The Portfolio Committee on Rural Development and Land Reform was briefed by the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform and the Commission on Restitution of Land Rights (CRLR) on the progress in terms on Operation Phakisa.
Highlights of the brief by DRDLR included a background on the land reforms and rural development Phakisa, the broad objectives and specific objectives, a description of the Mini Lab outcomes, proposed methodology for Operation Phakisa project, the target time frames for the three phases in the methodology, the Phakisa I initiatives and progress made on it, the importance of the Open Day and the critical path for success of the Operation Phakisa.
Highlights of the brief by CRLR were the need to fast track the settlements of land claims lodged as at 31st December, 1998, the reasons for conducting Mini Lab and its outcomes, the need to transform the CRLR to a Chapter nine institution based on the Minister’s budget speech of 19th May, 2017 and redesigning of its operating business model to achieve an autonomous CRLR. CRLR also indicated proposed key capabilities for supporting the redesigning process and new governance structure,, the factors needed to accelerate, streamline and standardize the settlement of outstanding claims, the three options to administer CRLR mandates, the Three Feet plan activities to fast-track settlements on land claims in sustainable manner and its progress to date and the activities and new proposed time frames for f implementing Operation Phakisa outcomes.
The Committee expressed concerns on how the DRDLR would get the funds for the rural development and land reforms Phakisa. The Committee asked the DRDLR questions on the costs of organising the Open Day in November, 2017, the initiatives and its costs, why the Mini Lab was necessary, jobs to be created, the extent of communication with the Department of Public Works (DPW) to prioritise funds for the settlement of State land, its role in the Phakisa, the role of other Departments, commitment and compliance of other Departments and financial commitment from National Treasury. The Committee asked CRLR questions on its process to be declared a Chapter 9 institution, status of the Presidential Rural Development Coordinating Council (PRDCC), funding model options, finalising of restitution claims and the Three Feet plan activities to fast-track settlements on land claims in sustainable manner.
The Committee remarked that without resources the proposed plan could not be implemented. The Committee also asked DRDLR to circulate the list of beneficiaries during the public hearings to ensure that the beneficiaries could be located and requested a written progress report on the organogram and package of officials in the District Mangers office. The Committee also reminded the DRDLR to continually communicate its programs to the Committee and to send the capacity strategy framework when it was completed. The Committee said it would engage with the DRDLR further on the challenges on verification of land claims after the finalisation of the Budgetary Review and Recommendations Report (BRRR) to ensure it provided support to farm workers and labour tenants.
The Chairperson welcomed everyone. The purpose of the meeting was a briefing on the progress on Operation Phakisa by the Department of Rural development and Land Reform (DRDLR) and the Commission on Restitution of Land Rights (CRLR). Apologies were received from Mr T Walters (DA), Mr M Filtane (UDM) and Mr P Mnguni (ANC).
Briefing on Operation Phakisa Plan
Ms Leona Archary Acting Director-General, DRDLR, informed the Committee that Operation Phakisa was a joint project between Department of Agriculture Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) and DRDLR.
Mr Clinton Heimann Acting Deputy Director-General: Rural Infrastructure Development, DRDLR, highlighted the background of Operation Phakisa, the two broad objectives, the seven specific objectives, the relevant stakeholders that participated in the Mini Lab which were made up of three commodity work streams and four sector enablers. He highlighted the methodology that was supposed to be used for the Operation Phakisa project. He indicated the target time frames for each of the three phases in the methodology and the progress on each phase. Phase one was securing buy-in and commitment from role players. Phase two involved signing of agreements by role players, submission of project plans by DPME for quality assurance and preparation of a Cabinet memo and an Open Day in November, 2017. He indicated progress made on phases one and two based on the target timeframes. Phase three involved establishing institutional arrangements which would be implemented after the Open Day in November, 2017. He indicated the progress and what was currently worked on in the Phakisa initiatives driven by labour reforms and rural development. The initiatives were on funding and finance, value development and market access, coordination and knowledge management and reconfiguring space and promoting functional rural settlement. The Open Day was a vital step to achieve mass alignment and buy-in for lab outcomes. He also outlined the critical path for success of the Operation Phakisa project.
Ms Archary corrected the impression given under the initiative of reconfiguring space and promoting functional rural settlement. The brief had indicated that under fast tracking the settlement of outstanding restitution claims in a sustainable manner it had secured an additional R1.3 billion over the MTEF but DRDLR only applied for the funds and the funds was not yet received.
Ms Nomfundo Gobodo, Chief Land Claims Commissioner, Commission on Restitution of Land Rights (CRLR), said one of the key outcomes of Operation Phakisa was that the CRLR had to fast track the settlements of 1998 remaining land claims. Hence CRLR had to conduct a Phakisa Mini Lab to understand what fast tracking the settlement of land claims meant. The recommendations of the Phakisa Mini Lab included adopting an acceleration strategy to settle the remaining land claims submitted before the cut-off date of 1998. The transformation of the CRLR to a Chapter 9 institution was based on the Minister’s budget speech of 19th May, 2017 and redesigning the operating business model to achieve an autonomous CRLR. .
Ms Cindy Benyane, Acting Deputy Land Claims Commissioner, CRLR, highlighted the outcomes of the Mini lab Phakisa. It included development of a new operating model, redesigning of the claims process to fast track the claims backlog, propose key capabilities for supporting the redesigning process and proposing new governance structures for the internal operations of CRLR. The outcomes involved the implementation of high level plans to guide the CRLR in implementing its proposals. CRLR focused on the 6 558 claims that were outstanding as at 30 June, 2017 but accelerated plans to settle claims lodged as at 31 December, 1998. She highlighted the factors identified by CRLR in order to accelerate, streamlining and standardizing settlement of outstanding claims. She stated the proposed operating business model based on three options to administer CRLR mandates and the activities and progress in fast tracking the settlement of outstanding restitution claims in a sustainable manner. She also highlighted the activities and new proposed time frames of implementing Operation Phakisa outcomes by CRLR in conjunction with DAFF.
The Chairperson asked the team to state the extent the proposed plans on Operation Phakisa aligned with its present resources. She also questioned why the time frames on the research claim were not aligned to the time frames in the Annual Performance Plan. Phase three of the proposed plans involved establishing Institutional arrangements which would be implemented after the Open Day in November, 2017. Hence she asked the team to clarify how the proposed plans would be monitored.
Mr K Robertson (DA) said the proposed plans looked good on paper but expressed fears that the financial burden could slow the work down. He asked what the costs involved are in organising the Open Day in November and to clarify if the Committee would be invited. He also wanted clarification on why the Mini Lab was necessary. He asked the DG DRDLR to state the extent of communication with DPW to prioritse funds for the settlement of State land and what needed to be addresses for it to function as a Chapter 9 institution. He asked for more information on the Presidential Rural Development Coordinating Council (PRDCC) and clarity on the role of the President. He asked the DG DRDLR to expound on the planned projects.
Ms S Mbabama (DA) also expressed fears on the implementation of the proposed plans because the DRDLR had not identified the funding source. She asked the team to state three things that made the Operation Phakisa initiative different from other past initiatives. The Comprehensive Rural Development Plan had been launched in 2009 and the Rural Development Agency (RDA) had not been opened as a fallout-out of its launch. Hence, she asked for the need for a new RDA and if it was necessary to recruit new staff for the Operation Phakisa project. She also asked the DRDLR to clarify the budget to pay the new District Managers in 38 districts that would be appointed under the division of District Land Reform Centre in terms of the coordination and knowledge management initiative. She asked for clarity on financial partnerships alluded to under the funding and finance initiative. BASA had been approached on the funding and finance initiative and asked if the DRDLR had approached the Department of public Service and Administration (DPSA). She asked the DRDLR to clarify the party that would own the title deeds of the land of land bought in peri-urban areas. She asked for clarity on the Accelerated Land Development and Redistribution Initiative (ALDRI) and the smart Agri-villages. She asked if the Development Bank of South Africa’s (DBSA’s) cost estimates of R14 billion for five years covered the ALDRI, labour farm worker houses and land ownership program and basic services. She also asked Mr Heimann to explain the phrase ‘loose pieces of money’.
Ms N Magadla (ANC) expressed concerns that the proposed plan only showed that the project would only create jobs for District Managers. She asked CRLR to clarify the state of the entity after it finalised the settlement of claims and to clarify why there were no time frames on the coordination and knowledge management initiative. She asked why the proposed operational model options did not include the positions that would be created and if the Committee would be invited for the Open Day.
Mr A Madella (ANC) expressed concerns on how CRLC would source the funds required to finalise all the restitution claims and receive the additional funds applied for under MTE. He asked for the strategy that CRLC would use to settle over 2 000 claims in the first 24 months and settle the remaining claims later. He asked for more information on the funding model options and the District Joint Operational Centres (DJOCs). He expressed concerns on why the stakeholders did not include women, farmers and people living with disabilities. He expressed concerns on sourcing funds for ALDRI smart and Agri-villages and supported Ms Mbabama’s concerns on funding RDAs.
Mr E Nchabeleng (ANC) expressed concerns on if the CRLR would be able to achieve the verification of 6 558 outstanding claims in communities within 48 months. He asked how the CRLR would fast track the settlement of outstanding restitution claims in a sustainable manner. He asked for the role of the Department of Environment Affairs (DEA) and the Spatial Planning and Land Use Management Act (SPLUMA) in Operation Phakisa and also the role of the Presidency in relation to SPLUMA. He also supported concerns of the Committee on sourcing funds for land reforms and rural development Operation Phakisa Initiatives. He asked the team to state its role in the proposed plan.
The Chairperson asked the CRLC to state how it would achieve the set targets to finalise the claims within 48 months. She asked if the DRDLR had informed National Treasury about its plans and to clarify if he if Treasury had committed to funding the proposed plans. She asked the team for clarity on the alignment of stakeholders that it had mentioned in its brief and noted that DRDLR was having challenges implementing programs in CRLR because it needs collaborations from other Departments. She asked how DRDLR would ensure that the departments that it was collaborating with would be committed to the proposed plans on Operation Phakisa. The proposed plan had too many structures hence she asked how the DRDLR would ensure that there would be no overlap in implementation.
Ms Archary informed the Committee that different Phakisa’s had been initiated but she gave reasons to support why the Phakisa on agriculture, land reform and rural development was necessary. She also stated that in achieving the implementation of the Phakisa it was vital to enforce institutional arrangements. Treasury was a fundamental participant in the process especially the Labs and Treasury was aware of the plans and the costs of the project. The Mini Labs were conducted because the work streams on land reforms did not give detailed attention to restitution rights in the past. PRDCC is a Presidential Coordinating Council and it was initiated to bring about spatial development in rural development and land reforms. The accounting authority in Operation Phakisa is at a higher level and is made up of accounting officers in DRDLR, DPME and DAFF. Phase one of the project allowed the DRDLR to look at resources and skills in other departments. The activities in phase two which included the Open Day would assist in monitoring the process before establishing the institutional arrangements in Phase three. The three things that set out this initiative from others were the roles of the PRDCC that was being set up by DRDLR, the drivers of the Phakisa which are DRDLR, DAF and DPME and the lines of accountability in the departments. DRDLR has had challenges in its operations hence the review to consolidate its entities. Also the Bill is a Rural Development Bill and not a RDA Bill hence and would not depend on State funds. The policy on the Rural Development Bill would be presented to the Committee once it is finalised. She indicated what BASA’s roles were and stated that DRDLR had approached DPSA in terms of its funding and finance initiative and Lab outcomes.
DRDLR was not recruiting new staff for the Phakisa but deploying staff in the Department to manage the current streams. ALDRI has been used as a vehicle to create settlement type models for labour farm worker houses and land ownerships and the labour farm workers would get the land title deeds. The DBSA’s cost estimates of R14 billion covered the homes and infrastructure and the land is from DRDLR. The smart Agri-villages would be done based on green technology and are different from the agri-parks. Funding for the project would not be sourced by DRDLR alone but also from the Department of Human Settlements (DHS) and COGTA. The jobs stated in the brief s not the full complement of jobs that would be provided and details would be given later to the Committee. DRDLR would invite the Committee for the Open Day in November, 2017 and the capacity framework to drive DJOCS would be circulated to the Committee.
Ms Archary said the Labs brought together several stakeholders that would unpack the operational activities of the Phakisa. The DRDLR ensured that it included the National Rural Youth Service Corps (NRYSC), women and people living with disabilities. All programs in the Phakisa including ALDRI have been aligned with the programs of DRDLR. She highlighted the role of DEA in the Phakisa. The proclamations on SPLUMA would be taken into consideration when documents on the collaboration are signed between DRDLR and COGTA on the Phakisa. The Phakisa structures are very broad and diverse and DRDLR has created a line of coordination for each of the structures.
Ms Mpumi Phakade, Acting Chief Director, DRDLR, said that PRDCC was a multi-sectoral agenda to intensify efforts to implement the agriculture, land reforms and rural development Phakisa. Its role was to enforce coordination in the Phakisa and to entrench growths in rural economy.
Mr C Heimann said ‘loose pieces of money’ was meant to address how the various funding streams in government and private sector could be used to target development in the agriculture, rural development and land reforms Phakisa.
Ms Gobodo said the PRDCC was a presidential program and it was a way of achieving things faster by being backed up by a presidential initiative. The CRLR organised the Mini Labs because it wanted to understand the space of fast tracking the settlement of outstanding restitution claims hence, it had presented the outcomes of the Mini Lab. In the past restitution on land claims had not being carried out and the Mini Lab was meant to obtain the strategies needed before funds were released. CRLR had put forward the responses and outlined resources needed to implement the program. The information on the colloquium costs of dealing with restitution would be presented to the Committee in a written report. Department of Public Works (DPW) deals with property management and the majority of lands falls under the Minister so CRLR had not challenges on the land reforms. She made commitments to get more information on the process of land reforms for the land under DPW. CRLR was implementing the mandate of the Minister to become a Chapter 9 institution and it was possible for CRLR to become a Chapter 9 institution through constitutional amendments. CRLR can achieve the ambitious targets based on the resources released as it had presented the strategies needed. She stated the complex processes needed to verify outstanding restitution land claims and sustainably settling the restitution claims. CRLR did not have a promissory note yet to source the funds but it was putting itself in line to achieve its mandate on the Phakisa.
Ms Benyane stated that option one business model entailed service delivery and it required a 40% vacancy level. Option two was functioning model but CRLR was still working with DRDLR to fashion out its modalities. Option three was addressed during CRLR’s Mini Lab but it needed constitutional amendments.
The Chairperson noted that there was more than one Phakisa and invited Members for follow-up questions.
Mr Robertson (DA) asked the DRDLR to provide written reports regarding the amount to be used to fast track the settlement of outstanding claims on land reforms and the size of the land. He also asked for written responses on the costs of the three day colloquium in November 2017.
The Chairperson asked for the status of land for farm workers on the peri- urban land.
Mr Madella (ANC) expressed concerns on the status of plans in the ALDRI programs.
Ms Archary said that acquiring peri-urban lands for farm workers was part of the accelerated land redistribution program. Farm workers and labour tenant land issues were linked to land allocated for grazing. The land allocated would be bought and owned by individual beneficiaries. She highlighted the plans on redistribution of land and stated that DRDLR provided support to farm workers and labour tenants on resettlement of land claims.
The Chairperson emphasised that the DRDLR needed to edit its reports before sending it out in order to ensure that its image was not negatively affected. Without resources the proposed plan could not be implemented. The involvement of Treasury without commitment also did not translate to the provision of resources for the proposed plan. She mandated DRDLR to circulate the list of beneficiaries during the public hearings to ensure that they could be located. She asked Department to give a written progress report on the organogram and package of officials in the District Mangers’ office. She reminded the Department to continuously communicate its program to the Committee and to send the capacity strategy framework when it was completed. During the public hearings the farm workers and labour tenants identified challenges on verification of land claims despite the assurance from DRDLR to provide support for the farm workers and labour tenants. The Committee indicated that it would intervene on the land reforms in favour of the farm workers and labour tenants.
The meeting was adjourned.