The Department of Rural Development and Land Reform gave a presentation on developments at the Rama Communal Property Association (CPA), the Riemvasmaak Community Trust and the commonage programmes supported by the Department. A progress report on the processing of the Restitution Bill was also presented to the Committee.
The Department had appointed two panelists to regularise the affairs of the Rama Communal Property Association (CPA), to facilitate an annual general meeting and to apply for an interdict to stop the sale of stands within the CPA. These interventions had failed due to a lack of cooperation from the Rama CPA’s executive committee and the court’s refusal to grant an interdict, thereby allowing the transfer of land to private entities. Despite requests from the Director of Land Tenure and Administration to halt developments on the land, the activities of the CPA had been endorsed, as the Gauteng Premier had recently launched a R10 billion housing development project in Rama. Members were generally disappointed by the Department’s attempt at intervention in Rama, as the people had not been liberated. They were especially concerned over the land being sold for R500 000, when it had a bond of R20 million.
Riemvasmaak had a newly appointed trust which was going to hold its first community meeting on 24 March, to report on its activities over the past six months. Some of the challenges faced by the Department in Riemvasmaak required assistance from stakeholders in the Department of Tourism and Economic Affairs. Members raised concerns over the report not being conclusive, because it had failed to address the challenges raised at the previous meeting. The Committee therefore asked the Department to revisit the recommendations made in previous reports and provide feedback, without being selective.
The Department reported that of the over 5 000 farms it had acquired in its land redistribution programme, 198 were commonage farms. The commonage farms had been redistributed to the poorest districts in the different municipalities, where households were mostly farming livestock crops, game, poultry and vegetables. The Department had so far invested R520 million to purchase the commonage farms. Members raised concern over the lack of commitment from the Department because of how long it took beneficiaries to get approval for commonage applications. They were also critical of strategic partners being imposed, the data used to report on the total number of commonages supported through recapitalisation, and the circulation of the land audit report to Members of Parliament before tabling the report to the Committee.
Members said they were disappointed at the delays in processing the Restitution Bill. They asked how the Committee could justify that a Bill tabled in September was still at the logistics stage after six months. . The Chairperson gave an assurance, however, that the Bill was going be processed after receiving a go-ahead from the Office of the Speaker, who had recently attended to the matter.
The Chairperson welcomed Ms Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, Minister of Rural Development and Land Reform, and Deputy Ministers, Mr Mcebisi Skwatsha and Ms Candith Mashego-Dlamini, to the meeting. The Committee expected the Department to present on the issue of MalaMala , the matter of title deeds which had been raised by various beneficiaries during the public hearings, a progress report on Rama, an update on the challenges of Riemvasmaak after the Department’s intervention, and the progress with the Restitution Bill, tabled as a Private Members Bill.
The Minister asked that the report on MalaMala be discussed last because it was long. Members agreed that this should be deferred to the next meeting after the Committee had visited MalaMala, and also because they needed time to go through the documents which had been received late.
Restitution Bill: Progress Report
The Committee Secretary briefed the Committee on the progress made with the Restitution Bill. Advertisements made in November 2017 had been revised after instructions from the Chairperson. A letter had been written to Parliament for a request for quotation (RFQ), to get service providers to provide quotes on advertising, but feedback had not been received to date. Nonetheless, the advertisement would be out next week, but it was not clear which newspapers would feature it.
Mr P Mnguni (ANC) said that the restitution issue could not be delayed any longer. What was the reason for the delays? He expressed disappointment at the lack of prioritisation on restitution, and thanked the Chairperson for her intervention by including it in the agenda.
The Chairperson took note of his complaint, and explained that the delays had been caused by the High Level Panel Report, which had brought about confusion. Delays were not the fault of the support staff, because they had made several attempts to seek guidance from the Deputy Speaker on how to approach Bills in front of the Committee, but had been unable to get feedback. The Bill was, however, going be processed after receiving a go-ahead from the Office of the Speaker, who had recently attended to the matter.
Ms T Mbabama (DA) was not aware what the advertisements were about, and asked the Chairperson to clarify.
Mr M Nchabeleng (ANC) wanted a proper explanation for the delays, because he was under the impression that it was not because of a mistake or a problem of money.
Mr Mnguni asked how the Committee could justify that a Bill tabled in September was still at the logistics stage after six months. He urged Members to give the issue of restitution a chance, because he was aware of support from the House Chair, the Speaker, the Chief Whip and the governing party, which had made restitution a priority. Could he be favoured with the proposed programme, to assist in lobbying it to the Committee for it to be fast tracked and prioritised?
The Chairperson clarified to Ms Mbabama that the Committee was referring to the proposed programme of the Restitution Bill.
Rama Communal Property Association (CPA): Progress Report
Ms Rachel Masango, Chief Director: Provincial Shared Service Centre, Department of Rural Development and Land Reform (DRDLR), gave a report on the progress of Rama CPA.
The Department had decided on a two-pronged strategy to intervene in the affairs of the Rama CPA by appointing a panelist, Ledwaba Mazwai Attorneys, to regularize the CPA and facilitate an annual general meeting (AGM), and a second panelist, Nalani Maharaj, to apply for an interdict to stop the sale of stands within the Rama CPA.
The regularisation process had failed due to a lack of cooperation from the CPA executive committee and delaying tactics employed by the Rama CPA’s attorneys. In their closeout report, Ledwaba Mazwai attorneys had recommended that the CPA be placed under administration because of maladministration and corruption. Findings also indicated that the land awarded to the CPA in settlement of the restitution claim had been purchased by Rama Horizons Development (Pty) Ltd, with a mortgage bond of R20 million, but had later been sold for R500 000 to Rama HD Investments (Pty) Ltd. As a result, the Rama CPA no longer owned the land, because the transfers between the companies were illegal and the CPA community members had not been consulted. The application for an interdict by Nalani Maharaj to stop the sale of stands within the Rama CPA had not been granted by the court on the grounds that it was not urgent. Further attempts to engage the attorney of record representing the current executive committee of the CPA had led to an incident of the attorney being accosted, shot at and pushed off the road.
Despite the Director of Land Tenure and Administration sensitising the City of Tshwane Metropolitan Municipality on the circumstances surrounding the CPA and requesting that any funding or development be halted, the activities of the CPA had been endorsed, as the Gauteng Premier had recently launched a R10 billion housing development project in Rama. Since the land had been transferred to a private legal entity and the court had not considered the matter as urgent, the placing of Rama CPA under administration would not halt any developments on the land, and this required that the Legal and Legislative services unit be consulted.
Mr Nchabeleng said that it had been agreed in previous discussions that the provincial government or municipality would not do anything to the land in Rama without consulting the people. It was therefore the duty of the DRDLR to deliver the message to the municipality, province and all interested parties to alert them of developments on Rama land. How could the province now be building houses for people who were not necessarily beneficiaries of the land under the CPA? This could only be a result of poor communication from the Department. Was the Department afraid to go to Rama? What was actually happening? Who in the Department was not doing what they were supposed to do?
Mr A Madella (ANC) asked why there had never been any political interventions with the provincial authorities in the Gauteng government to brief them on the Rama matter, especially due to the many investigations and murders involved. If the chairperson of the CPA had been singled out as a key stakeholder in selling the land owned by members of the CPA, why had no charges been laid against him? Why had he not been taken through the legal process to account for the de facto fraud he had been associated with?
Ms Mbabama sought clarity on the Rama CPA being appointed as a holding entity for a restitution claim in 2002. She was under the impression that as a holding entity, Rama CPA was responsible for administering the land. How then could the land be sold for R500 000 when it had a bond of R20 million? What was the sense there?
Ms Magadla asked how the Premier of Gauteng was developing a housing project without knowing the situation of the CPA, because he should have been aware of this when planning the project.
Mr Mnguni insinuated that the Rama case had been meddled with politically. He expressed disappointment over the failure of Rama, where executives had fled with money that had been awarded to people who had won a restitution claim, and disposed it unilaterally. This money had been used to threaten people and activists who were fighting to get things right, and not only was the attorney scared by the suspects linked to those holding the assets of the CPA, as indicated on the presentation, but instances had previously occurred where court dockets had disappeared. Such incidents made a mockery of the justice and Parliamentary system. Had the Department really done its best? What had the Department done about changing its bank signatories and sorting out its balances? What about the progress of the AGM and changes to the CPA? Department officials must be activists to bring justice to the people. Could the DRDLR get lawyers who were ready to fight a cause, because the legacy of the Committee on the Rama report was going to be very dirty?
The Chairperson expressed disappointment over the Department’s intervention at Rama, because the people had not been liberated and the situation had only got worse. Why was the panel of lawyers in the Department failing the people? If the land at Rama did not belong to the CPA anymore, what would be the role of the appointed administrators? The Committee had also not been briefed on the progress of the AGM. Why was the Department quiet about it? Concerns had been raised over the issue of selling land, which had become a trend, and the Department had done nothing about it. Why did Rama take so long to be put under administration if issues had been raised in 2015 and approval was given only in December 2017? What had the Department done in terms of communication after hearing that the Premier of Gauteng was going to build houses in Rama?
Mr Nchabeleng asked why the Department had appointed lawyers who were below average. The failure of Rama translated into a failure by the ruling party in delivering justice to the people, because Parliamentary policies were influenced by the ruling party. He was hoping that the new Minister would make things happen in the Department, because it needed drastic changes, or would otherwise be a waste of time.
Mr Mnguni proposed a way forward to deliver justice to the people by providing them with R20 million in compensation, with the option of additional interest. Could the Department reconstitute, facilitate and compensate the people, because they had done nothing wrong and deserved to get back what belonged to them.
Deputy Minister Dlamini said that the people of Rama had been robbing each other and were indeed part of the problem. Officials had been prevented from going to Rama by the Department’s security officials because of ongoing investigations. Reports on the investigation had not been submitted by the Security Manager, but she had asked that the reports be provided to evaluate progress. The Department would not agree to monetary compensation, but would instead let the Special Investigation Unit (SIU) proceed with its investigation and arrest some of the claimants who were selling the land. The people of Rama were also not ready to move out, and the Department could not afford to spend any more money on compensating them.
The Chairperson raised a question over the security reports which had not been forthcoming. Who was responsible for the security reports? Could those responsible appear before the Committee and give provide the findings of the security report?
The Deputy Minister said that the old tactics of divide and rule, which were not part of the constitution, were being used on the people of Rama. The selling of land at Rama was only the tip of the iceberg, and did not address how the majority of citizens got access to only 4% of land after spending R50 billion on various initiatives like Rama. Land was about ownership, dignity and the people, and was too sensitive a matter to be dealt with casually, as was the case in South Africa. There was still so much to be corrected and a clear plan was needed, as people out there were getting impatient over what had not happened. The project of building houses by the Premier of Gauteng was not going to proceed, and would be halted by the Department using its provincial leadership. She was open to the idea of bringing law enforcers in to deal with fraud, while bringing attention to the issue of missing dockets that needed to come to an end. The legal minds in South Africa were good, except for lawyers who helped wrongdoers navigate the law. The Department and the Committee should not give up, because there was still time to fix what could be fixed. If the Department could close ranks and improve its coordination, work would certainly be done. Illegality must be dealt with, however, and a way had to be found to stop short term gains at the expense of the people.
Mr Nchabeleng asked that the Committee be involved in resolving the problem of transfers of land, because it was important for them to play a role as part of the team in finding a solution for the people.
The Chairperson said that the Deputy Minister’s response addressed the concerns raised by Members, which called for the Department and the Committee to engage with the Premier of Gauteng and the Municipality of Tshwane to halt developments in Rama. She agreed that the SIU should be involved in the investigation of Rama, while also highlighting the importance of an engagement between the Minister and the Minister of Police to identify cases that had been opened in Rama but never attended to. The Committee expected the Department to provide a progress report on the issues of Rama at the next meeting.
Mr K Robertson (DA) suggested that Rama was not the first case, and was not going to be the last. The Department and the Committee was caught up in chasing perpetrators instead of putting progressive and productive work into restoring ownership and land back to black South Africans. Should the CPA model be looked at as it was, or should a new model be developed? Would the problems in Rama have happened if the people had been given title and ownership of their land? Land should be subdivided to prevent people from encroaching on to other people’s land, because people were currently selling land that was not theirs. In the event land was not subdivided, could a share scheme be developed where a certain amount of shares was available to a CPA, and a beneficiary would be allowed to sell their shares to somebody else, but the shares of the CPA remained the same? This would end up in a situation where people would have the ability to freely sell shares and increase their wealth through free trade and capitalism. It was time to relook and rethink the CPA model.
The Chairperson clarified that the discussion was to find a way forward for Rama beneficiaries, and not the High Level Panel’s recommendations, where Mr Robertson’s proposals would be useful.
Mr Mnguni thanked the Deputy Minister for her comments about making sure that an official from the Department would meet the Premier of Gauteng and halt the project of building houses. The Land Rights Management Facility which allocated lawyers to the Committee’s cases had dismally failed the Committee. He explained to Mr Robertson that the issue of Rama had come about as a result of a community claiming that they had been removed from District Six, and were hence awarded a claim of R15 million as a community. It had therefore not been possible for titles to be given individually, and no formula for land redistribution would have worked. The people in Rama were indeed robbing each other, and it was important that the security investigations report be presented to the Chairperson and the Committee. Could those in charge of security appear before the Committee to give progress on how far the report was, and what its findings were? The SIU must also be included in the investigations. Could the committee go to Rama and hold discussions with the people?
Report on Riemvasmaak Community Trust
Mr Kgotso Moeketsi, Chief Director Northern Cape: DRDLR, gave a briefing on the current situation at the Riemvasmaak Community Development Trust.
The newly elected trust had been appointed on 18 September 2017 by the Northern Cape High Court. The Department had been working together with the provincial Department of Agriculture to assist the people of the Riemvasmaak community with development. Some of the challenges faced by the Department, such as the upgrading of hot springs, required assistance from stakeholders in the Department of Tourism and Economic Affairs. A community meeting was going to be held on 24 March at which the Trust would be reporting on its activities over the past six months to ensure transparency.
The Chairperson, in reference to the presentation, asked if the Department was saying that everything in Riemvasmaak was in order. What about the challenges in Bono, and the people who were transacting without involving beneficiaries? Had all the challenges in Riemvasmask been addressed, especially those where beneficiaries had not been involved?
Mr Moeketsi said that the newly appointed Trust would address all the challenges raised at the meeting of 24 March. He requested that the Department be given an opportunity to report its findings to the Committee after the meeting.
The Chairperson was still convinced that the report was not complete. The information on beneficiaries who wanted to change their model from a Trust to a CPA was not included on the report. Could the Department go back and revisit the Committee’s recommendations on previous reports and give feedback on the concerns raised, without being selective.
Ms Magadla requested that minutes of the previous meeting be provided before the meeting, or a few days prior, to assist in checking the history of the issues raised on Riemvasmaak.
Mr Madella acknowledged that the Chief Director was new in his post and had not taken into consideration the previous issues raised. However, he raised concerns over Bono, where the perception was that the Deputy Minister and the acting Director General were imposing partners on the beneficiaries because the beneficiaries had no say. Could the Department submit a report to the Committee addressing all the issues raised and ensure that the new Chief Director be updated on all concerns raised by the Committee.
Mr Mnguni sought confirmation on the situation of the “riet-houses” that the community lived in. Could the Department or Members who visited Riemvasmaak confirm that the government and municipality had replaced these houses? How far was progress in putting the Trust under administration? Had it just requested ministerial approval, or was it already under administration? Were the administrators appointed in 2010 still effective? Had the Trustees been found guilty of misappropriating R650 000 related to the contract between the Commission and the Administrator of R4.2 million? He also requested that the Department provide an updated report with information that would be useful for engagement.
Mr Nchabeleng asked how the acting positions in the Department were set up. He raised concerns over the Department running the risk of spending money on areas not related to rural development and land ownership because of the acting positions. Where was the Department spending its money? Could the Department engage in activities that added value to money?
The Chairperson asked the Department to revisit their presentation of 4 November 2015 and address the issues raised at that meeting. The Department should provide a full report on the issue of changing Riemvasmaak Trust to a CPA, the confusion of two parallel trustee committees, the election of a steering committee, the issue of strategic partners, the challenges of Bono, financial issues and reports and the lack of AGMs for transparency. Could the Minister intervene over the Department having too many acting positions, and could she meet with the internal staff of the Department, because there were concerns over some of them being frustrated?
Ms Leona Archary, Acting Director General, DRDLR, apologised on behalf of the Chief Director who had not presented the whole report. She highlighted, however, that all persons involved in fraud of the old Trust had been charged, and a new Trust had been appointed. Investigations had not been finalized, but a conclusive report would be provided to the Committee on conclusion. In terms of development, houses, clinics and roads had been built, while water had also been provided to the community. A lot of development had been done at Riemvasmaak, but more information would be provided on what stage the developments had currently reached.
The Minister requested a joint committee meeting with the Department of Water and the Department of Agriculture to discuss key issues that were holding back land owners from utilising the land that had been given to them, such as acquiring water licences.
The Chairperson took note of her request, and said consideration would be given to a joint meeting with other stakeholder departments. In the interest of time, she proposed that the issue of title deeds be deferred to the next meeting, which Members agreed to.
Report on commonages
Mr Bonginkosi Zulu, Acting Director General, Land Redistribution and Development, summarised the DRDLR’s commonage programmes.
Of the over 5 000 farms the Department had acquired in its land redistribution programme, 198 were commonage farms. The commonage farms had been redistributed to the poorest districts in the different municipalities, where households were mostly farming livestock crops, game, poultry and vegetables. The Department had so far invested R520 million to purchase the commonage farms. There was no support from the public on the commonages for the 198 farms, because the commonage policy placed the obligation to support production on the municipality, while that of the Department was to provide infrastructure. The commonage policy had been phased out in 2009, however, and replaced with the proactive land acquisition programme.
On the issues raised in the Western Cape, the Department had approved R 545 890 for the Stellenbosch small holding trust for various production inputs such as tools and infrastructure, to support ten small scale farmers. The Treintjies River commonage would be supported with fencing and an upgrade of water storage facilities, while the Petersfield commonage would be supported through the ‘one household one hectare’ programme. Comprehensive farmer support was being developed in conjunction with the Department of Agriculture for the Van Wykskraal commonage.
On the Free State commonages, the Lechabileng CPA, which started a poultry project that failed after chicken shelters were allegedly destroyed by an official from the Department of Agriculture, was under investigation. These allegations had since been denied by the Department of Agriculture, which had called for consultations to provide an intervention for the people affected. The Department would also provide a report of the findings to the Committee once investigations were complete. Bongani Mdaka’s request for commonage grazing would be prioritised within the year, while Senaha Matiya, who had requested land to make bricks would also be supported by the municipality and the Department’s branch for enterprise development, to set up their business.
The Chairperson raised concern over the data used to report on the total number of commonages supported through recapitalization, because Mr Zulu had reported that further analysis on this issue was required. Could the Department provide specific action plans based on the commonage status of the Western Cape?
Mr Madella asked about an article that had appeared in the media on 9 March -- a day after the Department had approved R545 890 for the Stellenbosch small holder farmers of the Western Cape, where the farmers indicated they were not confident of the Department delivering its promise. Department officials were not doing their job by stalling projects and creating red tape which delayed the implementation of projects. Could the Department also assist the Swellendam commonage ,which had not been included in its presentation? On the Free State Commonage challenges, how could it take beneficiaries 12 years to get approval from the Department for commonage applications? This said a lot about officials not doing their job. What was the explanation for the 12 year delay? Something drastic must be done in the Department to prevent such occurrences from happening.
Ms Magadla said that the commonage challenges of the Free State which the Department was addressing, were only promises. Could the Department give time frames to identify progress? She was not happy with the report, because it did not meet the Committee’s expectations in addressing the challenges facing commonage in the Free State.
Mr Robertson asked if the private sector was involved in commonage projects in the Western Cape, and what the Department’s take was on private sector involvement. On the Free State report, did the Departmental staff have the capacity to negotiate and make the right decisions? Based on the challenges raised, the Department was clearly setting up farmers for failure. Did departmental staff have training in agriculture or finance? The Department needed to get people out of the mindset of state dependency, because the brick manufacturer may have had a very brilliant initiative, but had he been told that he needed money to set up his business? Some people in rural areas had also started businesses of selling sand, but were getting the sand illegally from rivers.
Mr Nchabeleng expressed disappointment at the lack of commitment from staff working in the public service. If the idea of commonages was to correct the wrongs of the past, could the Department advise how many Africans, Coloureds, Indians and Whites had benefited from the programme to give a clearer indication? He also asked for information on commonages in Limpopo.
The Chairperson asked the Department to clarify the issue raised by Mr Madella on the commonage application that had taken place in Stellenbosch, where the first application had been made in 2006 under the commonage grant, and the second in 2013. What was the reason for the delay? Could the Department also clarify on the issue of imposing strategic partners?
Mr Zulu said that the report on all commonages supported by the Department would be provided, including commonages in Limpopo. He clarified that the list provided was confined to only the commonages acquired by the Department, and none had been acquired in Limpopo. This was why Limpopo was missing from the list. A programme of action on deliverables in the Western Cape would also be provided.
In response to Mr Madella’s question on the delays, the Department had taken upon itself to fast track this process. Existing partnerships were between the DRDLR, the municipality and the Department of Agriculture, but time was needed to find out if the private sector was involved in any commonage projects. The Department had convened a task team which would be sent to the Free State to come up with a concrete plan. A report on who was benefiting from commonages would eventually be provided to the Committee.
The Chairperson made the Department aware of the importance of sending officials to the communities to engage with people, to get information and see how best the Department could assist in getting a clearer picture.
The Minister, in closing, said that nothing would change in the Department unless people agreed to get their hands dirty and were willing to be activists. There was a need to empower the people to get them out of poverty. All officials from the Department, the Department of Agriculture and Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA) needed to meet, because inputs from the meeting included those from Agriculture and COGTA. Could the Department’s officials in future answer all questions raised by the Committee, and clearly indicate where background information was required. She thanked the Chairperson and the Committee for their passion and their genuineness in trying to assist the people, and urged the Committee not to give up on the Department.
The Chairperson concluded that it was important for the Committee and the Department to work together without shifting blame on to each other. She urged the Department not to be selective in sharing information. A report on the commonage specifics of the Western Cape should be sent to the Committee by the end of June, as well as that regarding the progress of Bongani Mdaka in the Free State. At the end of April, a report on the small-scale farmers of Stellenbosch should also be sent to the Committee, while a breakdown of the 198 farms of those benefiting from commonage and those supported under the recapitalisation programme be should provided in the long run.
Referring to the land audit report, the Chairperson asked how the report would be circulated to Members of Parliament before being tabled to the Committee.
The issue of MalaMala and title deeds was deferred to the next meeting.
The Chairperson thanked the Minister, Deputy Minister, Acting Director General and the delegation from the Department for attending the meeting. She emphasised the importance of a good working relationship between the Department and the Committee to deliver the land to the people, which was highly anticipated and needed to be fast tracked.
Adoption of Minutes
Mr Nchabeleng moved the adoption of the minutes of 14 March, and was seconded by Ms Mbabama.
The meeting was adjourned.
- Commonage Status Western Cape
- Rama CPA Report
- Report on the Commonages of the Portfolio Committee
- Commonage Land Acquired in the Northern Cape
- Report on the Riemvasmaak Community Trust
- Report on Status of Rama Communal Property Association, in Gauteng Province
- Malamala briefing Report
- Report on land transfers and title deeds issued to beneficiaries of land redistribution
- Identified Commonage Challenges in Free State
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