Other documents: Portfolio Committee on Rural Development and Land Reform: Draft Strategic Plan 2016 – 2019; Portfolio Committee on Rural Development and Land Reform: Draft Minutes 02 March 2016; Portfolio Committee on Rural Development and Land Reform: Draft Minutes 09 March 2016
The Committee, in the presence of the Deputy Minister, was firstly given a progress report on the Agri Parks. programme, with the presenters going through every page of the presentation in depth, since the documents had arrived late. The Committee was informed that the Department was not running the Agri Parks programme by itself; it was cross cutting and involved other government departments as well as the private sector. The key principle of the Agri Parks was that the ownership would be 70% smallholders with the state and commercial interests holding 30%. As yet, the concept was not fully developed. The Department wanted to ensure maximised access for all farmers because this was one of the areas that had been a challenge for smallholder farmers. The different plans for each of the provinces were outlined. Members commented that it was necessary in future presentations to ensure consistency, with all chairpersons' names being recorded. They asked what type of enterprise was supported and what type of support was offered;. They wondered if, for the animal and veld management programme, money was taken from the recapitalisation budget or the R2 billion allocated for Agri Parks and asked how that R2 billion was to be utilised, and its source. They wanted to know if all business plans were available, if there was a monitoring system in place to track Agri Parks and check where interventions were needed, the role of other departments, how criteria were applied, the ownership structure. Members asked if this scheme would assist with drought relief, what types of farming and other enterprises might be supported, how the Department dealt with evictions, the position of the Kgosi and whether people with disabilities were accounted for. Members also stressed to need to ensure that all participants were compliance with the law, and wanted to know about the transport, water supply and electricity plans. They asked for an explanation of the huge disparity in the costs of setting up jobs in each province and called for notification of any links with pre-existing programmes and how the structure was designed to bring in the private sector. They asked about the terms of reference for serving on the Board and what skills were required, particularly of the chairpersons. Further questions examined how the Agri Parks related to the Department’s one-house one-hectare project,who paid the salaries of board members, how the boundaries with regard to Agri Parks were determined, sought information on the rehabilitation of dams and how prices were negotiated. The Chairperson summarised, at the end of the discussions, that the Department should provide reports on the Malenga Irrigation Scheme and the nine districts that were delayed to the Committee, and the Committee would try to visit the projects. The Department was also asked to submit the Policy Framework on Smallholder Farmers, and give a follow up on the involvement of people with disabilities in the recapitalisation, and also investigate the alleged interference of departmental officials in changing the decisions of beneficiaries of the recapitalisation project.
The Committee was given a progress report on RAMA Communal Property Association (CPA). The alleged RAMA CPA executive committee had failed to comply with the court order and demanded that all correspondence be through their legal representative. The Department of Rural Development and Land Reform (DRDLR) had attempted to support the executive and the interim committee to participate in a pre-planning meeting in line with the court order. The preparations failed because the executive committee was not cooperative. Two officials received death threats and there were allegations of intimidation and kidnapping reported. The Department was considering its options, which might include delaying the elections, or taking over the CPA. Members suggested that criminal charges should be laid, as it was important that members of the Department and officials were protected. The Committee asked if the legal team had been approached for an opinion, and what this opinion was. The Committee asked if the kidnapping was linked to what the Department was planning in the area, asked for more information on the alleged involvement of police officials, and to whom this had been reported, and then suggested that since this whole process had exposed several loopholes in the legislation, the amendments to the CPA Act should be fast-tracked. Some Members suggested that the AGM,which had been advertised, must proceed. They were divided in their opinions as to whether it was worthwhile trying to postpone elections, but the Department said it would consider all options advanced by the Committee. It was suggested that the Deputy Minister should engage on a political level with the Minister of Police regarding the cases that were not processed due to police officers being in conflict about the situation.
The Committee's report on the Department's Annual and Strategic Plans for 2016 – 2020 were adopted. Minutes of meetings held on 02 and 09 March 2016 were also adopted, with amendments.
The Chairperson acknowledged the presence of the Deputy Minister for Rural Development and Land Reform and noted the apology of the Minister.
Agri Parks status report by Department of Rural Development and Land Reform (DRDLR)
Ms Leona Archary, Deputy Director-General: Department of Rural Development and Land Reform, said that the Agri Parks programme was not handled by the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform (DRDLR or the Department) alone; this cut across other government departments and the private sector as well. DRDLR was working with the Departments of Trade and Industry, Agriculture Forestry and Fisheries; Economic Development, Science and Technology, Small Business Development, Water and Sanitation, and Environmental Affairs. The key principle of the Agri Parks was that the ownership would be 70% in terms of the smallholders themselves, and the state and commercial interest would be 30%. The DRDLR was doing all that it could to maintain this in all of its hubs and production support units. The intention was to bring all under-utilised land into full production in the next three years. The Department wanted to ensure maximised access for all farmers beacuse this was one of the areas that had been a concern for smallholder farmers.
Ms Archary outlined all the plans in the different provinces, the number of farmers impacted upon, the number of jobs created and the value of the recap project per province, by reading through each page of the slides (see document for full details).
The Chairperson said that it was her intention that a detailed presentation was delivered because the documentation had arrived from the Department rather late, and in this way each and every page was clarified. She noted that the presentation was not quite consistent, because not all the names and contact details of chairpersons in the Agri Parks were recorded. This should be corrected so that the name and contact details of chairpersons could be indicated throughout.
The Chairperson asked what type of enterprise was supported and what type of support was offered?
Ms Archary replied that a variety of enterprises were supported. It should be understood that even as the Department was doing the Agri Parks programme, it would not focus only on agricultural enterprises, because there were a number of spin-off enterprises. It was important to look at this in terms of the whole value chain, and the Department really wanted to see the linkages out of all the enterprises that were being created. At the moment the main concentration was on agriculture, but there were other types of enterprises that the Department was going to support.
The Chairperson asked if, in the case of the animal and veld management programme, and the recapitalisation programme, money was taken from the recapitalisation budget or from the R2 billion allocated for the Agri Parks.
Ms Archary replied that it should be remembered that the Department used to also support work in terms of building structures around park houses, and that work around the animal and veld programme was carried on to support the work of farmers on the ground so that they could be able to produce in the Agri Parks. This was how the R2 billion was spent. She clarified that the amount of R2 billion was the budget. She reminded Members that when the Agri Parks programme was announced it was not given a separate budget allocation, because this money was not available in addition to other funding, so the DRDLR had to work on how to target this objective. The Agri Parks were largely within the rural spaces of this country, and a lot of the programmes that the Department had already been driving before, like economic infrastructure, would involve the same type of work. The Agri Parks were essentially making the Department more focussed in terms of where it was moving with its interventions. R1 billion had come from the programme for rural development, and R1 billion from recapitalisation and development. All of those supported the elements of the Agri Parks so the Agri Parks were really becoming an anchor for those programmes.
The Chairperson said that all the business plans had to be finalised by February 2016. She asked if all the business plans were available, because in some cases the dates were shifted.
Ms Archary replied that the issue of the business plans had been responded to, the drafts were already on the table, and once they had been through the consultation process, the Department would make the final ones available to the Committee.
Ms N Magadla (ANC) asked what the progress was in terms of districts not submitting their business plans. She also asked if there was a monitoring system in place to track Agri Parks and check where interventions were needed.
Ms Archary replied that a monitoring plan was in place to check delays through various structures from the level of province up to national. One of the structures reported back to the Minister and Members of the Executive Council (MinMEC) on delays. The Minister had appointed the MECs for Agriculture - as the Deputy Minister had said - to help drive this, as well as the mayors at district level. At an operational level, there were meetings on a weekly basis to double check from district to national what was going on.
KwaZulu Natal now had their draft business plans on the table. 34 draft business plans had already been completed, so they had come in on time on 29 February. At the moment the DRDLR was workshopping those business plans with the District Agri Park Management Councils (DAMC) because the Minister wanted communities to begin to take ownership of what was happening. Final business plans would have to be in by 31 March. There were nine districts and details of those would be sent to the Committee, although there would be delays in some areas until April, since the Department had not managed to have some people appointed to the districts in time. .
The Chairperson said that there was an outcry, especially from smallholder farmers, because they had not been part of the Agri Park concept, neither had they been properly consulted. This had happened although the Department had mentioned that consultation was continuous. She cautioned the Department to ensure that public participation and public involvement was intensified before it started any project.
Ms Candith Mashego-Dlamini, Deputy Minister of Rural Development and Land Reform, replied that work on the ground was done through the district and the Department of Agriculture, which had district offices in all provinces, which made it possible for access to the whole district. At the end of the day the Department of Agriculture had to give individual support to individual smallholder farmers around that district, on the production that they had started. Others might be doing small scale farming, and they needed to be assisted to produce more. The production strategy started when the Department of Agriculture told the DRDLR what commodity was most feasible in a particular area, then production of that commodity would be supported.
The Deputy Minister said that in some provinces the Premiers had set up committees to do some door to door work on the farms to check what the situation was with the farm workers, and if assistance was needed. The Department was looking forward to the report, especially in the province of Mpumalanga, because it was the Department’s responsibility to secure the tenure of its farmworkers. That was why it had developed the 50 50 Programme, to strengthen its work. The report that would come out would help to show which farms could be targeted to secure the tenure of the farm workers, or to buy the farm for the farmworkers so that whatever problems were being experienced could be relieved. Of course the South African Human Rights Commission was also dealing with those matters.
The Chairperson asked if the departments that were working together with the DRDLR on the Agri Parks were actually working as departments or were merely coming with funding?
Mr T Walters (DA) asked how the Department measured what a small holder was, given that there was a 70%: 30% formula of which 70% was for small holder farmers and 30% was for the State and commercial farmers. He asked further whether, given the economic realities, that formula could be used across the board, and he also asked whether small holding was a viable option, or whether it was not preferable to look at ownership structures rather than the type of farming.
Mr Mdudzi Shabane, Director General, DRDLR, replied that firstly a policy framework could be provided on how to measure smallholder farmers. The Department had four categories of farmers with whom it worked. The first category was the subsistence farmer who produced to supplement his or her own income. The second category was the smallholder farmer who produced on a small scale and was not entirely dependent on their farming. The third category was the middle to semi-commercial farmer. The fourth category was the commercial farmer. These were the people the Department was targeting in terms of Outcome 7, as identified in the National Development Plan (NDP), in Chapter 6; and these were the people who, if properly supported, could contribute meaningfully.
Mr Walters asked about the implementation of Agri Parks as a new venture, whether were there expectations, was it something that was rushed into, or was a seeding capital approach taken, letting market dynamics decide how the Agri Parks evolved.
Mr Walters expressed interest in the ownership structure of each one of the Agri Parks, and said that it would be useful for the Committee to get a list of the shareholding, who the people were and what share they owned. It was difficult to assess viability from the current presentation – he did not intend this to be criticism, but rather a comment that the Committee needed to know the financial viability and whether the Agri Parks were working commercially.
Ms Archary replied that in order to present the business case, each business owner would have to come with his or her own business plan,and obviously had to be able to show financial viability in order to be able to be funded. The Department also wanted to use the broad business plan, as it was doing right now, to begin to draw investment into those spaces. At the moment the Department was unable to provide financial statements of any structure because they were not yet operative business models; the Department was still building the system, with a focus on the individual farmers ,although there also had been a thorough business plan that had been approved by economists.
Mr Walters said that some of the plans had been adapted due to the drought. He asked to what extent could the Agri Park concept actually help with drought relief.
The Deputy Minister replied that Agri Parks’ activity was consolidated activity. Droughts were unforeseen and so the Agri Parks as a concept could not do anything about drought. The Department was involved and would work with municipalities to see what could be done in support of farmers, by meeting with agricultural scientists to decide on a way to support farmers against drought.
Mr Walters said that the Westrand Agri Park was mentioned and that Agri Parks, from a government support point of view, relied heavily on people not operating in their silos, but instead operating using a transversal concept approach. A place like Brandvlei, specifically, had a serious problem with ground water pollution. Sedibeng also had underground water that was polluted. It was mentioned that vegetable farming tunnels were being put up. He asked if the ground water pollution had been taken into account, otherwise he was worried that there might be heavy investment when the food product ultimately could not be marketed. He asked if the Westrand District Municipality and the local municipality were both on board with the situation there.
The Deputy Minister replied that it was reported that in the Sedibeng district, farming was being done in tunnels through hydroponic farming. This farming did not utilise more water. It was very difficult in other areas to draw underground water. If there was pollution in underground supplies, then the Department of Water and Sanitation and the municipalities would be dealing with that. The DRDLR supported hydroponic farming. This was why lots of tunnels were being built.
Ms Archary commented on the emerging businesses, saying that the Department was busy with detailed work right now setting up the cooperatives. This was part of setting up the business model on how the hubs were going to operate. In a hub there was going to be several different types of enterprises that were operating, but under an umbrella kind of management structure.
Mr Walters said that the Agri Park concept deserved merit but “the devil was in the detail”. He asked that the Department should, at least once per term, provide the Committee with a proper breakdown, for each Agri Park, to show the Committee the financial statements, what the investment was, what the returns were on the investment and what the outputs and/or outcomes were. A matrix might need to be developed to look at all of this.
Ms Magadla said that only cattle farming was spoken of, and asked if poultry farming or piggery had also been considered.
Ms Archary replied that the Department was focussing on all the commodities as identified in the Agricultural Policy Action Plan. The Committee was just being shown some of the pictures through the presentation. Poultry farming was definitely included and work on piggeries was being done in KwaZulu Natal.
Ms Magadla asked how the Department dealt with evictions.
The Deputy Minister said that there was a toll free number and lawyers had been put in place to assist. As was indicated, the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development had lawyers, but these were not really helping the situation because there were not permanent staff to deal with those issues on a daily basis. Discussions were being held so that the courts were available to assist people.
Ms Magadla asked what kind of ownership was provided in communal areas under traditional leadership.
The Deputy Minister replied that ownership of Agri parks was a business that would be transferred to co-operatives that were trained. The boards were being trained. The committees were not statutory boards and they were not established in terms of the law. Proper management of the infrastructures and programmes was essential but this was not quite so complex as statutory bodies, because the operations did not fall under any legislation, but were intended for improving the management of the Agri Parks as a programme. Sitting allowances would be paid, although this was not calculated in terms of any legislation.
Mr E Nchabeleng (ANC) asked for more clarity about some board members being Kgosi (tribal leaders).
The Chairperson said that there was an outstanding question on the participation of Kgosi.
Ms Archary replied that Kgosi were participating in the District Agri Park Management Council (DAMCs). The DAMC had a variety of institutions and organisations participating, including two representatives from the traditional council, and the committee chose their chairperson. This might be the Kgosi in some instances, but the Department had no say in this. The details of the various chairs and deputy chairs could be sent to the Committee.
Ms Magadla expressed disappointment because when she went to an event in her province she asked an official at the DRDLR table how many students there were from the National Rural Youth Service Corps (NARYSEC) in this district, and he did not know anything about it. She urged that all officials must be knowledgeable about what was happening 'on the ground'.
The Deputy Minister said that this was unfortunate because the Department was working in all the programmes at each and every district, especially in rural areas. In KwaZulu Natal there was a structure that sat at district level, at local municipal level and even at a ward level. This person was probably not attending meetings, where the coordination was happening.
Ms Archary added that when the Department was recruiting for NARYSEC across the country, it was specifically recruiting in the areas surrounding the Agri Parks, and it was agreed that it would take 25 people from those areas across the country. This year alone, in KwaZulu Natal, in the first intake, there were about 250 young people taken from these areas in KwaZulu Natal and from a college at the moment around the Agri Park areas. Each of the provinces did have these numbers.
Mr A Madella (ANC) welcomed the in-depth presentation. He expressed agreement with the Chairperson that it was a problem that the names of some of the chairpersons in the district on the Agri Board were not mentioned.
Mr Madella noted an error on one of the slides. It was mentioned that in the Overberg, the location for the Agri Park was in Bredasdorp, but the provincial progress reports mentioned Overstrand. Overstrand was not an area like Bredasdorp, it was a municipality.
Ms Archary replied that she would check the slide for the Overberg and confirm the differences between the maps.
Mr Madella said that there was a need to understand how the 70% : 30% breakdown worked.
Ms Archary replied it had to be understood that this was a long-term programme of the Agri Parks. The Department was not rushing into any component, and there were also different aspects, covering, for instance, farm production, processing, market access. When the Department was talking about the 70% : 30%, it was largely speaking around the component that dealt with the value addition, because that was the key component around the 70 : 30 split. That did not exist exactly at the moment because the Department was working and building that model. In order to get to that model it had to make sure that the farmers were properly organised and capacitated to participate. This would come into operation when the Hub and other structures came into play, once the enable infrastructure environment was in place. The focus was on getting the production to the right quality and sustainable level to be able to supply, otherwise the Department would be putting in the processing components and would not be able to supply. It was a work in progress at the moment.
Mr Madella said that the involvement of women and youth was mentioned, but nothing was said whether there were any persons with disabilities. He asked for clarity on this.
Ms Archary replied that the Department kept that data, and most definitely was targeting those areas. She apologised for not mentioning that earlier.
Mr Madella said that, in relation to current funding, the President had announced that R2 billion had been set aside. Many smallholder farmers had been referred to ,who had been part of recapitalisation. Restitution had also been spoken about. He asked where those monies were coming from, and how much of the R2 billion had been spent to date? He expressed his satisfaction that a lot of departments were involved. He asked to what extent were they contributing, and whether the R2 billion still remained.
The Deputy Minister replied that the Department was working in the district municipalities in the Local Economic Development section (LED), with the Department of Agriculture, and the Department of Economic Development in the provinces. Whatever was being done had to go into the Integrated Development Plans (IDP) of that particular local municipality. There was consultation, but in most areas, especially in the 27 priority districts, those municipalities did not have budgets for their LED.
Ms Archary said that in some of the slides the contributions of the Departments of Agriculture in the provinces were also shown. For instance, the slides on Gauteng showed that provincial departments were putting in money. At national level there were even commitments from the Department of Trade and Industry to put extra into the programme. She felt that a matrix for showing how the monies were flowing from everyone into the programme would be found, and that would take the levels to beyond the Department's contribution of R2 million.
Mr Madella asked whether this process had encouraged all participants to comply with existing legislation. He asked further whether, where the Agri Parks were in place, there were also processes in place to inculcate compliance with existing legislation.
Mr Shabane replied that the Department had to make sure that there was compliance. The Department was aware that there would be issues of legislative compliance .
Mr M Filtane (UDM) welcomed the report as it was quite refreshing to get such a comprehensive report at such an early stage of the programme. He asked whether, as part of the design of the buildings on site, there was a meeting or training hall set aside where people could gather from time to time. A project of this nature would require that there was on-going training, and it would make sense to have the facilities locally rather than being transported elsewhere at an additional cost.
Ms Archary replied that most definitely an Agri hub component had been set aside for training, as well as demonstration parks and components that dealt with research and technology innovation, because the Department wanted to make sure that all of this was driven. There was a lot of innovation happening in the agricultural sector at the moment and the Department had to make sure that it stayed aligned to that.
Mr Filtane asked if transportation was provided for in the budget, for the produce from the farm or to get to the production area, or whether the model envisaged that anyone wanting to get the produce would have to have his or her own transport. .
The Deputy Minister said that transport was another business in the value chain, so the DRDLR was not going to run transport for the people. The type of commodities that were needed in the Agri Park would determine the logistic. Another business would take the produce from a particular farm to the Agri Park. That was why a 50km radius was spoken of. There would be some that were further away, for instance in the Northern Cape because the area was vast.
Mr Filtane asked what system of water supply was provided.
The Deputy Minister replied that because the Department was doing the design it had to speak with consultants about energy efficiency. It was decided that solar power would work better.
Mr Filtane said that electricity could be quite a huge cost factor in operations of this nature. He asked if the Department had been able to negotiate special rates for the farming community.
Ms Archary replied that in terms of water supply and energy supply, the Department, when designing each of the hub components, was trying to suggest that people should try to move towards renewables as this would allow for long-term sustainability on costs.
Mr Filtane said that he had found a huge disparity in the costs of setting up jobs in each province. This was reflected in the slide on progress that showed expected employment figures. For example, in Amajuba in KwaZulu Natal, it cost R5.4 million for 80 jobs, with the cost of establishing a job being something like R68 000. In Nkangale, in Mpumalanga, 63 jobs cost R15 000 per job. In Eden Park in the Western Cape, 92 jobs cost R191 000 each. In the Eastern Cape, he had taken only a small sample but there, the cost was R21.1 million for 90 jobs, or R234 000 per job. This needed to be looked at very carefully, and particular attention had to be paid to the cost of establishing jobs province by province.
The Deputy Minister replied that the type and nature of the project would then influence the cost of the job.
Mr Filtane asked if there were any links with pre-existing programmes.
Ms Archary replied that the Department was linking with pre-existing programmes of government. On the production side it was just simply beginning to focus and zoom in in terms of particular impact spaces. One should also look at the Department of Trade and Industry, and the Department of Economic Affairs, in terms of special economic zones, to see them all beginning to come together around the spaces of Agri Parks.
The Deputy Minister replied that the Department was linking all the programmes in the local municipality, the district municipality, the Department of Agriculture, and the Department of Economic Development. The Department was putting them together because it was the champion of the Agri-Parks.
Mr Filtane asked how was the structure designed to bring in the private sector, and what the percentage contribution would be.
Ms Archary replied that the Department was currently working out an investment type of model so that it would be able to deal with the issue of how the private sector could come on board in all of the projects. There would be detailed projections for all of the projects within the Department and those projects were monitored. For the Agri Parks there were high-level milestone activities that had been set. The Department would then be able to report on the milestones, and where it wanted to be at different points in time.
Mr Filtane asked how the drought had affected the current crop and if the effect was noticeable.
Ms Archary replied that some of the Department’s plans had to be adjusted because of the drought. This was done by utilising some of the schemes that were already supported by irrigation, to make sure that those areas could be used to plant additional seeds. Mobile facilities had been set up across the country to support the farmers. There was a close working relationship with the National Disaster Management Centre.
Mr Nchabeleng asked if all Agri Parks were identified with the proper signage.
The Deputy Minister replied that signage should accompany all Agri Parks. A proper application to the Department of Roads and with local municipalities had to be done to ensure that there was signage at all the Agri Parks.
Mr Nchabeleng asked what criteria were used in identifying areas where the projects were located.
Ms Archary replied that a detailed analysis process had been gone through with the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), the Departments of Trade and Industry, Agriculture and Economic Development, to establish the criteria for site identification. These looked at where the commodities were in the country, the current existing infrastructure networks, the current existing infrastructure for processing, and where the farmers were in the country. Layers of different information were put together to see where the most suitable site would be, in order to give the best economic advantage. The DRDLR was linked very closely with the Department of Economic Development because they had worked on the global gateway, linked also to domestic or local gateways within the Agricultural Policy Action Plan. A full detailed analysis was sent to the provinces and the districts, who worked together to confirm that these were the correct sites. Certain criteria had to be matched. All sites were confirmed and that was presented to MinMEC. .
Mr Nchabeleng asked what the terms of reference were for serving on the Board and what skills were needed, especially for the Board Chairperson.
He wondered if anyone still participating in the “dop systems” would be allowed to participate in the Agri Parks programme.
Mr Shabane replied that currently such people were excluded, for legislative compliance was used as a criterion, although there was not a specific note of anyone to be excluded in the policy.
Mr Nchabeleng asked why sewing and carpentry did not feature in programmes in all Agri Parks. In one of the programmes, perhaps in Sedibeng, there had been talk of this.
The Deputy Minister said that the Department looked at what was happening in the district because the Department had to know who was doing business in that district. So when clothing was needed, those who were doing sewing were approached, and could be supported because they were ready, properly trained and with skills already refined. Some who were already doing things on a small scale could be brought in and asked to train young people.
Mr Nchabeleng asked if projections could be made, to assess whether it was likely that losses or gains would be made.
The Chairperson .n asked how the Agri Parks related to the Department's pilot projects on one household one hectare. She asked if there was any link between the two.
Ms Archary replied that the one household, one-hectare project was where production was increased and that increase in production would be flowing back into the Agri Parks programme. The work that the programmes were doing were intended to ensure that the farms were productive, and that production would flow back into the Agri Parks.
The Chairperson said that many structures had been created. She asked if so many structures were manageable.
Mr Nchabeleng asked whether decision-making on projects would be taken by the majority shareholder. He asked who would pay the salaries of board members.
Mr K Robertson (DA) complimented the Department on the report. He reiterated the Chairperson's earlier remark that Members needed documents at least two days in advance, in order to absorb the content and asked that the Department should make documents available earlier. He referred to the provincial progress reports, and to Slide 11 specifically, and asked how the boundaries for the Agri Parks indicated on the map were determined.
Mr Robertson said that in every provincial report, mention was made of jobs created and he asked how this tied in to the capital expenditure, as well as to the hectares of land. He asked further what jobs there were, and if they were agriculturally sustainable jobs, or just jobs for recapitalisation, like the building of piggeries.
Mr Robertson also asked the Department to elaborate on the rehabilitation of dams and if water had been secured to the proposed areas. He asked further if there were any plans to build more dams where there were water shortages.
The Deputy Minister replied that dams, as defined by the Department of Water and Sanitation and legislation, were not included for the dams that were referred to in this context were essentially very small dams that were merely holding water for the individual farmers, on each farm. These dams needed rehabilitation and cleaning. The other dams were for animal drinking.
Mr P Mnguni (ANC) said that the reporting format had been tabled in the Treasury regulations and this was what was asked for. The narratives were good, but the reporting format must be complied with; in particular it must reflect performance against the projections, which had not been done, which in turn made it very difficult to do oversight. It was not possible to do oversight over a narrative that was not pinned to any framework.
Ms Magadla said she was touched by the response of the Deputy Minister on the irrigation schemes. There were irrigation schemes in the Eastern Cape, and one in particular in the Ncora area, called the Malenge Irrigation Scheme. When the former Deputy Speaker visited that area the dams were revitalised, but now there was nothing happening and she urged the Department to look into this matter.
The Deputy Minister replied that money was put into the scheme in Ncora in in 2015, so the whole scheme was being rehabilitated and the furrows were also being revitalised. The sealed dams had also been revitalised. Decisions still had to be made about whether there was still a need to irrigate furrows, or whether to use another system to minimise loss of water.
Mr Filtane asked how prices of goods were negotiated in Agri Parks.
The Deputy Minister replied that the Agri Parks had now become the market for all farmers because there were formerly middlemen in the fresh produce market. Essentially the Department was removing the middlemen, so that the buyers would buy direct from the Agri Park, at a set price, determined by the food scientists and the Agricultural Research Council. The Departments wanted to protect the farmers, and avoid the situation where differing prices were apparent in different areas. The Department would set the prices properly so the farmers benefitted. The Department did not have an exact negotiated price fixed in advance, but its determination would be seasonal.
The Chairperson said that the report on the Malenga Irrigation Scheme had to be given to the Committee, as well as the report on the nine districts that were delayed. If the Committee had time, it would try to visit the projects. Mr Madella had clearly demonstrated his hands-on knowledge of Overberg, which had been very useful. She also commented that the the Policy Framework on smallholder farmers had to be submitted to the Committee. She urged the Department to quality-check the documents submitted in advance to avoid corrections having to be made during the presentation. She wanted a follow-up on the disability involvement in the recapitalisation. Any alleged interference by departmental officials in changing the decisions of beneficiaries of the recapitalisation project should be investigated.
RAMA Communal Property Association: Department of Rural Development and Land Reform briefing
Ms Rachel Masango, Chief Director, Department of Rural Development and Land Reform, gave an update to the Committee on the dispute involving the RAMA Communal Property Association (CPA). The alleged RAMA CPA executive committee failed to comply with the court order and demanded that all correspondence be through their legal representative. The executive committee issued notice of an AGM meeting on 7 October 2015, for a meeting on 10 October. The Department rejected this notice as it was not compliant with the court order and was in direct contravention of the Act.
The DRDLR had attempted to support the executive and the interim committee to participate in a pre-planning meeting, in line with the court order. The preparations failed because the executive committee was not cooperative. The DRDLR continued to send correspondence to known legal representatives, through the Office of the State Attorney. The executive committee then appointed new legal representation but did not communicate this. Security Services advised that the meeting should be held at a neutral venue.
Ms Masango said that arrangements were then made with the South African Police Service (SAPS) and Security Services to support the DRDLR. Posters were printed and posted in and around Garankuwa and Madidi, and advertisements were placed in newspapers, and local community stations were approached for free slots to publicise the meeting. Two officials received death threats and there were allegations of intimidation and kidnapping reported. The nomination meeting was scheduled for 19 March 2016.
Mr T Walters (DA) said that it sounded very serious and criminal charges should be laid. It was important that both the members of the Department and officials should be protected.
Ms Masango noted Mr Walters' comments and said the Department also shared those concerns about the escalating intimidation as the date of the nomination meeting came close.
Mr Nchabeleng asked what the legal team had said about moving the meeting to another area, even an undisclosed venue. He said that intimidation and death threats were punishable crimes in this country, and asked if any dockets had been opened, and, if so, what was the progress?
Ms Masango replied that the legal team had advised that the meeting could be moved to a different undisclosed venue to protect the community. The threat to officials started escalating in the past when a meeting was being held with the Minister. An official approached Ms Masango and said that he had been threatened. He was asked to report this matter to the Chief Director of Security Services and lay a charge at the police station. The cell phone number that was used to threaten the official was available. The Department also requested Security Services internally for advice on how to assist the two officials who were receiving threats.
Mr Nchabeleng asked how people who were kidnapped were linked to what the Department was planning in the area.
Ms Masango replied that one of the people who was kidnapped was a member of the Interim Committee, who had been taken in a taxi, and had then disappeared. This Interim Committee felt that this was linked to the processes that were about to be finalised.
Mr Filtane commented that since matters had taken an acrimonious turn, perhaps the court should be asked again for an extension for compliance, through the Department. His opinion was that more time was needed and if the people who had been removed from society were linked to this problem then the whole process should be suspended in order to investigate the criminality.
Ms Masango acknowledged the advice from Mr Filtane about going back to court and requesting an extension, and said that it was possible to postpone the meeting and let the police deal with the criminal elements.
Mr Robertson said that he was not surprised about the events, because Community Property Associations in other areas had displayed similar problems, but the general frustration and unhappiness had to be addressed. It was all very well to look into the criminality of the situation but more importantly one had to look at what caused this frustration. He asked if the alleged transgressors of the CPA, the Constitution and the Act were actually the legal beneficiaries of this land? Another audit of RAMA beneficiaries should be done with research into who were the rightful beneficiaries.
Ms Masango said that the land was privately owned by the CPA, but the alleged executive committee were not involving the community in the developments within the project itself, despite the fact that it was supposedly being done in the name of the CPA.
Mr Robertson said that this came down to the fact that as soon as the land tenure could be hurried along, this kind of conflict could be minimised, and those claiming to represent others would be stopped. The Committee had to look into the CPA Act and implement what was decided.
Mr Nchabeleng asked if the local police station was being used, because he had heard that the police in that area were also in conflict. This should be reported to the security cluster, and the Deputy Minister and the Director-General should look into this matter.
Ms Masango said that the big question was why people were behaving in this way. It seemed that the leader of this executive committee was someone the community was bringing in as a person who was able to get investment, although he had not been part of the executive community that was elected in the beginning, although he was a community member. He took over and left everyone else behind apparently believing that he could impose his business interests using the land itself.
Ms Masango said that the police were the local police in the area, as it was not possible to use police outside the locality.
Ms Magadla asked what would happen if someone was nominated from a certain area on to the executive committee.
Ms Masango replied that if a new executive committee member was elected, there would have to be a handover report from the previous executive committee. All people verified as representing families in RAMA CPA had been included, but were not invited as a part of the existing executive committee.
Mr Robertson asked what the financial implications would be for the state to fight this legal battle.
Ms Masango replied that these figures were not available, but she could get the information and send it to the Committee.
Mr Robertson asked what measures were going to be put in place to stop the continuous victimisation of the system and individuals once the new committee had been chosen.
Mr Madella said that if the interim committee had been involved in kidnapping, their ultimate aim was clearly to prevent the Department from implementing the court order, and postponing it was essentially playing into their hands. He said that although he did not wish to sound insensitive to the challenges being faced, it would be a victory for the interim committee if the process was delayed or cancelled. If he was in the victims' shoes he would persevere and take all the necessary steps to make the event as safe as possible, but still proceed. He asked what was preventing the Department from taking legal action to remove the perpetrator from his apparently entrenched position.
Mr Nchabeleng said that the Committee had been told that this CPA worked closely with the Tswane Municipality, and they preferred to deal with Tswane rather than with the Department. One of the recommendations had been to bring Tswane in as part of the facilitation team, because of the good relationship and he asked how far this process had gone.
Ms Masango replied that the Department had engaged with the Mayor, who had allocated people to work with the Department. There were other units who were looking at different relationships with people from RAMA, and the Department had not been kept apprised of all projects, but now there was a more efficient update.
The Deputy Minister said that this was a very difficult situation at RAMA. There was frustration because many cases had been forwarded to the police station, but there was conflict and they were referring matters back and forth. There was an urgent need to find out the reason for the conflict at the police stations so that the matter could be elevated to the Minister, with someone sent to provide assistance.
Mr Shabane said the whole issue was complex, and all the available options at the Department’s disposal had to be looked at. Mr Robertson raised a valid point, and the elections could be moved from that area, but it must be remembered that in any new structure the intimidation might continue. The Deputy Minister had said there had got to be engagement with the police at senior level to provide assistance so as not to undermine government policy. It would also be possible to explore the option of putting the CPA under administration, with the Department running the affairs until everything else was sorted out. However, whoever was the administrator would still be under threat, and that came back then to the same point, that the police would have to provide assistance.
He said that the Department would take the advice offered by Members and the situation would be evaluated. The Department would then come back to the Committee to present the preferred option, and the evaluation process would include both the option as expressed by Mr Filtane that the Department should hold back, and Mr Madella's point that any delay would be seen as a victory for those wanting to hijack the process.
The Chairperson said that it this matter has been discussed on several occasions and it was a complex matter. She asked for agreement that, because the advertisements had been placed, and it had been promoted, that there would be an Annual General Meeting, and said the Committee would support the Department in trying to convene that. If it failed, then, as the Director General said, it would be possible to put the CPA under administration. The Committee urged that the review of the CPA Act had to be fast-tracked, as it had been outstanding for some time. The Committee had realised that there were loopholes if one person, who was not even a part of the executive, could put everyone through this.
She suggested that the Deputy Minister, on a political level, should engage with the Minister of Police in relation to those cases that were not processed because some police officers were involved in the conflict. Those case numbers should be obtained. There were also executive members who were still in office after many years and this should be looked into.
Other Committee business: Adoption of minutes 02 March 2016
The Chairperson said that in point 4.4 of the minutes, the spelling of the word ‘panellist’ should be checked and corrected if need be.
Ms Magadla said that the word ‘number’ should be inserted after the word ‘toll free’ in point 5.6.
Mr Madella said that the word ‘Mthatha’ was spelled incorrectly in point 5.7.
He pointed out that the sentence in 6.1 had to be completed or removed.
The minutes of 02 March 2016 were adopted, with amendments.
Draft minutes 09 March 2016
Ms Magadla said that she had tendered an apology that had not been recorded.
The sentence in point 4 should read ‘Minutes of the previous meeting’. This should include a date.
The word ‘APP’ in point 6.1 should be capitalised.
The minutes of 09 March 2016 were adopted, with amendments.
Draft Committee Report on the Department's Annual Performance Plan and Strategic Plan 2016 – 2020
The Chairperson asked if there were any amendments to the Strategic Plan.
Mr Walters requested that what was discussed on Agri Parks should be looked at in the Strategic Plan because this was a key initiative that needed to be successful.
The Chairperson said that Agri Parks would be part of the Strategic Plan and reference to them would reappear in the Annual Performance Plan.
The Committee adopted its draft Report on the Strategic Plan 2016-2020.
The meeting was adjourned.
- Agri Parks status report; RAMA Communal Property Association update; Adoption of Committee report on Department's Strategic Plan 2016, in presence of Deputy Minister 3
- Agri Parks status report; RAMA Communal Property Association update; Adoption of Committee report on Department's Strategic Plan 2016, in presence of Deputy Minister 1
- Agri Parks status report; RAMA Communal Property Association update; Adoption of Committee report on Department's Strategic Plan 2016, in presence of Deputy Minister 2