The Committee received briefings from the Land Bank on the ‘Blended Funding’ model for the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform (DRDLR) and from Agri-Parks, which presented its annual report for the 2017/18 financial year. Prior to the commencement of the meeting there was an issue from matters arising that the Committee dealt with in detail. The issue was on the lack of communication. A Committee Member felt there was a lack of transparency and communication on the MalaMala Game Reserve issue. The Member requested the Chairperson to provide the letter from the Portfolio Committee that was sent to the Speaker of Parliament to request a forensic investigation to be conducted on MalaMala Game Reserve. A decision was taken by the Committee on 23 June 2018 to follow up on the matter, and there was legal advice on the forensic investigation.
The Chairperson said that she had written the letter and discussed it with the Chairperson of Committees and emphasised that the Committee needs to go to the ground and engage with community members. And only after that visit can an investigation then be determined.
Committee Members felt that the MalaMala Game Reserve issue should rightly go through a forensic investigation because R752 million was supposed to be spent but it was discovered that instead R1.1 billion was used.
The Chairperson read out the content of the letter she wrote to the Speaker of the National Assembly to the Committee to reflect that there was no selective information supplied. A letter was written to the Department as well on the MalaMala issue and it was also referred to the Chief Lands Claims Commission, so the Committee took a resolution to go and meet with the management and beneficiaries to understand what the issues on the ground are in terms of the settlement of the MalaMala land claim.
The Committee took a resolution to conduct a forensic audit and to arrange for a site visit to MalaMala Game Reserve within the next two weeks. The Committee Support staff had come up with an initiative to introduce weekly action plan meetings.
There was meant to be a briefing on the Blended Financial Model since the Acting Director-General had communicated to the Committee that a new model had been initiated to provide post-settlement support for the farmers. As a way forward, the Committee proposed that the presentations by the stakeholders on the Blended Financial Formula and on the Agri-Parks be moved to the next available meeting
There was a concern about the absence of the Land Bank and the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) since they needed to be part of the meeting to do the oral presentation. The Acting DG had sent an apology. The Committee expressed their displeasure with the late arrival of documents to the Committee. The Chairperson said that the matter of submitting documents late does not bode well for the full participation of the Members in these meetings. There was also a request by the Members to receive a full narrative presentation of the reports submitted to the Committee. Members felt that the Departmental officials need to take the Committee more seriously when submitting documents so that Members may be able to go through the documentation. All the stakeholders needed to be part of the meeting and the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform (DRDLR) should have informed all stakeholders accordingly.
The Committee took a decision that if Departments were unprepared they should ask for extensions, and if they had to return to do presentations then they should cover the travel costs. A Member from the ANC volunteered to raise these points with the Acting DG.
The Minister was present at the meeting and felt that the officials had missed an opportunity to present the good news that has been happening through getting support from the National Treasury on the funding for the post-settlement support.
Members also noted that the Agri-Parks were being discontinued since there was a drop from 44 Agri-Parks to nine over the recent years.
The minutes of the meeting dated 24 October 2018 were considered for adoption.
Mr K Robertson (DA) asked if it was appropriate to request the letter.
The Chairperson said she will deal with matters arising during the course of the meeting. She said that the minutes need to reflect all additions made by the Members.
An apology was received from the Deputy Minister of Rural Development Ms Candith Mashego-Dlamini. An apology was received from the Acting Director-General (ADG) Ms Rendani Sadiki as she was ill.
The Chairperson welcomed all present in the meeting. She said looking at the agenda there was a presentation to be given by Agri-Parks and the Land Bank on the Blended Financial Model.
The Chairperson said Mr Robertson wanted to know if the letter sent to the Speaker of the National Assembly requesting a forensic investigation to be conducted on MalaMala Game Reserve was received, and that it would assist the Committee if they could be able to see the correspondence. The Chairperson said she had received legal advice on the issue of MalaMala and was invited to a meeting to discuss the letter. And the issue of the investigation needs to be the last resolve. The Committee is to visit MalaMala, and after those discussions the Committee can then take a decision on investigations. The report from the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform (DRDLR) has requested the Committee to avail themselves and listen to all the views of the community.
The Chairperson said the Committee will have to retract the letter and go on a fact-finding mission as a Committee, and then take a decision for the house (National Assembly) to debate the matter.
Mr Robertson said that originally the investigation was a double jointed investigation. Primarily, the investigation was first to see how the MalaMala situation had actually come about because it was not a restitution case; the second part of the investigation was about the two thirds of the people who were supposed to receive remuneration from rent from the MalaMala company which they were not getting and they also had issues with verification. So it was also about how so much money was spent under the former Minister. This was why the letter was requested because he had the sense that the Committee had forgotten about the first part of the investigation and was focusing more on the second part which related to the beneficiaries. It was also about the fact that the state spent R1.1 billion on a piece of property whereas all stakeholders were happy with spending R752 million.
Mr Robertson said they had asked for the documentation because the investigation would be to find out how R1.1 billion was spent on a property that should have cost R752 million. He said that MalaMala was not a restitution case and that the second part of the investigation would be to see how things are on the ground. He said he got the feeling that the Committee has forgotten about the first section of the investigation.
Mr E Nchabeleng (ANC) said that the investigation should be done after the Committee has visited MalaMala. He said, before the Committee goes on recess they should spend more than a day in MalaMala and when they return they can then determine the outcome with further investigations and request the Minister to intervene. The focus should be on going to MalaMala, and he agreed with Mr Robertson on putting this matter to rest. The determination can be made after meeting the beneficiaries and management.
Ms N Magadla (ANC) said that she agrees with Mr Nchabeleng that the Committee should visit the area to conduct their own assessment and be able to address the matter at hand before investigations take place.
Mr P Mnguni (ANC) said that he may not have been in the room, but he is bound by the decisions of the Committee. He said that maybe the Committee had jumped the gun and has had discussions on MalaMala with Mr Robertson. He said that on the issue of corruption and prima facie observations the Committee should act without fear or favour on the MalaMala issue. The land dispensation had moved from willing buyer, willing seller to the constitutional prerogative of just and equitable land and now to expropriation without compensation.
Mr Mnguni said that legally, MalaMala stands between willing buyer, willing seller and just and equitable land. Academics would elaborate more on the imperatives informing the MalaMala case. They concluded that there is no will from government with expropriation with just and equitable land. He said that the first issue of R752 million to R1.1 billion is important, and the second issue with Communal Property Associations (CPAs) also needs to be addressed.
Mr Mnguni proposed that an investigation should be the last resort and that the Committee should visit MalaMala and check if there was a resolution in earlier meetings that asked the Ministry to conduct an internal forensic investigation as a parallel process. He said that for now the Chairperson should write to the Speaker and request funds for the Committee to visit MalaMala so that they are more informed. But nothing stops the Department from instituting an internal process.
The Chairperson said that the content of the letter was not selective and that she would read out the letter, and that a resolution was taken that the Minister should visit MalaMala, and a letter was written to the Department. She said that the Chief Lands Claim Commissioner is not the recipient of the letter but is an important stakeholder to be part of the process in MalaMala. She said that the Minister should go with the Committee and all stakeholders to meet with the management of MalaMala and claimants.
The Chairperson proceeded to read the background of the letter as follows:
“This letter refers to the decision of the Portfolio Committee on Rural Development and Land Reform to institute a forensic investigation on the settlement of the MalaMala land claim. MalaMala Game Farm situated in Bushbuckridge, the claimant’s community has lodged against 29 properties.”
The Chairperson then read the terms of reference as follows:
“The validity of the land claims in terms of the restitution of the Land Rights Act 20 of 1994, the process of verification of claimants and membership of Kandahari CPA in terms of good restitution and communal property association respectively. The decision by the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform to negotiate a deal with the land owner and claimant rather than the leaders of the land per hectare in terms of purchase property 2013/2014 and the current value in line with the property Valuation Act; the legal costs for the department to defend to the Land Bank; the total amount paid to the state with regards to MalaMala; the total amount paid by the state; the analysis of the financial statements of Kandahari CPA; the CPA beneficiaries; and all the total amounts paid.”
The Chairperson said that was the content of the letter written to the Department.
Mr Robertson thanked the Chairperson for the letter and emphasised that it is surprising that the letter has been referred to the Land Claims Commissioner and that investigations should go on for pre-settlement and post settlement. He asked how it is that they overspent by R351 million.
The Chairperson said that she had explained that after the letter was written, the Committee took a decision to allow investigations to continue whilst they organised an oversight visit to MalaMala. She said the Minister should be part of that meeting and that the forensic issue is a separate issue.
Mr Robertson said that the reason why the DA put the issue forward was because they asked the Minister about a forensic audit into MalaMala and for the Minister to give a yes or no answer as to whether there should be a forensic audit into the MalaMala deal. Therefore, it cannot be a separate investigation.
The Chairperson said that there was agreement on two processes. The first is that Members took a resolution that the Minister must visit MalaMala to go and listen to the concerns of the beneficiaries, and the second resolution was to write a letter requesting a forensic investigation to the Speaker of the National Assembly. Those are the two letters written from those resolutions. She said that there was no resolution about the Chief Lands Claims Commissioner. She said that she read the letter to the Speaker and discussed the letter with the Chairperson of Committees. As a Committee they would need to go to MalaMala and see for themselves the issues on the ground in following all due processes before instituting a forensic investigation.
Mr Robertson asked for clarity on the date of the letter. He said that there is value in going to MalaMala because it is a reflection of what happens in the land claims and restitution process across the country. He said that there is no need to visit MalaMala to investigate what happened in 2014, and there is no need to wait for the Minister because the forensic investigation should have been conducted a long time ago into how MalaMala was put together. MalaMala also represents what was happening in land claims and restitution processes all over the country. From where he was sitting there seems to be a government ducking and diving technique happening here instead of just authorising a forensic investigation on the bases of what was said in this Committee on the 23rd June 2018. And there is no merit to visit the beneficiaries after the 2014 land deal, and the forensic investigation should have started already.
The Chairperson said that Members should recall that she invited the legal team to provide an opinion a week ago, and the letter was written on 26 October 2018, which she signed. There was no legal opinion on the letter and the legal advisor requested the Committee to write the letter to the Speaker. She emphasised that Parliament has rules and regulations and indicated to the Committee several times about MalaMala. She said the legal unit received the letter but did not need legal advice, and the letter was written on 25 October 2018.
Mr Robertson said a point of order. The Chairperson was deviating from the original adoption which was to write a letter to the Minister requesting a forensic investigation not write a letter asking for a legal opinion. He asked why the letter was written four or five months after a decision was taken irrespective of the recess that Parliament had undertaken. His other issue was the time frame and why the forensic investigation has not kicked off as yet. This was about accountability and getting proper governance sorted out. He said it is about justice for taxpayers that had to pay R1.1 billion on a deal that was supposed to be R725 million.
The Chairperson said that it was a collective decision and that it is not an individual matter, and the correspondence needs to go through processes.
The Committee Secretary, Ms Phumla Nyamza explained the parliamentary processes in instituting a forensic investigation. She said Committees are an extension of the National Assembly but can only institute forensic investigation through the Speaker. She said that the legal opinion was sought to either write to the Speaker or to the Minister, and that is why legal services were included.
Ms S Mbabama (DA) asked what the obligation of the Chairperson is when she writes letters of the Committee. She said that had copies of the letter been available it would be easier. She said that there are two processes; one is the forensic audit and the other is the visit to MalaMala. She said that there is no need to wait to go to MalaMala before a forensic investigation. She said that process can continue.
Mr Mnguni said that maybe Members are frustrated as they feel that the process is not moving. He said that they may be other sources of frustration. The Committee should agree to visit MalaMala, and the forensic investigation must be based on the information available. The forensic investigation needs to be done without delay.
Mr M Filtane (UDM) said that there is no disagreement on what needs to be done. He said that the issue was on the sequence of events that needs to be taken. He suggested that the Chairperson meet with Mr Robertson and agree on the sequencing of the process so that the issue may receive quality attention. He said that he was not comfortable with feelings of suspicion being shared amongst Committee Members and that by the time solutions are uncovered there could be distrust.
Mr Nchabeleng said that there is nothing the Committee is hiding but does not want the Committee to be found wanting in future. He said that nothing about the people of MalaMala without talking to them. The beneficiaries need to be consulted. He said MalaMala is in the public domain and as the ANC; they are committed to fight corruption on a fact-finding mission. He said that maybe there are deeper issues, and the important question is to request the Chairperson to visit MalaMala in less than two weeks.
Mr Mnguni said that at some point the matter was being addressed. Issues need to be dealt in a manner that seeks to find solutions. He said that the Committee meetings are an extension of the House meeting, and that the point of order is regulated by rule 92 in the National Assembly which has nine regulations, but it has been used in the meeting as a sheer abuse of jargon and it is unacceptable to be raised in a meeting and not defined by a point of order.
Mr Robertson said that the point of orders can be raised at any given moment in time.
Mr Mnguni said that the point of order is in the regulation, and that the Committee needs to respect the people being represented without fear or favour.
Mr Robertson said that he had tried to get information from the Chairperson on numerous occasions but does not get responses.
Mr Mnguni said that everyone needs to support each other as a Committee and that there were explanations provided on MalaMala’s expenditure which should be challenged, and that the only way to get to the truth is through listening and testing evidence. He said that there was an explanation about the escalation of the amount from R752 million to R1.1 billion. He made an example about the difference in prices over a five-year period. He said that the R752 million of 2008 and the R1.1 billion of 2014 show that there is escalation and that this information was provided to the Committee. He said that using terms like “looks like” rather than “it is closer to” is considered casting aspersions in the English language and therefore requested Members to refrain from such.
Mr Mnguni said that it is unprecedented that when the Chairperson writes correspondence, she is not accountable to copy Members in communiqué, and he persuaded Mr Robertson that he (Mr Mnguni) may kill to get to the core of the MalaMala Game Reserve issue but in the process the Committee should leave the system still intact. He said that the sequencing is a matter for the Committee to discuss, and not between a Chairperson and any member, and thus would not encourage the meeting with the Chairperson. He said that the powers of the Committee are defined in the rules. He said that as part of the oversight tools, the Department was requested to provide information and that the Committee needs to meet with stakeholders on the ground in MalaMala to track the progress. He said that the final step will be for the forensic investigation to be done and that the steps of Parliament are retained. He proposed that in two weeks’ time the Chairperson apply for funding so that the Committee could go to MalaMala and meet with all the stakeholders from there all the steps to be taken up until where there was corruption, so that the last rogue element was put in jail.
The Chairperson said that the Committee would make an application to go to MalaMala and she indicated that she is deployed as a Chairperson of the Committee. She is therefore not accountable to the Committee and will not circulate the letter because she needs to ensure that decisions are implemented with the support staff. She said the Committee matter is a Committee matter and not a personal matter. MalaMala is a Committee matter and the investigations should unfold in that regard because corruption is corruption.
The Chairperson said that there was agreement last week that there should be an action plan each and every week. The Support staff has provided such an action plan. Proper steps need to be followed in everything that is done, and the issue of a forensic report was raised. She emphasised that it is important to follow the necessary procedure by looking at the Committee program. There is nothing been hidden by MalaMala, and the procedure is what needs to be followed since there is only the electronic deeds registry system. The Committee will check the availability of the Minister so that the commission will also be there to provide the Committee enough time to gather all the information. The investigations will be done. She said that the matter needs to be attended to urgently.
Ms Mbabama said that Committee resolutions are things that should be done, however, there are no dates to inform each activity and if certain issues cannot be done by a certain date then that can be communicated.
The Chairperson said that this was a progressive input and idea so that all resolutions can be tracked to see if they are implemented or not.
Mr Mnguni thanked the Committee support staff for the great initiative of putting an action plan in minutes. The template will be the same, but the issues will keep changing with amendments.
The Chairperson said that a break may be allowed after dealing with a few items. She said that the support staff’s work is commendable on following up on issues in the resolutions because this would also assist in the legacy report. This action plan will also empower other Committees to follow suite.
The Chairperson said that there was supposed to be a presentation by the DRDLR on the blended financial model. The Acting Director-General Ms Rendani Sadiki said the Annual Report was ready to be presented. The issue of the new model has been initiated for the farmers to use the land effectively. In the invitation sent to the department, the Land Bank and the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) to discuss the matter as a Committee on the blended financial model. She then asked if anyone from the Land Bank or the DAFF was in attendance. The Chairperson said that there was an apology from the Acting DG yesterday that she was not well.
Mr Filtane asked the Chairperson if there is a need to proceed if the officials from the Land Bank and DAFF did not heed the call of the Committee to present.
Ms Mbabama asked if there was anybody from the Department that would be able to do the presentation since the presentation is long overdue.
The Chairperson said that there are issues in the presentation that affect all the stakeholders that need to be present. She said that there are things that deal with each entity and they would have to defer them.
Mr A Madella (ANC) expressed concern about the absence of the Land Bank since they are the custodian of the Blended Financial Model. The presentation would not make sense without critical partners being present.
Ms Mbabama asked how the Land Bank was informed of the presentation and if they had offered an apology because it is unlike them not to attend.
The Chairperson said there was no apology noted from the stakeholders.
Ms Nyamza explained the process of inviting partners, entities or stakeholders of the Department through the Department. It was specifically mentioned in the letter that they should bring along their partners involved in the Blended Financial Model.
The Chairperson said that if the other stakeholders are not part of the Blended Financial Model it would be futile to continue with the presentation.
The Minister, Ms Maite Nkoana-Mashabane said that the Department has good news, which took four months to acquire money within the department for post settlement support. Thus, by the entities not being available, they are denying the opportunity to share the journey that has been travelled. She said that it had taken four to five months to source the money within the department after the Presidents instruction. The money was found within the department, but the constraints are that now that it is raining, the department will start dispersing the post-settlement support of land, and agriculture is still required. There are good stories that needed to be shared by the entities; however, they are not available.
The Chairperson said the Committee is waiting to see how the land allocation will be provided, and that the Committee needs to receive a report about the full details of the allocations.
The Chairperson said that the Committee had taken a resolution to postpone the oral presentations by the department and all stakeholders. The department will be sent an invite and there will be no apologies accepted on that day.
The Chairperson said that Agri-parks was meant to make a presentation based on the agenda, and there was communication that Agri-parks are being discontinued. She said that Members will remember that instead of 44 Agri-parks there are now nine, and she wanted to get more information. The department has been addressed before on this issue of distributing documents before meetings. She added that if the Committee requests a report and it is not sent on time as per the agreement then the Minister and Deputy Minister must intervene. If documents are circulated minutes before the meeting, then it does not assist the Committee in doing their work thoroughly.
Mr Nchabeleng said that he does not understand why the department keeps circulating documents late. This has been a recurring issue with the department for some time now. He added that there must be a good reason why the document was sent late because it may cause suspicion that there is something been hidden by circulating the document at the last minute. When people hide things, they present them at the last minute and those that do not submit documents on time will be turned back and pay the costs personally to return and present before the Committee.
Mr Madella said that it would be more valuable for the Committee to receive a narrative report from the department that is more detailed. A presentation is merely a highlight of a report. And there was R3 billion set aside for Agri-Parks, now there are nine Agri-Parks. He added that the presentation does not speak to the details. The Committee needs a narrative report. He proposed that most reports should have the presentation and a narrative report so that there is value in reading the details.
The Chairperson said that the department is aware of the documentation that needs to be submitted, which is a presentation and a report. She said that the presentations are used instead of narrative reports, which is wrong. She told the Minister that for people to take the Committee seriously they would need to be consequences because this is irresponsible. She added that the people responsible for the Agri-Parks presentation would need to come back, and they would pay the costs themselves.
Mr Nchabeleng said that the issue of late documents keeps happening and it becomes wasteful expenditure by not taking the Committee seriously. He added that it is okay to inform the Committee in time so as to avoid hiding information. A resolution should be taken that if a Department has to return to a meeting with the Committee to redo a presentation then they should cover the travel costs themselves. Instead of coming to a meeting with the Committee unprepared, Departments should rather request an extension.
Mr Filtane said that as a matter of principle you do not hand down the judgement before understanding the circumstances. He said that the Committee is not aware of why the representatives are not available; he added that the Committee would need to rather issue a stern warning to the Department. He said that there is a lot that happens in the Department from a document handling point of view.
The Chairperson said that as a Committee they do their best to ensure all communication is clear.
Mr Robertson asked for the way forward for this meeting. He added that Members should refrain from casting aspersions that the Department has something to hide.
The Chairperson said that all issues need to be treated equally.
Mr Mnguni asked what should happen to officials that waste the Committees time. He said that there might come a time when the cost of the Committee is calculated more scientifically, and at present the practice from government is that if you do not honour a meeting, the department can deduct logistical costs. He said that the Committee would like to explore this in its role of oversight and executing its duties, and that sometimes officials do send the Committee from pillar to post. There needs to be oversight and political leadership by the executive. Administration was also very important. The administration found in a faculty of public administration and that found in a faculty of law are different. He proposed that officials will pay the extra costs of travel for transgressions. There are serious consequences for sending documents in the morning of the meeting, and as practitioners Members need to have sufficient time to conduct their work. There is no way that the Committee will continue to accept the way officials handled meetings. As a way forward, he proposed that the presentations by the stakeholders on the Blended Financial Formula and on the Agri- Parks be moved to the next available meeting. He said he would volunteer to raise these points with the Acting DG.
Ms Magadla said that since the ADG, Ms Sadiki is not present; administratively the Committee needs to address the leadership and the Minister. She said that she agrees with the motion to defer the Agri-Parks’ presentation to the next meeting.
The Chairperson further emphasised that the Committee is pleased that the Deputy Minister and Minister are present to witness the disapproval from the Committee.
Mr S Matiase (EFF) said that Members come as elected public representatives on a five-year term, and the officials who are career civil servants disrespect the state and legislative authority in South Africa. He said that the officials have no regard for the work they do, and he expressed the strongest condemnation for the type of behaviour officials displayed. And there should be consequences for the officials that do not take their work seriously.
The Deputy Minister for Land Reform, Mr Mcebisi Skwatsha said that based on the absence of the two key stakeholders he wanted to apologise on behalf of the Department because as the political leadership they feel embarrassed. He said that the submission of documents on time is a serious matter and he understands the ADG is not available. He said that there is a need for the political leadership of the Department to do a thorough introspection as it seems like the officials are undermining the Committee and for that he apologises.
The Chairperson said that some of the documents entering the meeting were meant to be circulated to Committee Members earlier. She asked what the performance bonuses are for if officials fail to submit reports on time.
Mr Nchabeleng said that perhaps the department should be provided an opportunity to hear the reasons why there is a delay in the arrival of documents.
The Chairperson asked who was acting on behalf of the ADG.
Mr Nasele Mehlomakulu, ADG, Land Bank explained that there were three branches that needed to do the oral presentation, namely, the Land Redistribution and Development (LRD) responsible for the Blended Financial Model, and he is ADG. He said that the other branches’ ADGs are not present because he is also responsible for the Rural Enterprises and Industry Development (REID) first leg of the Agri-Parks project. He said that he was not aware of the Department’s delay in the submission of reports.
The Chairperson said that the Members should hand the matter over to the Minister, and the Committee will not accept receiving the documents late. And if there are challenges, then the Chairperson should engage with the Minister. She said that if there are challenges with the department, the Director-General can communicate, but the Committee will not tolerate accepting reports on the eve of the meeting.
Mr Mnguni addressed the Land Bank that when they next appear to do the oral presentation and present the report, could they please explain all the ‘acting’ positions because there are too many acting appointments. He asked for the updated report to include the organisational structure or the service delivery model, and that vacant positions may be frozen by National Treasury (NT). He asked that further consequences should be dealt to the officials.
The Chairperson said that all the information should be noted.
The Minister said that no excuses make one a victor, and this was a missed opportunity that the stakeholders had to present their good news to the public. However, that good news needs to be shared and there should be reasons why it was not being shared.
The Minister said that officials need to take their tasks more seriously and fill in the vacant positions because the most important thing for the Committee is service delivery.
The Minister said that few officials work hard, and the rest are overwhelmed by different positions in acting capacities, but they do not submit information on time. The frustration of acting positions is felt by the department and she said that ADG was meant to be present; however, she could not make it.
The Minister said that the department took four months to gather funds for post-settlement funding and requested the officials to communicate in time.
The Chairperson agreed with the Minister that a person can be acting in more than one capacity as it is a concern. She then informed the Members about an invite by the Deputy Minister and the Premier of Gauteng to visit the Rama CPA. The date for the visit is 14 November 2018 and she requested one or two Members to be part of that invitation.
The meeting was adjourned.