The Rural Development and Land Reform Portfolio Committee received presentations by two organisations on land claims issues, where a common theme was the delay in resolving problems by the Commission on Restitution of Land Rights.
The Cindi family estate said it had received land in 2000. The original land owner, who was a grandfather to the family, had had two wives. The first wife had 11 children and the second wife had eight children. However, the land had been given to the 11 children, but now there was conflict among the 11 families of the Cindi household. One of the 11 families had come to the Committee to raise the issue that the government kept interfering in their family affairs, and kept dividing the family more by holding meetings in the absence of other families. Part of the family’s conflict was based on the fact that the majority wanted the land subdivided, and others did not want it subdivided. The Cindi family had been dealing with the Commission on the Restitution of Land Rights, and they were not happy with how it and the government had handled their matter. As a result of all the conflict and interference from the government, there had been no progression at the farm. They had wanted to take this matter to the High Court, but had been told that they would need R60 000 for legal fees, and they had had to give up owing to the poverty that they were facing.
The Committee held that this matter was not supposed to have been heard by the Commission in the first place, and therefore the Cindis should be grateful that the Commission had been willing to deal with the family. It said that the Commission should simply listen to the community’s problems, and advise and refer them to relevant units, because post-settlement matters were not the mandate of the Commission. The family was advised to resolve their problems, because family conflicts also delayed the government processes.
The Land and Traditional Leadership Movement (LATLM), an organisation that was recently established for land claims on behalf of people that resided in Limpopo, came to the Committee because they felt that land commissions were incapable of handling land issues. In addition, they did not have confidence and trust in commissions, because they were allegedly selfish and interested in the land that people were claiming from the government. They referred to an instance where a Commission had once bought land that had been claimed by the people. There was also corruption and fraud taking place in their province with regard to land issues. Their request was for the Committee to assign Members to Limpopo to deal with the land issues. They could not understand why the processes were taking so long, and in the meantime people were dying without getting their land.
The Committee asked the LATLM to be patient and allow the processes to take place. Their request for the assignment of Members to the province would be considered. Corruption and fraud should be reported in writing to the Minister and the Committee in order for the matter to be investigated.
Land claim: Cindi Estate
Major Gama Cindi, Secretary: Cindi Estate, approached the Committee as a member of the public who was claiming land restitution from the government, and presented his case representing his family business. He was the grandson of the late Mr James Msindwana, who had lodged a land claim on 28 August 1995, based on the Restitution of Land Rights Act 22 of 1994, as amended.
The farm of the Cindi family was restituted in 2000, and the Communal Property Association (CPA) was officially registered in 2001 and the land was divided into two portions. Their grandfather had two wives. From 2002 to 2008 the farm was operational, with a value of R800 000. They had approached the Department of Land Affairs to request the grants which were part of the restitution, and that was when the conflict had begun. There had been conflict that was between the first and the second generations within the family which had further complicated matters. The first generation did not want to go back to the farm, as they felt that they were not familiar with it.
A resolution was taken by the interim committee in 2003 and signed in Pretoria under oath. This was done mainly to avoid subdivision of the land. However, the government had advised the family to subdivide the land. There had been a meeting thereafter, and the alleged consensus was that there had been a resolution to subdivide the land into 11 portions.
The family decided to ask the government to assist them to form a new CPA, but this attempt was not successful. In 2010 there was an interim committee formed to transition from the 2008 issue regarding the land affairs issue in the North West, and to elect a new structure. The interim committee was still there up to this day, as an interim committee, and was performing its duties.
The family had written to the Director-General when they were requesting assistance in electing a new committee. The Director-General had referred the matter to the Land Claims Commissioner. The family had followed this up with the Commission, and they had not provided the response that the family was exactly looking for.
There had been no formal resolution, and their problem was that the Commission had referred this to the meeting that was held at the Civic Centre in 2008. The family had written to the Commissioner to ask for documents, and it had taken them four months to get the documents that they had requested. The documents contained the resolution that subdivided the land into two, as well as the attendance register from the meeting, and this was to get information about the people who had attended the particular meeting. The documents received from the office of the North West department were in a form, and were actually four documents, some of which included the attendance register that was being requested by the family. The family had been requesting to be given only what was due to them, and it was unfortunate that the family was seen as disgruntled.
The state of the farm was not the same anymore. Resources were no longer there due to the events that had happened in 2008, and no progress was taking place. In addition, there had been no communication with the family so far.
The family had a constitution, which had not been taken into consideration by the Commission. It had been enacted before the CPA was registered. These procedures had to be followed. The family had spent a lot of money on lawyers to help the present members of the family to call a family meeting to hold people to account, but the government always managed to cancel their meetings or have a say on who should attend the meetings.
The family held that there was too much interference, and this had resulted in the family not being able to use the land that had rightfully been restituted to them. In addition, they wanted a quorum as a minimum requirement for the resolution.
Again, the government kept postponing meetings and cancelling them. In addition, the family was not pleased with the attitude that they were getting from the government. They felt that there was a bias, and there was no communication coming from the government. They had been frustrated for the past 16 years due to some of these issues. Their other issue was that the farm was not progressing -- the only money that the farm generated came from leasing out a small part of it to cattle owners, and the money did not go to the Cindi bank account. As a result, their bank balance currently had no funds, whereas in 2008 it had around R800 000. The family did not know who the recipients of the money that was generated through leasing out the small part of the farm, were.
The government had spent R5.4 million to acquire the land in question 16 years ago, and they were not sure if this was still how much it was still worth. With regards to the subdivisions, they wanted to know how the government had arrived at the decision of subdividing the land, and whether they took things like water and electricity into account when they were subdividing, because the other side of the land did not have these resources. The family said they were concerned that the government was not even questioning the lack of activities on the farm after it had spent so much money on it.
The family held that the government kept taking advantage of the family because it knew that the Cindi family was not well educated, and therefore it kept putting insufficient offers on the table for them. The family had wanted to take this matter up to the high court, but had been told to raise about R60 000 for legal costs, which they were unable to do.
They wanted to know why things were not moving forward. All the family wanted was to get their land back without interference, and move away from the CPA and register the land under a trust.
Commission on Restitution of Land Rights: Reply
Ms Nomfundo Gobodo, Chief Land Claims Commissioner, replied that it was quite problematic that the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform (DRDLR) was not there to respond to some of the issues raised. However, in defence of the Commission, she held that they were dealing with a lot of outstanding land claims from 1998. They engaged with communities even though this was not related to their mandate, and continued to provide them with information. The Commission should not deal with restitution issues. There was a lot that the Commission did, and yet they were expected to deal with everything timeously.
The Department should be called to account for issues related to the CPA.
The Chairperson said it was important for the Commission to engage with communities on the issue of land restitution, as there were lot of people who still had incomplete information and did not know whether or not they qualified for land restitution.
Ms Gobodo said that the Commission continued to engage with CPAs and communities, even though it was not their mandate, and the same happened with referrals which were sent to them, even though they were not meant to be dealing with these referrals. The presidential hotline inquiries were also sent to the Commission, and this was not the mandate of the Commission. Her suggestion was that the role of the Commission needed to be clarified.
Mr Lengane Bogatsu, Chief Director: DRDLR, added to Ms Gobodo’s response, saying that the Commission helped the community where it could. He confirmed most of the facts that Mr Cindi had provided. He informed the Committee that Mr James Msindwana had been married to two wives when the land was dispossessed. The first wife had 11 children, and the second one had 8 children. When the land was restituted, it was given to the 11 children of the first wife, and that was when conflict within the family had arisen. This was how the idea of subdividing the land had come about -- the beneficiaries had asked the Office of the Regional Land Claims Commissioner in North West Province to subdivide the land.
He had told the family that he was not even supposed to deal with their matter -- the land was the responsibility of the family now, because it had been handed over to them, and he was not even meant to use the resources of the state to subdivide the land, and yet he had.
In addition, it was usually nine families that came to his office and informed him that there would be one person representing the families, and he could not chase them away because this was what the majority of the family wanted.
He clarified that the issue of leasing out a small portion of the land was not profit making, nor helpful in generating income for the family. The subdivision was meant for the families to manage their portions, and this family did not agree with the idea of subdivision. In addition, the family was not willing to sit down and reach an amicable solution.
Regarding the meetings, he asserted that he had postponed only one meeting. He had been in attendance, but there had been only one family present, and he had seen fit to postpone the meeting because he could not have a meeting with only one family. He had informed the families that they should meet all at once to reach a consensus.
Ms N Magadla (ANC) wanted to know if the family members had also been involved in the process that was being followed by Commission. The general feeling was that the family members were probably not directly involved in the process. Regarding rental from the land, the Chief Director was supposed to know where the money went. It would be important to know whether there was any land administration tenure office in Mr Cindi’s province, because the family should have been sent to that office.
Mr P Mnguni (ANC) said that the family should appreciate the restitution, as some people did not get such an opportunity. The workers had been mentioned when these families were engaging, therefore he wanted to know where the workers featured in the whole arrangement. He also held that he agreed with the Commission, that because there was so much pressure put on it and other institutions pertaining to land restitution, it was stuck in one place. The Commission was meant to give money for restitution to the public and hear success stories.
He had a problem with the use of the word ‘government’ in Mr Cindi’s presentation, as he should have specified the institution that he had issues with in order to establish where the problem lay. The DRDLR was in a crisis if this was how the situation was. It needed a roadmap and a clear vision to move forward. In addition, he apologised to the family if it thought the Commission was responsible for all the issues the family had encountered.
Ms T Mbabama (DA) stressed that the Commission should not be involved in post settlement issues. She understood that the Commission felt compelled to deal with these matters because they were on the ground, but this was not the Commission’s mandate to begin with. She understood that Vergenoeg and Doornbult had been settled as one farm, and wanted to know whether the land had been officially separated as two separate farms and had two separate deeds.
She wanted clarification on the agreement issue -- that ten families had agreed and only one did not agree. Had Mr Cindi’s family which was present at the meeting not been part of the 2010 interim committee, and had they been totally represented? She also wanted to know the number of farm workers, and how they had been affected in all of this. What were the legalities for registering a new CPA for Vergenoeg? If a new CPA was registered, what happened to the existing CPA?
She also said that there was a conflict between the two presentations, and wanted to know what the real story was exactly, because the family was blaming the government, while the Commission was blaming the family. In addition, she agreed with Mr Mnguni that the DRDLR should have been present at the meeting to provide clarity on some of the issues that had been raised.
Mr A Madella (ANC) asked if the Commission had engaged with any other relevant government department in order to resolve some of the problems that had been raised by Mr Cindi’s family. He wanted to argue strongly that the Commission must end their involvement in post settlement matters, and suggested that they may listen to the community but only listen and advise, and then refer them to the relevant stakeholders.
Mr E Nchabeleng (ANC) wanted to check on the progress with the farmers. This matter needed to be handled at a higher level. He said that the Commission should refer these matters to the relevant stakeholders, otherwise people would never know the function of the Commission. In addition, the Commission would end up spending funds on programmes that were not relevant to its mandate. It needed to put its foot down.
Mr T Walters (DA) said that family disputes happened, but there should be services like mediation or arbitration and other type of services that would make it easier to resolve these disputes. It was unclear from the presentation as to when the process of handover had taken place.
Ms Mbabama asked whether Mr Cindi’s family had looked at the constitution of the original CPA.
Mr Mnguni wanted clarification on the portions cited, and whether they were not under land claims. What township was this? Was the Committee not talking about a farm? He suggested that the Commission should have all the matters it was involved in, or busy with, audited. It must then give the Committee the outcomes in order for the Committee to come up with solutions. He also apologised again to the family, saying that the Commission should not have done what the family had said it did.
Chairperson said that there was one side of the story that was outstanding, because the family was divided into two. The conflict among the family made the situation worse. They had to resolve and reorganise themselves in order to reach an agreement on certain issues, as this was making it difficult for the Department to resolve the matter. The family must sit down and decide on what it wanted the Department to do. The establishment of another CPA on top of the existing one had been raised by Members. What were the legalities involved? The two sides of the family were supposed to be present and understand the consequences of the conflict.
Mr Bogatsu said that he had a record of nine signed resolutions out of the 11 families, and there had been extensive participation. He confirmed that the subdivision of the farm had been carried out and registered at the deeds office, according to the 11 families, but there was no fencing there that demarcated the land and they had not been transferred to individual trusts. The land tenure administration office did not have the capacity to do this. The Commission may also not have the capacity, but it was difficult to turn away the community.
The Commission knew its mandate was not to provide land tenure, so what the farmers had done was to establish an informal settlements area in the other portion, and some other people had also come in and established their own informal settlements. The Commission had acquired a portion of land from the farm and approached the Naledi Municipality, and in 2016 it had managed to transfer the properties to the municipality so that the municipality could provide services to farm workers. Therefore, the dispute of the families did not have an impact on farm workers.
Ms Gobodo said that a farmer would be using a portion of an economic unit provided, and the Commission would buy the full value of the farm, not just a portion. If there was a community already on that land then the new one gets incorporated with the old, that was usually approved by the Minister.
Mr Bogatsu said that the rental went to the CPA.
Ms Gobodo said general CPAs were established by the community, therefore their constitutions would allow them to dissolve an existing CPA and establish a new one.
Mr Bogatsu said that within Mr Cindi’s family there were those who were in favour of a trust, and this was another issue that was further making it difficult to resolve this case.
Ms Mbabana was still not clear about the subdivision of the farm. She thought there would be two separate title deeds first, and then the portions would be subdivided.
Mr Madella sought clarity. The Commission in its report had spoken about 19 siblings from the late Mr Msindwana, whereas only 11 siblings had been mentioned. Mr Cindi had referred to only 18 siblings, so he wanted to know whether there might be one sibling that they had forgotten to mention.
Mr Bogatsu replied that three portions had been acquired, and when the CPA had been established there were two title deeds that had been registered.
The 18 siblings were based on the records that the Commission had.
Mr Madella said he was confused, because Mr Cindi had said there were 18 and the Commission had said there were 19. The first wife had 11 children, and the second wife had 8 children, which was 19 children. He still needed clarification on this.
Mr Cindi replied that during the apartheid regime, a strategy had been implemented of attacking families one by one, and this was what had happened in the North West with their families. There was one will, and it said he had two wives – the one lived in Vergenoeg, and the other lived in Doornbult, and they never owned the land.
The resolution had been signed in 2014, and each family had one signatory signing on behalf of them. He was therefore surprised when Mr Bogatsu said he knew the money went to the CPA, because the family went to one bank. When the family had decided to go their separate ways, they had simply opened a separate account at the same bank, and had transferred R250 000. In conclusion, he thanked the Committee for the opportunity to talk to them.
Chairperson said that Members had raised the issue of dealing with issues that did not form part of the Commission’s mandate. These issues had to be referred to the relevant unit. The DRDLR Minister must visit the community to hear their stories.
She urged Mr Cindi and his family to resolve their issues and make joint decisions and then involve the government, because family conflicts delayed the process.
Land and Traditional Leadership Movement: Presentation
Mr Robert Rakhadani, President: Land and Traditional Leadership Movement (LATLM), introduced the delegates from his organisation, and said the LATLM had been established in April 2017 for the Limpopo province. Their mandate was to claim back land for the people who resided in Limpopo and whose land had been dispossessed during the apartheid era. He explained the fundamentals and the historical context of the organisation and its people. They did not understand why the processes were taking so long. The LATLM also made allegations of fraud and corruption that was happening in their province. All they wanted was to get their land back and reconnect with their ancestors. Their other issue was that they did not receive communication from the Commission.
Dr Nthambeleni Charles Netshisaulu, Secretary General: LATLM, said that they had been to different land commissions and there had been no progress, and many people had died without getting their land back. The commissions were delaying and frustrating South Africans. They wanted the government to take responsibility on the land issue. They wanted the commissions to back down because they were incapable, and even bought the very same land that was being claimed. Twenty years was a long time. His father had died before even getting his land back. The Members of the House, together with the government, were there to represent the people, not to misrepresent them. Their request was that they wanted the Chairperson to assign Members of the Committee to Limpopo to resolve the land issue. He pleaded with the House, saying they did not want to lose their confidence in the House and the ANC at large.
Mr Phethole Mamatlepa, Vice President: LATLM, said that some of the people that worked for the land commissions knew nothing about land, and yet they worked with land claims. The LATLM did not want selfish people too. In essence, they did not have confidence in their commissions, and some commissioners at times asked traditional leaders on how to do their work. In addition, they had an interest in the land that was being claimed. People were prepared to fight for their land, as the ANC had done. They pleaded with the House to do something before things got out of hand.
Land Claims Commission’s Response
Ms Gobodo replied that the presentation did not specify the claims. However, she acknowledged that the Commission needed to work a lot in Limpopo, and they would try to improve the area of communication. There were a number of claims outstanding in Limpopo -- the Commission had 87 outstanding claims in the area of Polokwane, and a total of 1 530 outstanding claims in the whole province of Limpopo, compared to the 10 853 claims that had been launched. The Commission acknowledged that the processing of the claims could indeed have been fast tracked.
Ms Miyelani Nkatingi, Director: Rural Land Claims Commission (RLCC), Limpopo, replied that they received the land claims in Limpopo and these were currently being processed by the Commission. The Commission had organised people in and around the area of Limpopo in order to explain to the community how the land claims were being processed by the Commission and the requirements for the submission of land claims. There was a strategy in place to send letters to update the community about the progress. The Commission went to radio stations to communicate with the community as part of its communication strategy.
Ms Gobodo said that the LATLM was allowed to look at the land claims that had been submitted a long time ago, so as to deal with the backlog.
Mr Walters said that the allegations that had been made were serious and needed to be on record and submitted to the Committee. The presentation that had been made by LATLM was interesting as it covered a number of issues and also highlighted the frustrations of people on the processing of land claims. Any delays must be dealt with soon, so as to avoid leaving people delayed and waiting.
Mr Madella said that this reminded him of a past incident that had happened in the Committee a while back. It was important to address these issues, as they had been around for many years. The processes were frustrating people. This was something that could not be swept under the mat – it needed to be dealt with soon.
Mr Nchabeleng wanted clarity on claims made. He also said that old cases would be dealt with differently from modern cases. In addition, they were looking at a process which involved giving what was due to the people. The time would come for the LATLM to lodge their claim for restitution. An atmosphere needed to be created where there was a dialogue to give one another chances, to provide an ear to listen, and not always to attack. The LATLM should make it easier for people to listen to them. He understood that the land issue was an emotional one, but everyone should try to contain themselves.
Mr Mnguni thanked the presenters for their efforts and the confidence they had in governance, but argued that there needed to be patience. The LATLM had been present when it was mentioned that not all was well in the DRDLR and the Commission. The allegations that it had mentioned were serious. Therefore, when things like corruption were picked up, they had to be reported. Funds were a problem, as the budget was about R10 billion and the fee allocation was about R1 billion.
He suggested that there should be a workshop in Limpopo of relevant stakeholders for communication purposes. In addition, there needed to be district land committees, and the LATLM could be part of these committees, to enable them to be part of this and understand the problems.
Chairperson thanked the LATLM, and agreed with the idea of a workshop.
She said restitution processes were very slow. Other countries took about 263 years to process claims, and for South Africa it had been only 23 years thus far. Therefore, the Commission should be left alone to do its work to determine whether the claims that were lodged were valid or not. They should collectively guard against all the issues that contributed to the delays. In addition, there were restitution processes taking place right now which had been halted.
When the Committee came to Limpopo, the LATLM needed to identify two areas, because Limpopo was vast, and pleaded with them to bear with the Committee. It needed to have an approach when discussing issues, which should be discussed respectfully to come up with workable solutions. The process should continue, and the Commission must communicate with people at all stages.
Fraud and corruption should be reported to the Minister in writing, with copies to the Committee, to investigate this thoroughly. There was also the presidential hotline to report corruption to.
Dr Netshisaulu advised the Committee to deploy three or four people, because these commissions would betray the Committee.
Mr Rakhadani apologised for the LATLM’s approach, but said that the issue of title deeds had not been responded to. He thanked the Committee for listening, and showed appreciation to the Commission as well.
Chairperson said that the issue of title deeds must be sent in writing to the Committee to make follow-ups.
The meeting was adjourned.
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