Extension of Security of Tenure Amendment Bill: Departments Rural Development &Land Reform & SAPS briefings, with Minister in attendance

Rural Development and Land Reform

23 November 2016
Chairperson: Ms P Ngwenya-Mabila (ANC)
Share this page:

Meeting Summary

The South African Police Services (SAPS) briefed the Committee very shortly on the role and function of the police in relation to challenges under the Extension of Security of Tenure (ESTA) Act, and criminal cases that had been instituted in terms of that Act. SAPS explained that section 9 of the Act provided that an occupier may be evicted only in terms of a court order. Section 23(1) said it was an offence to evict an occupier, except on the authority of an order of a competent Court. SAPS officials may not assist land owners to evict illegal occupiers, since only a Sheriff may carry out an eviction order, although there were occasions when the Sheriff might call upon SAPS to assist if there was resistance. Briefly, the other offences in terms of the Act were described. However, SAPS cut its presentation short and said that it was of the view that the Amendment Bill would not affect its work. Statistics would have to be presented later.

Members were not happy with this briefing, saying that they regarded it as little other than SAPS washing its hands of the process and suggesting that it had not engaged on the Bill at all. They thought the presentation was one-sided and asked if SAPS had considered that Sheriffs may be acting incorrectly. They felt that allegations that farmers and police were in cahoots in stock-theft, resulting in no charges being laid, and the impact of the many land invasions in Mpumalanga in particular had not been addressed. They were disappointed that no statistics had been presented. It became clear that the officials presenting may not have received the original directions from the Committee as to what the Members wished to be covered, and for this reason, it was suggested that the officials be released and asked to return to the Committee at a future date with the correct information.

The Department of Rural Development and Land Reform, with input from the Minister of Rural Development and Land Reform, then engaged with the Committee on what the Bill sought to achieve and what the main problems were in land tenure. The Land Rights Management Committee had been established to try to deal with this sensitive issue. The policy context for tenure reform on farms was to de-racialise the rural economy and promote equitable land allocation. The proposed policy was aligned with objectives of the Comprehensive Rural Development Plan (CRDP) which acknowledged fast-tracking settlement of labour tenancy claims as well as facilitating secure access to land by farm dwellers. Some of the objectives in the plans had been achieved, but only 19 labour tenant applications had been settled, compared to the target of 137, and there was an ongoing problem with tenure security of farm dwellers being threatened by awards of land under redistribution and restitution orders.  The socio-economic impact assessment objectives of the ESTA Amendment Bill were essentially to develop and maintain a system for monitoring evictions. The proposed budget for Land Tenure and Administration for 2016/17 was R688 million, and R515 million in 2017/18.

Members wondered if the policy direction was optimal, suggesting that perhaps the Department should be working to develop policies to try to keep the farm dwellers in their current locations, rather than moving them elsewhere. They noted that the financial implications of the Bill had not been explained. They asked to what extent interns from the Department were being used for this work and to prevent violations of the law, and wondered if any possible loopholes had been identified. They pointed out that municipalities complained that too little land was allocated to them for housing and wondered if thought had been given to releasing more State land, and how the Department could assist municipalities to balance their budgets. They asked if there was cooperation with the Department of Human Settlements. They finally asked about the establishment and funding of the Land Rights Management Board, and whether the valuation of land, through the Office of the Valuer-General, was using the correct and most appropriate data and methods. One opposition Member asked if that Office could come to brief the Committee in the next term.

Meeting report

Extension of Security of Tenure (ESTA) Amendment Bill [B24-2015] briefings
Opening remarks

The Chairperson noted an apology from Deputy Minister of Rural Development, Candith Dlamini-Mashego.

She noted the presence of the Minister of Rural Development and Land Reform, Mr Gugile Nkwinti

Mr P Mnguni (ANC) remarked that there was no apology from the Deputy Minister of Land Reform, Mr Mcebisi Skwatsha. He said it was important for the executives to always come to account to the Parliament.

South African Police Services (SAPS) briefing
Major General Michael Motlhaha, SAPS, briefed the Portfolio Committee on the amendments that were being proposed to the Extension of Security of Tenure Act (ESTA or the Act) and on the criminal cases that had been instituted under that Act. Section 9(1) of ESTA provided that an occupier may be evicted only in terms of a court order. Section 23(1) said it was an offence to evict an occupier except on the authority of an order of a competent Court. SAPS officials may not assist land owners to evict illegal occupiers, since only a sheriff may carry out an eviction order. The sheriff may request assistance from SAPS in cases where there was resistance. The SAPS must also ascertain if any of the offences named under ESTA had been committed and, if so, investigate. The offences included assault, murder, eviction of occupiers without a court order as well as unlawful lock outs of a tenant or shut off of utilities of the rental housing property.

He pointed out that Slide 27 of the presentation noted that the Bill would not impact on the duties that SAPS had to perform.

Maj Gen Motlhaha did not complete the presentation (see attached documents), taking Members only as far as slide. He said that SAPS could come to the Committee with the full statistics at a later stage, and this was repeated by his colleague, Major Gen Charles Johnson, Detective Services, SAPS.

Mr T Mhlongo (DA) asked what was SAPS had been requested to brief the Committee on, as he was not sure how this presentation linked to other items.

The Chairperson replied that SAPS was requested to make presentations on the cases under the Act. This was the initial briefing. SAPS had said that it would be able to get the information but it must first be authorised to do so.

Mr Mhlongo said Mpumalanga was one of the hotspots for land invasions and yet there were no reported cases on Mpumalanga.

Mr E Nchabeleng *(ANC) pointed out that in the public hearings, it was said that farmers, acting in collaboration with some SAPS officials, had been stealing animals and they were not arrested because SAPS would not pursue these cases.

Mr P Mnguni (ANC) also asked what brief exactly had been given to SAPS today. He felt that SAPS had not prepared properly for this presentation and he pointed out that Parliament was equally important to the courts and so it was expected of officials that they should prepare. Parliament had specifically wanted the responses to be supported by statistics. He agreed that Mpumalanga was the most strife-torn and yet there were no reports on it. Although under the apartheid regime, the police had been used to defend an unlawful system it was expected that this should no longer happen. SAPS seemed to have a pre-conceived idea that Sheriffs were to protect the people and farms, and did not appear to consider the point that the Sheriffs themselves may be guilty of victimisation. He noted that evictions seemed to have been done without provincial officer reports. He commented that he had not found this presentation useful at all.

Mr M Filtane (UDM) pointed out that slide 27 stated baldly that “The Bill does not impact on the duties of the SAPS”. He asked that SAPS should go back and check its exact mandate and re-think that statement. He was very disappointed at the presentation and at the sweeping statement.

Mr Nchabeleng saw the statement on slide 27 as a disclaimer by the SAPS, for it was saying in essence that it was not interested in the meeting.

Mr A Madella (ANC) said SAPS could not have such a disclaimer. If SAPS was not able to handle the crux of the matter, then why was the officials here for the meeting? This could be seen as wasteful and fruitless expenditure.

The Chairperson suggested that the Committee note the report and take the meeting to another level. SAPS was saying in effect that it had not been consulted on the Bill, and did not regard the Bill as having any impact upon it.

and therefore the Bill did not have impact on the entity.

Mr K Robertson (DA) said he also really did not know why SAPS came for the meeting. SAPS were the law enforcers while Parliament was the law maker. He asked who Parliament would expect to assist when the farm dwellers needed help. Questions that he wanted answers to included what was the mandate of SAPS and how did the SAPS prioritise the complaints? SAPS needed to play a more prominent role. He wondered if the farm dwellers registered on the statistics of SAPS?

The Chairperson asked what was the role of SAPS when farm dwellers reported cases of assault.

Mr Robertson asked if SAPS was saying there were no cases of land invasion in Mpumalanga.

Maj Gen Johnson replied that the briefing sent by the Portfolio Committee to SAPS could not be found and the principals at SAPS had not passed on exactly what input should be provided to the Committee.

The Chairperson read out the email that was sent to the SAPS, requesting that SAPS provide statistics of land eviction cases between 2007 and 2016.

Mr Mnguni said Parliament used political tools, as distinct from the courts. SAPS had been sent a letter in which it was asked that SAPS give a step by step report on the cases of land evictions. He said that Parliament could, however, also lay charges of perjury when false information was given. He regarded it as “dismal and unacceptable” that senior SAPS officials should “come to the Parliament to waste time”.

Mr Nchabaleng thought that this was a mistake; SAPS surely would not have wilfully take a decision to ignore Parliament. He suggested that the Committee move on and set another date for this information to be presented.

The Chairperson asked Members, and confirmed that the Committee had then agreed to give SAPS more time to go through the letter and get the exact information that was requested, and this would be followed up officially by the Committee Secretary.

The SAPS officials were released from the meeting.

Department of Rural Development and Land Reform (DRDLR)
Mr Gugile Nkwinti, Minister of Rural Development and Land Reform, said that this matter was sensitive, and that was why the Department had decided to establish the Land Rights Management Committee so that there could be direct interaction and assistance to the farmers. SAPS were caught in the restrictive way in which the law was structured. SAPS were also not very active. The result was that land owners went to court to get eviction orders, and before the Department was aware of what was happening the farmers had already been thrown out. In terms of the judgment that was delivered in July, women now have to be considered in their own right. The judgement was beginning to take effect as the country was better off .

Ms Vuyiswa Nxasana, Acting Deputy Director General, Department of Rural Development and Land Reform, presented a report on tenure reform on farms and the provision of legal services through the Land Rights Management Facility (LRMF). She said the policy context for tenure reform on farms was to de-racialise the rural economy as well as promote democratic and equitable land allocation. The proposed policy was aligned with objectives of the Comprehensive Rural Development Plan (CRDP) which acknowledged fast-tracking settlement of labour tenancy claims as well as facilitating secure access to land by farm dwellers.

She took the Committee through some of the achievements. Communal Property Institutions had one director, two deputy directors and one secretary working on them. Land Tenure Rights were protected and secured fully. 19 Labour Tenants applications were settled, out of a target of 137. Gross farming income of commercial units rose from R53.3bn in 2002 to R76.5bn in 2007.

However, the tenure security of farm dwellers and labour tenants was being threatened by land awarded to restitution claimants and redistribution beneficiaries. The socio-economic impact assessment objectives in relation to the ESTA Amendment Bill were essentially to develop and maintain a system for monitoring evictions. The proposed budget for Land Tenure and Administration for 2016/17 was R688 million, and R515 million in 2017/18. The budget was declining because the compensation of employees was declining.

Mr Filtane appreciated the report. He asked why the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform (DRDLR), when dealing with insecurity of the farm workers, did not engage Section 25(5) of the Constitution which dealt with access to land on an equitable basis. He referred to slide 24 and said the land reform programmes had tried to find land, at a high cost for farm dwellers that were already on land in South Africa. He thought it would have been better if the Department had considered developing policies to rather try to establish the farmers where they were already living – and to acquire that land. He pointed out that the Bill did not provide for lease agreements as leases were only valid if reduced to writing, and whilst the intention was noble, slide 15 was not clear on how the goals would be achieved when there were no written lease agreements. He also asked where were the District Land Communities likely to find land that would accommodate their agricultural needs?

The Minister responded that this was an excellent question, as it raised several issues. This section had recently caused much discussion. The  South African universities had not adopted this policy and so their graduates were not being trained appropriately; they were dealing only with the market values. In respect of land purchase, the Minister explained that the DRDLR was buying the land, and this was a strategy shown to work. DRDLR had created a new company with the empowerment funding, and the Department then bought the land and handed it over to the farm workers.

Mr Robertson said slide 22 gave statistics from 2002 to 2007.He said it would be appropriate to have an updated version of those statistics. The Minister had said the Police should be focusing on illegal evictions, and he asked that the Minister expand on that.

The Minister responded that he agreed; the Department should keep the statistics up to date. In respect of the illegal evictions, he pointed out that the increase here had been a recent phenomenon, and it was a challenge to the State. The way this had been carried out had challenged the integrity of the state system. All stakeholders must deal with illegality strictly in terms of the law.

Mr Madella said the presentation did not speak to the financial aspect of ESTA and the impact of the programme on the Department. There was a need for the Department to be able to enter into farms and deal with issues that were there, because if this was not done, there would be no improvement in the lives of the people living on the lands. He wondered to what extent the DRDLR could recruit interns to focus on this issue, in order to avert the violation of ESTA. He pointed out that cutting the electricity and water supplies to the farm dwellers was a violation of ESTA, and the Department had to be more creative to overcome this challenge.

Mr Nchabeleng said ESTA implied that there were limitations on the security of the tenants, and he asked what the DRDLR thought the solution to this problem should be?

The Minister replied that the Department had set up a security unit, and youths from the farms were being trained to handle the security of the farms, which would help to save costs. After their training, farm dwellers could begin to develop plans and programmes. The DRDLR essentially wanted to make sure that the farmers were in control of their own matters.

Mr Mnguni asked if the Department was satisfied that matters would move forward after this amendment, with no loopholes being found. He noted that SAPS had apparently not been part of the comprehensive process leading up to the amendment, and he wondered if DRDLR was satisfied that the SAPS would be capable of and willing to comply with the process.  He asked for the Minister's assurance that the proposals now presented did represent a synergy of the views of the various Cabinet members. He also asked if the Department was in consultation with the farm dwellers, and whether the various entities were speaking to each other in this regard. The situation in most farm dwellers communities was not good. He wondered if the DRDLR had perhaps thought about something like negotiating a 30-year lease, so that there could be time to set up housing, sport fields, and clinics in these communities. He also wondered if the amendments being made now would be fully implementable, and said that in his view there was a need for a complete overhaul of how 3 million or so people lived on farms. Finally, he also expressed concern that there may not be sufficient human resources in place at the DRDLR to handle all the work.

Ms Nxasana replied that there was a forum that was holding consultations with the farm dwellers community. This consisted of representatives from the Departments of Labour, Agriculture, Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, National Youth Development Agency, DRDLR and AgriSA. This was an ongoing policy development forum. This was something that the Department was passionate about, and it was fully aware of the synergies and challenges. The Department was furthermore running training workshops on ESTA for magistrates, communities and SAPS.  In the Land Reform Management Committee, not many of these workshops had been done.

Mr Filtane asked how the Department proposed to assist the municipalities with the declining budget.

Ms Nxasana replied that there was a budget to assist the municipalities and this sat with the Land Redistribution and Development programme

The Chairperson asked to what extent State land had been given to the municipalities for residential purposes. Municipalities were frequently complaining that they had no land to erect housing. She also wondered to what extent the municipalities were themselves applying for use of commonage – if indeed they were aware that this existed. She asked if people on the farms were actually being assisted. Was the Department taking the farm dwellers communities seriously; they were, after all, part of the programmes of the Department? She also asked to what extent the DRDLR engaged with the Department of Human Settlements so that it could assist in buying lands, build houses and relocate people to the new land. More than twenty years after democracy, the farm dwellers had no access to water and electricity. They were still oppressed and locked out of the farms. She therefore wanted to know precisely what plans were in place to liberate and assist these farm dwellers?

The Minister replied that he had first-hand experience of some of the problems, as he had been born on a farm. It was true that there were often no water, houses, toilet facilities or electricity on the farms. He said all stakeholders should stop talking about race and correct the wrongs. In respect of the question around land for municipalities, he said that there was a need to stabilise the land market. There was hope that in the future there would be a transfer of land to the municipalities and problems would not arise after that. There was an experience in Bosmansdam where the municipality started transferring the land that had been given to it by the State, and that matter was currently before the courts.

Ms Leona Archary, Acting Director General, Department of Rural Development and Land Reform, noted that the Department was utilising NARYSEC (youth services) enterprises for the purpose of building homes on those farms.

Mr Mnguni asked if the Department had sufficient funds to establish the Land Rights Management Board.

Ms Nxasana replied that the Department did not have R26.9bn to establish the Board but would utilise the resources that were at its disposal. The ground work for the establishment of the Board had already been done.

Mr Filtane asked whether the DRDLR would have considered this route of providing land for the farm dwellers, in the places where they currently resided, if the Valuer General had said the land was available? He pointed out that not everyone who resided on the farms was interested in farming. There were some of the farm dwellers who were more concerned about their security of residency.

The Minister replied that as long as farm owners had certificates on those lands they could not belong to the farm dwellers.

Ms Magadla asked if the settlement was regarded as a commercial or residential area.

The Minister replied that it was a modern place, as well as a farm ,where human settlement was smooth effectively it could be a regarded as a modern village.

Mr Mnguni said he did not expect a response to this question immediately, but pointed out that 2.8m People were living in a strife torn area. Despite the appointment of a Valuer General, the DRDLR still bought land at inflated prices. He was raising this point not in his private capacity, or on behalf of his party, but as a concerned Member of the Committee. He asked if the Committee Chairperson would be prepared to set a date for the Valuer-General to appear before the Committee to brief Members on what exactly that office was doing, and whether the DRDLR would accept the price on the advice of the Valuer-General?

The Minister replied that the Valuer- General would buy land because it was an instrument of the State. It had nothing to do with the government. There were no valuers in the country trained in anything other than assessing market value. The current Valuer General was a Ghanaian who was partly trained in South Africa.

The Chairperson said that she appreciated the input from the Minister and all officials from the Department. The inputs from the stakeholders would be fully considered in the following week, and if the Committee was unable to finalise the Bill by 8 December, it would be carried over as a priority item on the agenda for the next Committee term.

The meeting was adjourned.


Share this page: