Western Cape Land Claimants petition: Deputy Minister's comments and further deliberation

Rural Development and Land Reform

08 March 2011
Chairperson: Mr S Sizani (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Committee, in the presence of the Deputy Minister, continued with deliberations on the petition by Western Cape land claimants. Several Members commented that this matter had dragged on for too long. Initially members were divided on whether a Committee Report should be forwarded to the Speaker now, given the limited information and unanswered questions facing the Committee, or to wait until full information was received. They also identified some conflicting information between the Commission for Restitution of Land Rights and the Cape Town City Council about release of municipal land, and lack of updated information on the status of some claims. After deliberation, the Committee agreed to compile a Report to the Speaker, using the information that was already to hand, after having given the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform three days within which to submit updated information. The Report would also identify any areas where matters still needed to be followed up. That Report would therefore contain recommendations, and would be submitted whether or not the further information was received from the Department.

The Committee also briefly considered the substance of the petition. The Commission had denied the general allegations about its officials’ attitude, and no specific complaints had been lodged. The complaint of delays had been conceded in some instances. The Commission had denied the allegation that developers were being allowed to develop land in respect of which claims were lodged, and the Chairperson pointed out that it was not for this Committee to decide whether development should be allowed or not. The claims in respect of Constantia, Hout Bay, Newlands, Claremont and Stellenbosch had been in the process of negotiation, but the Commission had pointed out that some of the claimants in the petition had not submitted claims for land. The Report would contain a note of how far these negotiations were, if possible. The Committee agreed that the issue of land claims for land lost before 1913 needed to be handled differently. Although this could be highlighted in the Report, it must be noted that these claims were not in the jurisdiction of the Commission on the Restitution of Land Rights, but that this was a Constitutional matter, and might be able to be dealt with through an Act of Parliament.

Meeting report

Petition by Western Cape land claimants
The Chairperson stated that the Committee needed to finalise the draft Committee Report (the Report) on the issue of the petition by the Western Cape land claimants, so that the Report could be forwarded to the Speaker. The process had originally started on the 4 August 2010. The draft Report already circulated was not the final format or content, and he said that a heading would be attached to once the Committee had a final draft. The draft Report members summarised the contents of the documents that had been received by the Committee as the process had unfolded. The question the Committee needed to ask was whether the Commission on the Restitution of Land Rights (CRLR or the Commission) had answered all the questions that had been raised in the petition. The Committee would also need to consider whether the information that the Committee had received during the process was sufficient to allow the Committee to draft its final Report. The Committee Report would reflect recommendations made by the Committee, and it would also be forwarded to the claimants.

The Chairperson noted that the petition had covered three areas. The first area was specific claims that had been made by claimants, which included claims made in Constantia and Hout Bay. The second area covered by the petition was more general and dealt, for example, with the conduct of the Commission towards claimants. It revolved around complaints of delays in the handling of claims, which sometimes had resulted in claimants dying of old age or sickness before their claims were finalised. There were also complaints about the conduct of officials. Furthermore it was alleged that the Commission allowed developers to develop land in respect of which there were claims. The third area covered in the petition related to people that did not have specific claims but felt excluded from the process. These individuals had claims that did not fall within the cut-off dates of 1913 and 1998, since their claims related to land lost before 1913 or for claims that had been lodged after the 1998 cut-off date.

The Commission had denied the general allegations surrounding the conduct of its officials. The Committee had not received direct complaints regarding the conduct of officials.  The Commission also denied that developers were being allowed to develop land in respect of which claims were lodged. The Chairperson pointed out that it was not for the Committee to decide on whether developments should be allowed or not. The Committee only needed to report on it.
In regard to the allegations around documents, the Commission had conceded that some documents had been lost. Unfortunately the Committee did not know exactly which documents had been lost. Ms Beverley Jansen, Western Cape Land Claims Commissioner, had stated that anyone alleging that claim documents had been lost should come forward in order for the issue to be addressed. The Commission noted that every claim lodged had a file number. If there was no file number then there was no claim. The Committee had not received any documentation from either the Department or claimants regarding documents that had been lost.

The Chairperson asked that the Committee should deal with the first issue in the petition, namely the specific claims and referred to the document presented to the Committee by the Commission, dated 10 November 2010. In respect of the Constantia claims, he noted that the Commission claimed that many of the signatories in the petition claimed to be claimants in Constantia and Stellenbosch, even though they had no proof of their claims. Some of the signatories to the petition had no proof that they were part of the claims in Constantia.

The Chairperson stated that the Committee needed also to consider how far each of the claims processes in Constantia had gone. He referred to the document dated 4 August 2010, and stated that the Commissioner had listed the names of the claimants in Constantia, and what the status of their claims were. Many of the claims were still in the negotiation stage and there was no settlement as yet. The Department of Rural Development and Land Reform (the Department) had assured the Committee that it would furnish the Committee with a final report, which the Committee could attach to its Committee Report. That report was still outstanding. The Committee had to decide whether it had sufficient information at its disposal to compile its Committee Report.

Ms A Steyn (DA) responded that the Committee could submit a Committee Report to Parliament, in order to finalise the issue there, but the question remained what the Committee would tell the claimants. Perhaps the Committee could write to Parliament explaining that the issue remained unsettled, and that a second process was needed to assist claimants. She pointed out that one of the complaints of the Commissioner was that the release of land by Cape Town Municipality was a challenge. When the City of Cape Town was questioned over the issue it stated that it had not been requested to release any land for land claims.

The Chairperson summarised that Ms Steyn had suggested two options. The first was to finalise the Committee Report to the Speaker, in which the Committee could state that it did not have sufficient information to conclude the matter of the petition. The second option was to consider what the role of the Committee must be to take the issue forward.

Ms P Ngwenya-Mabila (ANC) believed that the Committee already had sufficient information at its disposal to compile a Report to Parliament, based on the documents it had received.  The Committee could additionally identify issues that it wished to follow up with the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform. Ms Steyn had commented on Cape Town Municipality’s stance around the release of land, and she suggested that both the Commission and the Municipality could be called before the Committee to get to the truth.

Nkosi Z Mandela (ANC) felt that the Committee had dealt with the issue for far too long, and agreed that the Committee could already submit a Report to the Speaker. The claimants would obtain the Committee Report via the Speaker. It was not the duty of the Committee to engage directly with the claimants. The Committee had to engage with the Department, which it had done. Members had to work with the information that they had on hand. The information might not be sufficient but the Committee could not delay the issue any further.

The Chairperson wondered how, if a report was sent to the Speaker now, the Committee could elaborate on the Constantia claims, as it was not known who was negotiating with whom.

Hon Thembelani Nxesi, Deputy Minister for Rural Development and Land Reform, stated that the Committee could draft the Report based on the information that it had, but note that there were gaps that needed further elaboration. The Department could be given a week to come up with the information needed to fill the gaps.

Mr B Zulu (ANC) addressed the Committee in his mother tongue.

The Chairperson translated and stated that Mr Zulu reiterated earlier concerns that it was difficult finalise the Committee Report whilst there were gaps in the information before the Committee. Mr Zulu had suggested that the Committee perhaps should take a different route and undertake oversight visits. The Chairperson stated that Members seemed to be agreed that the Committee Report needed to be finalised and that gaps in information had to be dealt with.

Ms Steyn stated that if the Committee took the route of finalising the Committee Report whilst there were still gaps in the information, it must be aware that the petition had opened up a serious matter. There would be huge volumes of people coming forward with regards to land claims. The Committee had to decide on the limits of its involvement on the issue.

Ms L Mazibuko (DA) was unclear about jurisdiction. In the course of the meeting mention was made of the Department and of the Commission, and she was not sure who was giving the correct picture. She felt that the Committee did not have enough information to compile a Committee Report for the Speaker, and that perhaps the Department was using the Committee to submit an incomplete report. She was aware that the matter had dragged on for some time, but was worried about the perception whether the Committee was not interceding on behalf of the public.

The Chairperson stated that the Committee needed to take a decision. The Committee could collate the information that the Committee had, identify gaps and to report as such. In Constantia there was a list of claimants, and the Commission was negotiating for the release of land. The Commission was not aware which of the claimants wanted financial compensation and which wanted land. The other option open to the Committee was not to submit its Report while the information was incomplete. The
burning concern was that the petition issues had not been finalised, even though members’ questions had been answered. The Constantia claims facts were evident, but the Committee was still unsure about the outcome of negotiations.

The Chairperson the directed Members’ attention to the Stellenbosch land claims. He referred to the document dated 4 August 2010. This process was also in the negotiating stage, and was not concluded. The Stellenbosch claims were similar to the Constantia claims.

The Newlands and Claremont claims were also at the stage of negotiations, similar to those in Constantia and Stellenbosch. Negotiations were taking place with Cape Town Municipality and the Department of Public Works. The Commission considered the claims legitimate, and had a list of claimants. The situation was similar in Hout Bay. Some claimants wanted alternative pieces of land, so there were two groups, one wanting financial compensation and the other wanting land. In Kirstenbosch there were a number of beneficiaries, and the claim had been settled in the amount of R805 000. In Raapkraal there were four settled and four unsettled claims. There were a total of 24 beneficiaries.

The Chairperson reiterated that the Committee could use the information contained in documents to compile a Committee Report. The question remained how the Committee intended to follow up on the gaps in the information.

The Deputy Minister asked in which areas there were gaps.

The Chairperson responded that there were gaps in all areas. He stated that the Committee had dealt with specific claims and with general issues regarding the Commission. The last issue was a Constitutional matter that did not fall within the jurisdiction of the Commission, as it related to land claims in respect of land lost prior to 1913. The Commission only dealt with claims where land was lost after 1913. The Committee could raise the issue with the House, and this part of the petition needed to be handled differently. The matter could be dealt with by an Act of Parliament. The issue could also be highlighted in the Committee Report.

The Committee agreed.

The Chairperson summarised that the Committee would compile a Committee Report, using the information that was already to hand. It would also identify gaps that needed to be followed up. The Committee Report would contain recommendations. The Department would be given three days to provide the information that was needed to fill gaps. Even if the information was not received, the Committee Report would still be submitted to the Speaker.

The Committee agreed.

Other business
The Chairperson summarised the remaining meetings for March. On 16 March 2011 a meeting was scheduled to deal with the issue of farm dwellers and their living conditions. On 23 March, the Committee was having a capacity building workshop.

Ms Steyn asked what was scheduled for the last week of March, asking if the Committee could not meet with the Commission before the employment contracts ended at the end of March.

The Chairperson stated that the Committee’s last meeting would be with the Surveyor-General. The Commission would be dealt with after the Committee received a report from the Department. He also indicated to the Deputy Minister that a briefing on employment contracts in the Commission would be appreciated.

The meeting was adjourned.


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