Rural Development and Land Reform General Amendment Bill [B33-2010]: public hearings, Department response to submissions and voting; Committee Programme

Rural Development and Land Reform

24 January 2011
Chairperson: Mr P Sizani (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Committee received an oral submission from Ms Phindi Kema on the Rural Development and Land Reform General Amendment Bill (B33-2010). The Department of Rural Development and Land Reform (DRDLR) then responded to the written submissions on the Bill.

Ms Phindi Kema stated that the name change of the Department of Land Affairs to the DRDLR needed to reflect a change in the way the Department functioned. Members asked what problems people on the ground had with the implementation of policies and were told by Ms Kema that the timeframe of the Plus Programme had resulted in her being unable to run her farms as they were only for three years and she was not allowed to own her farms, which resulted in an inability to secure working capital. Related to the three-year timeframe for the farms expiring meant that her farms were now lying neglected with her unable to work on them or acquire them. She expressed her frustration in trying to acquire these farms. Members replied that they would try to assist her and get the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform (DRDLR) to engage with her to find a solution.

The Department’s response to the submissions made by the Batlakoane Ba Manzimnyama Community, Umvithi Youth Development Consultants and Mr S Mdlalose was that the submissions were not related to the actual substance of the Bill. They would however look into the issues raised.

The Committee then considered and adopted the Bill without any amendments. The Committee also adopted their Programme for the session.

Meeting report

Submission by Ms Phindi Kema on Rural Development and Land Reform General Amendment Bill

Ms Phindi Kema said that it came as a surprise that she was the only person presenting given the issues around rural development and land reform. She saw the bill as going beyond just a name change for the Department as a means for changing the way the Department functioned. She said that she started farming in 2006 and had first hand experience in terms of interacting with the Department. Beneficiaries on the ground did not care about the name of the Department, but rather on how the Department related and interfaced with them. She commended the step to establish a standalone ministry for land reform and rural development as these issues were previously lost in the previous Department of Agriculture. They needed to ensure that the name change related to changes in how the Department functioned. The name change highlighted the significance of the areas of rural development and land reform.

Ms A Steyn (DA) asked Ms Kema what people’s worries about the implementation of policies were and what problems she was having with the Department.

Ms Kema replied that the policies were in place, but that it took people who had an understanding of the policies and were prepared to implement them to make them work. One of the areas she had come to understand was the lack of support of the Department in terms of the fact that beneficiaries did not acquire ownership in the Plus Programme. This meant that it was impossible for beneficiaries of the programme to raise working capital like commercial farmers could. Agreements for the Plus Programme were only for 3 years, which in the case of her citrus farm, which was a long-term investment, was problematic. There was also a lack of skills in the sector and a de-emphasis on commercial aspects of farming. There were also infrastructure problems, which impacted on the cost of running a farm such as a lack of dams and irrigation facilities. It was fine to be given land, but there were other important elements that needed to go with it.

Ms Steyn asked whether Ms Kema was still farming on the land of which she had been a beneficiary.

Ms Kema replied that all the leases had expired as they were three-year leases and that the farms were being vandalised currently. She had tried to get the Department to sell her the farms at market value and the agreement she signed with the Department did cover the exit aspect. Since 2009 she had been travelling between Pretoria and Cape Town begging to buy the farms. She had acquired three farms in 2006 and their leases had expired in 2009. Due to the small size of the farms, two were not viable; the total size of the three farms was 70 hectares. It had been impossible to get an agreement to acquire the farms. She was prepared to focus on one farm that was being used as a stud farm. It was “painful on the ground” as the farms were currently being left unproductive. She had documentation with her, which entailed her correspondence with the Department and its replies, but nothing had been resolved.

Ms L Mazibuko (DA) said that according to the programme the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) was supposed to assess whether she could move on to free holding the property with no assistance or whether she needed to continue being assisted. She asked whether Ms Kema had been assessed.

Ms Kema replied that the DAFF had worked closely with her to try and develop plans but there was no money available. The DAFF had motivated for the farms to be sold to her as they realised that then she would be able to raise capital. Unfortunately this had not happened.

Ms H Matlanyane (ANC) said that it was the role of Land Bank to assist people and they needed to establish what had transpired in this regard.

The Chairperson asked Ms Kema whether she was the only person who had their leases terminated.

Ms Kema replied in the negative and added that many people had given up after the first year, but that it was difficult for her to walk away due to her investment into her farms. The Land Bank was in a difficult position, as you needed to have title deeds for the land in order for them to assist. The second point was that the duration of the agreements was too short to be viable. She had thought that after three years she would be able buy the farms and had thus put everything into the farms. In June 2009 she had requested to buy the farms, however in 2010 she received a summons from the DRDLR for the rental of the property since then and a request that she vacate the land despite her engagement with the Department.  She was in debt due to the farms and wanted to continue developing them until they were viable.  She saw her submission to the Committee as a last resort and she knew that she was asking the wrong forum, but was desperate for assistance. The farms lying vacant were associated with her, yet when she looked at them she was helpless to do anything.

Ms Mazibuko said that the Committee was not the wrong forum and that while Members were from different parties, with different mandates, they would take the issue forward. She assumed that the Chairperson would agree with her. She asked for clarity about whether she received feedback from the DAFF about whether she was a suitable candidate to continue on the farms without assistance.

Ms Kema replied that the DAFF had tried sitting down with the Land Bank, but it boiled down to one thing – the DRDLR handled the land. Now that the contracts had expired things were even worse, the farms had degraded. It would even be preferable if the two citrus farms were handed over to another beneficiary because at least they would not be lying neglected.

The Chairperson thanked Ms Kema for her presentation and added that the Committee would deliberate on the subject. He asked the DRDLR to submit a written response to Ms Kema.

Mr Johannes Havenga, Senior Legal Advisor, DRDLR, said that the Department had taken note of what Ms Kema had said and that they would get the correct person in the Department to respond to her.

Department of Rural Development and Land Reform (DRDLR) response to submissions on Rural Development and Land Reform General Amendment Bill (B33-2010)
Mr Havenga said that the Department had submitted a letter responding to the submission, which had been circulated. The Department’s response was that the Bill was basically amending obsolete provisions which referred to the Department, Minister, Ministry and Director-General “of Land Affairs” and substituting this with “of Rural Development and Land Reform”. It was purely technical in nature. The submission from the Batlakoane Ba Manzimnyama Community was made to the Presidency with the purpose of trying to obtain lodging for a land claim. The Chief Land Clams Commissioner had responded that the Commission on Restitution of Land Rights was not mandated to accept claims lodged after 31 December 1998 and referred the Community to the DRDLR in Mpumalanga for possible assistance in terms of the
Land Redistribution for Agricultural Development (LRAD) programme.  The Community also made a submission to the Committee to make provision in the Bill for the re-opening of the process for the lodging of restitution claims. The submission by Mr M Mkhize from the Umvithi Youth Development Consultants supported the amendments contained in the Bill that concerned the name change as it afforded an opportunity to maximise funding opportunities for organisations that assist rural development. Mr S Mdlalose proposed alternative solutions for land and rural development issues. He supported the incorporation of indigenous systems when engaging in land disputes because in his view this would allow the process for land and rural development to be understood by all communities. Statutory linguistic terms regarding compensation for land claims were an impediment for rural communities during negotiations. Mr Mdlalose also proposed the re-opening of the process for the lodging of restitution claims. 

The Department was of the opinion that the matters raised did not affect the content of the Bill in its current form as the Bill was purely technical in nature. The Department would however investigate legislative amendments to be effected to land reform legislation once the underlying policy issues had been raised and debated in the appropriate fora.

Mr R Cebekhulu (IFP) said that the Batlakoane Ba Manzimnyama Community submission specified that if their land claim failed, they needed to be compensated for having been moved from their ancestral land. He asked what the Department’s view on this was.

Mr Havenga replied that in terms of alternative relief programmes there was LRAD and that once the claim had been investigated the Department would consider their claim in terms of its policies. If the Community qualified, there was provision in the alternative programmes for financial compensation. Thus they could get the same kind of relief as with restitution.

The Chairperson said that he knew that legal people were not politicians and that the law as it stood stated that the cut-off date for the lodging of land claims was 31 December 1998. He had had a debate with indigenous people from the Western Cape who indicated that the cut-off date of 1913 was also a problem as they had lost their land before this and asked why the Department was not entertaining them. He asked what the Department’s view was on this issue.

Mr Havenga replied that from a legal perspective the 1913 cut-off date was set in the Constitution and related to the loss of land at that time. In terms of the Constitution, people could not claim for before 1913. To change this would entail a constitutional amendment. He added that he had no more knowledge or mandate on the matter.

The Chairperson acknowledged that Mr Havenga was a legal practitioner. He suggested that they move on to the Bill.

Rural Development & Land Reform General Amendment Bill: consideration and adoption
The Chairperson asked Mr Havenga to proceed through the Bill clause by clause.

Mr Havenga said that the Bill only dealt with the name change of the Department and was mostly in the definitions sections. He read through Clause 1 of the Bill.

The Chairperson asked if there was any comment on Clause 1.

There was none.

Mr Havenga proceeded through Clause 2.

The Chairperson asked for comment.

There was none.

Mr Cebekhule proposed that Mr Havenga proceed straight through the Bill and that Members raise their hands if they had any issues.

Ms Matlanyane referred to Clause 2 and asked if it meant that they still applied the Kimberley Leasehold Conversion to Freehold Act (KLCFA) of 1961 and if she could have a copy of it.
Mr Havenga replied that he would get a copy to the Member.

Ms Steyn raised issue with Clause 6 of the Bill and directed Members to look at the Memorandum on the Bill on the end of the Bill, with reference to 2.6 and 2.9. She asked why it said ‘rectify the situation’ under these points on page 11 instead of ‘change to Minister’ like in all the other clauses in the body of the Bill.

Mr Havenga replied that it dealt with the name change of the Minister and that the person who drafted the Memorandum simply used different language to express the same change. The Memorandum basically explained the Bill; it was not part of it and could be changed if needed.

The Chairperson added that Ms Steyn was correct as there was no ‘situation’ to be rectified, simply a name change.

Mr Havenga then proceeded through clauses seven to nine.

The Chairperson interjected that it was beyond doubt that the Bill was purely technical and they were only dealing with name changes. He proposed that they adopt the Bill.

Mr Cebekhulu agreed, bar Clause 21, which referred to the Chief Land Claims Commissioner. He said that this office would probably be terminated and that in this light the reference should possibly be reconsidered.

The Chairperson replied that they only had informal knowledge of this and they did not know for certain whether this would be the case. Therefore they could not operate on these assumptions.

Ms Mazibuko said that in Clause 39, the old Minister of Provincial Affairs and Constitutional Development was transferred to the Minister of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs. She added that there was some tension between the Department of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA) and the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development (DOJ & CD) as the old Department of Provincial Affairs and Constitutional Development contained a mandate that was a combination of the two new departments.

Mr Havenga replied that the successor to the Minister of Provincial Affairs and Constitutional Development was the Minister of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs.

Ms Mazibuko said that she was trying to determine whether the new department reflected the competencies of the old departments.

Ms Nomvo Ngcenge, State Law Advisor, Office of the Chief Law Advisor, replied that when departments changed, the President issued proclamations assigning legislation to departments.

The Chairperson thanked Ms Ngcenge and said that it may be necessary to look at the proclamations for COGTA and the DOJ & CD. He moved that they adopt the Bill without amendments and asked for the Committee to respond.

The Committee agreed unanimously.

The Rural Development and Land Reform General Amendment Bill (B33-2010) was adopted.

Adoption of Committee Programme
The Chairperson assumed that Members had looked at the Programme and asked if there was anything not covered by the Programme.

Ms Nyomza said that she added the Auditor-General in on 2 February as the day was empty and the Auditor-General had requested a slot. The Department also had its own inputs to make on the Programme.

The Chairperson said this meant that they could not adopt the Programme today.

Ms Nyomza disagreed because the Department’s programme had not been finalised.

Mr Havenga said that in terms of the Department’s Legal Programme it was still a draft and had not been approved by Cabinet yet. This would be done within a week’s time.

The Chairperson said that this confirmed that the Department’s Programme was irrelevant for the time being and proposed the adoption of the Draft Programme.

Ms Steyn said that looking at the Programme they should slot the Farm Equity Scheme in on 23 April, as currently it appeared to be missing.

The Chairperson replied that the difficulty was that they had not seen the Farm Equity Scheme document yet and that to put it on the agenda would be to assume they would receive it as they had been requesting the document since 2009.

Ms Steyn expressed concern that if it was not put on the agenda, they would never get it.

The Chairperson replied that in the past when things cropped up they made space to slot them in. He asked Mr Zola Zweni, Parliamentary Officer, DRDLR, when they would receive the document. 

Mr Zweni replied that they would get it within a week.

The Chairperson asked whether this was really the case, as they had heard that before.

Mr Zweni replied that the Office of the Director-General of Rural Development and Land Reform would forward it to the Committee.

The Chairperson asked for this promise in writing and moved for the adoption of the Draft Programme for the Committee.

Members agreed and the Committee programme was adopted.

The meeting was adjourned.

[There were apologies from Mr S Ntapane (UDM), Ms N November (ANC), Mr Z Mandela (ANC) and Ms I Ditshelo (UCDP).]


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