Survey and registration of state-owned land, the creation of a comprehensive land register and the scarce skills training programme: briefing by the Department

Rural Development and Land Reform

27 February 2013
Chairperson: Mr P Sizani (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Surveyor-General and Director-General of the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform briefed the Committee on the surveying of State land and the progress that had been made in the compilation of a comprehensive land register.

Large tracts of unregistered vacant land, communal settlement areas and non-vested immovable State assets existed, particularly in the Eastern Cape, Limpopo and Mpumalanga provinces.  The Auditor-General had issued adverse audit findings to State entities that had been unable to ascertain the extent of the immovable property under their control.  The Office of the Surveyor-General had adopted a two-phase approach to the compilation of the land register.  The first phase aligned the property records of the Office of the Surveyor-General with the Deeds Office and was expected to be completed by the end of March 2013.  Since 2004, a total of 5.934 million Ha of un-surveyed State land had been surveyed and submitted to the Deeds Office for registration.  The data collected on 111,000 land parcels needed to be re-verified.  The second phase involved the recording of detailed property data.  A target date for the completion of the second phase was not provided.

Members ascertained that the 2.7 million hectares of land occupied by the Ingonyama Trust in KwaZulu Natal was classified as State-owned land.  Members asked questions about the ownership of tribal land; the transfer of property under the various land redistribution schemes; the issuing of title deeds to the beneficiary of free housing provided by the State and the difficulty in ascertaining what percentage of land was owned by the different race groups in the country.

The Surveyor-General undertook to provide the Committee with data on the extent of land that had been surveyed, not surveyed, registered and not registered in each province.  The Committee requested further reports on the strategy to address disputes over the ownership of property in tribal areas and the action that would be taken to resolve disputes over the ownership of property in tribal areas.

Although a verbal briefing was not provided, the Committee was provided with a report on the Department’s bursary scheme, the survey officers’ programme and the process to obtain accreditation for the programme.  A total 134 students were awarded bursaries for the 2013 academic year.  The number of students for the two-year survey officers’ programme was limited to 65 per intake.  Fifty-eight students who had successfully completed the survey officers’ programme from the 2008 and 2010 intakes went on to degree or diploma courses at tertiary institutions.  Eight students had failed to complete the programme.

Members of the Committee queried the action taken to recover tuition fees from those students who failed to successfully complete the courses; whether successful students were offered employment; the support provided to assist students to complete their articles for professional registration and the memoranda of understanding between the Department and universities.  The Committee suggested that the Department established a dedicated unit to monitor the performance of students.

Meeting report


Briefing by the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform (DRDLR) on the surveying of State land and the progress on the comprehensive land register
Mr Mduduzi Shabane, Director-General, DRDLR introduced the delegates from the Department.  Mr Mmuso Riba, Chief Surveyor-General, DRDLR presented the briefing to the Committee (see attached document).

Legislation required accurate and complete records of immovable assets to be kept by all State entities.  The Office of the Chief Surveyor-General was responsible for the survey and registration of all State land and the compilation of a comprehensive land register.  The Department had found that large tracts of unregistered vacant land, communal settlement areas and non-vested immovable State assets existed, particularly in the Eastern Cape, Limpopo and Mpumalanga provinces.  Statistical data of the number of unregistered, un-surveyed land parcels in these three provinces was included in the briefing.

Progress had been made in the physical verification of registered State land.  When the data was captured on the land register, it was found that the data forms submitted for 111,000 land parcels were incorrect.  The land parcels concerned had to be re-verified, resulting in a delay in the completion of the register.  The briefing included the extent in hectares (Ha) of State-owned and privately-owned land in each province.  Since 2004, a total of 5.934 million Ha of un-surveyed State land had been surveyed and submitted to the Deeds Office for registration.  The first phase of the land register project involved the alignment of the records kept by the Deeds Office and by the Office of the Surveyor-General.  Phase one would be completed by the end of March 2013.  The second phase involved the verification of detailed information on each land parcel.

Ms N November (ANC) asked which administrative districts in the Limpopo province were affected (the briefing document only listed abbreviations).  She asked if the Committee would receive a report when phase one of the project was completed at the end of March 2013.

Mr A Trollip (DA) recalled that the Director-General and the Deputy Minister were present when the Committee was briefed by the Public Service Commission (PSC) on the finding by the Auditor-General that the audit of State land had not been completed.  The information provided in the briefing indicated that much work still needed to be done by the DRDLR.  He asked for information on the status of State land in the other provinces.  He asked for more information on the re-verification of 111,000 parcels of land.  He asked how much unregistered State land remained and what the impact was on the land audit.  Government had set targets for land ownership, which was based on racial classification.  He asked why it was so difficult to get data on the land ownership of different race groups.  He wanted to know when phase two of the project would be completed.

Ms P Ngwenya-Mabila (ANC) appreciated the progress that had been made.  The report of the Auditor-General had expressed concern over the extent of the utilisation of consultants.  She understood that the DRDLR suffered from a shortage of skills and wanted to know what action was taken to develop internal capacity.  She asked if the target date for the completion of phase one would be met.

Mr J Van der Linde (DA) asked if the land owned by the Ingonyama Trust in KwaZulu Natal was included in the land owned by the State in that province.  He wanted to know how much land had been transferred under the various land redistribution programmes.  He asked how much State land was available for Government’s land reform programme.

Mr R Cebekhulu (IFP) asked if the information on the extent of State-owned land in the provinces was only for registered land parcels.  He asked if the data for KwaZulu Natal included the schools, clinics, police stations and other State institutions that had been built on land owned by the Ingonyama Trust.

Nkosi Z Mandela (ANC) asked if the land owned by traditional councils was included in the data for State land, particularly in the Eastern Cape province.

Mr Rajendh Salig, Chief Director: Cadastral Advisory and Research Services, DRDLR advised that the administrative districts in the Limpopo province were Bolobedu (LT), Mutale and Thohoyandou (H and MT) and Sekhukhuneland (KT).

Mr Riba undertook to include more detailed information in future briefings to the Committee.  The land audit should have been completed by the end of December 2012.  Most of the fieldwork to capture the data had been completed.  The Department found that the forms for 111,000 land parcels had been incorrectly completed by the field workers and that some of the data had been duplicated.  The data had to be physically re-captured and verified before it could be captured on the database.  The Department had a youth development and training programme in place to increase internal capacity and reduce the reliance on external consulting services.  He was confident that the target date of end March 2013 for phase one would be met.  The Deeds Office had not recorded the racial classification of the owners of land since 1994.  The Department had requested the assistance of the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) to obtain the information but had been informed that the information was not available.  The Statistician-General would be approached but it was not clear if Statistics South Africa (STATSSA) had the information.  The Registrar of Companies might be able to provide information on the racial composition of the owners of companies that owned land.  The Department was working with the Masters of the High Court to obtain information on the more than 100,000 trusts that owned parcels of land.  The problem was that the data on trusts was paper-based and the exercise to extract information was extremely time-consuming.  The audit of State-owned land involved establishing the exact location, extent, what improvements had been made and how the land was utilised by all the State entities.  The data included State-owned land that was in the process of being transferred to private ownership.  Once the register was completed, the information would be made available to the various State entities.  The entities would be in a position to better manage their asset registers.

Mr Riba confirmed that the land owned by the Ingonyama Trust Board (IBT) in KwaZulu Natal was included in the data for State land.  IBT owned 2.7 million Ha of land in the province.  All registered State Domestic Facilities (SDF’s) on land owned by IBT were included in the State land data.  Land owned by traditional authorities in the Eastern Cape and registered by the Deeds Office was included in the data for privately-owned land.  Likewise, land owned by the Royal Bafokeng and other tribes was classified as privately-owned land.  He conceded that there were a substantial number of surveyed but unregistered land parcels in the Eastern Cape.

Mr Trollip asked for data on the land in each province that had been surveyed, not surveyed, registered and not registered.

The Chairperson asked if there were any areas in the country that the Department had no information on.

Mr Riba conceded that it was possible that there were areas that had not been identified.  The data that was provided had been sourced from the Deeds Office in 2012 and needed to be brought up-to-date.  There was currently no electronic interface between the DRDLR and the Deeds Office.  State-owned land and land acquired by the State under the land reform programmes that had been transferred to beneficiaries was included in the data on privately-owned land.  He was unable to provide data on how much land was available for the land reform programme.  Vacant, unused land had been identified but such land was not necessarily suitable for transfer.

Nkosi Mandela asked if the ownership of a free RDP house would be transferred to the beneficiary and if the beneficiary would be given a title deed for the property.  The Committee had been informed that IBT did not own any land in KwaZulu Natal.  He asked if the Zulu nation or other indigenous tribes owned any land or if all the land traditionally occupied by the tribes belonged to the State.

Mr Shabane explained that the State was the de facto owner of the land, which rightfully belonged to the people who occupied it.  IBT was the custodian of the land occupied by the Zulu people.  Likewise, traditional leaders did not own the land occupied by the tribe.  The information in the briefing referred only to land that had been registered at the Deeds Office.  Certain parcels of land had not yet been registered and were excluded from the data provided.

Nkosi Mandela asked if the occupants of State-owned land could demand that the land was registered in the name of the tribe and that a title deed was issued.

The Chairperson said that the ownership of tribal lands was a policy matter that would be dealt with by the Minister.  He informed the Committee that the Select Committee on Public Accounts (SCOPA) would meet on 5 March 2013 to consider the issue of the excessive use of external consulting services by Government departments.  The Committee would also meet to discuss the use of consultants by the DRDLR.  The key issue was the development of a strategy that identified those areas where internal expertise and capacity needed to be developed, how this would be achieved and where it would not be possible to eliminate the use of external consultants and service providers.  He asked the Department to prepare a briefing to the Committee on the subject.

The Chairperson was aware of disputes over the name of property in KwaZulu Natal on title deeds.  He asked what the Department’s strategy was for dealing with such disputes.  The Committee and the Minister had visited areas where there were disputes over the ownership of land.  The Zulu were the subjects of the King and it was not the function of the State to impose colonialist practices.  He queried the unavailability of pre-1994 records, which did include the racial classification of the owners of property.  The information was necessary in order for Government to ascertain what progress had been made in the transformation of land ownership.  He asked when the re-verification of the data for the 111,000 parcels of land would be completed.

Mr Riba undertook to provide the data requested by Mr Trollip by the following week.

The Chairperson was aware that there were instances where there was private property on State-owned land and vice versa.  He asked the Director-General to investigate the matter and to submit a report to the Committee, indicating how the Department planned to deal with it.

Briefing on the bursary scheme, the survey officer programme and the accreditation process
A verbal briefing on the Department’s bursary scheme, survey officer programme and accreditation process was not presented.

Ms Ngwenya-Mabila asked how the beneficiaries of the bursary scheme and survey officer programme were monitored and what action was taken if students dropped out.  She asked what the Department’s strategy was to transform the surveying profession.  She wanted to know how many trainees had been appointed by the DRDLR and by other Departments.  Students had complained that it was difficult to qualify for registration as professional surveyors.  She asked what assistance was provided by the Department to assist the students to complete their articles.  The report on the scarce skills training programme submitted by the Department indicated that only one candidate from the 2008 intake for the survey officer course had failed to complete the course.  Sixty-four students had passed the course, of which 30 had continued with tertiary studies.  She asked what had happened to the other 34 students.  Seven students had dropped out of the 2010 intake.  Twenty-eight students had progressed to tertiary training but no information was provided on the remaining 30 students.

Ms November asked if the students were required to sign a contract with the Department.  She asked what action was taken to ensure that students who dropped out or failed the training courses paid back the costs incurred by the Department.  The briefing document listed the milestones reached in the accreditation process only to the end of 2011.  She wondered what had been achieved subsequently.

Mr Trollip found the report on the scarce skills training programme difficult to understand.  He applauded the Department for taking the initiative to address the issue of the transformation of the profession.  It was obvious that progress had been made since 2006.  He asked for a report that included the names of the students, the name of the institution offering the courses and what the results had been for each intake.  He expected the Department to manage student data and to be in a position to provide the necessary information.

Nkosi Mandela asked for information on students from the Eastern Cape province.  He asked if students returned to work in their provinces of origin or remained in the cities where they had studied.

The Chairperson suggested that the Department considered implementing a system that had been developed to record data and manage the performance of students.  In addition, the Department needed to monitor the availability of internal capacity and be aware of any skilled personnel who were due to retire.  South Africa should be in a position where technical skills were developed to such an extent that the country could afford to export skilled people to other countries.  He asked if bursary students and trainees signed contracts that allowed for the recovery of costs if the student dropped out and if the Department could assure jobs for the successful students on graduation.

Mr Siyabonga Mdubeki, Chief Director: Cadastral Spatial Information, DRDLR advised that the Department’s Corporate Support division dealt with the bursary students.  The Department engaged with the tertiary institution on the registration of students.

The Chairperson was not satisfied that the DRDLR had an adequate system in place for the monitoring of bursary students and trainees.  He suggested that a dedicated unit was established and that a monitoring system was implemented that would allow the Committee to verify the information provided on the Department’s skills development plan.

Mr Riba advised that the students had to sign a contract with the Department.  The contract included provisions requiring the student to work for the Department for a specified number of years after graduation.  The contract was co-signed by the parents of the student.  The contract was clear that the tuition fees had to be repaid if the student dropped out or failed the course.  The low standard of basic education (particularly in rural areas) resulted in some students finding it difficult to pass the courses offered by universities but performed better at the technical institutions.

The Chairperson said that the Committee was aware that the Department had written off the debt owed by unsuccessful students.  It was clear that the Department had not adequately monitored the students or managed the contracts that had been signed.  The Department needed to introduce a system to recover unpaid tuition fees from the 2010/11 financial year onwards.  The Committee required progress reports to be submitted in future.

Mr Riba agreed to the Committee’s request.  Although the DRDLR had a programme in place to address the skills shortage, the surveying profession in general suffered from a shortage of skilled persons.  In one case, the Department had a contract with a surveyor who was 83 years of age.  (The Committee regarded this case as an example of the failure to adequately manage contracts).  The Department assisted students to complete their articles and undertook to provide work experience.  However, the type of land surveying done by the DRDLR was limited and the students did not have the necessary exposure to all the disciplines required for professional qualification.  For example, the Department did not undertake any engineering surveying.

The Chairperson asked for further clarity.  Mr Trollip understood that candidates with a university degree need to complete their articles before they applied for registration as professional surveyors.  Technicians commenced work immediately after completing a non-degree course.

Mr Riba advised that the technicians were also required to pass a board examination before being registered with the controlling body. 

The Chairperson asked for what types of surveying work was done only by the private sector.

Mr Riba explained that all work done by private sector land surveyors were forwarded to the Office of the Surveyor-General for quality control work in terms of the Land Surveying Act.  The Surveyor-General would approve the diagram of the property.  The owner of the property appointed a conveyancing attorney to register the property at the Deeds Office.  Surveying disciples not undertaken by the Department included engineering and geolithic surveys.

The Department employed all the students who had passed the 24-month Survey Officer training programme.  These students could apply to tertiary institutions for the degree course.  Members of the Committee would be invited to attend future graduation ceremonies.  The Accreditation process had commenced in 2011.  Full accreditation status would be awarded by CETA once the necessary site visits and training evaluation processes had been finalised.

The student data compiled by the Department included which provinces the students came from.  The Department had targeted the rural areas to recruit students for the training programme and tried to achieve gender equality amongst the students.  Students who had successfully completed the training programme were deployed at the various offices of the Surveyor-General throughout the country.  Mr Riba admitted that the recently-established offices in the Eastern Cape, North-West, Mpumalanga and Limpopo provinces were experiencing difficulties as a result of the lack of experience of personnel.  Staff in these offices required further training on the processes followed by the Surveyor-General.

Ms Ngwenya-Mabila asked why the intake for the Surveyor Officer programme was limited to 65 students.  She asked what the status was of the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the Department and the universities.

Mr Riba advised that the capacity of the training facility in the Department’s Pretoria offices was restricted to 65 students.  The main purpose of the programme was to bridge the gap between schooling and the course offered at tertiary institutions.  The students had a good grasp of the subject before they entered university, unlike most students who went straight to university from school.  Five tertiary institutions had offered courses in surveying in the past.  The Universities of Cape Town and KwaZulu Natal also planned the closure of the surveying departments because of a lack of interest.  The agreement reached was that the DRDLR would provide a number of students instead of funding the departments.  Although the Department was unable to meet the targets that were set in the MOU, at least the training needs of the profession could be sustained.

The Chairperson conceded that the Government’s decision to close down the teacher and nursing training colleges had been a mistake.  He thought that South Africa should train more professionals than the country actually required.

Ms Ngwenya-Mabila asked that Members were kept informed when the Department recruited new intakes of students as the Members were in a position to assist by canvassing in their constituencies.  She ascertained that the Department advertised the bursary scheme in the year prior to the academic year.

The meeting was adjourned.

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