The Committee was briefed on the concerns raised by members of communal property associations (CPAs) in the Western Cape during recent public hearings on the CPA Amendment Bill. The report by the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform (DRDLR) listed a host of issues, ranging from feelings of abandonment by the government, lack of access to resources, poverty-stricken environments, delays in finalising land claims and instances of racial abuse.
The situation at the Middelpos CPA was highlighted, where R8 million in recapitalisation funds had been provided by the Department, but the association had cash flow problems and members lived in dilapidated buildings while the strategic partner lived lavishly. When Members of the Portfolio Committee expressed serious concern over what they had personally witnessed at Middelpos, the Minister of the DRDLR, who attended the meeting, countered that there had been several developments at the CPA, and he had pictures on his cellphone as evidence of this. The Members said this was contrary to their own experience, and agreed to visit Middelpos with the Minister to resolve the contradictions.
The Committee also discussed a contentious issue involving the downgrading of the staff of deputy ministers. Members complained that this constituted an unfair labour practice and would have a negative impact on departmental staffing requirements. It would engage with the Department of Public Service and Administration to seek a solution.
Department of Rural Development and Land Reform: Western Cape
Ms Juanita Fortuin, Chief Director: Provincial Shared Service Centres (PSSC), Department of Rural Development and Land Reform (DRDLR), Western Cape, said she would present the challenges and problems the public had conveyed regarding the Communal Property Associations Amendment Bill during public hearings.
The Masincedane Communal Property Association (CPA) had raised challenges of no access to water; lack of knowledge; penalties paid to release impounded livestock; and harsh and inhumane treatment by white people. They also asked the DRDLR for training and development, and the overall intervention by the Minister to deal with their challenges. Interventions included scheduling of meetings between the Western Cape Department of Agriculture and the DRDLR, which took place to resolve a water allocation matter with the Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS). The latter referred the DRDLR to the Breede Gouritz Catchment Management Area. This matter was not yet resolved and would be followed up with the Breede Gouritz Catchment Management Area in November. The meeting was scheduled for 8 November 2017, and was under way. The Department of Agriculture had confirmed that the CPA was currently leasing out land to the Thembalethu township livestock owners. The District Office had scheduled a meeting with the CPA for 17 November 2017 to assess the current situation and what interventions were required.
At the Haarlem CPA, the matter of the beneficiary list being checked was raised, to ensure that no one was excluded. There were comments on the Transformation of Certain Rural Areas Act (TRANCRAA) national task team and the link of their mandate to other applicable Acts/legislation related to the understanding of property rights/resources and the transformation process. The interventions for the challenges raised included the Haarlem CPA, which was due to hold its annual general meeting (AGM) before the end of January 2018. The Tenure Directorate would refer the Haarlem CPA to the Land Rights Management Facility (LRMF) for assistance regarding the updating of membership and facilitation of the AGM. The issues raised around the TRANCRAA national task team (NTT) had been referred to the national office for guidance and as agenda points for the next NTT meeting.
The Kranshoek CPA was landless and wanted the government to fast track land redistribution. They had waited for land for a long time. They also requested complementary support to land reform. Their area was poverty stricken, which was why they were asking Parliament for assistance. The Department would engage with the Speaker and find out what sort of land needs they had and how government could assist them. The DRDLR was in the process of appointing a service provider to provide planning and conveyancing services for the Kranshoek TRANCRAA project. A submission had been made for approval. The Bitou Local Municipality council had committed that erf 1; erf 454; portion 4 & 6 be transferred to the Kranshoek CPA.
The Pacaltsdorp CPA said they wanted land rights, and that they had never been recognised. It was important for South Africa to look after its people. Land rights would restore their dignity and it was therefore critical that the municipalities and city councils engaged with them. A pertinent question would be understand what the state of affairs regarding the land rights for the Khoi and San communities was currently. In response to this, the Department would compile a progress report regarding consultations and policy proposals being discussed, which must be submitted to the Committee. The approval of the Traditional Khoisan Bill (B23/201 5) was being facilitated through COGTA to provide clarity on how to deal with Khoi and San Communities. Moreover, the Chief Director PSSC would refer the matter to legal services at the national office before the end of November 2017.
Toekoms CPA had received land in 1999 but had not received any support from government. Mr Claassen had been to meetings in Johannesburg, called by the Minister, but it appeared that there was nothing happening or no one prepared to help. Another challenge they raised was that members of CPAs did not understand constitutions, and many CPAs did not have title Deeds. On 3 November 2017, the district office had engaged with the Western Cape Department of Agriculture to look at the support that was available for smallholder farmers and agree on how they would be working together to ensure that CPAs also benefited. A road map workshop would be hosted by the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) before 15 December. A report would be compiled and sent to the Portfolio Committee after the December workshop. A LRMF panellist would be appointed to provide the CPA with regularisation and training on the constitution. The branch would conduct an audit of all CPAs to establish whether they had title deeds and if not, they would linked with the deeds office for assistance in obtaining them.
Mossel Bay African Farmers Union (MAFU) CPA owned 1 500 ha, and the group comprises some 106 households. The difficulty was that the land was barren and they could not plant anything. There was no water, and the houses were dilapidated. They had tried to do game farming and had approached the Department for assistance. The members of the CPA had requested the government for funds and asked that it follow through with the promise it had made. Accordingly, the Department had to engage with its clients about policy developments and shifts. For example, now that recapitalisation was phased out, how was the DRDLR going to assist communities? What mechanisms were in place to ensure that there was a link between the DRDLR, the CPAs or communities with the DAFF? What other government departments were going to be playing a key role in this matter? A panelist had been appointed to assist with regularisation of the CPA at a members’ meeting on 24 January 2016. Training had been provided on the CPA Act, constitutions, basic governance, roles and responsibilities at the Eden CPA Forum. A meeting had been held in May 2016 to finalise a constitution and elect an executive. A farm assessment had been conducted and submitted to the District Land Reform Committee (DLRC) for consideration. On 3 November 2017, the district office had engaged with the WC Department of Agriculture to look at the support that was available for smallholder farmers and agree on how they would be working together to ensure that CPAs also benefited. It was agreed that an application would be made for Comprehensive Agricultural Support Programme (CASP) funding.
The Karatara settlement said there was a need for low cost housing. However, concern was raised that the Knysna Municipality should not allocate land. A meeting between the Knysna local municipality and the DRDLR was held to explore ways to collaborate on matters related to land development, and the George office had met with the Karatara housing committee to follow up. The committee had raised matters pertaining to development projects, housing and bulk services. A report had been submitted to the Knysna municipality. The DRDLR had requested the WP DOA to advise on he potential of agricultural projects, in line with the One-Household, One-Hectare programme. A follow up meeting would take place in November 2017, as soon as the Knysna municipality confirmed its availability to attend.
Zoar made the comment that the transformation process was too slow, and that the capacity to deal with matters in the George office was limited to one official. The Chief Director of the PSSC had initiated a request to the Department of Social Development to avail interns to work with the George office to add to capacity with regards to the administration of Extension of Security of Tenure Act (ESTA) matters. This would allow the tenure official more time to focus on the TRANCRAA matters. This would also be discussed with the NTT as part of the revised strategy plan for TRANCRAA.
Ruiterbos had a process initiated in 1999, to transfer state land to the community, with very little being achieved. The result was that there was limited development taking place. Due to the distance from schools, transport providers were making money from the poor through scholar transport. A meeting had taken place with the Mossel Bay Municipal Manager on 27 October 2017, and a resolution was taken that the technical manager would engage with the Surveyor in George to provide a quote to the DRDLR for an amendment to the general plan. This was to be done by 3 November 2017. The transport matter was referred to the Western Cape Department of Education for follow-up. A joint meeting with stakeholders would be held on 15 November to follow up on determining additional intervention support.
The Kraaibosch Community said that despite the Minister’s promise to finalise the Kraaibosch claim during 2010, the current state of affairs was unknown to the community, and the claimants had been prompted to opt for financial compensation by the George satellite office of the Regional Land Claims Commissioner in the Western Cape. There had been continuous communication between the Kraaibosch Land Claim Committee and the Commission’s office since the Minister’s visit during 2010. The latest meeting on 6 July 2017 had outlined progress. The Commission had explained that financial compensation was one of three options during a compulsory workshop. The list of 12 untraceable claimants had been escalated to the Office of the Chief Land Claims Commission after the attempts made by the Regional Land Claims Commissioner had failed. Negotiations for land for the benefit of the remaining three were in progress, though no timeframe could be placed due to negotiations for the restoration of land and related processes, and the availability of land. The timeframes depended on the outcome of the tracing process.
The Elandskloof CPA raised issues of restitution. A member of this CPA said the land claim was not properly settled, and they had not received what they had claimed. The property had been rented out without their consent and placed under administration. Another matter raised was that of the retention of previous members as mentors, which resulted in an on-going dispute amongst members. The Land Claims Commission had on many occasions met with the CPA to explain the initial claim, and had advised that they should submit a new/additional claim for the land that was not part of the initial claim. The Land Tenure Administration branch of the West Coast District Office would visit the CPA and investigate this matter to establish the detail on the statement. Conflict amongst members had resulted in a high court case, making it impossible to continue with the work of the CPA. The DRDLR, through a mediator that was appointed July 2017, intended approaching the Western Cape High Court to set aside the administration order and hand back the administration/management of the CPA to the community. This would be done before the end of February 2018.
The Middelpos CPA had raised several issues. Not a lot had happened on the farm, and though there had been R8 million in funding from the DRDLR, there were cash flow problems. The CPA members said they needed training, and there had been a contract with Goedgedacht. They also said it was essential to have title deed monitoring by the DRDLR. They expressed serious concern that there was money for building houses where there was no food, and questioned why the money that was there was not used to develop cash crops. They also expressed doubt that there had been full compliance by all parties involved. They requested copies of signed contracts and a detailed report of the Goedgedacht financials. A full report on Middelpos CPA was essential, as it would indicate the terms of the signed agreement, whether there had been full compliance of these terms by all parties concerned, the circumstances surrounding the withdrawal of the Goedgedacht Trust, the implications of this withdrawal on the project, the financial loss (if any), as well as all the legal implications. The report should go further to explain whether the Department foresaw this five-year waiting period in the planning phase, and if so, what plans were put in place to the benefit of this farming community and the financial breakdown of the R8 million investment by the Department. The district office had scheduled a meeting for 20 November 2017 with the Western Cape Department of Agriculture to address the training needs of the CPA. Training arranged for the CPA could not be attended, as it was a full-time course. A short-course training session was envisaged for the first quarter of 2018.
The breakdown in the relationship between Ms Ingrid le Strade and the Goedgedacht Trust had impacted negatively on Middelpos. She had been the face of Goedgedacht Trust and central in negotiating financial support from both the DRDLR and in general from other stakeholders. Another critical point was that the agreement with the Goedgedacht Trust as a strategic partner, and the recap funding and all other support provided by the DRDLR, was to ensure that Middelpos became a self-sustaining unit. This had been placed in jeopardy with the break in the Le Strade-Goedgedacht relationship. The Middelpos main house had been upgraded through a R400 000 loan provided by the Goedgedacht Trust. Records of the decision to incur this debt by the Middelpos CPA could not be provided. The CPA had been unable to repay the loan because of the breakdown in the relationship. The Department would make legal support available to the CPA should the trust take legal action, though there was no indication of this. The break in the relationship had brought about a shift in putting interim measures in place. The One-Household, One-Hectare programme had been explored as an option to produce cash crops. The DOA had been approached to undertake a soil analysis, which had not been positive. An application had been made in July to the Department of Agriculture on the production of the cash crops, and it was at an advanced stage.
The Brandwacht CPA asserted that municipalities did not know what a CPA was, and did not understand what their functions were. The Department had to begin thinking about forging relations with municipalities so that CPAs were well understood at that level. Further to this, the Department would have to determine land development projects. A request had been made by DRDLR that the roles and functioning of CPAs be discussed at the Eden joint district committee meeting in November. The proposal would be to roll out a training session thoughout the district. A training schedule would be tabled at the meeting for buy-in, and communicated to all the CPAs in the district.
Save Farm said there had been no assistance received, so the land had been abandoned. The Committee had been invited to visit the experimental farm, where things had taken a different route from what had originally been envisaged. Cases had been reported to the police, but when the cases went to court, they disappeared and livestock was poisoned. Other problems included poor grass on the farm, poor security, and snakes. The Department had to investigate the matter and assist in dealing with the conflicts within the group. Regarding the cases referred to court, the Department should assess the matter and determine if the LRMF could intervene. The Department had to report to the Committee regarding progress in this matter. The DRDLR’s Eden district office was in the process on investigating conflict amongst the group, and would do an application to the LRMF for legal aid and mediation if needed. Meetings were set up for November 2017.
The Acting Chairperson urged Members to recall what they had picked up from hearings they had attended, and to look at the report by the Department in light of that.
Mr K Robertson (DA) asked if it was state land or private land that the Kranshoek CPA and Ruiterbos were waiting for. He said that there was a problem with the process of transferring state land to CPAs, with about a six to eight years waiting period. He opined that the Department must be able to transfer more quickly. It was essential to engage with other departments, particularly the Department of Public Works (DPW) to ensure that the process was faster and that beneficiaries got land where they did not want financial compensation. He asked the Department whether they had a plan for this. He also asked what the Department was going to do about the snakes on some of the CPAs’ land.
Ms T Mbabama (DA) asked what action was going to be taken by the Department to address issues raised by the Masincedane CPA, particularly about the harsh and inhumane treatment by white people. She was worried because there was no intervention indicated in the presentation. Other provinces had had the same issue, and it was critical for the Department to inform the Committee about an intervention plan. She asked why the Khoi and San were treated differently in terms of land restitution and reform, as indicated by the Pacaltsdorp CPA. Did the Department know the number of registered CPAs in the Western Cape? She asked how the Department monitored or made follow ups to pre-empt or anticipate problems. Was it possible to also ensure training was compulsory before the registration of CPAs, taking into account that some people were saying they did not know what a CPA was, and did not understand their constitutions? Was the Department able to ensure that people understood the contents of the training? She also asked who monitored the service providers within the Department to make sure they delivered what they were supposed to. How was the Department going to ensure that the Committee was kept abreast of the meetings to be held? Overall, she commended the Western Cape provincial office for a well detailed and presented report.
Mr M Filtane (UDM) said the issues raised in the Masincedane CPA were not new. He asked how often the Department met with the beneficiaries to understand some of the serious issues raised. He opined that by the time people reported to Members of Parliament, it showed that they must have been frustrated over time, and had met with insufficient action from the Department. He asked when intervention would happen with regard to the Kraanshoek CPA. He queried why it appeared that the Khoi and San in the Pacaltsdorp CPA had no land rights. He then directed his comment to the Minister, saying that the Toekoms CPA and the Mossel Bay African Farmers Union (MAFU) suggested the need for urgency in addressing recapitalisation. He asked if there was a Cabinet ruling on this, particularly because the people felt left out and in need of help.
The problems raised by the Middelpos CPA went beyond provincial problems -- there were political problems, and the Department must consider a forensic investigation. He gave a vivid explanation on what the Committee saw on oversight visit to thr Middelpos CPA. Of note, the house the beneficiaries stayed in was rundown, but the one for the strategic partner was well painted. He opined that this gave an indication on where part of the R8 million had gone. It was a pathetic how the beneficiaries were treated because they wanted to be a part of the administration. The Committee had been made aware of a lady who was put in the administration office and had been victimised and persecuted to the point of her leaving the office. Her leaving the office meant that there was no one within the office to represent the beneficiaries’ interests. The situation was absolutely pathetic. It was regrettable for R8 million to be ‘thrown down the drain for someone to pick it up’ -- the unintended beneficiary. He said it was the duty of the Minister to explain to the people of South Africa at large what had happened to the R8 million. He insisted on a forensic investigation.
Ms N Magadla (ANC) complimented the Department for a well done report and presentation, and commended Ms Fortuin for being hands on in her work, and being present at all visits. With regard to the Elandskloof CPA, where property had been rented out without the consent of the members, the on-going dispute among members was a result of poor monitoring. She opined that had there been proper monitoring, some of the issues would have been picked up earlier and addressed. With regard to the Middelpos CPA, this required an investigation. On Save Farm, she asked if there had been progress with the case that had disappeared at the court.
Mr A Madella (ANC) also expressed pleasure over the well done report by the Western Cape office. He explained to the Committee that the Khoi and San of the Pacaltsdorp CPA had the Khoisan Bill that would not provide land, as people were referring to. He said the Minister must speak to the policy around the exceptions for the claims. The claim in that particular case dated back to 1913, which was why the claims were excluded at this particular time. He also spoke on Zoar, noting that no one from that community had been present at the public hearings. The person who had spoken was not from the community in question, but a person who was aware of the challenges. He said the Department must visit that community and engage with them. With regard to the Middelpos CPA, he said that the genesis of the relationship breakdown between the CPA and the strategic partner had been at the departure of the lady who had represented the people. It was imperative for the Department to invest time and energy in fixing what had been broken.
Mr M Nchabeleng (ANC) said Committee members had raised important questions pertaining to Middelpos. He urged the Committee to be committed to being actively engaged in knowing the problems people were facing, as opposed to being aware of such problems only when there was a public hearing. It was important that the Committee visit these problem areas and come up with solutions. He opined that there could be more happening. It was not wise to give people money and wait for them to give a report on how they had used it. It would be wiser for the Department to make follow ups, and monitor. He expressed deep worry over Middelpos, especially the fact that the people were not allowed to have an input into what happened to the money or how the money was spent. It was very worrisome that the Committee might have not known of the problems had they not visited the community.
The acting Chairperson said water was essential for land to be productive, regardless of the type of farming engaged in on that land. The Department had to capture a clear perspective on water in the CPAs. He also said the cases in court must be won. He emphasised the legal direction within the land transformation initiative the government was taking. It was essential for the Department to be in contact with the people, and it boiled down to the public administration tools of the Department. Contact and servicing of the people was important.
Ms Leona Archary, Acting Director General: DRDLR, said the Department did keep a record of the CPAs registered. There was a register of all CPAs in the country. The challenges the Department had been facing was the constant monitoring of all 1 500 CPAs. There was a clear policy on CPAs that had been developed. A team within the Department had finalised a strategy the Department would employ for the purposes of addressing issues with the CPAs. It was imperative that the Department address those issues, as neglecting them would only escalate some of the challenges. There was a general agreement that the Department would contact a CPA at least once a year, ensuring that the Department was proactive as opposed to reactive in engaging with them. This plan had been approved at senior management level.
The Department was now moving from situations where a person who was assisting and monitoring CPAs, would also be tasked with other things to do within the Department. To ensure that the Department was well capacitated in dealing with CPAs, re-engineering was necessary. To achieve this, there was going to be a director at the district level in all the districts of the country. Under those directors, there would be dedicated capacity to deal with various programmes of the Department, including CPA management. The Department had inverted the pyramid, where national had several people and the province and district fewer people. The Department was now putting the right capacity at the level of district and province.
With regard to training people before registering a CPA, there were workshops that were available,. particularly with regard to the constitutions of CPAs, what it meant to have a CPA and the elements that were included in the CPA. This was because a community must adopt that CPA as its own. However, the training may not be entirely adequate at that point in time. At this stage, however, the skills needed had been identified. It was not merely for CPA members to understand what was in their constitution, but to be able to take on the responsibilities of becoming administrators of their community, dealing with administrative issues as well as the financial issues of the business. This detailed training was something the Department was doing with the CPAs. In summation, the Department did conduct workshops with the members beforehand, but this may not be sufficient.
The Department monitored service providers on a regular basis. There was also a process of reconciliation that happened with all funds spent. In particular, there was going to be a full reconciliation on how the R8 million had been spent at the Middelpos CPA. The Department was committed to find out and fully comprehend the reasons and events that had led to the relationship breakdown. Several projects had been implemented over the past few years through the recapitalisation and rural development programme to assist the community and the children on those farms. Once the Department looked into what had transpired at Middelpos, it would compile a report and hand it in for the Committee to have a full account. In the report would be intervention plans as well.
Where the Department had reported there was work in progress, there would be updates reported to the Committee.
With regard to Save Farm and the case that had disappeared, the Department was investigating the matter. A meeting that would be held on Saturday, 11 November 2017.
At the Pacaltsdorp CPA, the issues raised would refer back to the exception policy of the Khoi and San 1913 cut off date. The policy had been completed, and the Department had gone through it with the Khoi and San. There had been extensive workshops conducted with them. They had signed off and it now awaited the approval of the Minister.
The issues of water involved the fact that in the past, when farms were purchased, the water rights were often attached to the seller and not the property. The Department had worked extensively with the Department of Water and Sanitation, and a task team was established. Therefore when the Department purchased property, some of the checks conducted had the DWS sitting on some of the approval committees on land in order to confirm that the water rights were attached to the property. This was to ensure that once the farm was transferred to the beneficiaries, they would not face challenges of not having water.
Regarding legal cases, she informed the Committee that the recommendations and suggestions given by the Committee last week had been taken seriously. The Department was committed to winning cases, and being stronger on legal matters. The Department had alerted the Minister of certain resolutions that had been taken to strengthen the legal team both at the provincial and national level. National would also have to give proper support to the provincial offices. One of the challenges was the level of capacity the Department attracted. The Department had been pursuing legal graduates.
Ms Fortuin said the land in question with regard to the Kranshoek CPA and Ruiterbos belonged to the DPW. There had been engagement with the Minister of Public Works to release some of the land to the CPA. There was also a portion of the land that belonged to the municipality, and the Department had been working with the municipality to ensure that the land was transferred. Some of the land had community amenities on it, which was why working with the municipality was critical.
Regarding the Masincedane CPA, and the challenge of harsh and inhumane treatment by white people in the area, the Department would be meeting with the community on Saturday 11 November 2017. She opined that it would be wise to bring the Human Rights Commission on board to assist in addressing some of the issues that had been raised.
She said the Department met with the CPAs though a forum at both provincial and district level on a quarterly basis.
Mr Gugile Nkwintini, Minister of Rural Development and Land Reform, said the Cabinet had made a decision on recapitalisation. There had been a go-ahead to expedite the process. The challenge was that the Presidency had no capacity to do so. There was an assumption that there was money, but in reality there was no money.
He said Middelpos had three aspects. He had pictures on his phone which were a different picture as opposed to what had been presented. He had been there, and had also sent a team from the Eastern Cape. If the Committee had gone to Middelpos, they would have seen massive infrastructure provision. Tthere were people working, both young and old. What was being focused on was the children, for whom a bus had been bought to take them to school. There was a focus on human development. There was also a ‘B and B’ at Middelpos, a structure beautifully renovated by the people themselves. Women were collecting wood and selling it in the town, and making money with it. He was not sure how the picture seemed different. In addition, there was also a school available. He said the workers there worked on their own, both young and old.
The acting Chairperson said there were neglected people on the other side, and that Ms Fortuin would explain.
The Minister said with regard to the relationship breakdown between the CPA and the strategic partner, Ms Ingrid le Strade was indeed working at the administration office. He said all the things done on the farm had been done on the basis of the people working. The Trust was not only a strategic partner, but also a mentor of the workers. This had been done to make sure the workers understood management among other things. He said it was critical that the Committee be aware of the ambitions of individuals. He said Ms Le Strade and the other women there were very dynamic and ambitious. When they saw things moving, they thought they could run the farm. While the money issue was worrying, it was also important to note that there were three projects that had been funded. There was a school for the children of farm workers. He said there had been anger by the beneficiaries towards the trustees. He said Le Strade had been tolld she would be taken out of the trust and made a farm worker. At the moment, there was human resource building on the part of the workers, and it was going very well.
The Minister said the monitoring suggested by Members was a brilliant idea. There was a participation structure that included the municipality and communities. It was designed as part of a programme of enterprise development in the rural areas. The re-engineering that was happening in the Department was turning it around, making it what it should be. The power of determining projects and where those projects were to be held, lay with the provinces.
There was also a district joint operation centre. This was where district mayors were supposed to assist. They were the ones who generated action, based on the priorities of the district. There had been advertisements for district directors. All districts would be headed by directors who must work very closely with district mayors.
There was also a council of stakeholders and a land rights management forum. The land rights management committees were the political champions of local mayors. This was mainly to integrate the three tiers of government, which had been a weakness, especially with fewer resources.
The Chairperson said he wanted Ms Fortuin to clarify the picture which the Committee had seen at Middelpos. They had heard of racial slurs, and it was unacceptable that it would appear that the government could fund a racist-inspired project. He also said there could be an investigation. In addition to this, the Minister may not be aware of some of the things happening in Middelpos. Ms Fortuin had seen what the Committee had seen, and at the same time may be aware of what the Minister had said. Therefore, it was important for her to give an account on the two sides.
Mr Robertson said inter-departmental communication was essential, specifically when it came to the restitution of land that belonged to the DPW, and asked what the Minister thought about it. Where did the Department stand with regard to hastening the process of claiming land and inter-departmental communications? He also had some unanswered questions about the Eastern Cape.
The acting Chairperson said it was best for today for the focus be on the Western Cape. The follow up questions would be on the Western Cape.
Mr Robertson said the reference number for the question he asked in June was 1 474, and that he wanted a response to it.
Ms Mbabama said she was not satisfied with the answer given around the racial issue. She wanted a more focused answer, explaining what the Department intended to do. The reason she was asking this was because other provinces also have the same issue of people on the farms being treated in the old apartheid way. She would not quote what had been in the papers recently around farmers mistreating people, but said the focus was on the report that was tabled before the Committee that spoke to harsh and inhumane treatment by white people. She was also not trying to bring up the issue of farm murders, making it a white-black issue, because black people had also done inhumane things to farmers. However, the Department had to tell the Committee what it intended to do in cases where people who received land were treated badly. She asked if there was a focused strategy within the Department to deal with such issues.
Ms Magadla suggested that training must be conducted for all committee members in the structure, and not be limited to the chairperson, secretary and treasurer.
Mr Madella said there were millions of people who were unemployed and needed training. Those people could be absorbed in training programs, and appointed as interns in all the areas where the Department was in need of human capacity. This would assist with the CPA capacity that was needed. He could assist in advising on this.
Mr Nchabaleng said when the Minister was talking about Middelpos, he thought he was talking about something else, because the Minister’s picture was different to the picture the Committee had. He had been to that place only once, and what he saw did not tally with what the Minister was saying. The Committee had been with the Chief Director on that particular day, and she had raised some issues. He said the Chief Director had said that there was more to this that what met the eye. The people had lost money that had been given to them, and this was the impression he got when he engaged with some of the people. The people had told the Committee that they were borrowing equipment from other farms. Perhaps the Minister had been there when the project was first started, and everything was good. What the Committee had seen was far different from what the Minister was presenting.
The Minister said his reputation was at stake. He was not telling a lie. What he had presented to the Committee was what he knew the Department to be doing in Middelpos.
The Acting Chairperson suggested that a person from the Department, and the Minister if possible, should join the Committee for another visit there. He said the picture the Minister saw and what the Committee saw were two very distinct pictures that did not speak to one another. He would offer his own car to take Members to Middelpos and meet with the people. The picture that the Committee saw was regrettable, and no one took pictures of it because people were crying and were saying they were rejected. People felt completely alienated from the R8 million. The people did not have money for anything. He added that he did not want to put the Chief Director in the spotlight. The way to get one picture was to agree on a date and go to Middelpos. If the evidence supported that the R8 million had been utilised well for the benefit of the people, then that would be marvelous, and would be cited as a case study of success.
Ms Candith Mashengo-Dlamini, Deputy Minister: DRDLR, said the land that was still vested under the DPW was still state land. When any department wanted to utilize any farm for other purposes, it was transferred to Public Works for that particular usage. She gave an example of the army, saying they normally used land. Land in the townships was also vested under Pubic Works. However, if the land was under claim, there was no problem and it was still state land. The DPW was informed accordingly and the users were informed too. It was quick to transfer, and would not take eight years. The claims that were on private land were the ones that took time, with negotiations over payment.
The Minister said the comment made about the Pacaltsdorp CPA was a broad statement. He said this was what those who interacted with them on a regular basis were getting from them. Some of the Khoi and San did not recognise this government. There was a bigger challenge with the Khoi and San, much bigger than what was seen on the farms. The underlying issue was they said they wanted land rights and recognition, but when meeting with them they wanted the United Nations to be observers. He said there was a bigger challenge to deal with.
The acting Chairperson thanked the Department for their presentation, and commended them for the good work. He said he hoped the Chief Director took note of the issues and concerns raised by Members and that these could be followed up later.
Grading of ministerial support personnel
The acting Chairperson said another matter before the Committee today was that of the grading of the ministerial support personnel. This had been raised at the meeting of 1 November 2017. He asked Mr Southgate why there was an advertisement of a position at grade 12, only for the people appointed to be downgraded to a lower level. The interface with the Committee had been with the ministerial support personnel, and the Committee had taken an interest in the matter. He asked why people in the ministerial staff were being underpaid. If these people left for other jobs especially because they were being underpaid, it would affect the Committee in turn. He also asked how soon the abnormality would be fixed.
Mr Eugene Southgate, DDG: DRDLR, said the Department did not underrate people. He said there were certain prerequisites that all employees needed to have and to adhere to in terms of the public service regulations.
The issue had something to do with negotiations held in 2011 in the public sector. An agreement had been entered into with the unions as part of the wage negotiations. As a result of those negotiations, the Department of Public Service and Administration (DPSA) had issued directives in 2103 and 2014. The directive said people graded at level 10 and 12 should automatically be appointed and upgraded. The Department had done so. The directive also said that all appointments at grades 9, 10, 11 and 12 outside the core function of the Department (which were support posts) could be upgraded only after 12 August 2012 after the consultation with the Minister of Public Service and Administration. The circular also said a minister had no authority to upgrade a post from levels 9 to 10 (assistant director) or 11 to 12 (deputy director) without the approval of the Minister of Public Service and Administration.
The Department had submitted all the posts, including the parliamentary offices, to the DPSA. The DPAS had gone through an evaluation and they had responded. They had not concluded on these posts and another 10 posts. They had said they were doing benchmark exercises for all parliamentary offices across the country. That response had come before the Department in 2014. The matter had also been referred to the Public Service Commission, because the Department was aware of the unhappiness. This was brought to the Department’s attention by the Deputy Minister and the Chief of Staff. As a Department, there was not anything that could be done. The DPSA was currently in dispute with labour on the issue of the posts graded at 9 to 10 and 11 to 12. The matter was currently in the Labour Court.
The financial contingency provisions for the Department had affected a number of positions. For the state as a whole, the contingency liability was up to a R1 billion. If the Department was to act outside of this, there were two things that could happen. One was the Department getting an irregular expenditure opinion from the Auditor General, because it stated that the Department did not have the authority to appoint people at levels 10 and 12 without the concurrence of the Minister of Public Service and Administration. If the Minister entered into office, there were Chapter 8 provisions that said Ministers could appoint people but did not have to go through a recruitment process. The official, however, would have to meet the minimum criteria for appointment, and all provisions of the regulations had to be complied with. If this was not done, then there would be a finding against the Department by the Auditor General. This was the reason why the accounting officer’s hands and the Minister’s hands were tied in this instance.
Ms Mbabama asked at what rate the posts had been advertised. As a follow up, she asked if the advertisement had been at grade 12 when they were not. She asked when the change had happened.
Ms Magadla asked if this happens to all the tiers of government, or only to one government department.
Mr Madella clarified Ms Magadla’s question by asking if this applieds to all ministries. If a person entered the department and the position was pitched at level 12, then there must be the required permission to even put the advert. He asked if this applied only to the Ministry of Rural Development and Land Reform, and if so, why this was the case. He also said the case had got a lot to do with the DPSA. Ministerial appointments must be in accordance with the ministerial handbook.
Mr Nchabeleng asked if this applied to all ministries. There was a ministerial handbook that governed the staff of ministers, and he asked if this or something else was used.
The Minister asked how this matter got to the Committee.
The acting Chairperson responded that the Committee conducted oversight in any manner possible. The Committee sought answers.
The Minister responded that his was an innocent question, without implying anything. He had been a speaker for several years and understood the acting Chairperson’s responsibility fully. He also understood the limitations of those responsibilities. He wanted to help solve the problem. He said the Committee must never talk about officials while they were present. If officials were going to be the subject, then they must be excused. This was the ethical way to do it.
The acting Chairperson said this was not an enquiry under the Privileges and Immunities Act. If, however, that were the case, the Minister would have to be under oath. At this stage, it was interactive -- merely oversight. He said Parliament passed the budget, so if there was a belief that something was not going right, then the parties may not be prepared to support the budget in the House.
The Minister said he just wanted to know how the Committee knew about this issue.
The acting Chairperson said in his 32 years of experience, he had seen people being victimised once information like the one tabled before the Committee today came out. He also said he would not release such information. The question that needed to be answered was at what level the posts were advertised.
The Minister asked if this information had come before the Committee formally or not. This was essential to know, since the Department was responding formally. He could ask for a deviation in terms of the regulations. However, id for him to be able to answer the question, he must be able to understand it. He would not just be accountable to the political head of the Department, but also to the Public Service Commission (PSC) and the DPSA. He just wanted to know how this came before the Committee. He was leaving, and apologised for a matter dealing with the staff of ministers was before the Committee. He would have discussed the matter with the officials. Iit was a confidence matter. He apologised to Members for appearing to be disrespectful. If the acting Chairperson had simply told him that the information came formally or informally, he would be fine with it.
The Minister left.
The acting Chairperson clarified the pertinent questions asked by members. He said the Committee wanted to know what level the positions had been advertised at, and whether the Department opted for the route that was not going to need a lot of red tape. He said the Department could answer if it wished. If not, then it would have to be put under oath.
Ms Magadla said the Committee was respecting the authority of the Minister, but the Deputy Minister and the acting DG had been present last week when the matter was raised. The Committee could have been advised that it was out of line, and that the issue would have been dealt with at the Departmental level.
The acting Chairperson said the Committee wanted to understand the matter fully, to the extent that the Committee was allowed to know. He added on that if it was something that Parliament voted a budget for, then it had every right to know.
Ms Archary said last week when the matter had been brought up, she had submitted a letter to the Chairperson. However, she had not been satisfied with the response articulated in the letter. She had indicated what Mr Southgate had presented before the Committee today. The letter had also indicated that at an administrative level, the matter had been referred to the PSC and the DPSA. This matter had indeed gone several times to the DPSA and PSC from the time it had started, during the term of the previous Director General. When it came to her attention again this year, she had followed the same route. As the acting accounting officer, the intention was to implement this without violating any applicable laws. The DDG had been, present because he dealt with the issue of payments. She would ask the DDG to assist in the response around the advertisement. She said that just as a reminder, the appointment was in a political office, and to her knowledge there had been no advertisement for this particular post.
The acting Chairperson said it was useful that this matter had been going on for some time. The questions still stood.
The Deputy Minister said when one was appointed as deputy minister, a person had to go to administration and give the qualifying people to work with. This was according to the ministerial handbook. When this submission was made according to chapter 8 of the ministerial handbook, the MECs and deputy ministers had the same staff and the same levels. She did not find it difficult, because she had been an MEC for 20 years. She became a deputy minister because nothing had changed in terms of the posts. She had done the same, they had accepted it and put it in the system. The challenge came when they translated them. She had questioned this. They had put a list in the Department from the administration, with qualifications. After they had translated them, she asked why the list was being produced. She was informed that the administration wanted the list to check qualifications. She said she had people who were qualified. After this, they had translated them and she had complained. All deputy ministers said their staff were deputy directors. She did not understand the issue of the DPSA that there was a benchmark. Chapter 8 of the ministerial handbook had not changed. It was just the deputy ministers in the DRDLR with this challenge.
Ms Archary said the matter being brought up to the Committee was not because she had taken it upon herself to do so, but had been a response to the Chairperson’s request on behalf of the Committee. When appointed acting Director General of the Department, she had had to understand why this was implemented in this Department. There was a directive from the DPSA that included the executive authority, according to one of its paragraphs. She had attached that document in her response to the Chairperson’s request. It was not the just the Department that wanted to do this. The Deputy Minister had indicated several times that other ministries did not have people who were at level 11. The Department had engaged other departments to ask how they had people at level 12. She had engaged both the DPSA and the PSC, and they had said the only option the Department had was to go for a deviation.
Mr Southgate said that in terms of the ministerial handbook, chapter 8, the posts were not advertised. They had tried to engage the Minister of Public Service and Administration, seeking advice on how to deal with the matter. The advice that had come from them was that of applying for a deviation. With regard to the staff of the Deputy Minister, he had signed the approval of them to be on level 12. Then the system had triggered an alert. The system was monitored at the DPSA and National Treasury. The system informed the Department that there were persons who had been incorrectly appointed on level 12. It was not only the staff of deputy ministers, but also people within the Department. The Department’s administration had had to reverse the appointments and put them on levels 11 and 9, and also recover the overpayments of salaries. Since then, the DPSA had been engaged to bring finality and closure to the matter. He said it was applicable to all departments at national and provincial level. The critical thing was the date in the directive, which said anybody appointed after a certain date in 2012, was affected by that resolution. Yesterday, the Department had engaged with the DPSA, and had received a call from Vienna where the Minister of Public Services Administration was. He said he had been told to ask for a deviation, and it would be considered.
The acting Chairperson asked if the Department had knowledge that a deviation was possible.
Mr Southgate responded the Department had been aware of that.
The acting Chairperson asked what had made yesterday different. The Committee did not want to get into a situation of putting people under oath. It sought understanding of the matter. He did not see a difference between what had been done all along and what happened yesterday. He would be wary if each side had to flex its muscles. The Committee may be suspicious that this was a tip of the iceberg. It was within its powers to call for a forensic audit. He said it was a serious matter, where people had been down scaled and lost part of their income. He asked how the ministerial handbook got manually and mechanically housed.
Ms Mbabama said the other ministries also had parliamentary staff, and asked if the staff for other ministries were at level 12, because they were probably employed before the date in the directive. She also asked if the system had automatically rejected the people who had been employed at level 12 after the date specified in the directive. She asked if directives from the DPSA were binding. She also asked, if the matter was in the Labour Court, whether it would be wise to carry on with it, given that it was in court.
The acting Chairperson said they would be under oath when dealing with specific cases. What the Committee was dealing with was the broad principle that had come with many dimensions of downgrading and cut off dates, and was open to discussion. When it was a matter of specifics, however, the officials would have to be under oath.
Ms Mbabama said the Department would have to look at the contents of the employment letter.
Mr Madella said the DDG had indicated that they were busy with a deviation. He had googled some of the PSC regulations, issued on 20 August 2012. In summation, there was an employee who was contesting that he had to remain at a certain level, although he had worked for 15 years and was entitled to move. He asked which labour matter the DDG had referred to. He also said he could not understand how any trade union would agree to collapsing levels. There was a substantive difference of salaries between levels. Any union that agreed to such an agreement was not worthy of its members, as the agreement was not in the interest of the members. The changing of levels, in fact, constituted an unfair labour practice. The Committee would not accept discrepancies in departments. He asked why a deviation was never considered if the barriers were clear.
Ms Magadla emphasised that gone were the days when Members of Parliament knew nothing.
The acting Chairperson said the Committee could not allow for unfair labour practices to continue. He said the Committee was prepared to put the Department under oath. Further to this, there could be perjury charges attracted if there were lies. It was also in the power of the Committee to institute a forensic investigation. There needed to be a clear and convincing response.
Ms Leona Archary said that the officials had no problem in responding to the issues raised. If that was the impression, it was unfortunate and she apologised. When the issue was raised with the Department earlier this year, she had followed the same process of engaging the DPSA and PSC over the levels. She said she was telling the truth. There was evidence that correspondence had followed between the Department and the DPSA and PSC. She had spoken to the DGs of both the PSC and DPSA, asking what the alternatives available were. The DSPSA had said they were busy with benchmarking and would revert back to the Department. The DPSA had said, in a letter, there was a paragraph that said officials must be retained at their current levels until the benchmarking exercises were competed. The last telephone call was trying to get confirmation. There was no written correspondence that had come in in response to the Department’s written correspondence. The only response had been verbally. The best way to move forward was to prepare documentation and give it to the Minister of Public Service and Administration for the deviation. She had instructed a team to draft a motivation to be signed by the Minister of Rural Development and Land Reform for the purpose of seeking deviation.
The acting Chairperson said matter would be on the Committee’s agenda until there was a bitter-sweet finality. The Committee could not have the Department it oversees have abnormalities with its labour force. He hoped the Department corrected the issues soon.
The meeting was adjourned.
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