The Deputy Minister, the Director-General of the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform and the Acting Chief Land Claims Commissioner briefed the Committee on the revitalisation of 200 struggling land restitution projects, the resolution of land claims on strategic national assets (such as the Kruger National Park) and the model of strategic partnerships that was developed to implement the land restitution programme.
The Department worked closely with the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries and had provided information on the land restitution projects for inclusion in the Geographic Information System used by the provincial Departments of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries. Discussions had been held with National Treasury on the need to secure adequate funding for both the restitution programme and the post-settlement support programme. The Department applied the national Comprehensive Rural Development Programme and worked with the Departments of Human Settlements, Education and Transport to align other developmental programmes with the land restitution programme at the provincial and local government levels.
The Department had established a Social, Technical, Rural, Livelihood, Infrastructure and Facilitation branch and a Rural Infrastructure Development branch. Fifty members of staff had been transferred to the new branches. The Chief Directorate for Strategic Land Reform was responsible for providing post-settlement support to beneficiaries of the land restitution programme. The Chief Directorate for Monitoring and Evaluation was responsible for ongoing monitoring and assessment of the restitution projects.
The Department had made provision for a R250 million recapitalisation and development fund and a R275 million restitution fund. The skills, interests and needs of each beneficiary were established and the assistance of other Government Departments (such as Social Development, Home Affairs, Health and Education) was obtained where necessary. The assets of the property concerned were determined to establish what the claimants would require in terms of assistance.
The Department had developed a strategic partnership model, based on the principles of core management, equity schemes and mentorship. Currently, the Department was involved in 200 court cases concerning disputes over land values, the validity of land claims and disputes between the claimants and previous landowners. A number of land claims were pending, with the largest number of claims in the Western Cape, KwaZulu Natal, Limpopo and Mpumalanga provinces.
The Department had developed a model for handling the claims on land where the landowners had made significant capital investment. The land claims on the Kruger National Park and on land owned by forestry companies, mining houses and sugar mills fell in this category. The value of the properties concerned was extremely high and the Department estimated that an amount in excess of R20 billion would be required to provide restitution. The alternative model that was developed was based on the core management principle and had been successfully applied on the claim over the St Lucia Wetlands National Park.
The challenges faced by the Department included the high-risk nature of agricultural enterprises, the lack of skills and capacity of emerging farmers, the lack of interest in farming of some of the claimants and the necessity to ensure the continued productive use of the land to provide food security for the country.
Members asked questions about the deployment of personnel to the provinces and municipalities, the assistance provided by the DAFF to the 200 struggling restitution projects, the interaction between the Department and DAFF, whether the moratorium on equity schemes had been lifted, the negative attitude of certain DAFF officials displayed in the media, the details of the failed projects, the lack of dividends paid by the equity schemes, the funding available for support and land acquisitions, the status of pending claims, the infrastructure development programmes in rural areas, the duration of the post-settlement assistance programme, the unwillingness of certain claimants to be farmers and the monitoring and evaluation of the projects. Members expressed concern over the failure of the restitution projects to continue the productive utilisation of the land.
B riefing by the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform (DRDLR)
Mr Joe Phaahla, Deputy Minister of Rural Development and Land Reform introduced the Director-General and the Acting Chief Land Claims Commissioner. The meeting was attended by the Land Claims Commissioners from the Western Cape, Free State, Northern Cape, Limpopo, Eastern Cape and Mpumalanga provinces.
Mr Thozi Gwanya, Director-General of the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform briefed the Committee on the 200 struggling restitution projects and the strategic partnerships that had been formed to provide assistance to the beneficiaries of land restitutions (see attached document).
A list of the projects involved was distributed to the Members of the Committee. The list included details of the type of farming activity, the number of households involved, the amount provided to support the projects and the municipal district in which the land was situated. The DRDLR had provided information on the projects to the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) for inclusion in the Geographic Information System (GIS) that was utilised by the provincial authorities to provide support to the projects. The DLDLR and DAFF had discussed the need for financial assistance for the projects with National Treasury.
The DLDLR was restructured and the Social Technical and Rural Livelihood Infrastructure and Facilitation branch (STRIF) was established to provide post-settlement support to the projects in accordance with the national Comprehensive Rural Development Programme (CRDP). STRIF worked closely with the Rural Infrastructure Development branch (RID), which was responsible for economic and social infrastructure development. Fifty employees had been transferred from the Land Claims Commission to STRIF and RID. The Chief Directorate for Strategic Land Reform was responsible for providing support to the beneficiaries of all the farms purchased in terms of the land restitution programme.
At the insistence of National Treasury, a separate trading account was established by the Department for the post-settlement support function. An amount of R250 million had been made available for the Post- Land Acquisition Support (PLAS) re-capitalisation and development fund. An additional amount of R275 million was made available for the restitution fund. The funding provided by the Minister was in accordance with Section 42 (c) of the Restitution Act.
A detailed analysis of the beneficiaries was compiled in terms of the CRDP. The National Integrated Social Information System developed by the Department of Social Development was used as a tool to determine the skills, interests and needs of each beneficiary and to access the services provided by other Government Departments, e.g. the Departments of Home Affairs, Social Development and Education. An analysis of the assets of the property, the access to markets and the potential equity partners was compiled to determine what assistance was available to the beneficiaries.
A model of strategic partnerships was developed by the DLDLR and expressions of interest had been called for. A database of the interest groups in the various sectors that could provide support had been compiled, for example the commodity groups in the sugar and citrus industries. There was a need to change the mindset that linked the provision of support to the availability of grants. The practice of absentee landowners appointing farm managers remained a challenge. A breakdown of the elements and critical issues in respect of the three major aspects of strategic partnerships (i.e. core management, equity share schemes and mentorship) was included in the presentation.
The DLDLR had experienced an increase in the number of court referrals and was currently involved in 200 court cases concerning land restitutions. The cases dealt with disputes over land values, the validity of the claims and disputes between the claimants and the landowners. The largest number of cases was in the KwaZulu Natal, Limpopo and Mpumalanga provinces. There were currently 1044 claims in the Western Cape, 2 in Gauteng, 138 in North-West and 22 in the Free State provinces.
The land claims on the Kruger National Park were similar to the claims on land owned by the forestry companies SAPPI, MONDI and SAFCON and the mining companies De Beers and Anglo. Such claims were extremely costly because of the major capital investment made by the landowners. The Department estimated that an amount of R20 billion would be required to compensate the claimants for the properties concerned. The DLDLR had developed a formula that embraced the principles of core management in a joint partnership between Government and the landowner for settling such claims. The formula had been successfully applied in the land claim on the St Lucia Wetland Park. The Department was currently holding discussions with the companies concerned.
In conclusion, Mr Phaahla summarised the challenges in managing the land restitution programme. Although the Commission had settled 95% of the land claims, the remaining 5% were capital-intensive projects such as sugar, forestry and game farms. The Department could not have a repetition of the situation in the previous year when one third of the budget was paid out during the first month of the financial year on a single claim (i.e. R600 million paid out for a sugar cane farm in KwaZulu Natal in April 2009).
In addition, agriculture was a high-risk business and there was little guarantee that the new owners of the properties would be successful even if they had the necessary skills and expertise. The Department had realised that it was not sustainable to merely provide the substantial funds required for purchasing the properties and that ongoing financial and post-settlement support was essential to ensure the continued productive use of the land. In many cases, the Department had to intervene and provide conflict-resolution services to resolve disputes amongst the different groups of claimants and beneficiaries that threatened the viability of the project. A different approach was required to ensure the long term success of the programme.
Mr M Dandala (COPE) commended the Department for establishing a dedicated branch and the necessary staff to provide post-settlement support to the claimants. STRIF faced a huge challenge throughout the country and he wanted to know if the Department planned to expand the function to the provincial and local government levels.
Mr M Swathe (DA) asked what assistance was provided by the DAFF in assisting the 200 struggling restitution projects.
Ms A Steyn (DA) asked for more clarity on the interaction between the DLDLR and DAFF as there appeared to be a duplication of effort between the two Departments. She asked if the recapitalisation model had been tested in a pilot project. She wanted to know if the moratorium that had been placed on equity schemes had been lifted. She referred to an article in the Farmer’s Weekly magazine that was written by officials from the DAFF in their personal capacity and that illustrated a negative attitude to the land restitution programme. She stressed the need for everyone involved to work together to ensure the success of the programme.
Mr Gwanya expressed appreciation for the support of the Members for the restructuring initiatives. He advised that the two Ministers concerned had held extensive discussions on the land restitution programme and the need to increase production by the projects. The two Departments were working together closely and there was little overlap as each Department contributed different support. For example, DAFF provided veterinary and farming expertise. Rural development was not limited to agricultural development and the DLDLR played a role in facilitation and negotiation between the various entities involved.
Mr Gwanya said that the issue of absentee claimants was critical. In many cases, the claimants had been resettled far from their ancestral land and had established livelihoods unrelated to farming. The Department had requested local governments to align their housing programmes with the need to provide housing on the farms for the beneficiaries. In many cases, the beneficiaries were not farmers and had no interest in farming. The Department needed to determine what the skills and interests of the claimants were in order to provide meaningful post-settlement support.
In response to Ms Steyn’s question, Mr Gwanya confirmed that the recapitalisation model had been piloted at farms in KwaZulu Natal and the Department had observed that progress had been made. Unfortunately, the project concerned suffered from disputes between the landowners and the communities. Such social problems had a negative effect on the productive use of the land.
Mr Gwanya reported that most of the problems that resulted in the moratorium on equity schemes had occurred in the Western Cape. Discussions had been held with AgriSA in the Western Cape. A major challenge was the lack of transfer of skills from the landowners to the claimants. Dividends were paid in only eight of the 100 projects and where dividends had been paid, the amount involved had been paltry. A meeting had been scheduled with the Minister on 26 February 2010 to discuss suggestions and possible solutions. He had not seen the article published in the Farmer’s Weekly that was referred to by Ms Steyn and was unable to comment on it.
Mr Blessing Mphela, Acting Chief Land Claims Commissioner, commented on the need for training programmes for the claimants and the practical involvement of the Department in certain projects in the KwaZulu Natal and the Northern Cape provinces. Part of the work of the Commission was the development of capacity at the provincial and local government level. Officials from the various provincial Departments and the Office of the Surveyor-General worked together in teams. In principle, the Department played a coordinating role and utilised the contributions of other Departments that had the necessary capacity in order to implement the national programme.
Ms P de Lille (ID) felt that the Director-General had brushed over the mismanagement of the equity schemes. She requested a list of all the failed schemes and said that she intended to visit the projects. She said that in many cases, the communities had been used to obtain money from Government and the communities concerned had not been educated on their rights under the scheme. Certain communities were promised dividends but many had been waiting for years and had not received any returns. It was necessary to take action where instances of corruption had occurred. She asked for clarity on how the fund of R275 million that was made available will be divided between infrastructure development and post-settlement support. She wanted to know what projects had been identified for financial assistance from the fund. She felt that the amount involved was not sufficient to assist the 200 failed projects that had been identified. She asked if the development of infrastructure in the rural areas was included in the amount announced by the President in the State of the Nation Address. She commended the Department for providing a clear direction for the handling of land claims.
Ms Steyn asked how long the Department planned to provide further assistance once the struggling projects had received financial assistance from the recapitalisation fund. She had received a number of documents pertaining to the projects in KwaZulu Natal and requested information on the projects in the other provinces as well.
Mr Dandala noted that claimants were awarded farms even if they were not interested in farming. He asked if the willingness to farm was a requirement for land restitution. He asked what measures were taken to interest the beneficiaries in producing food for the nation and to move away from subsistence farming. He asked if the claimants understood the national importance of food security and the role that emerging farmers had to play to ensure that the country produced sufficient food for its needs.
Ms P Ngwenya-Mabila (ANC) asked if an audit was done on the restitution projects to determine which projects needed revitalisation. She asked what other options were available to beneficiaries as not everyone wanted to be a farmer. She asked how many of the fifty staff members were deployed to each of the provinces and where they were situated. She asked for details of the status of land claims in the Western Cape and how many claims awaited payment before the land could be transferred. She asked if the Department had a monitoring and evaluation system in place and if follow-up inspections were done on the projects.
The Chairperson pointed out that Ms Ngwenya-Mabila’s questions concerning the beneficiaries and the STRIF employees had already been answered.
Mr Phaahla advised that the Department had insufficient funds to settle the other land claims during 2009 after paying out R600 million on one claim. The Department had applied for additional funds from the National Treasury but only had sufficient funds available to remain functional during the remainder of the 2009/2010 financial year. The Department had recognised the need to make funds available for the continued support of projects in addition to the funds for the purchase of the properties. The budget for the 2010/2011 financial year that was submitted to Parliament made provision for 25% of the amount of R1.1 billion approved in terms of the Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) to be allocated for post-settlement support and the remaining 75% to be allocated for restitution. The decision was taken to slow down the rate of acquisition in favour of improving the success of the existing projects. The R250 million made available for the PLAS revitalisation programme was in addition to the R275 million restitution fund. The funding provided for the land restitution programme and post-settlement support was separate from the funding for the Comprehensive Rural Development Programme. The CRDP linked the infrastructure required for the provision of housing, roads, social development, training and community development in the rural areas. The amount of R8.65 billion announced by the President was for the next three years. All the State entities involved were required to contribute to the development of the priority areas that were identified.
Responding to Ms Steyn’s question, Mr Phaahla advised that the support programme was limited to a period of three years, after which time the restitution projects were expected to continue to operate without further assistance from Government. The need for ongoing monitoring and re-assessment had been identified and the necessary monitoring and evaluation function provided.
Replying to Mr Dandala’s question, Mr Phaahla confirmed that land restitution was a rights-based system and there was no requirement that claimants had to be farmers. The Department recognised the necessity to keep the land productive and made every attempt to encourage the new owners to continue to farm the land. The problem was the capacity of emerging farmers rather than the willingness to farm. The farmers needed a lot of support and many gave up, resulting in cases where cattle were currently grazing in previously productive vineyards. The revitalisation programme was aimed at resuscitating the previous productivity of the farms but many emerging farmers had applied for a piece of the land to be cut out for small-scale farming instead.
Mr Gwanya undertook to provide the information on the failed projects to be made available to the Members. He advised that the Department currently ran a series of workshops for beneficiaries prior to the transfer of the land. He agreed with Ms De Lille that the claimants should receive more education on their rights and obligations under the agreements entered into. He said that illiteracy amongst the claimants was a major challenge.
Mr Gwanya advised that the Ministry was required to report to the President on a monthly basis and the Department had to report to the Minister on a fortnightly basis. The Department had established a Chief Directorate for monitoring and evaluation and had designed the necessary tools to aid reporting to Government on the achievement of the specific goals that had been set.
Mr Mphela undertook to provide the Committee with written reports on the number of personnel deployed to the different provinces and the status of the outstanding land claims.
The Chairperson said that the Committee needed to obtain clarity on the issues and the direction the Department intended to follow on land restitution. He warned the Department that the Committee planned to conduct oversight visits to the restitution projects. The Committee supported the continued productive use of the land and the development of a food-based economy. The Committee took note of the Department’s ability and capacity to engage mentors and other partners to develop the skills and capacity of emerging farmers. He noted that only eight of the 100 projects had produced a dividend and said that the other 92 projects should be investigated to ensure that the beneficiaries had not been cheated out of any profits. The Committee would examine the capacity of the Department to empower the communities that had benefited from land restitution and wanted to see real results from the programme.
Ms De Lille asked what progress had been made with finalising the outstanding land claims. She noted that the Department did not have sufficient funds available to purchase the land and that the Department was currently involved in more than 200 court cases. She referred to a recent Constitutional Court ruling that allowed for Government assets to be attached if the Department failed to pay monies ordered by the Court. She requested more information on the commodity partners referred to in the presentation.
Mr R Cebekhulu (IFP) suggested that the students at agricultural colleges were given the opportunity to work on the farms of absentee claimants. He deplored the situation where the previous landowners failed to train the claimants who would come into possession of the farm.
The Chairperson referred to the failure of the land restitution projects in the Tsitsikamma area. Only one of the projects was successful and that project had been leased back to the original owner that was dispossessed of his farm. He said that the issue of claimants failing to make productive use of the land was a very serious concern.
Mr Swathe shared the concerns expressed by the Chairperson over the under-utilisation of farms that were claimed under the restitution programme.
Ms Steyn urged that the officials from the DAFF changed their attitude to the restitution programme and displayed a more positive stance.
The Chairperson requested that the Members of the Committee were invited to attend the two-day conference to be held at the Lord Charles Hotel in Somerset-West. He said that the Committee was now better able to follow the approach that had been adopted by the Department. He gave the other Members of the Committee the opportunity to add their comments.
Ms H Matlanyane (ANC) expected the Department to make more progress in future.
Ms Nwenya-Mabile expressed appreciation for the work that had been done by the Department and the Commission. More work needed to be done in the KwaZulu Natal, Limpopo and Mpumalanga provinces to ensure the finalisation of the outstanding claims and provide service delivery to the communities.
The Chairperson concluded the meeting by stating that the Department had a major task ahead and needed the assistance of all the parties involved in the process.
The meeting was adjourned.
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