The process of settling land claims is going to take 144 years to complete.
This came out of the discussion the Portfolio Committee had with the Commission on Restitution of Land Rights (CRLR).
The Commission briefed the Committee about policy priorities from 2009/10 to 2014/15, stating that it has reviewed the appropriateness of the existing land redistribution programme and introduced measures aimed at speeding up the pace of land reform, redistribution and promoting land ownership by South Africans.
On the implementation progress from 2009/10 to 2014/15, the Commission noted that the Restitution of Land Rights Amendment Bill, which is providing for the re-opening of lodgement of land claims for a period of five years, calculated from 1 July 2014 to 30 June 2019, has been passed by Parliament.
About strategic interventions from 2016/17 to 2018/19, the Commission plans to accelerate the settlement of the remaining land claims submitted before the cut-off date of 1998. It re-opened the period for the lodgement of claims for restitution of land for a period of five years, commencing in 2014.
On policy priorities for 2016/17 to 2018/19, the Commission reported that the point of departure for the exceptions is that by the time the Natives’ Land Act was enacted in 2013, the Khoi and San had long been dispossessed of land. Therefore, a need for targeted interventions to cater for the descendants of the Khoi and San, their heritage sites and historical landmarks, has been identified.
Concerning challenges and limitations, the Commission indicated these were informed by an evaluation conducted by the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) and Department of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation (DPME). On strategic issues, the mandate of the Commission is clouded by matters that are beyond its legal mandate. There is a lack of standardised business process and unclear delineation of roles and responsibilities between the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform (DRDLR) and the Commission.
Members asked if the slightly increased budget of the Commission is enough to carry out its mandate; how the Commission is going to research 1530 claims seeing that it has a shortage of researchers; how many people would be reached when the restitution process is finalised “in 144 years time”; noted the need to visit people on the ground who have claims and put them at ease that their claims are being handled; what the average time is for finalising a claim; if the Commission is implementing the recommendations of the SAHRC and DPME) and remarked that there is a need to increase the number of settled claims but that it does not appear that the targets would be met any time soon.
The Committee then had a strategic planning workshop discussion where it deliberated on some key environmental issues that keep the Committee awake. The Committee deliberated on youth development; mentorship for emerging farmers; the Office of the Valuer General; timing for settling land claims; budget allocation; Ingonyama Trust Board (ITB), the Spatial Planning and Land Use Management Act (SPLUMA), and other matters.
Mr Thami Mdontswa, Deputy Chief Land Claims Commissioner: CRLR, briefed the Committee about the policy priorities from 2009/10 to 2014/15; implementation progress from 2009/10 to 2014/15; challenges and limitations; strategic interventions and policy priorities for 2016/17 to 2018/19.
On policy priorities for 2009/10 to 2014/15, the Commission has reviewed the appropriateness of the existing land redistribution programme and introduced measures aimed at speeding up the pace of land reform, redistribution and promoting land ownership by South Africans. The review of the restitution programme was conducted as part of the process that led to the publication of the Green Paper on Land Reform. Consultations were held with stakeholders through a series of consultative workshops, including a national restitution workshop held in May 2011 to assess the impact of the programme. Critical issues highlighted were the cut-off dates of 19 June 1913 and 31 December 1998.
A need was identified to move swiftly to deal with outstanding land claims and provide adequate support in collaboration with other government departments and stakeholders. The Commission had to also ensure the land reform programme is integrated at provincial and local government level, and provide the rural poor with technical skills and financial resources to productively use the land in order to create sustainable livelihoods.
On the implementation progress from 2009/10 to 2014/15, he reported that the Restitution of Land Rights Amendment Bill provides for the re-opening of lodgement of land claims for a period of five years, calculated from 1 July 2014 to 30 June 2019, has been passed by Parliament. The Restitution of Land Rights Amendment Act was signed into law on 30 June 2014. The lodgement started on 1 July 2014.
On the Exceptions Programme, the rationale for the proposed exceptions to the 19 June 1913 cut-off date meant to accommodate land claims of the descendants of the Khoi and San, and claims on heritage sites and historical landmarks. The Department has focused on organising the descendants of the Khoi and San. The first Khoi and San Dialogue (Kimberly 1) in April 2013 resolved to establish a National Reference Group to assist the Department to develop the Exceptions Programme. Then the Kimberly 2 Dialogue in May 2014 recommended that the Exceptions be implemented through land redistribution.
During the 2009/10 to 2014/15 periods, 2 086 new land claims were settled with 8 047 claims outstanding. Graphs and tables were shown to illustrate breakdown per financial year.
On challenges and limitations, the Commissioner indicated these were informed by an evaluation conducted by the DPME and the SAHRC. On strategic issues, the mandate of the Commission is clouded by matters that are beyond the legal mandate. There is a lack of standardised business process and unclear delineation of roles and responsibilities between the Department and the Commission. The structure of the Commission is not aligned to its mandate and there is an inappropriate delegation structure when it comes to budget.
The Commission does not have a management information system. There is inadequate communication and awareness-raising campaigns. The Commission needs to be more visible, and it is not seen as autonomous and separate because of its close relationship with the Department. When it comes to staffing, a competent and dedicated human resource capacity is to be established, additional staff capacity is required for new claims, but staff turnover is high and there is inadequate research capacity.
About strategic interventions from 2016/17 to 2018/19, the Commission plans to accelerate the settlement of the remaining land claims submitted before the cut-off date of 1998, and it has re-opened the period for the lodgement of claims for restitution of land for a period of five years, commencing in 2014. The Exceptions would be codified to the 1913 cut-off date for the descendants of the Khoi and San and identify affected heritage sites and historical landmarks. In processing claims, the Commission shall distinguish between old order and new order claims. The Commission shall not devote its resources to the processing of new order claims beyond the point of data capture after lodgement and acknowledgement of receipt, unless:
- the Commission is directed to do so by the court
- the new order claim overlaps with an older claim that is being processed
- the new order claim is in a province where all old order claims have been finalised or referred to court.
Tables were shown to illustrate strategic interventions for 2016/17 to 2018/19, Annual Performance Plan (APP) targets, and MTEF budget.
On policy priorities for 2016/17 to 2018/19, the Commissioner reported that the point of departure for the exceptions is that by the time the Natives Land Act was enacted, the Khoi and San had long been dispossessed of land. Therefore, a need for targeted interventions to cater for the descendants of the Khoi and San, heritage sites and historical landmarks has been identified. The exceptions shall be a special moment of an expanded land redistribution programme. The exceptions shall not be linked to the Restitution of Land Rights Act of 1994.
The current law applicable to the management, conservation and preservation of heritage sites would continue to apply provided that where there is conflict between the law and the Exceptions Programme, the court shall be the arbiter, taking into account the intention of the exceptions.
Finally, a task team shall be established to finalise the policy framework consisting of representatives from the National and Provincial Houses of Traditional Leaders, CONTRALESA, National Khoi and San Council, the Department’s National Khoi and San Reference Group, and relevant government departments.
The Chairperson, first, wanted to find out if the slightly increased budget of the Commission is going to be enough to carry out its mandate. Second, she asked how the Commission is going to research 1530 claims seeing that it has got a shortage of researchers. Third, she enquired how many people would be reached when the restitution is finalised in 144 years time. Fourth, she wanted to know how the conflict between the CPAs and traditional leaders is going to be addressed.
Mr Mdontswa, on the budget issue, indicated the increase is not substantial because of the current economic climate, but there would be a review of the funding model for restitution. 652 land claims would be settled because there are available resources. On the shortage of researchers, he said the Commission is partnering with researchers from many institutions to help them gather data in districts that are being given attention. The targets are going to be met. He further reported the Commission is developing a mobile application unit called “To Assist”. All information is going to be centralised into this mobile device that is going to be used by the researcher. Information would be processed electronically. No paperwork is going to be done where one has to go to a government office to register a claim. Concerning the remaining 144 years for finalising restitution, he stated that is an arithmetic exercise that has been done. That is R279 billion multiplied by the claims that still need to be done, and that is how they got the number. Mobile units are being sent to rural areas for restoration claims. Lots of claims are going to be settled without compensation. The President has signed the Property Valuation Act in order to look at matters that require settlement without compensation. He assured the Committee that he does not think it is going to take 144 years to settle the remaining claims. On the conflict between Communal Property Associations (CPAs) and traditional leaders, he reported that this would be given attention by the Communal Land Tenure Bill which is going to define the roles between the CPAs and traditional leaders.
Mr K Robertson (DA, Mpumalanga), on the functionality of the CPAs, indicated there is a need to visit people on the ground who have got claims and to put them at ease that their claims are being handled. The Department should do a thorough check on the functionality of the CPAs. The CPA Committee appears to be dysfunctional and seems to work with the Department officials against the beneficiaries. This is creating a tense situation on the ground.
Mr L Filtane (UDM) wanted to know how the Commission is going to address the lack of standardised business process, and also asked what the average time is for finalising a claim.
Mr Mdontswa replied that the Commission used to have seven regional commissioners but now they have decided to make use of one regional commissioner so as to communicate the same facts. Before they used to get different facts on the matter. Now everything is standardised with one blanket approach. There is a framework in place to see how delegations are going to be done. On the time taken to finalise claims, he reported it takes 18 to 24 months but this also depends on the complexity of the claim.
Mr A Madella (ANC) asked if the Commission is implementing the recommendations of the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) and Department of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation (DPME).
Mr Mdontswa replied that the SAHRC and DPME are the backbone of the Strategic Framework Plan of the Commission.
Mr E Nchabeleng (ANC) remarked there is a need to increase the number of settled claims but it does not appear that the targets would be met soon. It is difficult to understand why it takes such a long time to settle claims on land occupied by the state. Communities, especially those located in Sekhukhune, want to participate in the programme but the Commission appears to be moving at a very slow pace. People are supposed to be given a lease while they are waiting for the restitution process to be finalised. He proposed that the Commission should embark on an outreach programme and make communities aware of outstanding claims, progress taking place, and changes happening.
Mr Mdontswa indicated they have developed a programme statement for the Sekhukhune area. There is a drawn-up programme on how the Commission could be assisted to find a solution to the problems Sekhukhune is facing.
Strategic Planning Discussion
The Committee deliberated on key issues that keep the Committee awake at night which included youth development; mentorship for emerging farmers; Office of the Valuer General; time taken for settling land claims; budget allocation; Ingonyama Trust Board (ITB), Spatial Planning and Land Use Management Act (SPLUMA).
Mr P Mnguni (ANC), on youth development, reported that over the past 24 months the Committee has raised concerns about the youth development programme. Young people are trained but come out with no certification. The Committee is of the opinion they need to be certified because they are professionals just like other people who have undergone training.
Mr Filtane pointed out that the reason advanced by the Department for not using the R37 million for youth training is that the facilities of the institutions undertaking the training are not satisfactory. He suggested the Committee visit the institutions that do the training.
Members agreed this issue be put down as an indicator. They suggested the training should get accreditation from the SETAs, TVET Colleges and other tertiary institutions. The Committee indicated it would like to see clear career-paths of those who have undergone training after five years. The Committee indicated a need to look at the gender breakdown of the participating youth, duration of the programme, the institution undertaking the programme, the placement of graduates, and the impact of the training.
Mr Mnguni remarked that all state entities are appointed via a parliamentary process but the Ingonyama Trust Board (ITB) has never been tabled before Parliament.
The Chairperson indicated that the ITB needs amendments made to its Act and the support given to it should be monitored. The ITB policies and beneficiation need to be finalised.
Mr Mnguni stated that the Office of the Valuer General has to help them with collusions. Land prices are being inflated.
The Committee agreed that the Office of the Valuer General should be invited to the Committee to share its views on this and other matters.
Mr Filtane, on oversight over the Department, said he does not know whether the Committee is ineffective or not, or if the Department is imperious. He does not remember when the Committee has felt it has made good progress on oversight of the Department. The Committee has complained about department under-spending but nothing has happened. This reflects badly on the workings of the Committee, and the Minister has not responded positively to the concerns of the Committee.
The Chairperson also indicated there is always a delay in the submission of documents by the Department. The Committee gets the documents a day before the Committee meeting or on the morning of the session, and that does not give Members enough time to engage with the content of the document.
Mr Mnguni reported there has been approval for the work the Committee is doing. The Committee should try to re-visit the idea of study tours. These exposure visits are eye-openers and good scientific tools for case studies. There must be clear plans about the visits.
Mr Filtane, commented on land reform, saying he has a feeling the Department should spend more of its budget on land acquisition but the Department appears to spend more resources on things that are not pressing.
Mr Madella added that people needed to be educated about land acquisition and not focus on compensation. They must invest on the land. The targets have not been met. The Committee should engage Treasury in a robust manner for more resources.
Mr K Robertson said it is important to do a land audit first in order to determine who owns what land in SA and how much land is owned by the state. This would help many people who want to take part in agriculture, not only for restitution purposes.
Mr Nchabeleng commented that the average time for settling land claims needs to be looked at because by the time the claim is settled, the new owner has to fork out more money because she/he finds out that during the waiting period the property was not maintained. Now when work has to be done, nothing happens and the claimant gets the blame for not tilling the land. If claims are hard to settle in Sekhukhune as claimed by the Commissioner, why could the Committee not go there and find out what the bottlenecks are and come up with recommendations and interventions so as to break the impasse. He felt if the Commission is not working, the land should be nationalised.
Mr Robertson pointed out that some of the emerging farmers find themselves in dire straits because they have never been given mentorship. The government needs to institute mentorship programmes to help emerging farmers because some of them do not even know what to do with the infrastructure they inherit. The drought is worsening their situation because some of the emerging farmers do not have dams or access to water. As a result, they give up on farming.
The Chairperson indicated that the issue has been the verification of the assets before the seller is compensated so that the buyer inherits infrastructure that is working.
Mr Nchabeleng mentioned that when the farm of the emerging farmer collapses, the government brings back the previous owner to run the farm again. The very same farmer would use the money used to buy him out by the government on his farm to make it profitable. The emerging black farmers get blamed for not being able to run the farms. SA problems could only be solved through land provision.
Mr Robertson said by bringing back the previous owner who sold his land, the government is creating hostility between the beneficiaries of the farm and the farmer who is re-instated because he comes back with his own terms and conditions. This goes back to the mentorship programme that needs to be implemented.
The Committee agreed that the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform (DRDLR) should investigate this matter and brief the Committee on the findings.
Mr Nchabeleng, suggested that the Committee should not only look at projects that are doing well during oversight visits but should rather focus on those that need interventions.
The Chairperson commented there is a need to change the way they do oversight as indicated in the strategic framework of the DRDLR. The Committee should visit projects that need support so as to identify challenges.
Mr Filtane suggested that the Committee formulates and follows a standardised reporting format for the sake of objectivity and make comments at the bottom. If it is not standardised, it could be used either to rubbish the ruling party or elevate it.
Mr T Walters (DA) said that if the Committee wants to generate on-going information, it would need to make use of researchers from institutions so that they access the various districts for access to finance. He said the proposal revolves around data not available to the Committee. It is important to get reliable data on the success of the projects tabled before the Committee because some institutions will say there is no reliable data on these projects. The research capacity of the Committee should link up with that of other institutions.
Mr Madella insisted that the Committee should not depend on what the DRDLR presents to it on projects. The Committee should decide about projects that need serious attention.
The Chairperson noted that the Committee makes plans but it fails to implement because of the parliament programme that needs to be attended to regularly. The Committee plans to do oversight visits but lack of funding cripples it.
Mr Filtane asked if Committee Chairpersons have an influence in the allocation of budget.
The Chairperson replied they do not have any influence. The Chair of Chairpersons only tells them what budget their respective committees have been allocated.
Mr Mnguni told the Chairperson that this is an opportunity to voice the concerns of her Committee in decisions about budget allocation.
Mr Madella asked the Committee to seriously consider the participation and beneficiation of youth, women and disabled in rural areas in the programmes of the Department. He said the focus should be on the disability mainstream and women.
Mr Filtane indicated that given the high unemployment rate, the Committee needed to be given figures about how many jobs have been created. It is not nice to see people roaming the streets knowing very well that as Committee members they have to help in job creation.
Mr Walters said there is a need to look at the impact of the jobs created and increase the outcomes, not the output.
Mr Madella also stressed the need for closer cooperation with the Portfolio Committee on Agriculture, especially on matters of common interests.
Mr Filtane suggested that an independent outsider be appointed to investigate or map out a good working relationship between DRDLR and the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries. There is an overlap of functions and it is not known sometimes which department is responsible for what. Roles should be clearly defined. If the investigation were done internally, it would never work because of territorial protection.
Mr Walters commented that last year they had indicated there is a need for joint portfolio committee meetings.
Mr Mnguni, on strategic partners, proposed that strategic partners should be kept for strategic reasons because there are pros and cons about them and the environment reacts to changes.
Mr Filtane asked to what extent is the Committee privileged to engage with black professors from the historically black universities because white professors from historically white universities always visit the Committee.
Mr Mnguni said this issue is very tricky because you get a white professor from UWC, for example, not talking to the agenda of the poor, but when you engage a white one from a historically white university, you get the agenda that talks to the poor. Things need to be balanced because the Committee once had a black professor from a historically black university but the content was not satisfactory.
Mr Walters said it is important to get a diversity of inputs even if we do not agree with them. That is how the Committee is going to get valuable information. It is important to keep in mind the kind of research information the Committee needs.
Mr Madella, about investing in AgriParks, proposed that the Committee should up its oversight because they are being set up. The Committee has not been to any AgriPark to see their impacts on communities and farmers.
The Chairperson said it is important to engage stakeholders so as to ensure there is a buy-in.
Mr Walters stated that the AgriPark concept is new. They were launched within a short time. So, the Committee needs to monitor their implementation, access to markets, and their impact on communities.
Mr Nchabeleng suggested there should be an outreach programme because the AgriParks are non-existent from where he comes.
On how best to implement SPLUMA, Mr Mnguni suggested that the Department should work with DAFF on SPLUMA and must be able to discuss court cases on land invasions, and should regularly brief the Committee on how it interacts with the municipalities.
Mr Nchabeleng said it is important to find a way of getting a buy-in from COGTA and direct interaction from municipalities because there are municipalities that are sceptical and do not understand what SPLUMA is all about. The Committee met traditional leaders in Limpopo and they told it they hate SPLUMA. Land invasions are defying traditional authorities. If people could be made to understand what SPLUMA is all about and what the consequences are for land invasion, it would be much better.
Mr Mnguni stated that the traditional leaders are not going to like the democratisation process but those who are progressive would understand it. Those who are against it are going to sabotage it. The problem is that traditional leaders think that the land is theirs. It is hard to understand why people have a problem with a democratic land use-planning programme - yet the land is not theirs.
Mr Madella indicated that each municipality has got its mandate when it comes to SPLUMA and has to state how it plans to roll it out.
Mr Walters asked what the capacity of the municipalities at district and local level is on the planning of land use to make sure the rights of all South Africans are a reality.
Mr Filtane explained that municipalities, by the look of things, do not have the structure to do this land planning management. They are not sure whether it is DAFF, COGTA or DRDLR that is responsible for this programme. SPLUMA is there to address this issue and how development is going to affect people economically and politically. What you get is just spasmodic and sporadic engagements with communities. Even when local government was introduced, there was resistance. But a way had to be found to make people understand the need for local government. The problem here is the information gap because people have not been oriented to drive development at local level. An awareness programme is needed to look into this.
The Committee Researcher proposed that the Committee hold a workshop to understand how these structures function before it proposes the formation of the Council of Stakeholders.
Mr Walters said it is important to conceptualise how the land reform programme should be driven, and look at districts where this can be applicable but it depends on where the districts are.
Mr Filtane mentioned that most accounting authorities within the municipalities do not think beyond the five year contract. They must start thinking about 30 year plans to avoid disasters.
The Chairperson suggested that beneficiaries needed to be updated about their claims and there is a need to fast-track the process of old land claims and claims of those who died before they were settled.
Mr Filtane asked if the public plays a role in the allocation of budget at local government.
The Chairperson indicated that before a budget is tabled, public hearings are held but she stressed she does not know the composition of the people who attend.
Mr Filtane then said as a precautionary measure the Committee should know what the budget allocation process is so that the main beneficiaries, especially those in rural areas, could have a say.
Mr Madella indicated that the provincial budget is subject to public hearings but at national level it does not look like it is happening. The influence of the Committee in the budget allocation process should start around September.
The Chairperson said the issue has always been time. The Committee has the right to influence the direction the budget should take.
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