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Taking Parliament to People, and People to Parliament
MINERALS AND ENERGY PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
5 October 2000
DELIBERATIONS ON THE ABOLISHMENT OF LEBOWA MINERALS TRUST
Documents handed out:
Deputy Minister Shabangu provided a brief history and overview of the bill to abolish the Lebowa Minerals Trust and clarified that this Trust refers to a territory no longer recognised by the Constitution. The Deputy Minister and state law advisers then heard concerns and questions from committee members.
Deputy Minister (DM) Ms S Shabangu opened the meeting by reviewing the history of the Lebowa Minerals Trust (LMT). She informed the committee members that the White Paper on Minerals and Mining policy states that the LMT will be phased out and the responsibilities of it will be transferred to the national government. She pointed out that the bill allows further claims from individuals or tribes to be processed by the minister.
Mr A H Nel (NNP) asked the Deputy Minister what the overall restrictions on the LMT are. He also asked for clarity regarding Clause 3C, which deals with proof of ownership, on what types of proof will be considered sufficient.
Mr I O Davidson (DP) inquired as to what mechanisms are available to individuals and tribes that would guide them in establishing their land and mineral ownership rights. He pressed the Department to clarify what body will adjudicate this process.
Mr J H Nash (ANC) noted that the Department has said that title deeds will be considered proof of ownership; he asked if this was the only type of proof that will be accepted.
Mr S K Louw (ANC) also observed other trusts that were established around the same time as Lebowa which have not been abolished, and asked why the LMT is being treated differently. As well, he wanted clarity as to if the LMT holds mineral trusts on behalf of the former Lebowa or on behalf of communities in the region.
In reply to the questions, the Deputy Minister stated that it is the responsibility of the DG to handle legal concerns to the bill. The Department has conducted its own research through the claims office and found nothing owned by individual or communities. The DG is able to respond to claims to do with people who have been historically connected to the land and are established there but hold no title deeds. She stipulated that the government cannot deal with these claims solely on the grounds of official laws and strict regulation but must recognize that some mineral rights are valid regardless of the existence of official documentation. She then referred to Mr Rocha (state law adviser) to provide more clarity to the committee.
Mr Rocha affirmed that during its research, the Department found two types of land transferred to the Lebowa government. The first being land belonging to the government that has now been transferred to the state. The second being land held by the government in trust for black tribes. In the latter case, the issue of mineral rights were not stipulated in law and so we don't know if land was transferred with mineral rights or without mineral rights. There was also evidence that there was severance of mineral rights from land rights. The Lebowa Minerals Trust Act (LMTA) includes a mechanism where people can approach the Department and prove their claims to these rights. Mr Rocha stipulated that this is primarily an administrative issue, but affirmed that it is unreasonable to confine issues of proof to title deeds only. The Bill must elaborate in detail what avenues to proof are involved.
At this point Chairperson Nkosi (ANC) asked for comment on joint-venture agreements. Mr E J Lucas (IFP) added a request that Clause 3D of the Bill be changed to replace the phrase "the Minister may" to "the Minister must". He also encouraged the committee to consider input that was heard at the public hearings, which centered on issues of poverty and job creation.
Mr I O Davidson (DP) asserted that the committee needs to know exactly what process individual claims will take before the issue can go through. He expressed discomfort with the fact that the Department was unable to find any claims to land and mineral rights. He wondered how this could be when the committee itself was able to establish a list of claimants. He asked again whom the Department would enlist to adjudicate and regulate the process of individual claims to ownership rights. Mr Davidson gave the example of the Pelele tribe whose rights were never transferred officially to them as a result of the Boer War, but nonetheless was party to the sale. He noted a complaint that tribes are sitting on their minerals rights and refusing to let anyone exploit them. He asked for clarity as to how the committee is to reconcile a legislation that took land and divided it, with legislation that hasn't been enforced, overlap of legislation, and the current common law.
Another committee member appealed to the Chair to invite the committee to discuss joint venture agreements. He emphasized that banks are hostile to certain people and asked how these people will access LMT funds. If LMT funds are referred back to the state, the people affected by the former Lebowa will not benefit from a source that does not reach them.
It was also noticed that under Clause 3(1C), mineral rights are invested in the state only. The speaker asserted that if anyone had claims or interest in these rights they would have come forward at the public hearings, which were well advertised. He appealed to the committee that now is the time for progress and there is a need to move forward with this bill.
Mr G G Oliphant (ANC) countered the previous comment by saying that although the process seems long, committee members cannot afford to ignore history. He further stated that Clause 4 might be reformulated, along with a consequential amendment to Clause 4(1,3), so that retrenchment is not the only option included in the bill. He expressed a desire to amend clauses dealing with staff conditions and recommended that there is a need to look at transitional arrangements to address many of the concerns members have been bringing up.
Ms S Dudley (ACDP) reminded the members that at the public hearings the people in the Northern Province wanted assurance on how they would benefit from this bill.
Mr J H Nash (ANC) then encouraged the members to exercise oversight during the proceedings, and expressed a desire to reach a conclusion. The issue of severance in regards to the 1913 Land Act needs to be addressed. The bill also needs to be clear as to what will be constituted as "proof", as well as if surface rights were or were not transferred in Clause 3(1C). He reminded members that the Department found no title deeds during their research.
Ms N S Mtsweni (ANC) asserted that something must be done to help the people in the area and to address the mismanagement of the LMT.
At this point Deputy Minister Shabangu repeated that the objective of the Act is to normalize the situation and bring it in line with the Constitution. She hears the concerns of the committee members regarding the people in the North and assured that this community has been identified as one of the poorest communities in the country and, as such, has been given priority in terms of development and increasing their quality of life. Upon abolition the assets of the LMT will be accrued by the National government but the Department stressed that there will be processes in place targeting further development of poor communities and their access to the mining industry. Regarding the concern about joint ventures, it was noted that the previous minister set up task teams in the Northern Province and compiled a report that is currently being looked at by the Department. Their findings will be shared with the portfolio committee when completed. Department will also look into the concerns on phrasing/wording within the proposed bill, as well as those regarding personnel, job creation and social responsibility.
Mr Rocha contended that existing mineral regulations and regimes are problematic because mining areas do not experience subsequent development to balance the exploitation of natural resources. In other words, mining companies who focus on exploiting the natural resources are not imposed upon to instigate social development. Developmental issues should be addressed holistically and country wide, not just in areas where mining activity takes place. The Department is trying to set up a system whereby exploitation corresponds with social development and will benefit the people of the country as a whole, not just in pocket areas. This is true especially in terms of job creation and repaying of debts. Mr Rocha distinguished between two sets of functions within the LMT, that being mining and social development projects. When the LMT is abolished, most of the concerns are in regards to what will happen to the social development projects the Trust has been involved in. The bill as it stands is meant to transfer power from the LMT itself to the Department, who will also take up responsibility for these social programs. Further, because the LMT generates revenue, these monies will be collected and held by the National Revenue. In reference to the adjudication of process, Mr Rocha clarified that this will be a function of the Minister who will act according to established rules and structures of law. The Department will not restrict proof of claim to title deeds.
At this point Chairperson Nkosi noted that the committee has been duly clarified and recognizes issues still up for debate. He then closed the meeting to be reconvened next Tuesday.
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