The Chief Land Claims Commissioner from the Commission of Restitution of Land Rights presented the strategic plan for 2015-2020 as well as the Annual Performance Plan 2015/2016 to the Committee. She emphasised that there was still a need for the Commission to be clearly delineated in function and fact from the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform (DRDLR) particularly since the Commission reported directly to the Minister. It was later noted that it was already part way on the process, with the electronic record shift being completed, and part of the restitution function, but that it was still administratively dependent on that Department. The issue of inadequate communication and awareness-raising on the part of the Commission was acknowledged, and there were efforts already directed to resolving that, including the unveiling for use, in the current year, of mobile lodgment offices. The Commission had not received sufficient budget and had therefore requested permission, and had already, reprioritised its budget, by shifting amounts from capital transfers from the household budget to fund the additional lodgment posts needed as well as critical posts for senior management and legal staff, and there had also been reprioritisation of funding for goods and services. The budget for the following two years was R3.2 billion and R3.4 billion, to take account of some claims. The main risk was a budgetary one, since insufficient budget would affect the settlement of large claims. It was hoped that 463 land claims would be settled in the current financial yer and 373 finalised. There were a number of claims outstanding from the 1998 lodgments, which needed more research, but it was hoped that 2 660 of these would be settled also across the 14 operational lodgmenet offices and two mobile offices.
Members asked why the cases were taking so long to be settled, and wanted reports on the disciplinary issues before the Commission, and the types of cases, and how much they were likely to cost. The Commission noted that the delays were not always in the control of the Commission since many cases were in Court but highlighted that the Special Investigating Unit was also involved. Members were worried about the challenges of human resources and asked if the right staff were in the right positions. They pointed out that it was largely because of insufficient communication in the past that this second round of lodgments was necessary and wanted to know how exactly the Commission would communicate, and pointed out some creative ways to source information. They asked for clarity on the reprioritisation. Two invitations were then tabled by the Committee Secretary and the Chairperson asked that, despite the very late notice, any Member able to attend a workshop of the Portfolio Committee on Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries should feel free to attend.
Chairperson's opening remarks
The Chairperson acknowledged the progress done with the unveiling of the mobile lodgment offices by the Commission on the Restitution of Land Rights (CRLR or the Commission) and noted that the programmes initiated should be follow up. There should be work done to raise awareness of qualifications to lodge claims, and documents that would need to be produced. In addition, the Committee wanted to be given a programme so that it could monitor the availability of the mobile lodgment offices in specific areas and on specific dates.
Commission on Restitution of Land Rights: Strategic Plan 2015-2020 and Annual Performance Plan 2015/16 briefing
Ms Nomfundo Gobodo, Chief Land Claims Commissioner, Commission on Restitution of Land Rights, took the Committee through the Strategic Plan 2015-2010 and the Annual Performance Plan 2015/15 (see attached document for full details).
She stated that the Commission had adopted the McKinsey7 framework as a management tool in achieving its goals. Explaining each part of the framework, she emphasised the need to define the mandate of the Commission, as it had been observed in times past that there was often usually a clash in the functions and responsibilities of the Department and the Commission. There was a need for the Commission to be autonomous.
The issue of inadequate communication and awareness-raising on the part of the Commission was acknowledged. There were already efforts being made to remedy that situation. An example was the unveiling of the mobile lodgment offices.
Ms Francis McMenamin, Director: Commission findings: Department of Rural Development and Land Reform, spoke to the resource considerations of the strategic plan. She stated that R246 billion was received as the total sum for the current financial year 2015/2016. The original allocation for compensation of employees (COE) was below R246 million rand, but because of the additional lodgment staff, and critical posts for senior managers and legal staff, the Commission had to reprioritise within the budget, by using the money from capital transfers from the household budget to fund the additional lodgment posts. Capital transfers are the monies from which the household budgets are paid and it was reduced by R116 million to arrive at a total of R2.1 million. There was also a reprioritisation of funding for goods and services, which amounted to a total of R168 million. This then amounted to R312 million in the total allocation for COE.
For 2016/2017 and 2017/2018, the Commission had budgeted R3.2 billion and R3.4 billion respectively. This was due to an increase from R2.2 billion to R2.7 billion allocated for certain claims in the outer year.
Ms Gobodo went on to identify the risks facing the Commission, with emphasis on the budgetary risks, stating that limited allocated budget would affect the settlement of large claims per year.
Speaking to the Annual Performance Plan, she noted that the target for the number of settled land claims for year 2015/2016 is 463, while the number of finalised land claims is 373. Research had to be increased in order to meet the target for the number of claims lodged by 1998, which had been set at 2 660.
She noted that there were 14 operational lodgment offices, and in this year, it was intended to make the two 4x4 mobile offices begin their operations, in addition to those 14.
Mr E Nchabeleng (ANC) wanted to know the range of the outstanding litigation, and why these cases were taking so long to be settled.
Mr Nchabeleng also asked how many disciplinary issues of staff were before the Commission, and the type of case, investigations, or suspensions. He wondered whether many would be settled in this financial year.
Ms Gobodo responded that a register of the current cases that were in court would be provided to the Committee. The issue around litigation was that it was, most times, outside the control of the Commission as the Restitution Act allowed claimants to go directly to court even though the Commission was in the process of settling the claim. For cases that have been long standing in court, like the Malamala claim which had been the subject of a court dispute since 2008, the Commission would still seek opportunities to settle these out of court. Towards the end of last year, there were about 305 cases that were before the court, at various stages.
The disciplinary issues of staff were handled under the ambit of the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform (DRDLR or the Department) but the report on the number of cases would also be submitted to the Committee.
Ms M Magadla (ANC) raised the issue of delays in the settlement of claims as well as the actualisation of the Commission’s organogram.
Ms Gobodo responded that in terms of support, the Commission still relied heavily on the DRDLR. The Special Investigating Unit (SIU) was also working with the Department to investigate the number of outstanding claims still unsettled. A request would be made to the Director General’s office to provide information on how many claims remained still unsettled. This was not a responsibility of the Commission alone, but one shared with the many branches of the Department as well.
As for the organogram, she highlighted the need for autonomy, which was important to concretise the plans of the Commission, define the roles and duties of the Commission, the Department and various branches. This would lead to greater efficiency on the part of the Commission.
Mr M Filtane (UDM) noted the mention of various challenges facing the Commission, especially in the area of human resources and budget. He asked for a comprehensive explanation as to how the Commission intended to overcome these challenges, placing particular emphasis o the issue of human capacity. He thought the use of the term “ineffectual human resources” in page 16 of the presentation was worrisome and wondered how a team of ineffectual human resources could get on the Department’s payroll in the first place.
Ms Gobodo replied that the standard of research related closely to the capacity of human resources and the Commission is already developing this area through various training and programmes organised for the staff to develop their skills.
Mr Filtane also spoke to the issue of insufficient communication to the nation and potential land claimants that had affected settlement of claims up to 2014, and which had necessitated this second round of settlement. Unfortunately, the challenge was still there. He asked if the Commission could give a specific date when all corners of South Africa would have been reached to avoid the need for a third round of the programme.
Ms Gobodo responded that budget had been allocated to settle the current claims, for each year. In terms of the new claims, it was only possible to anticipate the new claims, on the basis of research conducted by the Commission. The Commission had to continually engage with National Treasury to be able to request funding for new claims as they arose in the outer years.
Mr Michael Worsnip, Chief Director: Land Restitution Support (Western Cape Province), CRLC, added to the issue of communication, stating that there were still areas where intensive awareness had to be raised on what the Restitution Programme had identified. There were 1 000 claims yet to be settled in the Western Cape. People with outstanding claims were informed of the stage that the settlement of their claims had reached, by correspondence. A lot of work was also done in relation to the municipalities by engaging land-holding entities on a regular basis. As for the new claims, there had been a fair amount of publicity around this. The main task at the moment was to deal with hot spots – areas where people are really aggrieved - on an urgent basis, to educate them around the need to search for and produce proper documentation in order to make well-documented claims.
Ms A Qikani (ANC) asked if overlapping land claims had been identified by the Commission as an issue. She clarified that in other cases, there had been overlapping claims where two families laid claims on one piece of land.
Ms Gobodo responded that the ability to produce proper documentation became critical at this point, and so the Commission was doing a lot of research to verify these claims
She went on to state that the Commission reported directly to the Minister, re-emphasizing the need for it to have concrete autonomy status. Currently, there were three Commissioners (including herself), then a Deputy Lands Claim Commissioner and the Divisional Commissioner supported by nine Chief Directors who were to oversee the Provinces. The nine Chief-Directors were permanent staff while the Commissioners were supposed to be on contract. Every other employee was a full-time employee of the Public Service.
Mr Nchabeleng pointed out that information could be sourced, for instance, from funeral or wedding programmes, documents signed for lobola and the likes or from birth, death, and wedding certificates. He recognised and appreciated the commitment of the Commission to the implementation of this programme.
Mr P Mnguni (ANC) asked a first question that was inaudible. His second question related to what would happen in the cases where there was no documentation to support a claim but equally no controversy arose on relocation of the claimants.
Ms Gobodo referred to a claim that was lodged by the Chief of a certain community, stating that here the Commission's initial position was that there was no claim of that nature that had been lodged. However, the Court had ordered that the Commission look into the matter further, and so the validity of the claim was being further investigated, despite the lack of documentation. The deadline given to finalise the verification of the claim was June.
Mr Mnguni also requested that the presentation by the Commission be worked out in such a way that the Committee could more easily oversee the financial activities of the Commission. For instance, page 14 of the presentation did not show quarterly targets and this would not assist the Committee in carrying out its financial oversight functions appropriately over the Commission.
The Chairperson responded that page 20 of the presentation showed the quarterly targets of the Commission and that this would help the Committee to monitor not just the general performance of the Commission but also its financial performance, to make sure that the Commission does not overspend.
Ms Gobodo said, in response to the quarterly targets, that the Commission would comply with the recommendation of the Committee.
Mr Filtane asked if the Commission had set a target towards completing its delineation from the Department, stating that it was important to facilitate the transfer of more lands to the rightful owners within the shortest possible time.
Ms Gobodo responded that a full plan has been set out, in the Commission's organisational plan to implement the autonomous structure.
Ms McMenamin spoke further on the targets that had been set towards having autonomy. The Commission was moving toward being electronically autonomous. As for the restitutional functions, a target of 12 to 18 months had been set to achieve autonomy in that area. However, she did say that gaining independence in respect of administrative functions would take longer, due to the capacity and resource implications involved, as the Commission was still largely dependent on the Department in this area.
The Chairperson asked for clarification on the development of a communication strategy since the Commission has already began to communicate through the use of "sprinters" going to areas, legislation and newspaper advertisement.
Ms Gobodo responded that the Commission already had a full-fledged communication strategy and had started implementing that strategy through the mobile offices, the citizen's manual, the sprinters and other means. The communication strategy being referred to in the strategic plan was the current one already being implemented and not a new one that would still be created.
The Chairperson asked for clarification on the monies that were take from goods and services to compensation of employees, resulting to a 'minus 58' figure in the finance document.
Ms McMenamin responded that the original allocation was the indicative figure received from the National Treasury. After the Commission's input towards the Estimates of National Expenditure (ENE), it had made a request for permission to reprioritise these funds to the compensation of employees and goods and services programmes. She pointed out that overall there had been a reduction of the Department's budget, especially with regard to the compensation of employees. An additional R34 million was then requested. The funds received from the final allocation, through the ENE, was reduced for the R58 million.
The Chairperson thanked Ms Gobodo and her team for their presentation and expressed hopes of greater efficiency on the part of the Commission. She noted that the Committee has the oversight function to monitor compliance with the performance plan on a quarterly basis. She reiterated that the register on the current cases in court should be submitted to the Committee within two weeks, for circulation to the Members. She also reminded Ms Gobodo that the targets for pending suspensions, the issue raised by Mr Nchabeleng, should be costed, again to enable the Committee to monitor performance and make sure that the Commission adhered to the National Treasury regulations.
Other Committee Business
Request to host delegation of MPS from Kenya
Ms Phulma Nyamza, Committee Secretary, said that the Committee had received a request that a delegation from Kenya, which is keen on learning about issues of land reform and rural development from the Committee, should meet with the Committee on Tuesday 5 May. This was not a normal meeting day for the Committee. She said that if Members of this Committee were available to meet with them, an application should therefore be submitted to Parliament for confirmation that it may hold a meeting on that date.
Another invitation was received that day, from the Portfolio Committee on Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, to attend its strategic planning workshop, scheduled to begin from the following day, 17 April, through to 19 April.
The Chairperson said that it was very difficult for Members to receive such late invitations only now, for the following day. She would think that Members most likely had other plans for this day.
Mr Filtane pointed out a possible conflict in information, as he had been told that this workshop had been postponed till the Tuesday of the next week.
The Chairperson said there was no need to debate the invitation, particularly because of the confusion now surrounding the date. Instead, she urged that any Members who were able to attend should do so.
The meeting was adjourned.
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