The Committee on Rural Development and Land Reform was briefed by the Commission on Restitution of Land Rights (CRLR) on its 2014/15 annual report. The Commission had exceeded its targets by settling 428 new claims against a target of 379; finalising 372 claims against a target of 239; approving 119 projects against a target of 53; researching 1 525 claims against a target of 1 445; establishing 14 operational claims lodgement offices; and acquiring four mobile lodgement offices.
Restitution claims settled between1 April 2014 and 31 March 2015 were: Western Cape 194; Eastern Cape 79; Free State one; Gauteng nine; KZN 59; Limpopo 35; Mpumalanga 35; Northern Cape nine; and North West seven. The total financial value of the claims that were approved during the period under review was R 2.778 billion. Total expenditure was R2.488 billion. Expenditure included backlog claims which had been approved in previous financial years, where payments had not yet taken place. Expenditure for claims approved prior to 2014 had been R501 million, while expenditure for claims approved in 2014/15 had been R1.987 billion.
The Committee congratulated the Commission on exceeding its targets, and asked if the reason them being exceeded was because of low targets. Members expressed dissatisfaction over the location of the mobile lodgement offices, as there had been concern that these offices were not always on schedule and therefore not available, and therefore requested a list of the provinces that were sharing mobile offices. They also asked if the Commission had done an audit to ensure the mobile offices were working.
The Committee said the number of claims settled in Gauteng was very low, and urged the Commission to work harder in order to settle more claims. There were concerns over whether the awareness of the roll out plans of the mobile offices was optimal. Members were worried about untaxable claims, and asked what strategy was being employed to prevent a loss of revenue. They commented that the presentation did not indicate how much was in the commitment funds, and this should be noted in the following financial year so that such a fund was not forgotten. There was concern that more claims had been dismissed than settled in the Northern Cape, and the Commission was asked when the claims would be settled.
Members wanted to know what usually persuaded claimants to prefer financial compensation to restitution of land, as this defeated the purpose of the Commission. They criticised the fact that the amount of funds in the committed accounts and details of pending claims since 1999 had not been presented. The Commission was urged not to withhold information from the Committee, and to avoid giving uncertain information. Members had observed that notices in the mobile offices were written in English, which was not the predominant language spoken by majority of the claimants. They said there should be balance between what was spent to get the land and what was spent to develop it to its full potential. They commented an annual report without an audit report was incomplete, as the audit report was a useful reference point, and requested a road map that highlighted the goals of the Commission in the coming months.
The Committee adopted the minutes of the meeting held on 24 June 2015.
Opening Remarks by Chairperson
The Chairperson acknowledged that August was Women’s Month, as many women had contributed to the struggle that had made South Africa a better country for everyone. She thanked Committee members for the oversight visit and the support staff that had organized the visit which had given the Committee firsthand knowledge of what was happening in the Commission on Restitution of Land Rights.
The Committee Secretary read apologies from the Minister, who was attending a Cabinet meeting; the Deputy Minister, who was indisposed, and Ms A Qikani (ANC).
The Chairperson said that the Committee would deliberate on the oversight visit report on a later date.
The Committee members unanimously adopted the minutes of the meeting held on 24 June 2015.
Briefing by Commission on Restitution of Land Rights (CRLR)
Ms Nomfundo Gobodo: Chief Land Claims Commissioner, CRLR, briefed the Committee on its 2014/15 annual report. It had exceeded its targets by settling 428 new claims against a target of 379; finalizing 372 claims against a target of 239; approving 119 projects against a target of 53; researching 1 525 claims against a target of 1 445; establishing 14 operational claims lodgement offices; and acquiring four mobile lodgement offices.
Restitution claims settled between1 April 2014 and 31 March 2015 were: Western Cape 194; Eastern Cape 79; Free State one; Gauteng nine; KZN 59; Limpopo 35; Mpumalanga 35; Northern Cape nine; and North West seven. The total financial value of the claims that were approved during the period under review was R 2 778 206 347. Total expenditure was R2 487 583 095. Expenditure included backlog claims which had been approved in previous financial years, where payments had not yet taken place.
Expenditure per category for the period 1 April 2014 to 31 March 2015 was R 1 659 234 482 for land purchase and land and subsoil, R 3 001 699 for conveyances, R71 891 588 for recapitalisation and grants, and R753 455 326 for financial compensation. Expenditure for claims approved prior 2014 had been R500 989 866, while expenditure for claims approved in 2014/15 had been R1 986 593 230.
Mr T Mhlongo (DA) congratulated the Commission on exceeding its targets. He asked if the reason the targets had been exceeded was because of low targets. He observed that during the Committee’s oversight visit to KwaZulu-Natal the mobile lodgement offices had not been available, which made the location of these mobile lodgement offices questionable. He asked the Commission to submit a list of the provinces that were paired to share mobile offices. He asked for the details of pending claims since 1999.
Ms Gobodo replied that the Commission had come to the Parliament to launch the mobile unit innovation, and acknowledged that in a project of this nature there would be hiccups, as sometimes the mobile buses might arrive a day earlier or later. The Commission was doing its best and was on hand to deal with any problem that may arise, as this was done through weekly reports. She said there were four mobile offices which were divided into a cluster of three provinces. Detailed information of provinces that were sharing mobile offices would be provided. The Chief Directors of the provinces had full understanding of the buses’ destinations. There was a need for these mobile offices, which depended on the available locations. She added that there were budgetary constraints, and the mobile offices were not only for lodgement purposes as the buses would remain in the rural areas for follow up purposes.
Mr Sunjay Singh: Chief Director, Service Delivery Co-coordinator, CRLR said that a total of 8 025 cases had been pending since 1999. These were made up of 5 152 in stage two, 350 in stage three and 2 533 in stage four.
Mr Mhlongo remarked that in terms of the settled claims, the Western Cape had done better than the Gauteng Province. He asked what was happening in Alexandra in Gauteng, as there had been no movement there.
Mr P Mnguni (ANC) commented that ‘a vision’ was a picture of the future and asked whether the provinces were part of the strategy to implement the mobile lodgement offices, as the approach of the Commission seemed to be “do not come to us ,we will come to you.” He asked if there was awareness of the roll out plans and wondered if the mobilisation of the provinces about these mobile offices was optimal.
Ms Gobodo replied that the concept of the mobile lodgement offices was as a result of the budgetary constraints of the Department. Since it was expensive to have normal offices, it was considered that mobile offices would close the gaps. This had been done in conjunction with the provinces, as the allocation of mobile offices and where they went was determined by the Chief Directors. She was surprised to hear that the Chief Directors had claimed not to have knowledge of the whereabouts of these mobile offices, but the issue would be resolved. The Commission had mobile communicating networks that went upfront to the communities to let them know when the Commission was coming to the areas, and the Commission also put articles into newspapers and advertised on the radio to create awareness in order to look for claimants who had not been traced. The Commission was also working with the Department of Home Affairs and the police, using their data bases to find these claimants. The municipalities were also working with the Department to help them trace claimants. There was a lot of work around the issue of mobilisation and creating awareness.
Mr A Madella (ANC) congratulated the Commission on work well done and asked what the difference was between the amount awarded and amount approved. He required clarity on the total expenditure of R 2.4 billion, which included R 501 million which had been paid for claims approved prior to 2014.
Mr Singh replied that R2.7 billion had been approved but only R1.9 billion had been paid out. The remaining R800 million had gone into the commitment account.
Mr Madella said more claims had been dismissed than claims settled in the Northern Cape, and asked when the claims would be settled.
Ms Gobodo replied that the cases had not been dismissed outright, as it was only when the process to trace the claimants had failed that the cases were dismissed.
Mr Madella expressed concerned about the untaxable claims. He asked what strategy had been used and if such a strategy was working. There was a total of R 2.4 billion for expenditure, of which R501 million had been taken care of in the current financial year. The presentation had not indicated how much was in the commitment funds, and this should be noted in the following financial year so that the funds would not be forgotten.
Mr M Filtane (UDM) said budgets were supported in the National Assembly in the belief that the money would be spent wisely. He appreciated the performance of the Commission, and observed that the recapitalisation/grants represented only 3% of the expenditure. He said it was one thing to get the land, and a different matter to develop it to its full potential. The Commission must strike a balance between what was spent to get the land and what was spent to ensure that the land would not lie fallow. It was good to know that there were many satellite offices, but he wanted to know how well they were performing, as it was all about performance. Had the Commission done an audit to ensure the satellite offices were working? What usually persuaded the claimants to prefer financial compensation to the of restitution of land, as this defeated the purpose of the Commission?
Ms Gobodo replied that the Acts allowed claimants to have a choice. The claimants preferred money for various reasons, such as for settling accounts and funeral expenses. The claimants could not be forced to take land, as attempts to do that had been unsuccessful.
Mr Filtane asked when the Commission would finalise the 1998 claims, as this situation had become a thorn in the flesh.
Mr Michael Worsnip: Chief Director, Restitution Support, said the quality of work had been better with the introduction of the mobile lodgement offices. The Commission worked with the municipalities and local media to let claimants know what documents were required when they came to the mobile offices. Sometimes the mobile offices were located in churches and halls as a means of protecting claimants from harsh weather conditions.
Mr L Mbinda (PAC) asked how many settled claims had not been finalised.
Ms Gobodo replied that 67 000 claims had been finalised.
The Chairperson asked how many cases were pending in court.
Ms Gobodo replied that there were an estimated 315 cases pending. The Commission monitored the court roll on a weekly basis, as claimants deliberately served notices on the Commission in the evenings, and took advantage of the absence of the Commission to obtain a ruling against it.
Mr Mhlongo remarked that the Commission should not withhold information from the Committee and should avoid giving uncertain information, as it was better to ask for more time to provide the correct information and figures. He had asked for the total number of pending claims since 1999, and the Commission could not provide a definite and ready answer. He had also asked for the percentage of the budget allocated in 2014/2015 which the Commission had not spent, and the answer could not be provided. He reminded the Commission that it had a duty to be accountable and should provide the Committee with detailed information at all times.
The Chairperson said if 5 152 (stage 2), 350 (stage3) and 2 523 (stage3) were added together, it would give a total of 8 025 cases. She advised the Commission to adequately do its homework by calculating the figures correctly before making a presentation. She said the points raised by Committee Members were vital, and such omissions should be avoided.
Mr E Nchabeleng (ANC) appreciated the changes in the Commission and said the Committee was seeing a new Commission that was focused on all the matters on the table. He said the Committee would solicit for more funds for the Commission, thereby enabling it to do more work. He was very happy with the progress the Commission had made.
Mr Filtane asked what the situation of provinces that did not meet the targets was.
Ms Gobodo replied that there were monthly reviews of performances, as the Commission went to such provinces to resolve the challenges. She said there had been an increase in the number of staff with a view to dealing with these issues.
Mr Filtane observed that in the Committee’s oversight visit to the Pietermaritzburg office, all the notices on the doors had been written in English. He had asked what language the majority of the claimants spoke, and had been told that most of them did not speak English. He had also observed that the notices had been freshly pasted on the doors, as though it had been done because of the oversight visit.
Ms Gobodo replied that the Commission would resolve the issue of the language used in writing the notices.
The Chairperson remarked that the language used in communication should be the predominant language spoken by the majority of the people in the rural areas, and should not be English.
Ms Gobodo replied that the Commission would look into the issue of language
Mr Mnguni asked if there was a chronology of how claims were treated.
Ms Gobodo replied that priority was given to old claims over the new ones.
Mr Mnguni asked if the Commission could provide a road map that showed where the Commission would be, for instance, in three months’ time?
Ms Gobodo said that performances in the provinces were reviewed on a monthly basis.
Mr Mnguni said an annual report without an audit report was incomplete, as the audit report was a useful reference point. He congratulated the Commission on its good work. He had read in the newspapers recently of 9 000 claims that had been settled.
Mr Singh said that the audit report went into the Department’s annual report as a new directive from the President’s office, as the audit reports were ready only in July.
Mr Filtane said it was clear from the presentation that there was a budget for re-capitalisation, and hoped the budgets were used correctly for their exact purpose.
Ms Gobodo said that 25% of the cost of the land was always set aside for its re-capitalization.
The Chairperson commented that the Committee had indicated its satisfaction with the progress made, but there was a need for improvement. Solutions must be provided where there were challenges, as they could not remain challenges forever. If the Act allowed claimants to turn down land in favour of money, it should be amended. The issue of language had to be addressed, as it was very important that notices were written in a language that the claimants understood. The request for a road map should be addressed speedily, as this would help the Committee to know the goals of the Commission within a specific period of time. She thanked the Commission for its presentation.
The meeting was adjourned.
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