement entailed. She was very worried about the rights of farm workers on restituted land, whether they were being addressed.

Mr Manenzhe responded that the report mentioned particularly the identification of trends and cases which involved the department as respondent and the challenges that was presented when relief was sought against government. When engaging with the department it was one of the things that they might wish to follow up to find out how they dealt with such matters.

Mr Manenzhe responded on the issue of farm workers rights that the law was clear on this and perhaps it could be debated as to who was responsible for enforcing these rights but there were institutions such as law enforcement in place as well as the law and the courts.

Mr M Swathe (DA) asked, with regard to land rights management facilities and the claim that they were representing people who were experiencing problems such as farm workers, why there were instances where municipalities were not assisting beneficiaries to obtain title deeds. He wanted to know if people in such situations could be helped by the land rights management facility.

The Chairperson responded that this was a complicated question because the title deed of the beneficiary of land reform did not come from municipalities unless the farm was bought by the municipality on behalf of a section of the community. There were municipalities that bought farms for extension of commonage but they would lease the land to farms. He could not therefore understand what role the municipalities would play when the title deed had to be obtained from the department.

Mr Mananzhe responded that the land rights management facility had come into the frame to provide legal services to farm dwellers. When it came to issues around transfer of land, this came at the end and was done by the landowner and members of that community who agreed on the transfer process. One of things that had to happen through the process of redistribution, was the transfer, if that did not happen that would mean that the Commission or the department would not have completed the process of land redistribution. Municipalities did not feature in such a case.

Mr Swathe responded that it was a complicated matter because when it came to those farms, some were part of the Land Redistribution for Agricultural Development (LRAD) programme.

The Chairperson responded that protests against municipalities were being shown on television and it was possible that these farmers were taking their gripes about the department to the municipalities, rather than deal with the department.

She suggested
that they have no further debate on the report but have a meeting to engage with it.

Report on Outcomes of Workshop on the Capacity Building needs of the Committee
The Chairperson referred to the draft Committee Report which had identified particular areas in which the Committee had need of a training programme.

Ms Steyn asked about their discussions with Professor Ben Cousins of PLAAS. Perhaps they needed to discuss whether the Committee could have informal training sessions through PLAAS as opposed to formally applying for a year's study at PLAAS at UWC. She wanted to know if there was any progress on this.
Should they put a plan forward as a Committee?

Ms Xaba wanted to know when and how the training module would be implemented.

Mr Swathe submitted that on the day when Professor Cousins had met with the Committee he had provided members with forms. But when one looked at those forms they actually required an individual to initially apply. This had not been what they intended as a Committee. They had wanted to training as a Committee but the way the forms were structured it showed that they had to pay a certain amount as an individual. He asked therefore if it would not better suit their capacity building needs if this was done as a group as opposed to individually.

Ms Ngwenya-Mabila also made similar comments about the form.

Mr Mananzhe responded to the questons that had been raised by members on the training as a group and the whole idea of capacity building and the programme offered by PLAAS. It would be very difficult for the Committee Secretary to call Professor Cousins just like that to come and give members training without going through all the procedures. There were procedures that had to be followed if Parliament would be taking on that kind of course for the members. They needed to have a discussion with the relevant parliamentary official to see what could be done.

The meeting was adjourned.


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