Commission on Restitution of Land Rights 2nd & 3rd Quarter 2015/16 performance, with Deputy Minister

Rural Development and Land Reform

24 February 2016
Chairperson: Ms P Ngwenya-Mabila (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Committee welcomed the Quarterly Reports as they showed the progress that had been made in dealing with claims. However discomfort was expressed at the pace of restitution. The Committee was very interested in the research aspect of the Commission's brief. They asked whether, after involving research institutions, the 1 036 claims that were supposed to be researched as part of the target, would be fully dealt with; how this research was done; which service organisations assisted with the research; if the staff who dealt with research were properly trained; and if the Commission was capacitated to reach the targets especially given the outstanding claims. Members asked for the timeline for the outstanding claims; the number of claims per province; what had happened to the R4,2 million; the progress on the move to autonomy; the Constitutional Court case and whether the target for the finalisation of claims would be met.

Members were informed about an organisation call Front National which submitted claims on behalf of Dutch South Africans; and asked how the Commission planned to deal with this. The Deputy Minister responded that all claims were dealt with as was dictated by the Act. The Committee heard about the rigours involved in dealing with the land audit.

The Committee advised that the 1998 claims had to finalised as soon as was possible. The Committee awaited the following reports and tasks from the Commission: Research intervention report; Provincial breakdown of the second and third quarter reports to facilitate committee oversight; the Exceptions policy covering those people whose land was taken before 1913; List of service providers by 4 March; Report on financial compensation for claims.

Public hearings on the Extension of Security of Tenure Amendment (ESTA) Bill will take place in the Western Cape province on 12 and 13 March 2016.

Minutes

Meeting report

Commission on Restitution of Land Rights (CRLR) on its 2nd & 3rd Quarter 2015/16 performance
Ms Nomfundo Ntloko-Gobodo, Chief Land Claims Commissioner: CRLR, presented a detailed report on the achievements against the Annual Performance Plan targets; total operational expenditure and operational expenditure per province. Provincial breakdowns were provided for settled claims and the amounts provided in terms of restoration and financial compensation settled 1 July to 30 September 2015 for Quarter 2 and 1 October to 31 December 2015 for Quarter 3. For example, 146 claims were settled in Quarter 2 and 267 claims were settled in Quarter 3.


Discussion
The Chairperson asked whether, after involving research institutions, the 1 036 claims that were supposed to be researched as part of the target, would be fully dealt with. He said that research was critical to the process of restitution and asked for more information about this.

Mr Robertson asked what was meant by research and what processes did this research involve.

Mr T Walters (DA) asked about the Commission's capacity in terms of researching claims. He asked how many researchers were allocated per claim and how long it took to do one claim.

Ms Ntloko-Gobodo said that in terms of capacity and time, officials were doing some of the research as capacity was a challenge. The Commission had acknowledged that in the context of research it needed external reports to improve the quality of the research. Research was different for each claim as it depended on the nature of the claim.

Mr Robertson said that what had been on his mind a lot lately was a conclusive land audit. One needed to look for figures and statistics that would properly show how much agricultural land was still available in South Africa, how much land was owned by the state, and how much land was owned by the private sector. Only when one had received a conclusive audit, could one start projecting what was needed in South Africa with regard to the agricultural sector and the availability of land and the restitution of land.

The Director-General replied that the Land Audit had been reported on. Phase 1 had been reported on showing how much land was owned by the state and how much owned by private sector. The question was posed who was going to embark on the second phase of the Land Audit where it would be unpacked who owned 79% of the land. This phase was underway to breakdown ownership by race, and the various companies who owned the land. What the land audit would not do was to show how much agricultural land was owned. We do have the numbers of what was registered as agricultural land, but as was known, land use was changing daily as agricultural land was being converted to other uses. The progress report on who owned the land, would be obtained from the Chief Surveyor General, and submitted to the Committee.

Mr M Filtane (UDM) said that this was one programme where the Committee was happy with the progress being made. He asked when the Commission envisaged finalising the outstanding claims, given the added pressure of those claims.

Mr T Mhlongo (DA) asked what was the timeline for the outstanding claims.

Ms Ntloko-Gobodo replied that this was not so easy to answer because many factors had to be considered. For example if someone wanted to be included in an existing claim; this then counted as an additional claim which then required an additional amount to service the claim. Claims were not just based on one variable. A lot of work was needed to get to the figures for how much time was needed for a claim. Calculations were not based on just one variable.

Mr Mhlongo asked for details about the numbers of claims per province.

Ms Ntloko-Gobodo replied that this information would be submitted to the Committee.

Messrs Mhlongo, Mnguni and Madella asked for progress on the move towards autonomy.

Ms Ntloko-Gobodo replied that in moving towards autonomy, the Commission always tried to ensure that its strategy was aligned to that of the Department.

The Chairperson asked for a briefing on the court issue.

Mr A Madella (ANC) also referred to the Constitutional Court case and asked for more information about this.

Ms Ntloko-Gobodo replied that certain NGOs had taken the Commission to court with regard to a clause in the legislation on prioritisation. This clause held that there should be priority resolution of existing claims before the new claims were done. Secondly, the process that was followed was questioned. Here the process in the NCOP was not followed in terms of public consultation that needed to happen.

Mr Madella referred to the 1 036 claims that still had to be finalised. It had been reported that there were approximately 600 claims that had to be researched by research institutions. This would fall short of the targeted 1 036 claims. He asked who was going to target the approximate 500 remaining claims; if the Department would do it, and would that target be met?

Ms Ntloko-Gobodo replied that the claims before the 2012 targets still had to be dealt with. All outstanding claims were acknowledged, and the Commission had to be sure of this so that it could deal with all of them. Especially to see how much money was required to finalise all the pre-1998 claims. This was why the Commission was pushing itself hard to make sure it dealt with all the outstanding claims. The finalisation of claims depended on budget allocations.

Mr Madella asked how many universities were on board currently in doing the research into the claims.

Ms Ntloko-Gobodo replied that a list would be submitted to the Portfolio Committee.

Mr S Matiase (EFF) expressed discomfort at the pace of restitution. The Commission had to look at how land should be redistributed; how the land should be owned, who should own the land. It was unfortunate that the Commission was still dealing with claims lodged before 31 December 1998.

Mr K Robertson (DA) asked on the basis of claims prior to 1998, what was holding up the process, why progress was so slow?

Ms Ntloko-Gobodo replied that the research process was so cumbersome because the Commission was dealing with historically old land and communal land that was unsurveyed. The planning community was unclear about actual boundaries, so a lot of work still had to happen around this.

Mr Matiase said there was an organisation called Front National, which was dealing with land claims for Dutch South Africans. He asked what the Commission's attitude was towards those claims; were those claims legitimate; and how was the Commission going to deal with such claims.

Mr Mcebisi Skwatsha, Deputy Minister of Land Reform and Rural Development, said that with the regard to the Front National, the Act made it clear how those matters were to be dealt with. All claims were dealt with as per the Act. He had difficulty understanding the questions about how land should be distributed and owned, and by whom. Those issues had been attended to already adequately. The Commission would not rest on its laurels even though it had achieved 75% of its target.

The Deputy Minister said that the timeline was a challenge because the government was working with a map in this country which was not created by any one of us; and it had to continually assess whether it was on the right track.

There was no intention to hide anything. He emphasised that any claim was considered in relation to the Act; Any programme that government was involved in was about equality, but more importantly it was to bring about a lasting solution to the problems in this country. This was why the Commission was not reckless in its approach.

Mr Matiase asked for progress in terms of the Land Act which had prevented the Khoisan from lodging claims prior to 1913, as the exceptions were not clear. He was disappointed about legitimate land claims in the Western Cape not being adequately dealt with.

Ms Ntloko-Gobodo replied that with regard to the exceptions policy the following had taken place: In November 2015 a meeting was held between all affected parties to design a framework which would inform how exceptions would be dealt with. Land and historical landmarks informed this process. This was a process which was still unfolding.

Mr Walters cautioned the Committee against getting involved in specific claims as per the mechanics of each case.

Mr Matiase raised a point of order; he said he did not put a question to the Committee. He had posed a question to the Commission which was legally established to look at such questions.

Mr Walters also raised a point of order

The Chairperson interceded and said that her understanding was that individuals had the right to claim; families had the right to claim; and the Commission had to act as per the Restitution of Land Rights Amendment Act. There were no claims that would be treated differently or specially. The Act governed restitution.

Ms N Magadla (ANC) asked for clarity about different compensation amounts for different provinces.

Ms Ntloko-Gobodo replied this was not easy to answer because one could not compare hectares acquired in one province with those acquired in another province as it depends on the nature of the land. It also depended on the situation of the land in that area such as whether it was farming land or communal land.

Ms Ntloko-Gobodo replied that a report to this effect would be submitted to the Committee.

Mr E Nchabeleng (ANC) asked what methods were used to deal with untraceable claims and what was the impact of untraceable claims on the settlement of land claims. He referred especially to those who lodged claims late, and asked if this was catered for, and what process was followed to cater for those who lodged claims later.

Ms Ntloko-Gobodo replied that an official process had been set up for dealing with untraceable claims. As soon as that process has been engaged, the Commission declared what has been done, like going to Home Affairs; engaging radio stations; using mobile units and creating lists of the claims and putting them up. This is so that the Commission could show that it had tried every avenue to sort out the claim.

With regard to new claims and old claims, Ms Ntloko-Gobodo replied that old claims were prioritised if the new claim overlapped with the old claim that was already in progress. Alternatively a mandate from the court would be obtained to deal with it.

Mr Mnguni said that 75% was not good enough performance. He appealed to the Commission to try to do better and to convince the Committee that research was a problem of the past.

Mr Walters said that he wanted to clarify his previous point. He meant that one had to be conscious of the different processes involved.

Mr Robertson asked, with regard to the land audit, if the Commission could provide a list of the services providers who assisted the Commission with research.

Ms Ntloko-Gobodo replied that the Commission would provide the report with the names of claims still to be finalised, and the list of service providers who assisted with research would be submitted to the Committee by 4 March 2016.

Mr Mhlongo asked for information about the numbers of claims per province per year and settlement.

Ms Ntloko-Gobodo replied the Commission would have to consult the register for this information. The report would be forwarded to the Committee.

Mr Mhlongo said that officials should know how to do research and should be empowered to do so. He asked for a detailed report on external support. Further what agreement existed around this?

Ms Ntloko-Gobodo replied that this was a challenge but the Commission would continue to provide training to staff involved in research and continue to encourage the transfer of skills.

The Chairperson said that the 1998 claims had to finalised as soon as was possible. The Committee awaited the following reports and tasks from the Commission: The research intervention report; the provincial breakdown in the second and third quarter reports - to facilitate their oversight; the exceptions policy had to cover those people whose land was taken before 1913; the list of service providers by 4 March; the report on financial compensation of claims.

Mr Robertson referred to Slide 5 which showed the results of the settled claims in Quarter 2 and 3. Quarter 2 showed that R13 122 was paid per hectare. In Quarter 3 the price had dropped to R11 786 per hectare. He asked how the value of the land was determined and why the price had dropped. He asked if the land that was acquired had fully functional farms.

Mr Robertson asked how many of the claims prior to 1998 were turned down.

Mr Mhlongo asked what had happened to the R4.2 million.

Mr Nchabeleng asked what happened if the Commission was taken to court.

Mr P Mnguni (ANC) stated that he would like to see the finances of the Commission. He asked what was the role of the Operational Expenditure Grant in terms of how it could assist the land claims process.

Questions asked that were not answered would be responded to by means of written reports to be submitted to the Portfolio Committee

Progress report on Public Hearings on ESTA
The Committee Secretary said that public hearings were supposed to have been held on the 27 and 28 February 2016. This was not possible so the Chairperson was asked if the hearings could be held on the 12 and 13 March 2016. The Chairperson approved this and an application was made to the House Chairperson to approve the new dates. This was approved and it was emphasised that nothing would be changed except that provinces would be swapped to accommodate the change of dates. Hearings in the final province would be held on 2 May 2016.

The Chairperson said that the dates for the public hearings in the Western Cape would be 12 and 13 March 2016. Members would be informed in writing about these dates.

The minutes of the 17 February 2016 were adopted.

The meeting was adjourned.

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