Department Budget: briefing

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Meeting report

AGRICULTURE AND LAND AFFAIRS PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
25 March 2003
DEPARTMENT BUDGET: HEARINGS



Chairperson: Mr N Masithela (ANC)

Documents handed out:
 

Department of Land Affairs Presentation
Medium Term Strategic and Operational Plan 2003 - 2007 (e-mail
info@pmg.org.za for document)
Vote 26: Department of Agriculture (link to treasury website)

SUMMARY
The Department of Land Affairs presented the Committee with details of their budget from 1 April 2002 to 31 December 2002. The Committee was briefed on the Department's plans for the remainder of the current year and received documentation detailing the Department's 'Medium Term Strategic and Operational Plan 2003 - 2007'. The Committee was told that the Department's mantra for the current year, was 'Taking land delivery to greater heights'. The need to support land restitution beneficiaries after they have been awarded the land to ensure sustainable use of land was seen as a challenge for the Department. Coordinated 'after care' measures, where all relevant Government Departments, local authorities and district municipalities could get involved was being considered.

MINUTES
Dr G Mayende, Director-General, headed the presentation, supported by his team from the Department of Land Affairs. The quarter 1 January to 31 March 2003 had not been included in their report, as the work of the quarter has not yet been completed. Details of the budget spend for this period would be released at the beginning of April 2003.

He outlined the Department's vision of ensuring equitable and sustainable land dispensation that promotes social and economic development.

The Department is guided by a policy framework derived from, amongst other sources, the President's state of the nation address, policy direction from the Minister, and the Director-General's address of 19 February 2003.

The collective aim of land reform is to ensure the transfer of 30% of all agricultural land to the previously disadvantaged groups over a period of 15 years.

The Committee heard that for the period under review, with respect to the implementation of land redistribution for agricultural development (LRAD), 214 farms yielding 185 609 hectares had been transferred, for the benefit of 6 769 beneficiaries. Of these, 8139 hectares (ha) had been handed over to marginalised beneficiaries, which included women, youth, and the disabled.

In terms of land acquired for settlement, 28 projects were completed, representing 4 961 ha, to benefit 5 492 households. Of these, seventeen ha went to marginalised beneficiaries. A total of 6 402 claims have been settled, benefiting 22 760 households, of which 25% were female-headed households.

Thus far, 94% of the total budget has been spent, and it is envisaged that the remainder will also be expended by the end of the current financial year. Dr Mayende used a slide to show the breakdown of a projected departmental budget from 2003 through to 2006, into seven categories, namely, administration, surveys and mapping, cadastral surveys, restitution, land reform, spatial planning, and auxiliary and assistance service. The Department had set a good track record of quality projects. (Please see attached presentation).

The Committee was further informed of projected targets to yield provision of access to land for LRAD implementation, for settlement, for other redistribution projects (such as parks and forests), and to labour tenants and farmworkers. With regard to the Department's 'Pro-active land acquisition strategy', Dr Mayende stated that they would negotiate in advance with landowners, where land was identified to be suitable for land redistribution. It would not be done in the same style as we have observed land redistribution taking place in Zimbabwe.

Dr Mayende identified as a challenge, the need to support land restitution beneficiaries after they have been awarded the land to ensure sustainable use of land. He mentioned administering coordinated 'after care' measures, where all relevant Government Departments, local authorities and district municipalities could get involved, for example, the Department of Water Affairs should ensure the provision of, and access to, water.

In order to ensure increased security of tenure, the Department undertakes to verify 18 240 labour tenant claims. They want to issue 13027 full title deeds. The Department has pledged to speed up the processing of claims. They have also pledged to implement land tenure legislation, and to this end, tenure security laws have already been drafted.

The Director General informed the Committee that residential patterns implemented by apartheid planning still persist in South Africa today. This sort of situation was unacceptable, and new legislation was projected to deal with the situation, in the form of the Planning Professions Act, Land Use Management Bill and Spatial Information Bill.

The Department plays a significant role with respect to NEPAD, with special reference to spatial planning, deeds registration, survey and mapping, and cadastral surveys. The Department of Land Affairs has been assisting African countries with information support, training in the implementation of user-friendly systems in terms of mapping, spatial photography, and geographic positioning systems (GPS). These are being utilised for purposes of the development of the African continent.

The President's directive to ensure gender equity in all spheres was taken very seriously by the Department. As a result, gender equity is being mainstreamed into all their structures. The results of this action have been quite positive. The personnel ratios of black males and females are increasing in all spheres. In middle management, the ratios for both are also on the rise, although it could be better. Senior management trends show a decline in white males, and an increase in black females, although this last ratio is still unacceptably low.

Bursaries were being made available to attract previously disadvantaged individuals into the land surveying professions.

The Committee heard that more black individuals and two white females had been employed as registrars of deeds. To advance previously disadvantaged individuals into the surveying and mapping professions, a bursary scheme has been implemented, to allow these individuals to enter these fields.

Discussion
Dr A Schoeman (ANC) asked how the projected figures in the slides were realistically being set. As an example, they projected very accurate figures for the restitution of farmlands. How could they do this, if those farms had not yet been acquired? In addition, it was envisioned that 30% of all agricultural land would be redistributed at 1.7 million ha per year. He suggested that perhaps those figures should be scrapped, since they are unrealistic. Alternatively, those targets must be fulfilled. Otherwise, the Department will be guilty of raising expectations which they are not able to meet. He asked whether they would identify blanket areas of land for redistribution, with all the related ramifications. Should areas of economic activity rather be targeted?

Referring to Dr Mayende's reminder of the Minister's statement on commercial viability under the land restitution programme, Mr A Botha (DP) mentioned that land size per family came to below 20 ha. He asked how that could be construed as commercially sustainable. Secondly, he asked to be given time frames for processing of claims, from the lodging thereof, to the delivery of land, adding that there were reports from some people that the waiting period could take up to three years.

Mr M Ngema (IFP) requested a breakdown in terms of totals of restitution granted in rural areas, and the same for urban areas. He also wanted to know how many were outstanding for both. He felt was it crucial that the Communal Rights Bill be translated into other languages. He mentioned a previous instance in which negotiations to transfer a piece of land earmarked for restitution, and found to be in the possession of the provincial government, were stalled for a considerable length of time. Are provincial governments entitled to prevent land in their possession from being redistributed?

Mr Maluleke (DP) asked how the Department was ensuring that people "on the ground" were making use of the bursaries available for land surveying professions.

Mr G Thomas: Deputy Director-General: Land and Tenure Reform, responded to Dr Schoeman's first question by explaining that projected figures were based on the demands that had come through from the past, and on what the present demand is. He confirmed that by the year 2015, the Department of Land Affairs is expected to deliver on the target of 30% of agricultural land, at 1.7 million ha per annum. Their present figures fall far short of this target, simply because the financial resources required from Treasury are not being made available. The Department needs R1.7 billion per annum for land transfer alone. Consequently, the amount of money they are receiving will not allow them to achieve their target.

The Chairperson responded that was absolutely crucial, since time was running out, and they needed to see delivery of land as stipulated by Government. He urged the DG to seriously consider the matter.

Dr Mayende agreed with the Chairperson's sentiments, but stated that the Department can deliver only if the resources are forthcoming. The Department itself is in top condition, having restructured and improved itself. Their personnel are committed to their task. However, resolving the land issue will depend on the willingness to supply the required resources.

Mr Thomas agreed that land with agricultural potential must be sought out for possible redistribution. He cited as examples, Kwazulu-Natal and Mpumalanga, which are areas of high agricultural potential, with large numbers of labour tenants. The Department has been earmarking such land for redistribution, albeit not pro-actively. Rather, beneficiaries had generally been approaching the Department to ask for land, having identified its potential for themselves.

On the commercial viability of redistributed land, Mr Thomas said that programs set up on that land must be sustainable. However, one should refrain from viewing commercial viability as only being possible on large farms. International examples have shown that it is more often small farms that are economically viable, as opposed to the larger ones. The size of the land that can be used for farming purposes will depend on the types of farming done.

With respect to time frames, Mr Thomas said it was inconceivable at the present stage that people could still talk of waiting for two or three years for their claims to be processed. Waiting periods have been drastically shortened to between six and nine months, which is the reason that the budget has been almost completely expended.

Mr T Gwanya: Regional Land Claims Commissioner, Eastern Cape, explained that the Department has identified ways to fast-track the processing of claims. For instance, claims that are similar are grouped together. Presently, they are processed on an average of nine to twelve months, but they want to shorten it to nine months only. Certain factors beyond their control, however, could cause the process to stall. When parties disagree, they have the right to take the matter to court.

With regard to the Communal Land Rights Bill, Ms V Nxasana: Land Reform Systems and Support Systems, said that because the language of the Bill is strictly legal, it is hard for lay people to understand. They therefore translated it into a language that is easily understandable for most people (English), then simplified the language, and put these into guides. They also translated key principles in the Bill into English, Afrikaans, Sotho, and Zulu, and used these key translations in workshops. The entire Bill will not be translated into all the official languages until it has been officially legislated, since it is a costly exercise.

The DG agreed that it was imperative for the Department to comply with the provisions of the Constitution to translate the Bill into all official languages.

Mr Gwanya stated that 80% of land claims were urban, and 20% were rural. To date, about 360 000 claims have been resolved.

On the matter of traditional leaders making jurisdictional land claims, Mr Gwanya stated that these do not necessarily meet the criteria for land claims. However, if the leader is acting on behalf of the people who were removed from the area, such a claim can be accepted. If there is conflict between the traditional leader and his followers, the Department attempts to resolve the conflict.

The DG informed the Committee that jurisdictional claims are dealt with by Provincial Government.

On the auditing of state land, Ms Nxasana said that an audit of all registered land, and of all vested land, has been conducted. The balance of state land not vested is 87.6%, because vesting is an extremely expensive undertaking and requires participation by various other Departments. An amount of 11.8 million ha of state land is beneficially owned, meaning that there are people on that land. As soon as the Communal Rights Bill has been finalised, those people will finally own that land.

In total, South Africa's land surface spans 121 million ha. Of that, the state owns 23.97 million ha, constituting 19,8% of the total land surface area, a relatively small percentage. Roughly 83% of the land is still owned by 64 000 white farmers. The average size of those farms is 1700 ha.

Mr Thomas said that there is land which is nationally owned, and land which is provincially owned. For that reason, it is possible that land earmarked for redistribution could be in the possession of a particular provincial government. However, Government is not entitled to choose not to release such land, simply because it is owned by the Province.

Dr N Makgalemele: Deputy Director-General: Land Planning and Information, stated that the Department started a bursary scheme for previously disadvantaged individuals wanting to enter the land surveying professions in 2002, with a budget of R1 million, and sponsored 38 students for that year. This year, they are sponsoring 55 students. She identified the following barriers experienced by PDI's who might have considered a profession in land surveying:
- Historically, bursaries were offered at exclusively white institutions, where the courses are taught in Afrikaans. The Department has negotiated with those institutions, who have agreed to teach the courses in English.
- Higher Grade Science and Mathematics were stipulated as requirements for entry into these courses, which served as a discouragement to PDI's. The Department has negotiated with the relevant institutions to offer bridging courses in accordance with their requirements.
- Some institutions have closed down the course, which led to the decision by some staff members of the Department to offer the courses themselves, on a part-time basis. They are even attempting to send students to study land surveying abroad.

Ms Makgalemele continued that the Department was taking advantage of open days at tertiary institutions, to market the course and related bursaries, as well as advertising in local newspapers.

Mr S Abram (UDM) questioned the delivery of information regarding figures for land restitution, with specific regard to the transfer of farms, from the Registrar of Deeds offices. Certain newspaper publications that had been supplying this information and had discontinued the practice, reported that the information was no longer forthcoming from the office of the Registrar of Deeds.

He referred to certain plans stipulated in the presentation which were recorded as, "to be verified", or "to be issued". Was there a deadline for these plans? He also asked if the Department had conducted a SWOT analysis to determine their strengths and shortcomings, in the light of their projected targets, which constituted a massive challenge. To what extent was the national Department dependent on the provincial Departments, and to what extent were they receiving that assistance?

Mr Abram said that meeting targets by 2015 poses serious challenges. A certain mentality still exists which seeks to prevent transformation from being fully carried out, through hindering the acquisition of land for redistribution, specifically by estate agents. Did the DG feel it was necessary to invoke new legislation or other measures, to ensure that farmlands are sold for the benefit of previously disadvantaged individuals?

Mr Radebe (ANC), on the land surveying professions, said that it was really professional associations who actually set standards in the country. The Department should deal with them. He also stated that of the 83% of land belonging to whites, a percentage thereof belongs to foreigners. Before long, one may find that the land reform process is frustrated, because much of the land is in the possession of foreigners.

Ms Nkompe-Ngwenya (ANC) felt that labour tenants should be given priority in land redistribution. She continued by saying that certain Acts of Parliament have loopholes in them, which should be amended in order to close those loopholes. Was the Department in the process of repealing old, oppressive legislation?

A Member (ANC) asked if there was any joint planning between the Department and the Land Bank, particularly with regard to LRAD. Additionally, he wanted to know the status quo of the misunderstanding surrounding finances that had dried up.

Dr Schoeman felt that it should be clear to all how important having a more equitable land distribution is. Should targets be maintained that are clearly unrealistic in terms of budget, and should different targets be set? He asked whether the Department was satisfied that there was sufficient inter-departmental coordination to facilitate successful land redistribution in South Africa.

Prof H Ngubane (IFP) said that the status quo of present land ownership is no different to the pre-1994 status. Since then, however, there has been redistribution of land. If figures still remain the same, where did the land come from? She commended the Department for its progressive approach in addressing gender issues. However, she felt the progress made was quantitative, and suggested making this progress more qualitative, by educating women on land issues.

Mr M Ngema (IFP) urged the Department to inform the Committee on specific shortcomings within the budget, since they all had the same objectives in mind. He wanted to know how vacant land was defined.

Ms J Ntuli (ANC) requested a breakdown of where service centres would be situated, and how they would be staffed.

Dr Mayende, in response to Mr Abram, said that he thought the publications were being "mischievous" in reporting that the office of the Registrar of Deeds was not making information available. If anything, he explained that the office had become more efficient. This could be a ploy by the media involved to withhold information and ensure that land remains in certain hands. He doubted whether legislation could be imposed against this sort of behaviour.

He explained that the Department had inherited a land registration system which is now proving problematic. Since 1994, the data office has ceased to track information regarding the race and origin of people purchasing land. The Department had undertaken to produce a policy on foreign land ownership by 1 June 2003.

The Chairperson responded by saying that these explanations were unacceptable at so late a stage. He urged the Department to fast-track a resolution to the problem without delay.

Dr Mayende said that the Department might not have deliberately done a SWOT analysis, but they had on various occasions analysed the nature of challenges and pitfalls faced by the Department.

On the matter of professional associations, the DG said he believed that the Planning Professions Act would go a long way to resolving the problem at hand. Community representatives and other stakeholders should be present when these bodies meet together.

He acknowledged that attitudes exhibited by estate agents and private sellers' clubs were a big problem.

With regard to gender mainstreaming and HIV/AIDS in land reform, he reported that the Department had a fairly good record, although there was room for more improvement. He pledged the Department's commitment to looking more seriously into these issues, and especially to assessing the impact of HIV/AIDS on land reform programs, in conjunction with the Department of Health and other Government institutions dealing with these issues. By the end of the year, a focused strategy relating to HIV/AIDS in land reform should be forthcoming.

In response to Dr Schoeman, the DG said that the Department had developed qualitative indicators. However, they had been cautious not to publish those results in their strategic planning document, as they were still in a process of learning in that regard.

With regard to the prescribed target of 30%, the DG stated that it helped to set targets of this nature. However, it should not be just a number arbitrarily fixed, but should relate to the actual benefits that people would derive.

Dr Mayende identified inter-departmental coordination as a weak area, which needs to be seriously addressed.

Since 1994, there have been many changes in land ownership that have not involved the Government, such as parks in urban areas that have been declared open to all. It was difficult to quantify the amount of land that has been redistributed. The value of 83% previously given was quite accurate, with delivery at approximately 3%.

Vacant land was defined as undeveloped, unused land.

The DG reported that the Department was very proud of its decentralisation programme, which it calls Project 'MUTINGATI'. Decentralisation was necessary, as it was not viable for the Department to deliver on land reform from the centres of cities. The service centres must work in synergy with local municipal offices, right up to senior levels of planning.

Mr Thomas stated that although oppressive legislation had negative implications for the work of the Department, repealing those laws did not fall under the jurisdiction of the Department.

He reported that the Department does not have a joint plan with the Land Bank. One of its key policy features is to bring financial institutions into the programme, especially as the Land Bank is a state agency. Since 2001, it had set aside R50 million to assist those people who enter the LRAD programme with loans. It does not necessarily constitute joint planning, but this assistance is implemented on behalf of the Department of Land Affairs. On the question of the possible mismanagement of finances, the DG said that there had been no misunderstanding. He explained that because of the great demand in terms of buying into the LRAD programme by members of the public, the Land Bank had overspent on its budget by over 100%, which created a significant problem.

Municipalities are eager to get involved in projects that will necessarily increase their financial status. However, the Department is engaging them so that they get involved in land reform, as well.

Earlier on in the meeting, Mr G McIntosh (DP) had circulated an article which he had written for the Natal Witness (30/01/03), with the caption "Land claims are strangling a goose that lays the golden eggs". At this stage, the DG expressed great disappointment at the contents of the article, which he felt reflected Mr McIntosh's resistance to restitution. He informed the Committee, from the article, that land sold by Mr McIntosh is now subject to a claim.

Mr Radebe highlighted the plight of labour tenants who are evicted from land, saying they have no recourse in the matter.

The DG agreed. He urged the Committee to help the Department of Land Affairs to "take up the cudgels, and confront the issues of land vigorously".

The Chairperson thanked the Department of Land Affairs for their presentation. He gave a brief summary of the morning's proceedings:
- Representivity within the Department, particularly within the Deeds office, and especially in middle management, must be speedily addressed.
- Communication between the Department and other state Departments, with the media; with other countries, and with local and other spheres of Government needs to be enhanced.
- By 2005, redistribution must be completed. That is a non-negotiable issue. He urged the Department to do what it needed to, with a view to engendering more finances. He warned that if by the stipulated period targets had not been met, "heads will role".

He urged that land reform should not be dealt with as a racial issue, but as an economic exercise, asking that all join hands and commit to complete the task swiftly.

The meeting was adjourned.

 

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