The meeting began with the adoption of the draft report on the budget vote 39, where a number of small issues were raised, including typos and minor amendments. The main thrust of the changes was that the Land Claims Court should be given greater priority, and a policy needed to be put in place to help with alleviating the bottlenecks in these courts. The adoption of the report became heated when the DA abstained from approving it, even though they had been a part of the process from the beginning. The ANC Members called this an abuse of power, and demanded that the DA Members explain themselves. Finally, the DA confirmed that they needed time to speak with their constituents and other portfolio committee members about the budgeted amount.
The Department of Rural Development and Land Reform (DRDLR) then presented the report on the Rama Communal Property Association (CPA). The main issue with this CPA was that it had been awarded R15 million worth of land, with a quarry, museum, entertainment area and housing potential. The CPA committee members were meant to have stepped down in 2007, following a five-year term. However, they had not done this and had since been fighting the Department for over seven years. The Department claimed that they had been understaffed and lacked the capacity to manage all the CPAs, hence the long delay. The CPA Act also did not have teeth in order for the DRDLR to remove the committee members easily and efficiently. Instead they had been blocked and stymied at every turn via legal channels. The AGM kept being blocked by the old members, so it had been very hard to appoint new members without an AGM. The Rama CPA constituents were divided between supporting the old committee and appointing a new one. There had been accusations of mismanagement of funds, a lack of reports and issues over audits at this CPA.
The Department was following a legal process in court to remove the members. It had also proposed amendments to the Act to give it more enforcement strength, and was increasing its human resources. The Committee Members asked that they be kept abreast of developments and urged the Department to act against this “bad apple” as soon as possible, even if it meant using the Hawks and other legal bodies. The gap in the Act had to be tightened for all CPAs, so that the Department could provide firm guidance.
Committee Report on Department of Rural Development & Land Reform Budget vote 39
The Committee considered a draft report on the budget vote 39: Rural Development and Land Reform, dated 29 April 2015. It had been sent around earlier in the week to the Committee to make recommendations and findings and adopt the report. There were only minor changes, including typos.
Changes proposed by Mr T Walters (DA) were under point 5.1.1 -- “could” needed to be changed to “seeks to,” and under 5.1.10, it needed to be a stronger sentence to state that the District Land committees were vital, and not just assisting in the process.
The Land Claims Court needed a higher priority and a policy needed to be put in place to help with alleviating the bottlenecks in the courts, as proposed by Mr Walters.
Mr T Mhlongo (DA) requested that the policy proposals discussed by the Minister for Rural Development and Land Reform should to be sent to the Committee for perusal.
Under point 6.18, Mr Walters stated a timeframe was required for the appointment of the CEO for the Ingonyama Trust Board (ITB). Service level agreements were discussed for the ITB.
The report was adopted, although the DA abstained from supporting it due to issues around the report, including the budgeted amount. This became an issue, and the DA was put under pressure to explain why.
Mr T Walters said the reason was that they needed time to discuss the report with their constituents and fellow committees.
ANC Members were not happy with this, as the DA had been part of the process and had then pulled out at the last minute.
The DA stood by the fact that they were entitled to abstain.
Briefing on Rama Communal Property Association (CPA)
Mr Samuel Mogaswa, Deputy Director: CPA, Department of Rural Development and Land Reform, said that the Rama CPA had lodged a restitution claim which had been settled in 2002. Two farms of 754 hectares had been acquired for R15 million. The CPA had initiated some activities on the land, including a quarry business, a museum and an entertainment centre. It was also developing houses. The CPA had been registered in 2002 and consisted of eight members elected for five years. The quarry was the main income earner, involving crushing stone, quartzite and sand.
The CPA committee’s term of office had expired. There had been allegations of misappropriation of funds by the committee, and it had not submitted reports to the Department. An order to submit the books to the auditors had been ignored. Mediation had also failed. The Department had tried to put the CPA under administration, but had been unsuccessful due to locus standi. A second order was in the pipeline and the committee had been instructed to give the books over to the Department. The order needed to be amended to include handing over the bank statements. The CPA’s lawyers had used a misrepresentation of facts to prevent this. Placing the CPA under administration would remove the bad influence of these members and would regularise the affairs of this CPA. The lead auditor in this matter had been shot dead and this had delayed the process for a long time, as the police had to make sure has death was not related to the matter.
Mr M Filtane (UDM) asked why the Department continued to engage with this committee, if it was illegal. Had the Department continued to support the CPA financially through this process? Did this CPA need funds from the Department if they could afford the costs of all this legal action?
Mr Mhlongo asked who was responsible for oversight of the CPA. Was the Department aware of anyone else that had died during this process? Had the community benefited from this CPA?
Ms N Magadla (ANC) queried what the legal terms, such as “locus standi”, meant?
Mr M Nchabeleng (ANC) said that when the money was given over to CPAs, there were certain oversight and support services required by the Department. He asked what legal interventions the Department had instituted to stop the process. Why had it taken seven years to reach this point?
Mr P Mnguni (ANC) queried that, according to the Act, what happened when a CPA’s term expired? Why had the situation dragged on so long? The Committee was not satisfied with the process. The Department should be enforcing the establishment of a new committee so that they could work with the Department and clean up the previous issues, instead of trying to deal with a hostile committee.
Mr A Madella (ANC) asked why the Hawks had not been involved in this? The Department’s hands were tied behind its back; the Department must get other legal bodies involved. The CPA constitutions needed to be amended to be more stringent on their duties. The Department had been absent, hence the “rebellious child” of Rama. The Department needed to be more vigilant.
The Chairperson said that there must be an alignment between the CPA Act and the constitution. There was a parent-child relationship between the CPA and the Department, and the parent needed to take charge in this situation. The Department had not done what it was supposed to do. Parliament would monitor the Department’s progress in this regard in upcoming meetings, especially on 24 May 2015, when an update on Rama would be required.
Dr Barbara Loots, Parliamentary Legal Advisor, said that the Department had acknowledged the issues at the CPA, and had taken legal steps to address them. She asked what steps the members of this CPA had taken while they had legally been out of their term of office. She commented that the CPA Act required some amendments. The Act was very broad. The community needed more power. She asked whether any additional funds had been given to the CPA.
Ms Vuyiswa Nxasana, Acting DDG for the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform (DRDLR), stated that the Department still did not have capacity to deal with these issues. That was why it was bringing the CPA Amendment Bill to Parliament, to include an office of registrar. This would help the Department to address these issues timeously. There was no mechanism for the Department to timeously act in respect of these CPAs. At the moment, the Department did not have this capacity, but this would change in the future. It was responding to CPAs, rather than being pro-active. Taking over someone’s CPA and bank documents did not happen easily. Was the CPA the correct model for redistribution of land? This needed to be discussed. Actions had to be expedited for this CPA.
Mr Mogaswa said that the old committee was still running the affairs of the CPA. They were uncomfortable about stepping down. r Section 11 of the CPA Act stated that the secretary must issue an agenda for a new meeting. The old committee had blocked the AGM legally. The CPA was divided -- some members supported the old committee, and some supported a new committee. The legal ground on which the new CPA committee had been legally prevented, was due to its lack of representation from all the members.
Mr Jeff Sebape, Director, DRDLR, said that the Act did not empower the Department to take over the CPA. The only option at the moment was the courts, but this would be changed.
Ms Ompelege Mokadi, Director, DRDLR, said that once the CPA committee’s term had expired, it had to participate in a meeting to have a new committee elected at an AGM, with assistance from the Department. This had been blocked.
The Committee was advised that the Kenyan delegation had been delayed and the meeting would be rescheduled.
The draft programme for the second term of the Committee and previous minutes were adopted.
The meeting was adjourned.
- Committee Report on Department of Rural Development & Land Reform Budget
- Memorandum on Oversight powers of the PC on Rural Development and Land Reform
- Draft Programme for the Portfolio Committee for the second term
- Report on Rama Communal Property Association power point slides
- Report on Rama Communal Property Association director general report
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