Commission on Restitution of Land Rights & DRDLR Quarter 4 performance

Rural Development and Land Reform

28 June 2017
Chairperson: Ms PC Ngwenya-Mabila
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Meeting Summary

The Department of Rural Development and Land Reform (DRDLR) had a successful fourth quarter in the 2016/17 financial year. Of its 28 projected targets, 21 were achieved. This was the highest percentage of targets achieved within the year. Overall, 2016/17 had the highest percentage of targets achieved within the last three financial years. On a quarterly basis, Programme 1, Administration, partially achieved its one target. Programme 2, Geospatial and Cadastral Services, achieved four out of five targets, with one target partially achieved. Programme 3, Rural Development, achieved five out of seven targets, with two targets partially achieved. Programme 4, Restitution, achieved all three of its targets. Programme 5, Land Reform, achieved nine out of 12 targets, and three targets were partially achieved.

The Committee praised the Department for its achievements, but Members raised their concerns about the Department’s few areas of under-performance and asked for reasons. They also asked if there were any financial implications regarding the Department’s over-performance. The DRDLR needs to work out its structure and define its public administration framework. It was asked to clarify its current situation regarding settling land claims and restitution. Members wanted to know what the Department was doing in regard to the farmers whose land had been affected by the Cape fires. It was asked to present on how restitution was dealt with in the Department, to provide an update on finalised land claims, as well as give a socio-economic impact report. 

While the Land Claims Commission had over-achieved its goals, the number of claims to be settled, finalised, approved and researched were still behind previous quarters. 382 land claims had been settled against the targeted 150, 28 out of 20 targeted phased projects had been approved, 357 land claims had been finalised against the targeted 118, while 610 claims lodged by 1998 to be researched had been achieved, compared to the targeted 389.

The Committee asked the Commission how many hectares of land had been given back to the people, and what the classification of this land was. The current state of the land claims court and the progress on the untraceable claims, needed to be given to the Committee. The Members asked for an update on the autonomy in the division of the Commission from the Department. The Commission was asked to clarify the financial report it had presented on the litigation cases in Gauteng, and its budget related to expenditure.

Meeting report

Department of Rural Development and Land Reform: Fourth Quarter Performance

Mr Eugene Southgate, Deputy Director General (DDG): Department of Rural Development and Land Reform (DRDLR), and Mr Ntshavheni Malisha, Director of Budget Performance Management, gave the presentation. They were accompanied by Mazisi Ntuthuka, Acting Director: Programme Performance Monitor; Mr Bonginkosi Zulu: Assistant Deputy Director General; and Mr Devon Fredericks, Executive Assistant to DDG, Corporate Support Services.

The Department identified seven strategic goals to achieve from 2015-2020. In 2016/17 the Department achieved 21 out of its 28 targets for quarter four. The other seven targets were partially achieved. 2016/17 had the highest amount of overall goals achieved (79%), compared to 2014/15 (71%) and 2015/16 (59%).

On a quarterly basis, Programme 1, Administration, partially achieved its one target. Programme 2, Geospatial and Cadastral Services, achieved four out of five targets, with one target partially achieved. Programme 3, Rural Development, achieved five out of seven targets, with two targets partially achieved. Programme 4, Restitution, achieved all three of its targets. Programme 5, Land Reform, achieved nine out of 12 targets and three targets were partially achieved.

The Department had the highest fourth quarter performance of 75%, compared to the past two financial years (55% and 71%).

The performance also shows how the Department has worked hard in the development, implementation, tracking and monitoring of the Recovery plans and Improvement plans that were put in place by all programmes during the second and third quarters. Regardless of the 21% of targets that were missed, all programmes are urged to take this momentum  into the new Financial Year, by ensuring that there is consistency in their performance, whilst improving on this performance of 79%

Discussion

Mr M Filtane (UDM) said that of all the departments, this one would not fail. The Department had overachieved its targets, and it was much appreciated. This showed that it took the Committee’s comments seriously. However, could the Department expand upon the under-performance reflected in slides 33 and 35? On restitution, was there a report on the development of the settled land claims? Western Cape had been hit by storms and fires -- was there any information about farmers who had been government subsidised?

Ms N Magadla (ANC) said that she was not happy with the land administration performance.

Mr P Mnguni (ANC) asked if anyone in the executive management had qualifications in public administration. The Department needed to figure out its structure and public administration framework. The DRDLR had been asked before to present its structure, and they needed to do it soon. There needed to be clarification on the meaning of the revised targets. The financial presentation should have a provincial break down. It was unacceptable that there was no ministerial attendance. Was the Commission doing post land settlement duties? The presentation had mentioned a ‘raw community’ -- what did this mean? It had also indicated there was not one goal left unachieved -- how true was this?

Mr T Walters (DA) said that given the court findings around restitution, how did the Department intend on complying?

The Chairperson asked if there were any financial implications due to the Department’s overachievements. There needed to be an explanation of why the Land Redistribution and Development (LRD) and the Land Tenure and Administration (LTA) were under certain programmes, and not others. What were the reasons for the increases and decreases in the performance of the different programmes?

Mr Southgate said the Department did not have information regarding the weather in the Western Cape, but they could present it later to the Committee. There were at least two people in the DRDLR who had qualifications in public administration. The Department would continue to work on its structure. The DRDLR was confined in how it reported to the National Treasury and the Auditor General. There were sub-programmes at all levels of the Department for reporting procedures. There were provincial financial plans, but they were reported at the select committee level. The reports could be made available for the Portfolio Committee as well. These reports were done on a monthly basis, and could also be done on a quarterly basis. The Department was not allowed to revise its targets unless they were presented to the Committee and Parliament. Feedback would be provided in regard to the access of the ministerial management.

The Department was reflecting honestly in its report. The DRDLR did the necessary interventions when things were not being done properly. The vision and mission statement was a work in progress, and the strategic plan was being worked on. Sometimes the data in this presentation would be slightly skewed, as information was pulled from databases and was rounded off in regard to percentages. The Department would present the information on the finance for the over-achievements to the Committee when he received it.

Mr Zulu said there were only two indicators that had not been achieved in quarter 2, and only two partially achieved goals in quarter 3. If one indicator was missed, then the performance percentage went down. The land reform distribution programme was under a trading account. When the DRDLR took over the restitution support, they decided as a branch how to deal with the restitution funds. What the recapitalisation programmes did was to provide financial support to assist the farmers with strategic partnerships, settle issues of land disputes, and other similar duties. The DRDLR had held workshops to come up with a strategy on how to deal with the post second support in restitution and aid the Communal Property Association (CPA) disputes. In terms of the Restitution Act, the Department could come back to the Committee and provide a report on how restitution was dealt with in the Department.

Ms Magadla asked if the there were land reform farmers that had been affected by the fires. How had the Department assisted them? What was the plan regarding land claims on state land?

Mr Filtane said he wanted an update on the development of the properties that had been finalised. The Department also needed to provide a socio-economic impact report. Last year, some people had reached out to the Committee and said they had benefited from a post settlement farm in the Western Cape. What was the latest report on this farm?

Mr Walters said there had been investigations that recommended how the Department should deal with matters such as the Cape fire. What was being done with regard to these recommendations?

Mr E Nchabeleng (ANC) said it was impressive that the Department had so many overachievements. The Committee was worried that the overachievements were not due to the Committee’s or the Department’s efforts, but to court orders. The Committee was not convinced there was a budget to cover these court orders.

The Chairperson requested that there be another meeting for the Department to give a report on the investigations and recommendations.

Mr Mnguni thought the Department was in crisis management mode. The report that had been given needed to outline a clear action plan for the post settlement tasks.

Mr K Robertson (DA) said he had previously brought up an issue about students in Mpumalanga who were living in terrible conditions and had issues with the body in charge of their education, and he had not received any follow up from the Department. There were over 40 tractors that were broken and not being fixed in Mpumalanga, but 44 more tractors had been purchased despite the current tractor graveyard. What was the Department’s plan to deal with these tractors?

Mr Southgate said that the issue of the land reform farmers, the Cape fire, the socio economic impact and land claims would be provided in the report prepared for the Department.  The Department did evaluation impacts for its programmes. These reports could also be provided to the Committee.

Mr Filtane asked how frequently the Department would be able to give the Committee the evaluation impact updates.

Mr Southgate said that they were multi year studies, and there were studies that could be made available almost immediately.

The Chairperson said that the Department should report back to the Committee on its plans regarding the tractors in Mpumalanga.

Commission on Restitution of Land Rights (CRLR): Fourth Quarter Performance

Ms Nomfundo Gobodo, Chief Land Claims Commissioner (CLCC), said that while the Commission had overachieved its goals, the number of claims to be settled, finalised, approved and researched were still behind from previous quarters. 382 land claims had been settled out of the targeted 150. 28 out of 20 targeted phased projects had been approved. 357 land claims had been finalised out of the targeted 118. 610 claims lodged by 1998 to be researched had been achieved, compared to the targeted 389.

The Commission’s fourth quarter budget for economic classifications was R3.168 billion. 105% of the budget had been spent. The budget allocated for provincial expenditure was R3.001 billion, and 108% of the budget had been spent.

In the past three financial years, the CRLR had exceeded on its annual performance plan (APP) targets. This financial year, they had settled 804 land claims against the target of 615. There were several challenges in settling claims over the quarter. Research was complex, claims were in court, land owners were challenging the validity of the claims, there were disagreements between claimants and beneficiaries, and there were capacity challenges.

Discussion

Mr Walters asked how the new regulations impacted the financial planning on the Department’s targets.

Mr Robertson asked how the targets equated to hectares of land that had been given back to the people.

Mr Filtane asked what the classification of the finalised land claims was. What was the current situation regarding the proposed autonomy on the division of the land claims commissions? What was the progress on the untraceable claims?

Mr Mnguni said the response on the post settlement cases needed to be in writing. Could the CLCC recap on the what the current research strategy was? What was the current state of the land claims court? What was the typical procedure to present land claims to constituencies? What was the point of view of the Commission about land and money? What affected the prioritisation of land claims?

Ms Gobodo said there was no financial implication for the overachieved targets. All types of land classifications had been finalised. About two or three years ago, there had been a move to separate the Commission from the Department. In the reports, the Commission was still seen as a branch of the Department. The Commission was working to be fully autonomous of the Department. It needed corporate support from the back office, and to have its own independent audit and risk committees. The Commission would provide a report on the progress of the post settlement cases. The report indicated that land financial compensation was at R1.4 billion, land purchases at R1 billion, and recap and grants were at R352 million. This made the total R2.7 billion that was used for the core work of Commission, excluding the goods and services and employee compensation.

On the issue of untraceable claims, the Commission had a three-pronged approach to doing the work through the project officers. An update of the household research was that a project manager had been appointed, the Commission had gone out to identify issues in the provinces, and the outstanding research had been planned to be finalised this financial year. The Commission would provide a written response on the research questions.

The procedure to settle claims was to first identify if a claim had been properly registered, then research to identify if the claim was valid, and then to notify all stakeholders to say they had an opportunity to work with the Department on a settlement, or to possibly challenge the claim in court. If there were no challenges, they moved to verify the beneficiaries. Finally, they worked to decide if the claim would be a land or financial compensation. Communities mainly chose financial compensation. However this needed to be presented in a rural versus urban claim setting. The Commission would give this breakdown to the Committee.

Restitution was just one aspect of land reform. It improved standards of living and economic development. The Commission prioritised cases fluidly, but they mainly looked at the number of stakeholders in a claim, the level of impact of the case, and how long the case had been active.

The Chairperson said there needed to be clarification on the financial reporting for the litigation cases from Gauteng.

Mr Mnguni asked for clarification on the land claims court. The CLCC had been doing a great job, and it was good she had been reinstated for the next year.

Mr Filtane asked what the effect of not having an acting judge had been on the land claims court.

Ms Gobodo said that legal fees were paid in terms of interest. It was difficult to break down the progress of the legal monitor, because the cases were multi year cases and progress happened slowly. The land claims court had been formed through the Restitution Act, and was subject to the Portfolio Committee on Justice. The appointment of judges happened through the normal process through the high court. There had not been a permanent appointment because the Commission had established that it would not need permanent judges. There was an amendment made in 2014 to make permanent judges appointed to the land claims court. This issue would be taken into consideration. They tried to meet with the land claims court a few times a year to communicate about the Commission’s work.

Mr Malisha said that the expenditure was for the write-offs the Department had for damages and losses. There was no budget because it was common practice that they did not plan to have these expenses.

Ms Gobodo says that she had been appointed to her position again. The Committee was thanked for its confidence in her leadership.

The Chairperson asked if there was any progress in filling the position of her Deputy.

Ms Gobodo replied that there was a plan to fill the position.

The Chairperson said she expected the Commission and the Department to report back to the Committee on the matters that they said they would.

The meeting was adjourned. 

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