The Committee was briefed by the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform (DRDLR) on its Annual Performance Plan for 2016 – 2017, with the Deputy Minister in attendance.
One of the important medium term strategic framework priorities was the growth of sustainable rural enterprises and industries, characterised by strong rural-urban linkages, increased investment in agro-processing, trade development and access to markets and financial services, resulting in rural job creation. Departmental key performance areas to receive attention for this year were the roll out of the agri parks programme across 44 district municipalities for food production, design and construction of new infrastructure, the speeding up of labour tenants’ applications, especially in Mpumalanga and KwaZulu-Natal provinces, the acquisition and allocation of land to smallholder farmers, including the roll-out of the 'one household, one hectare'; and scaling up the implementation of the programme on Strengthening of Relative Rights (SRR) of people working on the land (50/50 policy framework).
The Committee asked about the ‘one household, one hectare’ approach and the Relative Rights programme. Did the DRDLR collaborate with other Departments whose work either overlapped or dovetailed with its own? What were the criteria for leasing state farms to beneficiaries? It asked for a breakdown of the beneficiaries of agri parks, and how the shareholder percentage was distributed. Could the Department’s services be decentralised? Why had so much money been transferred to KwaZulu-Natal? How was the labour tenant process going to be speeded up? How many of the 1.94 million people who had benefited from restitution, had benefited financially? Other issues related to the tarring of rural roads, how long it would take to finalise all the land restitution claims, whether the National Rural Youth Service Corps (NARYSEC) was accredited, why money transferred to the Ingonyama Trust Board had been increased, and the impact of the cuts in the budget for the compensation of employees.
The Department had to submit an Operational Plan because most of the questions asked at the meeting had been because the Committee did not have the Operational Plan, which it needed for oversight purposes. The Committee issued a caution to the Department that when a budget was allocated, the Department should consider whether there was any need for additional funding or not. One should not just add money where it was not necessary to do so -- there should be a reason provided. There was a need to have joint meetings with other departments, because when engaging with the DRDLR it was clear that some of the issues were cross cutting. There should be a meeting with the Department of Transport on the issue of roads, and with the Department of Water, the Department of Agriculture and other departments on the issue of enterprise development, so that at the end of day everyone moved with a common understanding.
The Department was given a substantial list of reports which it was required to submit to the Committee.
Mr Mcebisi Skwatsha, Deputy Minister of Land Reform and Rural Development, said that the Department had once again come to the Committee to present the Department’s Annual Performance Plan (APP) for 2016/2017. This was regarded as a very important forum, where the Department had to be able to present itself so that it could take criticism and accept the issues raised by the Committee in order to advance the cause of the people of the country. He was here to give full support to the team.
Ms Leona Archery, Acting Director General, Department of Rural Development and Land Reform (DRDLR apologised that the presentation sent through was without the budget. This error had been noticed only last night. The budget talked to the targets in the APP, which had been circulated already.
Mr Eugene Southgate, Deputy Director-General said that this would a good opportunity to meet the new Director of Strategic Planning, Chief Strategy Analyst, Mr Leabua Sebiloame, who was the one who had basically pulled the APP together for the Department.
DRDLR Annual Performance Plan: 2016 – 2017
Mr Sebiloame said that the Medium Term Strategic Framework (MTSF) priorities included:
- Improved land administration and spatial planning for integrated development in rural areas;
- Sustainable land reform (agrarian transformation);
- Increased access to quality basic infrastructure and services, particularly in education, healthcare and public transport in rural areas; and
- Growth of sustainable rural enterprises and industries characterised by strong rural urban linkages, increased investment in agro-processing, trade development and access to markets and financial services resulting in rural job creation.
Departmental key performance areas to receive attention for this year were:
- Roll out of the Agri Parks Programme across 44 district municipalities for food production, design and construction of new infrastructure;
- Speed up labour tenants’ applications, especially in Mpumalanga and KwaZulu-Natal provinces;
- Acquisition and allocation of land to smallholder farmers, including the roll-out of the 'one household, one hectare'; and
- Scaling up the implementation of the programme on Strengthening of Relative Rights (SRR) of People Working on the Land (50/50 Policy Framework).
The following policy initiatives had been developed and had culminated in draft Bills:
- Communal Land Tenure Policy;
- Communal Property Association Policy;
- Regulation of Land Holdings Policy; and
- Electronic Deeds Registration Policy.
Ms Archery said that the second part would now be presented.
Mr M Filtane (UDM) interjected, and said that the Deputy Minister (DM) had indicated that he would be leaving soon, so he was concerned that the DM would not be around when the Committee raised issues on the first part.
The Chairperson said that the issues would be raised whether the DM was present or not, because the Acting DG, the Accounting Officer, was present. However, it would be good if the DM were present, because what was said had to be aligned with the finances.
Ms Rendani Sadiki, Chief Financial Officer (CFO): DRDLR, outlined the allocations per programme for the years 2016/17, 2017/18 and 2018/19. The allocations per programme for 2016/17 were Administration R1.462 bn; National Geomatics Management Services R818 m; Rural Development R1.914 bn; Restitution R3.168 bn; and Land Reform R2.762 bn. The full year total was R10.1 bn.
Mr T Walters (DA) said he would refer to what he had said yesterday -- that a lot of what had been said at this meeting relied on strong institutions, at the very least at the district level. There was an institutional setting that had to be worked into the presentations for the Committee to really know whether something was succeeding or not.
Ms Archery replied that programmes were structured in such a way that the Department relied on institutional mechanisms being put in place from the ground up, because it wanted to ensure that even as those institutional mechanisms began to take effect, they actually helped the Department to bring sustainability in the way it was doing development. The major institutions being relied on at the moment were the district land reform committees, the district agri park management councils, and the national agri park advisory council. All of them had been established. It was understood that when functionality was spoken of, it was a different thing. There had been a full process that had been happening over the last few months by the land reform team to ensure that all of the district land reform committees were capacitated across the country. They had been trained in various areas like leadership, ethics and finances just to begin to build that institution, and from 1 April the Department was going to be using that institution in terms of the way it used its land reform projects and programmes. Linked to this was very strong administrative support to ensure that it was an institution that could really begin to work. This had been the result of a long term process of engagement with all partners in the sector. The District Agri Park Management councils were pretty new and were going through the same process of capacitation. The National Agri Park Advisory Council was also in operation and was making sure that its terms of reference were included in operations.
Mr Walters asked whether the 'one household, one hectare' programme tied in with the Agri Parks concept. This would not work unless it was linked up to some market-value chain or Agri Parks concept, or there was some way of ensuring that it was not just an isolated household trying to survive on a piece of land.
Ms Archery replied that this was most definitely the case. If one tried to look at this in isolation, one would see that this would not bring the benefit they wanted. It should be remembered that the Agri Parks had moved from production to processing, and then to market access. So when the Department spoke in terms of production levels, this was one of the initiatives that it wanted to use to make sure that the land in the country did not lie fallow. It should also be remembered that in many cases in land reform, a Communal Property Association, or whatever legal entity was chosen, would have many households in it, but some households would want to work and others would not. This allowed that community to take responsibility individually to begin to work their land, so now they had taken the responsibility and that land had been ploughed, planted and harvested. They had managed to get a contract with the local Spar and Pick n Pay to be able to supply the surplus. So even though it was one hectare, one household, they would take care of the rights that they had. They would still be able to farm as a collective so that the surplus could still go into the market. The link then to the Agri Park would be the same -- it would be the surplus then moving into the Agri Park. The Department wanted people to take ownership for that level of work.
Mr Walters said this also related to the pilot projects around the much vaunted strengthening of the Relative Rights Programme. He asked what was actually happening with the pilot projects -- how was one going to know if they were successful or not? Was it a standard share or equity scheme, etc? He suggested that the Committee got reports on what was happening with those ten pilot projects.
Ms Archery replied that 27 proposals were in already. Of the 27, 17 had already been approved within the organisation, and the Department would provide the details and updates on them. It was not a typical equity scheme like the Department had been doing in the past, because this was coming from the willingness of the commercial farming sector to partner with their workers on the one hand, but also there was assurance of capacitation in the way in which people were partnering. This was about assuring the rights and also dealing with the economics, dealing with it as a business entity. The Department would provide regular reports to the Committee as it moved forward.
Ms Archery said that it should be remembered that by 2019, the Department had to do 50 proposals as announced, so each year those were the numbers that were being done. The numbers were already above the ten that were targeted last year and the ten for this year, and the Department would continue and strengthen them. Was it succeeding? Obviously it was a new initiative, and the ones that had been transferred the Department would be able to show and it would be able to judge the impact with forward movement. There was a team monitoring the implementation of this programme.
Mr Walters asked that in terms of the training, how did this dovetail with what the Department of Agriculture was doing, and were the two departments doing the same thing? Was there complementarity about what the two departments were doing -- was there not the possibility of saving resources and a better use of resources there?
Mr K Robertson (DA) asked how closely the Department worked with the Department of Agriculture. In this wa,y one could see where the Department of Agriculture was failing the DRDLR.
Ms Archery replied that the Department was working very closely with the Department of Agriculture in terms of how it implemented its projects and processes across the country. The Department would not be able to do its work without working closely with the Department of Agriculture, so it ensured that the departments complemented each other in the way they performed their work. The other area that the Department of Agriculture was really helping DRDLR was around the area of market access. This was done together with the Department of Trade and Industry. There were regular joint planning meetings together, and later in the year they were moving towards Operation Phakisa, which would deal with agriculture and rural development and land reform issues.
Mr Walters said there were projects in Gauteng where land was under-utilised.
Ms Archery replied that as far as land availability in Gauteng was concerned, she thought that there was most definitely under-utilisation. When one said 'land availability,' it was also about land that the Department purchased -- high value and strategically located land that it wanted to purchase. However, note was being taken about what the Committee was saying, that Gauteng was working very fast in terms of Agri Park implementation. They used small areas of land for tunnel production and were working closely on its development because their focus was fresh produce and vegetable production. Hence the smaller land referred to by Mr Walters was being worked on by the Department in Randfontein, Brandvlei and the western area.
Ms N Magadla (ANC) asked what the criteria was for the leasing of state farms to beneficiaries. This was important to ensure that the programme benefited the poor.
Mr Bonginkosi Zulu, Chief Director: Service Delivery and Coordination, DRDLR, replied that the Department had developed a policy on the selection of suitable candidates for the allocation of land by the state, and this policy existed. It detailed how the process needed to unfold for persons who wanted to lease land from the state. This information would be provided to the Committee.
Ms Magadla said that in the Medium Term Budget for 2016/17, the performance indicator for the number of farms was 18. She asked how the Department had been able to reach that performance.
Ms Archery replied that the when the Department was talking about the budget, it had said that even now it had reduced the number of hectares per year, because it also wanted to focus on the sustainability element in recapitalisation. When Dr Ngomane had presented, she had raised the concern that within the MTSF, the Department would not be able to necessarily achieve that two million hectare target. This was a bit of a challenge but the Department would continue to work with National Treasury in terms of that. It was true that at the current rate of land acquisition – it was seen this year to be about 80 000 hectares -- the Department would not meet the MTSF target for land.
With regard to the concept of 'one hectare, one household,' Mr Filtane said that the HSRC had stated that the structure and nature of a household in the rural areas had changed. He asked whether any research had been done to say that this had been confirmed as an economic unit on which a family could live for 12 months.
Mr N Matiase (EFF) asked if, on the policy of 'one hectare, one household', there was a benchmark of how the Department intended to go about that. He asked further if it could be presented to the Committee in the form of a policy framework.
Ms Archery replied that the Department would make sure to provide the draft framework around the 'one hectare, one household'. It would give details of how that policy was operating at the moment, and would also give an indication of where in the country this methodology had been started to be implemented. The Department considered the conditions of an area with regard to this project. In some cases, one person could have 1.5 hectares or two hectares, because it was about the principle. The principle attached to User Rights certificates for those people meant that they would be able to work those sections of their land. It was not only applicable to communal land, but also to all state land that the Department acquired. It could also be utilised on land acquired previously, even under any of the other land reform programmes held currently under a communal property association. This information would be made available to the Committee.
Mr Matiase said his question also applied to the Agri Parks model. He asked what could be presented as the quantification of a success story. He asked further for a breakdown of beneficiaries of these Agri Parks in the 44 districts that had been reported on. There was also a need to see how the shareholder percentage was distributed amongst the role players.
Ms Archery said that it should be remembered that the Agri Park roll out had started in the latter part of last year in terms of actual implementation. The Department could provide information about where work had already started, because it had various elements -- production, and the actual construction of the hub components where agro processing was going to be happening versus market access; There was not a place yet where all three were running at the same time, but the Department would be able to show the progression that had happened and the move towards where the Department intended to be this financial year.
Regarding the shareholder percentages in terms of beneficiaries, Ms Archery said that that model had already been set out in terms of the 70/30 split, and the Department could now make information available in terms of how that model of 70/30 was actually going to happen. The 70% was in favour of smallholder farmers.
Mr Matiase said that on land reform, the report had stated that there were a number of labour tenants’ applications that had been settled, without providing the detail of the nature of the applications that had been settled. He asked what it was that had been settled.
Ms Archery said that the information about labour tenants seen in the report was about the claims that would be settled. These were the labour tenant applications that had been made and those that would be settled in the current financial year. They did not refer to any disputes, but to the actual applications and the numbers that the Department would settle
Mr Matiase asked what the policy framework for the Strengthening of Relative Rights for persons working the land was. The Department had said that this was one of the policies in development. The Committee wanted to see what this policy sought to achieve and what these relative rights were – vis a vis the rights that were contained in the Extension of Security of Tenure Amendment (ESTA) Bill. What else would be presented as an alternative legislative and regulatory mechanism from what was proposed here as a policy framework for the Strengthening of Relative Rights for persons working the land?
Ms Archery replied that the Committee would get the policy framework for the Strengthening of Relative Rights. It would then be clear what was meant where ESTA was talking more about the tenure part of the right and not so much the economic linkages. One would find that the strengthening of relative rights really tried to bring together the economic linkage between the commercial and the agricultural aspect as well.
Ms Sadiki replied that the Strengthening of Relative Rights (SRR) was being delivered in conjunction or partnership with the National Empowerment Fund (NEF), because they had the capacity, skills and ability. This was now not solely an equity scheme, but a partnership between the owners of the land and the workers of the land. The NEF had been brought in to do the post acquisition management that would have them representing the Department at the governance body of the farms, so that they could take into account or manage the Department's interest together with the interest of the labourers at the farm for a period of between five and ten years. After this, the Department would remain there to make sure the plans were implemented and there was monitoring and evaluation of whatever was happening on the farms. She proposed that the Department brought the full report on SRR later. The report was there because the Department reported on a weekly basis to the Minister on the progress of the implementation of the 50/50 Project. It would be better if the report was given to the Committee so that it could see the status of the implementation of the programme.
On the policy for exceptions of pre-1913 land claims, Mr Matiase asked if the Department had the data that such claims could be acted upon through which it would be able to traverse policy alternatives without going into the heart of Section 25 of the Constitution, which dealt with property rights. He asked if the Department had such a mechanism and if it did, could the Committee see it?
Ms Archery said that with the Chairperson's permission if this could be referred back to the Commission on the Restitution of Land Rights (CRLR) who had briefed the Committee yesterday and could therefore confirm the data that they had in terms of the pre-1913 exceptions. A response would be provided in writing as to how to pursue this. The Department was in the process at the moment of dealing with these exceptions and as had been said yesterday, in terms of the heritage areas it was already working with various communities across the country.
Mr A Madella (ANC) referred to evictions and said that it would be good to know where those land parcels were – the ones that would be used to cater for those who had been evicted. He referred further to “hot spots,” and said that the Committee had been to one of those hot spots and the conditions there had been horrific. He urged he Department to speed up the process and settle people so that they could enjoy the available freedoms.
Ms Archery said that the Department could provide information about that. It could even be seen that in the APP it had reported about 'land acquired for labour tenants and farm dwellers'. The Department would provide this information as well for the years that had gone by.
Mr Madella ssaid the AG had stated that all the Department’s indicators were not well defined and had urged it to define them clearly.
Mr Southgate said that he was a bit concerned that the AG had made such a comment, because before the Department had finalised its APPs and strategic plan, the AG had itself quality controlled the Department's indicators and its technical indicator descriptors and had actually signed off on it before the APP had been adopted or submitted to Parliament. He would take up the issue with the AG and see what the problems were with indicators and if need be work with them on sorting it out.
Mr Madella asked why the targets for land parcels and agricultural enterprises had been reduced.
Ms Archery replied that if one looked at the target on enterprises, one would see that last year the Department had had a high target. What had been realised was that one really had to begin to focus on a certain type of enterprise. This because the Department worked in close partnership with the Department of Small Business Development - who were quite new to the partnership - the Department of Economic Development and the Department of Trade and Industry. So the type of enterprises that were focussed on this year had been the type of enterprises that would directly support the Agri Parks programme. That was why one would find more substantive enterprises being supported, because the Department rather wanted to follow a proper process and support a business plan. The way in which co-operative support was being done was through the business plan and it was a rolling process, which meant that the Department supported them for about two to three years on each of their business plans. That was why the number of new ones the Department supported this year was lower. These were not the only ones, as there were still ones that the Department was carrying through and supporting.
Mr M Filtane asked how much of what the Committee questioned and suggested went into the Department’s revised APP. The purpose of presenting it to the Committee was to factor in the changes that were recommended.
Ms Archery replied that the Department took into consideration whatever the Committee said. However, in terms of certain changes to the APP, it had to follow the normal process in terms of any revisions that had to happen. The issues that were raised by the Committee would definitely be taken into account, even at the policy level, because this influenced the way the Department worked.
Mr Filtane welcomed the mix of offerings when it came to Agri Parks as it showed that the focus was not just on agriculture. The Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) had referred to a trend that the budget of the Department seemed to be going down, compared with the national fiscus, and it seemed to be reaching a stage where it was under threat of failing to discharge its constitutional obligations. The CFO had also said that due to budgetary constraints, the Department was unable to run with a full complement of staff, and that as a result it may not be able to discharge all its functions. He would like it to be on record that he had raised this matter.
Ms Archery replied that yesterday, when the HSRC had said that the Department was unable to discharge its constitutional obligation, it was largely linked to restitution. The Department was saying that if it continued to increase the numbers, then there would be a budget challenge in terms of the research needed to complete all the restitution claims. The Chairperson had also said that the Department should continue to engage with the National Treasury.
Ms Sadiki said that this was not necessarily the case, as the budget had gone up almost by R1 billion, compared to the R9.1 billion it had in 2015/16. The budget now stood at R10.1 billion, so the issue was where the budget cuts had been made. These had been on the compensation of employees (COE), meaning that now the Department had to rearrange itself and look at skills issues. This was not necessarily to say it would not be able to deliver -- it was rearranging the programmes to make sure that it was still able to deliver. The cuts on the COE were across the board and affected the whole government, so it was not only the Department.
Mr Filtane interjected, and said that he would like to clarify his question. The context in which he had commented on the budget cut was with regard to the national fiscus. His feeling was that it was not that the budget per se had come down, but the trend. The HSRC had said that the national trend was that the budget of the Department had come down, so one should not just compare last year with this year, but look at the total in relation to the fiscus.
Ms Sadiki requested that the National Treasury be engaged, because the fiscal allocation was within the National Treasury. She had thought that Mr Filtane had been referring to the rural development budget, which had been increasing since 2009. It was only last year that during the adjustment estimates, that a portion of the DRDLR budget had been reduced. However, on the whole this budget had been increasing.
Mr Filtane said that in the last quarter, he had suggested that the Department should reduce its cash offerings when it came to restitution. Would the Department consider this advice, because there was not enough money? He asked if the Department would look at this possibility, so that it would still be able to honour its constitutional obligations, but not run out of cash.
Ms Archery replied that this would be taken up within the Department, by the Minister and the DG when they were back. The framework of the current legislation had to be understood and the way it was worded, and the fact that it did give options to people to choose financial compensation. This was one thing communities had to understand -- that it was more beneficial to access land instead of receiving financial compensation.
Mr Filtane said that the Department had centralised many services, and asked if they could be decentralised.
Ms Sadiki replied that there were contracts that were still running and when they expired the Department would definitely consider decentralisation as a way forward. Centralisation had been done for management purposes.
Mr Filtane said that with regard to transfers to provinces, he was concerned that so much had been transferred to KwaZulu-Natal. Why had this happened?
Ms Archery replied that ten of the poorest districts were in KwaZulu-Natal. This was why they had been allocated additional funding.
Mr Robertson said it had been mentioned that the labour tenant application process was intended to be speeded up in Mpumalanga and KwaZulu-Natal. How was this going to be done?
Ms Archery replied that there was detailed process under way in the Department, with various teams working to ensure that this year there was a very clear plan and strategy in place with a full understanding of the outstanding labour tenant issues that needed to be dealt with.
Mr Robertson said that yesterday and today's reports had spoken about how many jobs had been created and how many were intended to be created. There was a need to decipher what jobs people were intending to create.
Ms Archery replied that one did not want to create jobs that were continually dependent on the state. In a developmental project, the state had to play a role, so all of the infrastructure projects created jobs for the communities because the DRDLR tried to ensure through development databases, that all labour came from the communities in which it worked. Co-operatives that had been trained became the way in which the Department put out tenders as well. On the other hand, enterprise development was the area that created sustainable jobs, because the Department supported particular enterprises according to its business plan, which then had the ability to employ additional people in those enterprises. Other jobs that were created were in the land reform projects in terms of recapitalisation and development. As an agricultural enterprise on a particular farm began to grow, the numbers of jobs would begin to grow as well.
Mr Robertson said that it had been mentioned in one of the reports that 1.94 million people had benefited from restitution. He asked how this translated into jobs created. How many had benefited financially?
Ms Archery said that the Department would check with restitution and ask them to respond as to the economic impact that those households had had in the area.
Mr Robertson asked how long the finalising of all the claims would take.
Ms Archery replied that there was currently a re-opening of the restitution process, and there had been more claims lodged than in the previous lodgment process, so there had to be a detailed analysis in order for a proper response to be given. It had been bandied around that it would take about 140 years to finalise all the claims, but it would be remiss of the Department to actually give an eestimate now. The Commission should be allowed to respond, having taken into account what was happening at the moment. However the CRLR, in their responses yesterday, had talked to the timelines in terms of researching all outstanding claims that they had at the moment, and about completing them in the next financial year.
Mr P Mnguni (ANC) said that it was the executive that the legislature was holding to account. It was good to have three representatives of the executive at the meeting.
Ms Archery said that she would take forward the issue of attendance at this meeting by the executive. She apologised for the Minister's absence, because he was in the Eastern Cape, and the Deputy Minister had had an emergency to attend to.
Mr Mnguni said he would continue to harp on the issue of complying with the format for reporting. He then spoke about the vision of the DRDLR and said that there had been an oversight on this issue because the vision focused on rural communities, but was quiet on the issue of land. He asked if the Department could find a way to amend or close this gap.
Ms Archery said that this would be taken back to the Department for discussion. The DRDLR had originally wanted to look at an impact-orientated vision of where it wanted to see the rural spaces going to, but it was noted that no direct references to land issues had been recorded in the vision.
Mr Mnguni said that he was not inspired by talk of the free market being seen as a panacea. The decentralisation debate was ongoing. The Department had to look at where to strike a balance between centralisation and decentralisation.
He said there was a very famous and historical service delivery model called the ‘Wagon Wheel of Service Delivery,’ which looked at four main categories of service delivery -- community, land, livestock and cropping. The pie chart in the report showed that rural development received 19% and land reform got 58%. He asked how the Department could allocate 19% to rural development if, by his own account, the country was 70% rural. 19% versus 58% was a concern. Rural development should not be given only19%.
Ms Archery replied that in unpacking community, land, livestock and cropping, the Department tried to deal with all the elements of a rural household. If one looked at community, then one was looking at all the issues of socio-economic infrastructure, like issues of culture, education and health. If one then went into each one, it could be seen that each was unpacked differently at the different levels. One could then see the three phases attached to it of meeting basic human needs, access to credit, enterprise development and finance, etcetera. Given that it went deeper than the first layer, the Department would look at it again to make sure that the depth of the issues were somehow revealed.
Ms Sadiki said it should be noted that all the work of the Department was concentrated in the rural areas, so it was not only the budget of Programme 3 that was meant for rural areas. The 19% was only for rural infrastructure and rural enterprise development. All the budgets that the Department had were still for rural areas.
Ms Magadla said that with the 50/50 project, the 2016 State of the Nation Address (SONA) had stated that 27 proposals had been received from commercial farmers and four had been implemented in the Eastern Cape and the Free State. She asked if the four that had been implemented were part of the ten that were to be piloted in the 2015/16 financial year. She asked further in which areas the other six proposals had been piloted.
Mr Mnguni said that the Department of Performance Monitoring and Evaluation (DPME) presentation had alluded to how the 27 agri parks had been arrived at. In making it 44 the Department had forgone the important principal of equity in favour of equality, and once this happened there was a problem, because the most downtrodden would be put on a par with the most well off if one just distributed equally. This therefore – in political terms – sustained inequality. However, if one looked at the SONA that had talked to the Agri Parks, it had referred to 27. This generosity of increasing 27 to 44 by stretching the resources was of concern to the Committee.
Ms Archery replied that the reason it came to 44 was that the Department’s position on this issue was based on the fact that agriculture was not space bound. One could not do it in just one district, because it would cross over and become functional regions. The Department wanted to make sure that the richer areas also subsidised the work being done. This meant one would find that in all of the districts across the country, in many areas the Department was not the only one contributing to agri parks in the country. The Department had a R2 billion budget, and other departments had also put their money into this space. This R2 billion was to facilitate and catalyse the funding in all the spaces. So even though the number had risen to 44, the Department would not deprive the 27 poorest districts of any benefits. In those 27 districts, a lot of focus was being put on socio-economic infrastructure, including access to roads, water, sanitation and energy besides the other work that was being done by the DRDLR on agri parks. This was why the Department had gone beyond the original 27. It linked back to the agricultural value chain and the nine-point plan announced by the President, which required the Department to show how it was going to bring the entire country back in terms of agriculture.
Mr Mnguni asked the Acting DG to provide the Committee with the Department's plan on how it was going to deal with drought in rural communities.
Ms Archery replied that the Committee would be given this information. The Department had already been working together with the Department of Agriculture since the drought had been announced, and reported weekly to the National Disaster Management Centre on the interventions the Department was making across the provinces, and would be able to give those figures to the Committee.
Mr Mnguni asked to be presented with a plan on how the Office of the Valuer General was functioning.
Ms Archery said the Committee would be provided with a document that detailed the work of the Office of the Valuer General (OVG), its structure and their operations for the financial year. The DG of the OVG would be advised that the Committee had requested its presence at a meeting. This was good, because the OVG had a valuable role to play in the acquisition of land.
Mr Mnguni asked if the National Rural Youth Service Corps (NARYSEC) was accredited, if it was being improved, if the Department had interacted with the Department of Higher Education and would the qualification be aligned with the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA).
Ms Archery replied that NARYSEC had always been an accredited programme. The Department had always had an accredited qualification under (SAQA). It had the National Qualification Framework (NQF) levels 2, 3, 4 and in some cases it even had an NQF level 5. So everyone at NARYSEC would come out with an accredited SAQA certificate.
Mr Mnguni said that in Lusikisiki there was a co-operative with an average membership of 1 500. They had identified a quarry, but this co-operative had not taken off in one and a half years. This had been raised before, and the Director-General had said it would be looked into. He asked if the Department had planned anything with that co-operative in this financial year. They had the resources and they wanted to start working as a co-operative. He asked if the Department had moved closer to this co-operative. This situation was not confined to Lusikisiki only, and if it were manifest anywhere else he would proudly represent this case as well. He asked the Chairperson to be lenient and allow for a delayed response in writing if the Department still needed to find its feet on this issue.
Ms Archery said that the Department did support co-operatives, but unfortunately she had not heard about the one in Lusikisiki. This would be followed up. The Department did support non-agricultural co-operatives as well.
Mr Mnguni asked if there were towns in the country that could not be linked by a tarred road. There were towns that were still joined by a gravel road 22 years down the line. He asked what the plan was for this. Also, what was the situation with the N2 highway and the Umzimvubu Dam, and had the Department moved closer to the Department of Minerals and Energy with regard to the merits of titanium mining in that rural area? There were macro issues like the N2 highway which needed attention.
Ms Archery said that this was most definitely still a challenge. The Department was working very closely with the Provincial Department of Public Works on the issue of prioritising roads. The Department had constructed roads in the Eastern Cape. It was also working with the National Treasury to ensure that through the Neighbourhood Development Grant the revitalisation of those towns could be sorted out. The Department had worked with the Department of Transport in sorting out the road network. This was a priority area for the Department at the moment. The Department would follow up on this and provide a report.
On the N2 highway, which was part of the Strategic Infrastructure Projects (SIPs), the Department also participated in the SIPs and would be able to provide an update on this. There was now a challenge around the mining issue, but the Department would provide an update.
Mr Mnguni asked what the status of the Interim Protection of Informal Land Rights Act was.
Mr Zulu replied that Members would recall that the Act was extended every year. The extension notice had been published and the only action remaining was for it to be presented in Parliament. He would get more details in terms of the time frames for that.
Mr Mnguni asked what rural development “hot spots” the Department was currently looking at. The Department could come back with a response plan on this.
Ms Archery replied that the Department would respond about the various hot spots in the country which were areas in KwaZulu Natal, rights issues in Mpumalanga, labour tenant issues, areas in the Eastern Cape and areas in the Western Cape. The hot spots were different in each province, and the Department would indicate the response plans that it was putting in place to deal with those critical areas.
Mr Walters said he just wanted to confirm that the Committee would be getting regular reports on the ten pilot programmes on Relative Rights and Land Reform district committees and agri parks. This would be a major step forward.
Mr Mnguni asked if there had been movement beyond piloting to implementing on the 50/50 policy. If there had been, what lessons and outcomes from the pilot had been drawn that would have led to what had become a revised policy.
Ms Archery replied that it should be remembered that originally it was said that the Department would do 50 pilot projects by 2019. Indeed, what the Department was now doing as it moved forward in implementing and learning lessons from the first phase, was using those lessons for improvement. The CFO had explained that the Department was engaged in the strengthening of relative rights while implementing those lessons. The Department would provide a full report on the strengthening of relative rights.
Mr Mnguni said that the DPME had talked about how the 27 agri parks had been arrived at. He asked if the Department could share the diagnostic tool for the determination of the poverty index. Dr Ngomane had spoken as if the 27 had been scientifically arrived at. He took the point from the Acting DG that there were take-ons from other active engagements on the agri parks, but he was a strong believer in the saying that if one saw injustice anywhere, then one should act on it. Therefore one could not just do as one pleased about poverty indices. How – and here he said he would use a word he had not used before – did one 'debantustanise' Venda, Bophuthatswana, Transkei, Ciskei and deep Zululand? All those that had been homelands seemed to be treated on a par with those who had not been so disadvantaged.
Ms Archery replied that it should be remembered that the diagnostic tool could be used in all areas of the country, even within the 44 agri parks, to show which the poorest places within them were. The Department would be able to give the Committee the tool that had been used, but it was not necessarily the diagnostic tool that had allowed the Department to move from 27 to 44. When Dr Ngomane had been speaking yesterday, she was speaking about the original 27 priority districts that were based on that poverty tool. However, the Department had indicated that in moving to the 44, it still took account of the special needs requirements of the 27. In terms of the nine-point plan and the revitalisation of the entire economy of the country, the Department had to find a way to ensure that it was touching all of the areas. However, this did not lessen what it was doing in and for the 27. The Department would submit the original tool that was referred to which had been used for the 27, as well as the rationale for the movement into the 44.
The Chairperson asked if the Department had any accruals or commitments, and if so, how much.
She said that in the report it was indicated that there were 1 496 recapitalisation projects that had been started when the recapitalisation was initiated. She asked if the 1 496 projects had then exited the system.
Mr Zulu asked if the Chairperson would allow the Department to prepare a report on the Recap farms. The Recap farms had now entered their fifth year, and the Department would provide a detailed report for the Committee.
The Chairperson asked if the Department had new recruits for the geomatics programme, and if so, how many were there.
Mr Southgate replied that the final batch were still in the system and busy learning. What the Department had to do -- and this was part of the cut in the COE budget – was to deal with the previous contracts that had said that the DRDLR would absorb these recruits once they were qualified. At the moment, the Department did not have the funds to absorb and create additional employees in the organisation. The National Treasury had capped the Department's staff numbers at the current level, so if the Department wanted to create any new posts, it would have to indicate which posts it would want to sacrifice. The Department had had to review the contracts it had with its bursary holders, and had had to re-look at the intern programmes that it ran in order to avoid creating unnecessary expectations from people that it had brought in on learnerships and internships.
The Chairperson said that the Department had mentioned the Bills and policies it was going to submit. The Committee was very discouraged, because there had been only one piece of legislation which had been submitted late and not according to the Department's plan. This was the Extension of Security of Tenure Amendment (ESTA) Bill. This was a very serious concern.
Mr Southgate replied that there came a stage in the legislative process where things were out of the control of the Department. When it went through a Cabinet process, then it was subjected to time lines and when things came out of that process, it could be implemented and the legislation was enacted. This did sometimes impact on the Department's performance, or rather the performance of the Chief Director of Legal Services.
The Chairperson said that there had been an increase in the transfers to Ingonyama Trust Board (ITB). She asked what had informed the increase. The ITB did not need any additional money, which was evidenced by the fact that at the end of the year they even had surplus.
Ms Sadiki said that she was unable to answer this question.
The Chairperson asked about the impact of the reduction of compensation of employees (COEs) because according to the DPME briefing the Department had delayed submitting the full Climate Survey Report. That was why there had been a reduction, because it had failed to fill the posts that it was supposed to fill on time, which had then lead to the reduction.
Mr Southgate said that he and the CFO were concerned about this. The Department had put in place a Resource Allocation Committee to look at how to proceed with the filling of vacancies in the Department. Where the DPME had referred to the Department not making reports available and the cuts in the COE budget, this had been partly correct. However, the cuts in the COE budget were government wide – all provincial and national budgets had been cut. The Department was in the final stages of reviewing its organisational structure. The final draft would be tabled on Monday. The Department had also done a skills audit so that it would have a very good indication of the qualification and skills of its employees, to be able to utilise them optimally.
Ms Sadiki said that on the COE issue, the letter that had been released by National Treasury from the Minister stated that across the board, they were going to take R5 billion out of the budget allocation for the whole country from COE. So it was not an issue about the Department not submitting any report. It was the budget guidelines of the National Treasury.
The Chairperson said that this issue had been based on what had happened before that decision was taken. It was about the Department having posts which it was supposed to fill, but had failed to fill because there was no Climate Survey Report. The fact that the Department had been given money which it had failed to spend was why there had also been a reduction during the adjustment.
The Chairperson asked for more information about co-operatives and the mega co-operatives.
Ms Archery replied that when one saw 'enterprises supported' in the document, it still included secondary co-operatives. The Department would provide the breakdown to the Committee, but Mr Southgate would provide the reason for the rationalisation in some of the targeting. With regard to mega-cooperatives, it should be remembered that at the end of the last year the Department had indicated the challenge that was being faced around mega-cooperatives. What had happened now was that the Department was still progressing in terms of the establishment of the mega-cooperative. The secondary co-operatives were now in place, with one of the women even having registered a secondary co-operative. The Department was constrained a little bit by the Act, because every layer had to be in place before a tertiary co-operative could be established. The secondary co-operative had been established and the DRDLR had also now registered a Co-operative Financial Institution (CFI) for the rural women crafters across the country, and they were now moving into that mega-cooperative. It was acknowledged that it was not in the APP at the moment, but the Department was moving towards it, even though there were challenges. There were two of the NARYSEC co-operatives and one for the rural women, and both of them were still moving ahead. The Department had now partnered with the Co-operative Bank Development Agency within National Treasury, which was helping the Department to drive those processes. The Department would still report on those.
The Chairperson said that the Department had changed its targets by 20%. Some of the targets were even not appearing in 2016/17. The reasons for these changes had not been given to the Committee. However, what was appearing in the Auditor General’s (AG’s) report was that the Department had said it was going to move the targets from the APP to the implementation plan. She asked what had informed the cancellation of some targets and the retention of others. The Committee issued a caution to the Department that when it changed some things, the Committee should be made aware of this, because this document would hold the Department accountable based on the information that it had provided.
Mr Southgate responded that the targets that had been dropped involved information technology (IT) and the filling of vacancies. These two had not gone into the implementation plans, but had gone into operational plans, or what were called business plans. The IT component had its own business plan for the year and it had been put in there and it got tracked. There was a concern mentioned that the APP had too many indicators. This had been raised by both the DPME and the Auditor-General, so in terms of rationalising the Department had looked at the operational issues that could come out and then had tracked what were known as line function issues in the line branches, such as rural development, land reform and restitution, and those had been all been kept intact.
Ms Archery confirmed that the DRDLR would provide the documents it had said it would provide.
Mr Madella said that he wished to request a report on leased state land, which would cover things like the length of the lease, to whom it was leased and the obligations. With regard to NARYSEC, he asked if the Department could provide a report on how many of the learners had graduated, so that the Committee could satisfy itself on this matter. He asked also that it be indicated what happened when the learners had graduated, and what had been the exit strategy.
Ms Archery said that before the meeting was concluded she would like to speak to the issue of the ITB. The Department would look into the reasons in terms of that additional transfer and then report back to the Committee about this.
The Chairperson said that it was just a caution that when a budget was allocated, the Department should consider whether there was any need for additional funding or not. One should not just add money where it was not necessary to do so -- there should be a reason provided for the addition of money.
The Chairperson said that she hoped after this the Committee would get the Operational Plan, because most of the questions asked at the meeting had been because the Committee did not have the Operational Plan. The Operational Plan was the breakdown of what the Department would do and at what cost, and would be of great assistance when the Committee did oversight.
It was noted that there was a need to have joint meetings with other departments because when engaging with the DRDLR it was clear that some of the issues were cross-cutting issues. There was a need to have a meeting with the Department of Transport on the issue of roads. A meeting also had to be had with the Department of Water, the Department of Agriculture and other departments on the issue of enterprise development so that at the end of day everyone moved with the same understanding.
The following reports had to be submitted to the Committee:
- The 50/50 Pilot Project
- The drought intervention initiatives, especially in rural areas
- Office of the Valuer General
- Exceptional policy
- Animal and veld management
- OVG restructuring responsibilities
- Agri parks
- Leased state land
- Integrated Funding Model, in co-operation with the Department of Agriculture
- Umzimvubu and the N2 highway
- Recapitalisation project
- The Relative Rights programme
- Policy on Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies (PLAAS)
The meeting was adjourned.