Petition by the Western Cape Land Claimants: deliberations

Rural Development and Land Reform

22 February 2011
Chairperson: Mr S Sizani (ANC)
Share this page:

Meeting Summary

The Committee engaged in discussion over the outstanding issue regarding the Petition by Western Cape Land Claimants complaining about the manner in which their claims were handled by the Commission on the Restitution of Land Rights. The Committee was hugely disappointed by the fact that the Western Cape Regional Land Claims Commissioner, Mrs Beverley Jansen, had not showed up for the meeting. The issue was long outstanding and the Committee had hoped to resolve the issue by getting answers and clarity from the Commissioner over issues raised by the Petition. The Committee’s hopes of completing a progress report over the issue to be forwarded to the Speaker of the House were also dashed. Members did the next best thing and worked their way through some of the written responses that had been received over issues that they had raised. Members also perused other pieces of documentation that had originated during the process. The Committee was insistent that answers from the Commissioner regarding the Petition would have to be obtained one way or the other. Some Members even suggested by way of subpoena if need be as there was urgency over the matter given that the Commissioner’s employment contract was to expire at the end of March 2011. The Committee decided not to submit a half hearted progress report to the Speaker but to inform the Speaker that the issue would be dealt with by mid March 2011. Members also undertook to schedule a meeting the following week to engage on the issue even though the Committee would be on oversight in the Limpopo and Northern Cape Provinces.

Meeting report

Deliberations on the Petition by the Western Cape Land Claimants
The Chairperson stated that the Committee had met with the Department of Rrual Development and Land Reform more or less two weeks ago and had demanded that a final report on the Petition be made available. Members were informed that a report would be tabled with the Deputy Minister to be signed whereafter it would be sent to the Minister to be signed as well.  Members were hugely disappointed that Mrs Beverley Jansen, the Western Cape Regional Land Claims Commissioner, had not seen it fit to attend the meeting. The Commission felt it not necessary to appear before the Committee because whatever needed to be presented had been presented to the members before. The Chairperson stated that the fact remained that the Committee had not received a signed report. The report had to be sent to the Speaker as well.

The Chairperson indicated that he had tried to contact Ms Jansen telephonically. She was apparently off from work and was unable to attend the present meeting.  He stated that the Committee needed to consider the information before them. Documents received from the Department would be compared to the Petition and the Committee would draft its own report. The Committee report would then be forwarded to the Speaker.

Letter from Minister G Nkwinti, Ministry Rural Development and Land Reform
The Chairperson requested the Committee Secretary, Ms Phumla Nyamza, to take the Committee through the documents. She proceeded with the letter from the Minister.  The letter was a confirmation of the process over the issue thus far.

Department of Rural Development and Land Reform: Regional Land Claims Commission response to questions
Ms Nyamza continued with the document containing responses by the Land Claims Commission to issues that members had raised.

The first issue was a request for a list of all developments taking place on land under claim, where developers had applied to the Commission in terms of S11.7 (aA) of the Restitution of Land Rights Act.

The Chairperson stated that the Commission had responded that it had not received any S11.7 (aA) applications in respect of developments. He noted that in the absence of evidence to the contrary the Committee would have to accept that no applications had been received. Unless the petitioners could prove otherwise.

The second issue was about developments taking place on the land without applying to the Commission for S11.7 (aA) of the Act.

The Sadien claim, involving Erf. 2274 in Constantia was the only claim where the current owner intended to develop the land without the application of S11.7 (aA) of the Act. The Sadien claim was advertised in the Government Gazette, Notice 499 of 1999. The current owner was of the opinion that the claim was for tenancy purposes and commenced with minor developments to the property. The Commission had applied for an interdict to stop the proposed development and informed the current owners accordingly. The current owners had taken the Commission to court regarding the matter. 
The Chairperson stated that the matter was out of the Committee’s hands as it was in court.

Ms H Matlanyane requested that the Committee obtain a progress report on the developments of the court case.

Mr R Cebekhulu (IFP) was not satisfied with the response given by the Commission. He asked from what date had the interdict applied.

The Chairperson agreed that a progress report on the developments of the case would be demanded from the Commission. The petitioners had to also keep the Committee up to date on developments. 

The third issue was how the aforementioned matter was communicated to the Sadien family, who were the claimants. The Commission responded that a meeting had been convened to inform the family and that letters had been sent out. Copies of the letters were readily available on file at the Commission’s Offices.

Ms P Ngwenya-Mabila (ANC) responded that the documentation that the Commission was referring to should have been sent to the Committee already.

The Chairperson observed that if the Committee found it difficult to access information from the Commissioner how difficult did claimants not find it. He stated that there were three issues to contend with. The first was the Petition to which the Committee had to respond to and report to the Speaker. The second issue was the Committee’s oversight function over the Commission. The third issue was that in general the Committee should look for information. The Committee must have the capacity to verify things. The focus of the Committee should be on the Petition and the report that was to be presented to the Speaker. The Chairperson stated that the Commissioner might be prejudiced because her employment contract was expiring at the end of March 2011.

Ms Matlanyana felt that the Commissioner took the Committee for granted. The Speaker and petitioners had to be satisfied.

Ms D Carter (COPE) stated that if contracts were ending in March 2011 the Committee needed to obtain all information before then. She felt that the manner in which the Commission was communicating with the Committee was unacceptable.

The Chairperson stated that the Committee would take up the issue. Engagement with the Department was needed.

The fourth issue was how many claims were still to be settled and when it would be settled.
The Commission had provided a breakdown of outstanding claims. The total outstanding claims figure was 919. The Western Cape office planned to settle 342 claims for the 2010/11 financial year. The remaining claims would be settled over two financial years i.e. 2011/12 and 2012/13, depending on the availability of funds. The Committee was referred to the Western Cape’s Operational Plan document referred to as Annexure A1.

The Chairperson queried how the Commission decided on 342 claims to be settled in 2010/11. He noted that if 537 Section 42D claims were sitting with the Minister for approval how did the Commission come up with the figure of 342. How did the Commission know how many claims the Minister might approve? Would the Minister only sign 342 claims out of 537?

The Committee Researcher stated that some of the claims with the Minister would be finalised whilst others would not. He noted that perhaps the Commission had some special criteria with which to decide that 342 claims would be finalised in 2010/11.

The Chairperson referred to claims that were sitting in court. In which financial year would they be settled?

Mr B Zulu (ANC) agreed with the Chairperson and asked how the Commission could be certain that 342 claims would be settled in 2010/11. 

Ms Carter asked how the Commission prioritised the settling of 342 claims. The average time for settling a claim was six years.

The Chairperson stated that Commissioners were given 5 year contracts. Commissioners were clever and chose not to settle claims within 5 years which meant that their employment contracts would be extended. The Operational Plan was before Members but it contained no explanations. The Committee needed explanations. The Committee still did not know how the Commission thought that it would be able to settle 342 claims by 2010/11. The financial year end was imminent. The Committee had three questions that needed answering. The first was how many claims the Minister would sign in a financial year. The second was how many claims were to be paid out in a financial year. The third question was why other claims were not finalised.
He stated that the responses by the Commission were only on questions asked. It was not even responses to the Petition. All the Committee had at its disposal was a bundle of documents that had accumulated as the process had continued. The written responses to questions were not even presented to the Committee by the Commissioner.

The fifth and final issue was whether there was a strategy to fastrack the settlement of outstanding claims.
The response given by the Commission was that it had embarked on a Turn-Around Strategy which would assist in expediting the finalisation of all outstanding claims. A copy of the presentation as presented to the Committee on the 17 November 2010 was attached as Annexure A2.The date on the document itself was 16 November 2010.

The Chairperson stated that the Committee Researcher pointed out that the document referred to was the Turn-Around Strategy for the Land Claims Commission in the Western Cape. The Committee Researcher felt that perhaps the answer to the fifth issue was contained somewhere in the document.

Ms Matlanyane stated that the Commissioner should have been present to give the Committee direct answers. Even if her employment contract was ending soon she was still being paid and had to be accountable to the Committee.

The Chairperson stated that the Commissioner had been asked to attend the meeting. Ms Jansen was not even in the office, she was at home. So what the Commission was saying was that they believed the 342 claims to be finalised by the end of March 2011.

The Committee Researcher affirmed that it was what the Commission was saying.

The Chairperson stated that the Committee would quote the relevant portions from the batch of documents that it had to the Speaker. The Committee would however address the Minister first over the issue of the backlogs. The Speaker had referred the Petition to the Committee. The Committee’s response to the Speaker would be communicated to the petitioners by the Speaker.
The situation was that the Petition was still before the Committee. The Committee had received responses to questions that had been posed. The Commissioner had set out what claims she believed to be compliant and what were non-compliant.

The Chairperson noted that at present it did not seem possible for the Committee to send a report to the Speaker.

Ms Carter did not think that the Committee had enough information at its disposal to compile a report for the Speaker.

Ms Matlanyane stated that greater engagement was needed with the Commissioner. More answers and clarity was needed. She suggested that the Committee furnish a progress report to the Speaker about where the Committee was on the issue and that the Committee was not satisfied with the manner in which the Commissioner was responding to the Committee.

Ms L Mazebuko (DA) felt that the Committee did not have anything to give to the Speaker. The responses given by the Commission required further probing. Explanations were needed. The Committee was interceding on behalf of the petitioners. She pointed out that the Committee had powers of subpoena and should consider using it. The Commissioner had not seen fit to appear before the Committee. The Committee should take the matter further. Ms Jansen could be subpoenaed to appear before the Committee. She also felt that the Committee should not give a half hearted report to the Speaker. The Committee did not have all the answers as yet.

Mr Z Mandela (ANC) addressed the Committee in his mother tongue.

The Chairperson interpreted what had been said. Mr Mandela shared the sentiments as expressed by Ms Carter and Ms Mazebuko that a half cooked report should not be sent to the Speaker.

The Chairperson’s concern was that the Petition issue was being handled by the Committee for 6 months now. The Committee had to find a way to finalise it. A target had to be set that the Committee had to get answers before the Commissioner’s employment contract expired at the end of March.
He asked Ms Nyamza to write to the Speaker explaining that the Committee was experiencing difficulties on its progress report. It would be complete by the end of March 2011.

Ms Carter stated that it was better to complete the progress report by mid March so that if there were further questions the Commissioner would still be around to answer them.

The Committee agreed to the mid March suggestion made by Ms Carter.

Ms Nyamza replied that the Speaker was aware of the situation. The Committee Staff reported to the Speaker on a weekly basis.

The Chairperson noted that the Committee had not submitted a report to the Speaker. The Speaker had to be formally informed that the Committee had set a target for mid March 2011. He stated that Members had the documentation before them. All that the Committee needed to do was to satisfy itself that the answers given were satisfactory to the questions raised in the Petition. For example there were three claims that were non-compliant. What did it mean? What made a claim non-compliant?

Other Matters
The Chairperson informed Members that the Committee would be embarking on an oversight visit the following week to the Limpopo and Northern Cape Provinces. The Committee would meet whilst in those provinces to conclude the Petition issue. It would also finalise the response to the Speaker.

Ms Mazebuko mentioned that there was an investigation by the Special Investigation Unit (SIU) regarding financial fraud that had apparently been committed by Department officials. She asked if the Committee could request a progress report from the SIU on the issue. A briefing by the SIU on the issue would also be useful.

The Chairperson replied that the Committee had a report regarding the issue in its possession. Perhaps the Department could be requested to furnish the Committee with a progress report.
He asked Ms Mazebuko to forward whatever information she had over the issue to the Committee.

She agreed.

The meeting was adjourned.

Share this page: