Election of the Chairperson, Terms of Reference, future plans

Ad Hoc Committee on the 1913 Native Land Act

06 August 2013
Chairperson: Mr J Thibedi (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

An Ad Hoc Committee to exercise Co-ordinated Oversight on the Legacy of the Native Land Act of 1913 was established on 6 June 2013, by resolution of the National Assembly (NA). This was its first meeting, and Members firstly elected Mr J Thibedi (ANC) as Chairperson. He proceeded to outline the terms of reference and the mandate given to the Committee by the NA. The Committee was required to complete its work and report to the NA by 20 September 2013. The Committee was required to enquire into the systems put in place for, and to monitor processes towards, the re-opening of the Iodgment of land claims. In this regard, the Committee was not required to invent anything new, but rather collate information that should already be available. The Committee was also required to make recommendations on how best to respond to any challenges. The Committee was also required to assess the extent to which the current programmes of land reform and rural development had addressed the Iegacy of the Native Land Act of 1913, especially with regard to land divisions and agricultural development, to assess the success or otherwise of existing land restitution programmes, and make recommendations on how to address any blockages.

On 16 August the Chief Land Claims Commissioner would be addressing the Committee on the systems in place for re-opening of land claims. A two-day workshop was proposed for 22 to 24 August, at which proposals and issues raised during the previous workshop in June should be re-examined and debated, with a view to making recommendations to assist the NA in identifying needs and formulating processes to improve the current process. The Committee would conduct oversight visits to three provinces, KwaZulu Natal, Limpopo and North West, splitting into smaller groups to cover more areas, but ensuring that every Member gained insight into issues specific to each province, from 1 to 6 September. The findings from the workshop and oversight visits would then be debated on 13 and 18 September, when the Committee would be able to formulate some recommendations. It was recognised that the programme was ambitious, but Members were unanimous in their acceptance of the importance of the work, and, after a short debate, decided t hold meetings on Mondays. The Speaker would be asked to write to all political parties informing them of the Committee’s mandate and requesting that Members be released from constituency duties on Mondays for that period. Members requested clarity on why those three provinces had been chosen, and were informed of specific issues related to each, and debated the oversight visit arrangements. The next meeting was agreed upon for 16 August.

Meeting report

Opening Remarks
Ms Pumla Nyamza, Committee Secretary, welcomed Members of the Ad Hoc Committee to the meeting. She summarised that this Ad Hoc Committee to exercise Co-ordinated Oversight on the Legacy of the Native Land Act of 1913 was established by resolution of the National Assembly (NA) on 6 June 2013, in terms of Rule 214. The Ad Hoc Committee consisted of twelve members, drawn from the Portfolio Committees on Rural Development and Land Reform, Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Arts and Culture, Public Works, Human Settlements; and Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, in accordance with the following proportions: ANC 11, DA 4, COPE 3, IFP 1 and other parties 1.

Election of the Chairperson
Ms Nyamza called upon Committee Members to nominate a Chairperson.

Ms C Mabuza (ANC) nominated Mr J Thibedi (ANC) to be the Chairperson of the Ad Hoc Committee. This nomination was seconded by Mr S Ntapane (UDM).

Ms A Dreyer (DA) nominated Mr S Mokgalapa (DA) to be the Chairperson of the Ad Hoc Committee.

The two nominations were put on a vote, and because the majority voted for Mr Thibedi, he was declared Chairperson of the Ad Hoc Committee.

Chairperson’s summary: Terms of Reference
The Chairperson thanked the Ad Hoc Committee for electing and showing confidence in him.

He noted that the Terms of Reference for the setting up of the Committee had been summarised by Ms Nyamza, and this Committee must continue with the work determining its formation. The resolution was taken just as Parliament went into recess. The deadline for the Committee to complete its work was 20 September 2013, when it must submit a report to the NA, unless the House decided otherwise.

The first part of the NA’s resolution dealt with the composition of the Ad Hoc Committee. The second part stated that this ad hoc Committee should enquire about the systems put in place for, and to monitor processes towards, the re-opening of the Iodgment of land claims so that the Commission on Restitution of Land Rights could implement a programme “that is fair and transparent to all South Africans”.

He noted that this was quite a large task, but wanted to emphasise that the role of the Committee was not to invent something new, but rather to collate information that was already in existence, using it to make an assessment as to the level of progress. The Committee could also make recommendations on how best to respond to the challenges. At the moment, Members were not sure of the exact status of progress, and must therefore determine this, and report to the House.

The third portion of the NA resolution spoke to the Committee assessing the extent to which the current programmes of land reform and rural development had addressed the Iegacy of the Native Land Act of 1913, especially with regard to the land divisions and agricultural development. The Committee was also requested to assess the success or otherwise of the land restitution programmes, and make recommendations on the removal of blockages preventing the restitution of land.

Page 5 of the document set out a table giving guidance to the Committee on how to take the process forward, and the Committee would engage specifically on that during its next meeting. The first column of that table emphasised the mandate that had been read out. The third column of that table was more important, because it spoke to the activities.

The Chairperson noted that there was a proposal that on 16 August the Chief Land Claims Commissioner of the Commission on Restitution of Land Rights (CRLR) should brief the Committee on the systems that were put in place for monitoring the process towards the re-opening of lodging of claims. The President, in the State of the Nation Address, had noted that the land restitution process should be re-opened, to accommodate, amongst others, the Khoi and San who had lost their traditional land prior to the 1913 Act. It was proposed that the Commissioner brief the Committee on the legislative and administrative processes, the dates for re-opening of lodgments, and proposed amendments. It was hoped that by now the Commissioner had systems in place to address the President’s requests.

The second mandate of the Committee, as set out in the document tabled, was to assess the extent to which the existing programmes of Land Reform and Rural Development had address the legacy of the 1913 Land Act. It had been proposed that a two-day workshop should be convened to critically examine the proposed policies to implement programmes of land reform, and to synthesise proposals made at the workshop. There was therefore a proposal that a workshop be held from 22 to 24 August 2013, which should include people who were part of the previous process, such as NGOs who had assisted claimants and who could also proffer comments on whether the process of land reform had addressed the legacy of the past legislation. People with extensive research backgrounds and knowledge, and those with access to substantial information, were needed to assist the Committee in formulating a well informed approach. This would enable the Committee to make recommendations to help the NA identify blockages and decide what mechanisms needed to be put in place to address them. He added that there had already been some findings by the Commissioner, based on information at the disposal of the CRLR.

In relation to the mandate to assess the success or otherwise of the Land Restitution Programme to date, the Chairperson noted that there was a proposal that this Committee conduct oversight visits to three provinces - KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo and North West. Preferably, the whole Committee should attend to one provinces’ visit simultaneously, but it could divide into sub-groups to target several areas in one province. It was proposed that the oversight visits to the three provinces be scheduled from 1 to 6 September 2013.

The final mandate called for recommendations on how to address the backlogs hindering the restitution of land. The suggestion was that the Ad Hoc Committee should deliberate on the findings gained from oversight visits, and craft recommendations from these. It was proposed that meetings to deliberate on the findings and recommendations be held on 13 and 18 of September 2013. The Chairperson noted that the Committee would have to engage with the Programming Committee on that point, because 18 September fell in Committee week, when there was no plenary.

The Chairperson concluded that that was a very ambitious programme for the time available, but the Members would do whatever they could to ensure that by the final deadline the Committee was able to submit a report. Whilst it must be recognised that the Committee, in view of the recess, had only been able to embark upon its work on 6 August, it would not be useful for Members to debate whether they could do the work, but rather focus on trying to finalise the work within the deadline, and address any problems as they arose.

Mr J Steenhuisen (DA) asked how the two-day workshop would differ from the workshop one month previously, marking the centenary of the Native Land Act of 1913, when there had been some oversight on whether Parliament had managed to reverse the legacy of that legislation.

Ms N Dambuza (ANC) requested that Members should let the Chairperson finish before making comments.

The Chairperson responded that he was actually finished, and called for comment.

Mr Tshililo Manenzhe, Committee Content Adviser, said that what was presented was a proposal that should help the Committee to take the process forward.

In answer to Mr Steenhuisen, he reminded Members that at the end of that workshop the suggestion was made that experts should be identified who could assist the Committee on key policy issues emerging. Professor Hall, from the University of the Western Cape, had raised six strategic questions, and he suggested that perhaps those questions should form the framework for a policy proposal, and that open discussion on those was needed between Members, members of the provincial legislatures who had attended the workshop, and other stakeholders, to see if there was some common ground to be found. There were several angles apparent in those who had attended the previous workshop. For instance, they had differing understandings of the communal land system, and differing views around private land title, free hold title versus some kind of communal approach to housing, and many of the issues had been raised but “left hanging”. It would be important in the forthcoming workshop to take those issues further. In this sense, the new workshop would not repeat the presentations, but would engage further on policy issues, and try to reach some resolutions on the Green Paper on Land Reform and the range of issues raised.

Mr S Mokgalapa (DA) asked whether the three provinces suggested for oversight were chosen for a particular theme, whether they were chosen for geographical alignment, or for another strategic reason.

Mr Manenzhe said that the visits to these provinces had been raised by the Chairperson, after the workshop of 7 and 8 June, when it was clear that various issues of importance had been raised by the public pertaining to those areas specifically, that warranted a visit.

North West was chosen because there were specific strategic themes arising in that area. Important issues were raised about mining, traditional leaders in that community, access and control of resources linking to the communal land system, who owned and had control, and who allocated what. Engagement and discussion were needed with communities there. He reminded Members that they would have to assess the effects of restitution to date, and this would have to be linked to land claims, to identify the shortcomings, the successes and decide on recommendations. In KwaZulu Natal there had been strong issues around women’s land rights. In Limpopo there were issues about Communal Property Associations and traditional leadership, and how restitution began to resolve some of those issues. Whilst there was no “scientific” decision on the provinces, all those issues came out from the previous workshop.

Mr M Swathe (DA) said that his concern related to the way in which the Committee would be grouped when doing oversight. He wondered if the Committee should not split only for some areas, to save time.

The Chairperson said that the motivation behind the suggestion to split the Committee was based on the short life-span of the Committee. If all Members traveled to one province, all the groups would get a better sense of what was happening in that province, as opposed to hearing reports from others who had visited a different province. The greatest impact could be achieved by all Committee Members visiting every province, but covering many areas by then splitting into smaller groups.

Ms N Ngwenya-Mabila (ANC) believed that that was a good programme, and Members had to ensure that it was implemented, although there were time constraints. She proposed that the Committee should meet on Mondays instead of Fridays, continuing with the other business of Parliament on Tuesdays. She pointed out that many Members had to rush to catch flights on Fridays, making it awkward for the whole Committee to engage with the departments.

Ms Dreyer thought that Ms Ngwenya-Mabila’s suggestion to allocate Mondays for meetings would be problematic, because Monday was a constituency day. She would prefer to meet on a Friday.

Ms L Moss (ANC) emphasised that, given the short timeframe and the fact that this was an ad hoc Committee, Members were pressed for time, and should be flexible. The Committee had a limited time frame, and if the mandate of the Committee meant that some Members may have to compromise their constituency days, for a short period, then so be it, to ensure that Members were able to fulfil the ad hoc mandate.

The Chairperson agreed that a degree of flexibility was very important, as alluded to by Ms Moss, especially given that this would not be a permanent arrangement, but one that would pertain only until end-September. He asked Members to agree to sitting on a Monday, to finish the work.

Ms T Sunduza (ANC) requested that the Speaker of the House should write a letter to the different political parties, to be referred to the Provincial Secretaries, so that it was clear that Members were mandated by the NA to undertake the work of this ad hoc Committee.

The Committee agreed.

The Chairperson confirmed that he would write to the Office of the Speaker to request that this Office inform all political parties officially of the mandate and the commitments of Members of this Committee.

The Chairperson summarised that when doing its work the Ad Hoc Committee would be guided by the following documents:
- The Report of the Workshop to mark the Centenary of the 1913 Land Act, held on 7 and 8 June
- The Report on the Oversight Visit to North West Province in May
- The Report of the Commission on the Restitution of Land Rights
- Any other available report, for instance reports on the Expropriation Amendment Bill, that might address issues relating directly to the mandate of this Committee.

The Chairperson noted that the next meeting would be on 19 August.

The meeting was adjourned.


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