The previous Chairperson of the Committee, Mr S Sizani (ANC) was deployed to be Chief Whip of the African National Congress. Mr J Thibedi (ANC) was elected to fill the vacancy of Committee Chairperson.
Two members of the public made oral submissions to the Committee on the Deeds Registries and Sectional Titles Amendment Bill (B4-2013). The first submission by the Suburban Housing Action Campaign (SHAC) pointed out that the RDP houses delivered by the Department did not provide title deeds. This resulted in major disputes about titles and a high volume of informal transactions of titles and the secondary market was not fully developed. Home owners decided to enter into informal transactions because most did not have titles. Also the formal process of transfers was too technical and expensive. Communities had therefore developed an informal system of transfer called the “chair-to-chair” using a police affidavit or the South African National Civic Organisation. Even though the process worked, it created a new set of problems. The proposed solution was a process similar to that of car registration. The Deeds Registries Amendment Bill should provide that the local authority be empowered to open a register of residentially zoned property under R 200 000 in local authority valuation. Any occupant be able to register ownership of an erf with the local authority at a fee of R500. This licensing would be transferable between parties on registration.
Members raised a number of questions, some pertained to the legitimacy of the process, and whether the documents of transfer would be seen as legitimate during legal disputes; whether the new process would include transfers in rural areas; and what were the measures to protect home owners from fraudulent licenses.
The second submission by the N’Gcingca Family Trust dealt with the unfair forced removal of black people from the land they owned as the previous government did not acknowledge the existence of a black middle class which owned land.
Members said the agenda of the submission was out of order, because it did not cover what appeared in the Bills under discussion. As valid as the concerns raised were, they had to be redirected to the Land Claims Court. However, one aspect which was relevant was the incorrect spelling of surnames in Deeds Registry. The Committee as well as representatives from the Department agreed to assist Mr Gcingca in dealing with his claim and assessing how far the court was in addressing the matter.
In response to the submissions, the Acting Chief Registrar said government was aware of the black market where RDP houses were being transferred informally. The registering of land was not an easy process, and this contributed to the seemingly slow process of handing over titles.
Election of Chairperson
The Committee Secretary noted that the previous Committee Chairperson Mr S Sizani (ANC) had been deployed as Chief Whip of the African National Congress. Members were asked to elect the new permanent Chairperson of the Committee. Ms H Matlanyane (ANC) nominated Mr J Thibedi (ANC) and Ms P Xaba (ANC) seconded the nomination. Mr J Thibedi (ANC) was elected as permanent Committee Chairperson.
The Committee Secretary outlined the roles and responsibilities of the Chairperson: to preside over all the meetings of the Committee, to act in any matter on behalf of the Committee when it is not practical to arrange a meeting with all Committee Members to discuss the matter, request a person to make a presentation to the Committee, to report to the Committee on all matters which concern Members.
The Chairperson thanked the Committee for electing him. He said the cooperation of all Committee Members would be highly appreciated in order to fully execute the mandate of the Committee. He was certain that the Committee would facilitate the creation of conducive conditions for South African people to use the land for the improvement of their well-being.
Suburban Housing Action Campaign (SHAC) submission on Deeds Registries Amendment Bill
Mr Bovain Macnab, SHAC Director, thanked the Chairperson for the opportunity to participate. His submission was to highlight a long standing policy issue within the Department of Human Settlement. The concerns were that the RDP houses delivered by the Department resulted in major disputes about titles as the titles were not handed over to the owner by the Department and the formal transfer process was complex and costly.
In a study done in 2006, results indicated that in Du Noon township in Cape Town, 36% of RDP houses were informally transferred. The MEC of Housing in the Western Cape acknowledged that 65 000 RDP houses did not have titles. About two-thirds of South Africans live in urban areas and many have conducted informal transfers of their houses because the formal process was too technical and expensive. These home owners were therefore suffering a loss. A secondary markets to transfer their homes formally was therefore needed in order to safeguard these vulnerable home owners. As the secondary market was not fully developed, communities have therefore developed an informal system of transfer called the “chair-to-chair” - using a police affidavit or the South African National Civic Organisation, SANCO.
However, this process created its own set of problems, even though it works. These problems include occupants do not show as owners, municipalities cannot collect rates and services from absent owners, divorced women and inheritor rights are lost and asset-backed finance cannot be raised. Most of all, properties in an informal transfer transact at a significant discount (R30 000 instead of R80 000).
The proposed solution was a process similar to that of car registration or a driving licence. The Deeds Registries Amendment Bill should provide that the local authority be empowered to open a register of residentially zoned property under R 200 000 in local authority valuation, and that any occupant be able to register ownership of an erf with the local authority at a fee of R500. This licensing would be transferable between parties on registration.
On the incorrect spelling of surnames, he said the Deeds Office did not know which surnames were incorrect, because the office used the surnames stipulated in Identity Documents.
Mr K Mileham (DA) congratulated the Chairperson on his election. He asked SHAC whether the proposed solution would entail full rights to the property.
Mr M Swathe (DA) asked whether the titles deeds officiated through the SHAC proposal would be officially recognised at a national level.
Mr S Ntapane (UDM) asked what the problem was with the present arrangement.
Ms P Ngwenya-Mabila (ANC) referred to the “informal processes” and asked that these informal processes be unpacked for the Committee, together with the consequences which arose as a result.
Mr Macnab replied that the current process was a two-tier process and the proposal was that it be replaced with a new process. The new process would involve full title, and would be treated in the same way as car registrations and purchases. The problem with the current process was that it took abnormally long for municipalities to extend RDP home titles to home owners because the formal process was too long and complex. As a result, people conducted informal transfers with uninformed decisions; losing a lot of money in the process.
Mr Mileham commended Mr Macnab about the proposed solution to RDP home owners not having titles to their homes. However he raised a concern about whether the new process would prevent fraudulent transfers and the hijacking of other people’s property.
Ms Matlanyane asked if Mr Macnab had looked at the existing processes which were implemented by the Department with regard to RDP transactions.
Mr Swathe asked if the proposal would include titles in rural areas, or whether it was limited to only urban RDP houses.
The Chairperson asked whether the affidavit document arranged by SANCO, authorised by the police, would be a legitimate document recognisable during a dispute. What measures were there to protect home owners from fraudulent licences?
Mr Mcnab replied that the proposed solution would in fact prevent fraudulent transactions as much as possible, however it was not a perfect solution, and there was work which still needed to do done to improve the process. He added that the Department’s pre-emptive clause which stipulates that in the first 5-8 year period of an RDP home ownership, the homeowner was not allowed to sell it because it was a house provided for by the state, and so it should not be disposed of. The problem with this clause was that it disempowered home owners as people transferred houses anyway, and because it took a long time to get titles, most home owners operate at huge losses. The state should therefore facilitate the transfer of these RDP houses instead.
As for rural areas, Mr Mcnab said the matter was tied in with communal land holdings and the Communal Land Rights Act (CLARA). Currently, the RDP process was only implanted at municipality levels. However as time progressed, it would be extended to rural areas as well. On the chair-to-chair informal process, the street committee letter and affidavit had no legal standing during a dispute. The document served to give protection on the street for an informal transaction. However, further areas with the new process needed to be developed. The R500 registration was there to resolve disputes.
The Chairperson thanked Mr Macnab and said the Committee would further engage with the submission.
N'Gcingca Family Trust submission on Deeds Registries Amendment Bill
Mr Ntandazo Gcingca spoke about the land claims of the Gcingca Family Trust. He said the Deeds Registry records of the N’Gcingca family dated back to 1891. He highlighted that the records of these Deeds Registry had the names of the family changed from N’Gcingca to Gcingca, and this was an error which needed to be rectified. The family had owned huge acres of commercial land, which was unfairly taken away by the previous government on the basis of colour and race, without any compensation. Black people were prevented from owning land. The Supreme Courts at the time also “cooked the books” in favour of white land owners. The Gcingca family therefore wanted to rectify the injustices which took place from 1913, because the government at the time did not recognise or accept the existence of a black middle class.
The Chairperson thanked Mr Gcingca and said the Committee would further engage the submission.
Mr Mileham thanked Mr Gcingca for the submission. However, he highlighted that the agenda of the submission was out of order; and the submission should have been redirected to Land Claims. The issues raised in the submission were not relevant to the Deeds Registries Amendment Bill. However, one aspect which could be of relevance to the Committee’s current discussion was that of incorrect registration of surnames in the Deeds Registry. The Committee would therefore consider that matter further.
Mr Ntaphane agreed with Mr Mileham that the submission was not relevant to the Deeds Registries and Sectional Titles Amendment Bills.
Nkosi M Mandela (ANC) congratulated the Chairperson on his election as the new Chairperson of the Committee. He then concurred with the previous Members that the matter was one relevant for the Land Claims Court. He offered to assist Mr Gcingca with applications to the courts.
Ms Matlanyane agreed with the previous Members that the matter was not relevant to the Amendment Bill. What was relevant were the errors in the registration of surnames, and these needed to be corrected.
Mr Swathe asked whether the surname of the current Gcingca family members was still incorrectly spelt in their Identity Documents or whether the family members had changed them to the correct spelling.
The Chairperson said according to the submission, the family had submitted a land claim in 1998. He wondered how far the process was.
Mr Gcingca replied that the family had not yet received any feedback from the Department with regards to their land claim.
The Chairperson thanked the presenter for his submission. The Committee would assist the family in trying to find out from Land Claims how far the process was. He advised Mr Gcingca that he took the advice being offered to him and pursue the matter further with the Land Claims Court. He admitted that the government process seemed to be very slow.
Mr Gcingca thanked the Chairperson and agreed with the advice from the Members.
The Chairperson said the Committee would assist Mr Gcingca in liaising with the Land Claims Court to try and find out how far the process was.
Response to Submissions by Department of Rural Development and Land Reform
Mr Brian Mbatha, Acting Chief Registrar of Deeds, relayed that the Director General sent his apologies for not attending the meeting. He then thanked the presenters for their submissions. The submissions did not directly address issues raised by the Department in the Bill. He said the Committee was supposed to visit the Deeds Office a while ago, but this visit had not taken place. He said the visit would have assisted the Committee in having a broader understanding of the processes of the Deeds Office. He then asked that the Secretary speed up the visit.
Mr Rata responded to the first submission by Mr Macnab and said government was aware of the black market where RDP houses were being transferred informally. The registering of land was not an easy process, and this contributed to the seemingly slow process of handing over titles. There were therefore various matters which first needed to be taken into account. Registering land was not as simple as registering a car. However, government had decentralised these services to include municipalities, in the hope that the title registration process would move more swiftly. Costs and access to the services were also major challenges which still needed to be addressed. On the incorrect spelling of surnames, he said the Deeds Office did not know which surnames were incorrect, because the office used the surnames stipulated in Identity Documents. However, the Department would assist the Gcingca family in rectifying the spelling errors. Hijacking of surnames was a reality, and so the Department needed to be sensitive in addressing land claims on the basis of people sharing a surname.
Mr George Tsotesti, Registrar of Deeds, Department of Rural Development and Land Reform, said the Deeds Office was not responsible for creating title deeds; the municipality was responsible for transfers of houses to the relevant owners. It was also not the Deeds Office which demanded rates from home owners; it was municipalities, operating under the Municipal Systems Act, Section 118. The section states that the current owner, before transferring titles, should clear all rates owing.
Ms Antoinette Reynolds, Deputy Registrar of Deeds, Department of Rural Development and Land Reform, said the Deeds Registrar’s Office was not familiar with deeds licensing, it was a municipal function to make sure that people had access to housing. Outstanding matters would be referred to the registrations board before any changes were made.
The Chairperson said Mr Gcingca should link up with the Department for further assistance. He noted and appreciated all submissions made.
Centenary of 1913 Native Land Act
The Chairperson reminded Members that the matter had been raised in previous discussions and that the Committee should lead the discussion on the matter. However Members had not reached any consensus on the matter and it would therefore continue to appear on the Committee agenda until it was dealt with.
Adoption of Committee minutes
The Committee adopted the minutes of the 12 June 2013.
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