Elandskloof Communal Property Association: DRDLR update; Annual & Legacy Report; with Deputy Minister

Rural Development and Land Reform

05 December 2018
Chairperson: Ms P Ngwenya-Mabila (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Committee met with a team from the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform (DRDLR) and citizens from the Elandskloof community to discuss the current status of its Communal Property Association (CPA), its challenges and the way forward. It also briefed the Committee on progress on the Elandskloof CPA’s land claim, and informed the Committee that a mediator had been appointed in the community.

The Committee raised serious concerns at the lack of progress achieved with the land claim. It asserted that the Western Cape Provincial Shared Service Centre had not implemented any of the recommendations after its previous appearance before the Committee. Many issues remained unresolved. The Committee expressed its dissatisfaction that the same report had previously been submitted, and the Centre was instructed to submit an updated progress report by the end of February 2019.

The Department briefed the Committee on the DRDLR’s organisational structure. The presentation included the macro organisational structure, a summary of the posts established, its microstructure, posts that had been filled, the Deputy Directors General (DDGs) on precautionary suspension, the process of recruitment of DDGs, the number of senior officials that were in acting positions, and the status of officials in top management.

The Committee was concerned at the high number of officials and managers in the DRDLR who were on suspension, and the high number of acting positions as a result. The Committee was of the view that this impacted negatively on service delivery, as officials were having to double up in their own positions, as well as their acting positions. It remarked that there must be a willingness and commitment to ensure that the Department operated effectively and efficiently for the benefit of the people. It mandated the Department’s human resource unit to prepare an update on the organisational structure, complete with the names, gender, what had happened to the incumbents, the period when acting positions had started, and the way forward. The Committee resolved that it would continue to review the organisational structure of the DRDLR until it was compliant.

Meeting report

The Chairperson welcomed all Members and the teams from the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform (DRDLR), and citizens from the Elandskloof community to the meeting. She commented that the acting Director General (DG) and some key officials were not in attendance, despite the fact that the Committee had asked the DRDLR to reschedule prior commitments when the Committee called for meetings. The Committee had also informed the Department that Wednesdays should be reserved for Committee meetings.

Mr M Filtane (UDM) said the fact that key officials were not present at the meeting did not reflect that the DRDLR took oversight matters seriously, as the acting DG was not supposed to make excuses every time meetings were scheduled. He recalled that the discussions had been postponed earlier, so he suggested that the Committee inform the leader of Government business formally of the non-attendance of key officials.

Mr Robertson said that factions within the DRDLR were acting against one another. Out of 29 staff that had been dismissed, nine had been reinstated and the new officials in charge of human resources were not considering the forensic investigation reports before reinstating the officials. Dismissed officials were also being reinstated with back payments. He wanted to inform the Committee before he made it public.

Ms N Magadla (ANC) agreed with the Chairperson that the excuse of DRDLR key officials, of having prior engagements, was not allowed. She disagreed with Mr Filtane that the leader of Government business should be formally informed. Instead, she suggested the Committee inform the Speaker. She expressed concern that when the Committee wanted the organogram of the DRDLR, its leadership was not present at the meeting.

Mr N Matiase (EFF) said he stood to be corrected if he had missed out on the reason for requesting the DRDLR organogram, as he had not being present at some meetings. He expressed concern that the Committee was requesting the organogram at the end of its tenure rather than at the beginning of the fifth Parliament. He was of the opinion that the Committee should deal with policy matters instead of the organogram.

The Chairperson said she would deal with the concern of Mr Matiase during the discussions on organogram, but said the Committee had to request for it because inputs on it would be reflected in the Committee’s legacy report, and the organogram was important for the administration of DRDLR.

Mr Filtane said he had suggested that the Committee speak to the leader of Government business formally on the non-attendance of key officials of the DRDLR at meetings, because the leader of Government business was better able to speak to the leadership of the Department.

Mr P Mnguni (ANC) said he agreed with the concerns raised by Members. There was a need to deal with the issues raised by Mr Robertson on how factions within the DRDLR were acting against one another and how reinstatements were affecting it. He recalled that during the term, he had raised concerns on acting appointments about ten times, so it was possible that Mr Matiase had joined the Committee after the concerns had been raised. When the Committee considered reports on programme one, which addressed the organogram, it asked questions on the human resources and organisation structures. He appealed to Mr Filtane to reconsider his approach to speak to the Deputy President, as all the Parliamentary Committees could not approach the Deputy President to resolve issues. He suggested that the Chairperson write to the Minister on the need to prioritise Committee meetings. The accounting officer outside the Minister was the acting DG. The Chairperson should also inform the Minister of the discontent of Members.

The Chairperson asked the DRDLR to confirm if the risk and compliance matters were external or internal. She them to confirm if the Minister had sent a formal apology, and if the apologies of the acting DG had indicated that Ms Nomonde Mnukwa, acting Chief Operating Officer: DRDLR, or Adv Vela Mngwengwe, acting Deputy Director General (DDG): would lead the team.

Ms Mnukwa said she had been assigned by the acting DG to lead the team, as the acting DG knew she was in Cape Town.

Adv Mngwengwe said the team had come to attend a Cabinet meeting. The risk and compliance meeting was internal, but the acting DG was attending the Cabinet meeting. Although he did not have the mandate to give apologies for the Minister, an apology had been given on behalf of the Minister due to ill-health at the Cabinet meeting.

The Chairperson said the office of the Minister had said an apology had been sent during the previous week.

Mr Filtane asked if the meeting could proceed on the basis that the Chairperson would convey the concerns of Members to the Minister.

The Chairperson accepted this, and asked Members to consider the Minutes of the meeting of 31 October 2018.

Mr A Madella (ANC) moved the adoption of the minutes, and was seconded by Ms Magadla .

The Minutes of 21 November were considered and adopted with minor corrections, proposed by Ms Magadla and seconded by Mr Madella.

Elandskloof Communal Property Association (CPA): DRDLR briefing

Ms Juanita Fortuin, Chief Director: Western Cape Provincial Shared Service Centre, DRDLR, said the report would address progress on matters arising from previous reports, the current status of the Elandskloof Communal Property Association (CPA), its challenges, and the way forward.

The DRDLR had conducted several stakeholder meetings, provided agricultural and electricity infrastructure support in collaboration with Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) and ESKOM and had submitted a township and settlement development proposal to the Cederberg Municipality.

The current status was that the CPA was under administration. A mediator had been appointed in May 2017. Cooperation was better in the Elandskloof community and there had been an improvement in cooperation between the Department and Elandskloof. Challenges had been experienced with the administration order, unity in the community, the CPA constitution, the housing services and agricultural development. The way forward was for the DRDLR to approach the high court with a motivation to rescind the administration order; to appoint an attorney to verify the 2010 membership list; to schedule a planned meeting with the Elandskloof community on 8 December 2018; and to re-examine the current CPA constitution to ensure that it addresses the needs of the community. The DRDLR would provide housing services and agricultural development support with the assistance of its collaborators.

The DRDLR intended to approach the Western Cape high court to set aside the administration order; to allow Elandskloof citizens to take responsibility for development in the area; to put a democratically elected CPA committee in place; to regularly monitor the CPA committee and ensure that lifting the administration order and election of the CPA committee is completed by March 2019.

She invited Mr Andre Booysen, Director: West Coast Provincial Shared Service Centre, DRDLR, to further brief the Committee.

Mr Booysen said the Centre was working with the Elandskloof community to achieve a better quality of life. In the past, there had been lack of cooperation between the Department and the Elandskloof community, but the concerns were being resolved and there was now better cooperation. The Centre was currently scanning the environment to ensure that the Elandskloof community received improved service delivery.

Discussion

The Chairperson asked Mr Booysen not to take the Committee for granted by mentioning new things that the DRDLR would do for the Elandskloof community, as the West Coast DRDLR had not implemented any of the things planned in its earlier brief, and was now shifting dates. In their earlier brief, the date for approaching the high court had been November, but it had now being shifted to 8 December. The mediator had been appointed in March 2017, but the brief said July 2017. Why were the dates being shifted? In the previous document, there had been no mention of March 2019 to lift the administration order. She expressed concern over the seriousness of Mr Andre Booysen to address the challenges of the Elandskloof community.

Mr Madella noted that a visit to the Elandskloof community in the company of the Deputy Minister, Mr Mncebiisi Skwatsha, showed that the Centre had not implemented any of its previous resolutions. He expressed concern about the pain felt by elderly people in the Elandskloof community, as some had died, yet the DRDLR had not implemented any of its resolutions. For instance, no house had been built, people were living in shacks, and there was no development yet. He worried about the 13-year timeframe of CPAs from 2005 to 2018. The investigation to verify the 2010 membership list had not yet been carried out. Serious concerns had been raised on the activities of the mediator. The Department was not pressuring the mediator, or giving the mediator a time frame to complete its roles. He suggested that the community be involved in the restitution of the CPA. The DRDLR had to show commitment in resolving the pains of Elandskloof community, and must give the Committee reports to ensure that there is proper monitoring.

Ms Magadla asked why lifting the administration order had taken so long. The role of the mediator should have been completed long before now. Why was a democratically elected CPA not yet in office?

Mr Robertson was concerned that people who had laid claims at the age of 50 were still awaiting them at the age of 70. He informed the DRDLR that the Committee was investigating the challenges faced by Elandskloof community. The Committee would not rest until it had dealt with the matter and there would be consequence management on officials who were found liable. The CPA Amendment Act had not done much to improve matters, and the DRDLR needed to review it.

Mr Mnguni criticised the quality of the report. He said it lacked background and was a problem statement, and that it was a shoddy report that should not be presented in future. He asked the DRDLR to clarify which party had authority in Elandskloof -- the CPA, the interim CPA or the judicial administrator. If the statement made by Mr Booysen that the DRDLR was currently scanning the environment was true, then it showed that the West Coast Provincial Shared Service Centre had not implemented any resolution. The statement in the report on better cooperation in the Elandskloof community and cooperation between the DRDLR and Elandskloof was vague. There should be a distinction between the Elandskloof community and Elandskloof beneficiaries. He asked Mr Booysen to focus on verifying Elandskloof beneficiaries to ensure that these citizens received benefits, while the Elandskloof community received spin-offs.

The Chairperson asked Mr Booysen to state the timeframe for mediation, to confirm how far the DRDLR was on verification, and when it would complete the verification process. She also asked himto explain what was wrong with the CPA constitution.

Mr Booysen stated that the Centre was serious about the role of the CPA, and the verification process would be concluded within the financial year.

The Chairperson asked him to give specific dates.

Mr Booysen said verification would be concluded by March 2019, to ensure that none of the citizens of Elandskloof community would be excluded. Clause 6.1 of the CPA was in contention, and this had resulted in communication challenges because the conflicts made people not attend meetings, but communication was better now. The DRDLR was scanning the environment because housing and land issues were complex, therefore it had had to engage with the Department of Human Settlements DHS). He said 110 beneficiaries had been verified.

The DRDLR would identify the services that the verified Elandskloof beneficiaries would get, such as infrastructure, grants and support for farming activities. A CPA would be elected after the court order was lifted. A mediator had been appointed in 2005 till 2009, but the mediator had withdrawn from the community. A new one had been appointed in June 2010 by the DRDLR, based on the order given in May. The meeting reports of the Elandskloof community were available and could be provided to the Committee. He apologised for how the report had been compiled.

The Chairperson asked for the status of the investigation and why the process was taking so long.

Ms Juanita Fortuin said the first mediator could not make progress because there were conflicts and a second mediator was appointed in July 2010 to end the conflicts and make progress.

The Chairperson asked why the second mediator had worked from 2010 to 2017.

Ms Fortuin said the Department would present an updated brief to the community, detailing the status and using the Committee’s format.

The Chairperson asked DRDLR to state the timeframe for approaching the courts.

Ms Fortuin said the Department would do a detailed implementation plan towards approaching the courts.

Mr Madella said the DRDLR had not given satisfactory answers to the questions posed by Members on the status of the Elandskloof community. For instance, if a timeframe was given, there would be incentives for the mediator to complete the roles assigned within the time frame. The request for reports of the interim committee had been made to confirm if it was a democratic committee. Mr Booysens’ statement about the mediator showed that the tenure was too long. The original number of citizens that had to be verified had been 308, but not all citizens had been verified according to Mr Booysen, so the verification process should not be concluded yet.

Ms Magadla expressed concern that the Elandskloof community beneficiaries were not getting the benefits. Also, the report by the DRDLR did not give a correct picture of what was being done at Elandskloof community.

Mr Matiase was of the opinion that the Committee should not accept the report, and said there was no justification for the time being spent on it. The report showed that the CPA process was not yet finalised and court orders still remained, which indicated that there were complications of institutional ineffectiveness, corruption and culpable amnesia due to officials that make commitments and forget about them. He said disciplinary measures should be taken against such failures. He expressed concern that the Committee was now being told that Elandskloof beneficiaries were still awaiting benefits. The number of land rights beneficiaries should not be diminishing, but should rather increase. If the land right beneficiaries were dead, someone should inherit because it was a legacy. However, if the law was silent it should be amended. The family tree must incorporate the oldest to the youngest inheritors so the number of beneficiaries should increase. He asked the DRDLR to respond because the Committee was dealing with land rights and entitlements.

Mr P Nchabeleng (ANC) said it was either that the steps taken to assist the CPA were wrong, or officials were not performing. He suggested that the Committee intervene.

The Chairperson welcomed the Deputy Minister, Mr Mncebiisi Skwatsha, and informed him that the Committee was engaging on the status of Elandskloof community beneficiaries. She also told him that the Committee had been informed that he had not sent a written apology.

The Deputy Minister asked if the Chairperson was sure.

The Chairperson said she was sure -- the only apology he had given was for the previous meeting.

The Deputy Minister said it would have been an oversight if he had not tendered his apologies.

Mr Mnguni said the Committee was of the opinion that DRDLR was not taking the Committee seriously, because key officials did not attend meetings. He had schooled Mr Booysen on the structure of reports, and said even though the engagements were about a prior matter and the Members had not changed, Mr Booysen should have given a background before starting the report, because Members engaged with many CPAs. He said the Chief Land Claims Commissioner (CLCC) and the acting Chief Operating Officer (COO) should take note of the reflections and recommendations from the last engagement to ensure that the fresh reports being presented were relevant. This was the reason the Chairperson had said the DRDLRs’ West Coast Provincial Shared Service Centre was not taking the Committee seriously. He informed the DRDLR that the Committee wanted strict compliance on its recommendations. He suggested that the Committee give DRDLR and the Centre a second chance.

The Chairperson asked for the Deputy Minister’s comments.

Mr Skwatsha tendered apologies for not sending a written apology to the Committee. He agreed with Ms Magadla that the report did not give a true picture of what was happening at the Elandskloof community. The real status was that the people of Elandskloof community were not being cared for. During a visit to Elandskloof community in the company of Mr Madella, it was noted that it was not difficult to meet the needs of the Elandskloof community. He had given a timeframe that the challenges of the people of Elandskloof community would be met by March 2019.

Mr Madella said that the DRDLR should present a progress report by February 2019.

The Chairperson said that DRDLR was aware that there had been no progress report based on earlier recommendations but instead of admitting this, it was adding new things to be done. Also, there had been no progress on the items in the original report, and this was why it was postponing dates on which issues should be addressed. She concluded that Mr Booysen and Ms Fortuin were not serious because in five years, the five things that had been recommended in the initial report had not being implemented. Mr Booysen and Ms Fortuin were only playing for time, as they knew that the fifth Parliament would soon be over. She warned both officials that if there was no implementation when the sixth Parliament started, there would be consequences. The matter had been long standing, and she agreed with the Deputy Minister that there were easy solutions to address the pains of Elandskloof community beneficiaries, but the officials were not willing to take action. She said if progress was not made by February 2019, there would be consequences. The Department must ensure that the CPA was out of the control of administration and must be finalised, as the Committee was tired of talking while the Centre circulated reports. The Committee was not happy with Mr Booysen and Ms Fortuin and the team must return for further engagements by February 2019, after which the Committee would take the necessary action.

Mr Madella said Adv Mngwengwe should address the Committee if there was any progress.

The Chairperson agreed that Adv Mngwengwe must spearhead the discussions at the next meeting. She dismissed the team from the Provincial Shared Service Centre, and invited the acting COO to brief the Committee on the organogram, starting with the executive staff of the Ministry.

DRDLR Organisational Structure: Briefing

Mr Sipho Ngomane, acting Chief Director: Human Resources and Organisational Development, DRDLR,  said the report would dwell on the macro organisational structure of the DRDLR, a summary of the posts established, and its microstructure.

Currently, the DG post was vacant, but Ms Rendani Sadiki, the Chief Financial Officer, was acting DG. He outlined the Deputy DG posts that were filled, the DDGs on precautionary suspension, the ones going through the process of recruitment, and the ones that had officials acting in the posts. He also described the status of the officials in top management.

Discussion

The Chairperson noted that the DDG Finance was filled, but the CFO was the acting DG.  The DDG Corporate and the DDG Geomantic Information Services were both on precautionary suspension. She asked Mr Sipho Ngomane to advise when the officials serving in these positions had been suspended, and why. Which officials were serving as acting DDG Corporate and Geo-informatics Services.

Ms Magadla asked Mr Ngomane to clarify if the officials mentioned were present at the meeting. She asked the team to give feedback on the former DG, Mr Mduduzi Shabane’s, issue.

The Chairperson asked Mr Ngomane to identify the official presently serving as acting CFO.

Mr Madella noted that the Department had a serious challenge, as the top level had so many acting officials and there was no official taking responsibility, so no one could be held accountable. He asked DRDLR to give a time frame to fill the vacancies, to explain the reason for the precautionary suspensions, and to state if the matters had been dealt with. He was concerned at the salary levels of staff in the Deputy Minister’s office.

The Chairperson asked the DRDLR to respond to the questions on the Deputy Minister’s office when the presentation on the staff in the Deputy Minister’s office was made.

Mr Nchabeleng said that the faces of the officials kept changing, and asked the DRDLR how many of its key officers were left, why some of the key officers had left, and the reason why officials were suspended, as it seemed as if the Department was functioning by chance. At the past meeting, the Committee had recommended that an official should be in charge of internal audit, yet there was none yet.

Mr Filtane said the presentation showed that there were over 40% vacancies at the DDG level, 60% vacancies at the operational level, and also that key officials were under suspension. He was concerned that the Minister was not present at the meeting, and the DG and CFO were absent. He asked Mr Ngomane if there were any laws that restricted acting appointments, to ensure that filling of vacant posts was fast tracked.  The Minister should give answers as to what could be done to ensure that vacant posts were filled, and that recruitment was carried out quickly.

Mr Mnguni agreed that the recruitment exercise was slow, and agreed with Mr Nchabeleng that the faces of officials kept changing. Mr Robertson had said that a lot of officials who had been dismissed had now been reinstated, while a number of staff had been let off. He informed the Deputy Minister that the organisational structure should not be factionalised, as national administrators should be professionals of note and not professionals of loyalty. He asked Mr Ngomane to give an update on the case of the former DG, Mr Shabane. He said that acting appointments should occur only if there was natural attrition, as acting appointments had a negative effect on the organisation and also led to weaknesses in control.

He asked the Deputy Minister to confirm if the exits of Ms Leona Archary and Mr Southgate had been natural, as the DRDLR was continually losing institutional knowledge. He asked Mr Ngomane to give feedback on the cases where officials had returned back to DRDLR, and under what circumstances. He said that the organisational chart in the report was not user friendly, as it did not contain the names of officials in the positions, or the demography of the officials. It also did not indicate if a position was vacant, or if the official was on suspension. The bulk of the brief was on job descriptions, but the information needed by the Committee was the organisational structure. The Committee would continue to revisit the organisational structure until it gets clear findings and recommendations.

Mr Robertson agreed with Mr Mnguni that the information of staff reinstated had to be detailed in the report.  He commented that the Department was operating on the notion that when one dispensation ended, a member of staff leaves and another comes in. This was the reason why South Africans feel that land reform is not working, and expropriation without compensation should be the next line of action. He said the DRDLR was not functioning properly and corrupt officials were being reinstated. The Department was responsible for why land reform was slow, and why Section 25 was not being followed.

The Chairperson reminded the DRDLR that she had requested that names be attached to positions in the organogram. There had been a media report that the CFO from the DRDLR had moved to the Department of Public Works (DPW) and had later come back to the DRDLR as an acting DG. She asked if proper processes had been followed.

The Deputy Minister said Mr Ngomane would address the questions on the organogram.

He had written to the Minister of Public Works to get a certain correspondence, and the Minister for had agreed to release Ms Sadiki to the DRDLR. She had resumed at the  DRDLR and had got her old job back. She had been appointed in Ms Archary’s position as DDG: Rural Infrastructure, and Ms Archery had become the acting DG. When Mr Eugene Southgate, DDG: Corporate Affairs had explained the reasons why some staff had to be let go, it had been clear.

He said he had no information on staff that had been reinstated, except a member of staff from the Eastern Cape. The acting Chief Whip, Mr Jackson Mthembu (ANC), had written to him about the official who had been fired at the Eastern Cape DRDLR. His conclusion had been that he was fired because he had declined to participate in corruption, and the person in question had retired. The staff member was back at his job post.

The job schedule of Corporate Services had been taken over by the acting DG’s office. Ms Archary has no claims to DG’s post, and had left voluntarily when she was removed from the acting DG position. When Mr Southgate was suspended and his duties were taken over by the acting DG’s office, he had called the Deputy Minister. He had spoken with the Minister to confirm what had happened, but could not speak on the matter during this meeting.

Mr Ngomane said Mr Southgate had been placed on precautionary suspension on 24 July 2018. Although the issues were not clear, they pertained to governance and Public Finance Management Act. The officer in his position was Mr Pule Sekawana, and he was acting DDG: Rural Infrastructure, and acting DDG: Corporate Services. The DDG: Geomantic Information Services, Mr Mmuso Riba, had been suspended since 2017. It was not clear why he had been suspended, but it pertained to the document on National Geomantic Information Services. Ms Rosalind Ngubeko had been appointed as the acting DDG Geomantic Information Services in his place. The post of DDG Spatial Planning and Land Use Management was occupied by Dr Nozizwe Makgalemele, whose retirement age was near, but the post had been put on hold because the schedule was being transferred to the Presidency and COGTA. All other positions were being advertised, and the DRDLR was trying to prioritise appointments based on the budgeted funds.

The vacant positions in DRDLR were 11% of the total staff complement. The processes had started for vacant positions that were funded and what was affordable, based on the approved organisational structure. Mr Shabane’s matter was still in the labour court, with the process not yet concluded, and the DRDLR was presently engaging with Department of Public Service and Administration.

Nine officials had been reinstated after dismissal, based on the decisions of the courts. Three were reinstated by the arbitration courts. They were the Head of Programme: Land Reform, Free State; Chief Director: Rural Infrastructure Development, and Director: electronic Performance Unit. The provision was that DRDLR had to pay back what each official had lost during the dismissal.

The Deputy Minister reminded him to answer the question on the roles of the DRDLR on reinstatements.

Mr Ngomane said the DRDLR had been represented by state attorneys at the arbitration levels. During the arbitration, some officials were not available to testify, so the DRDLR was not able to fully defend the cases.

The Chairperson said the acting DG must lead the DRDLR to account for officials reinstated. The organisational structure must be updated with the names, gender, what happened to the incumbents, the period when acting positions started, and the way forward. The Committee would continue to review the organisational structure because there were problems.

She said that the proposed activities of the DRDLR between January and March were being circulated, and asked Members to review them and send comments to her office. A request for an extension would be made on the legacy report, but Members should send comments on other reports to her office to ensure they would be submitted.

She informed the Deputy Minister that the Committee would always ask for reports on the organisational structure, and mandated Mr Ngomane to prepare an update on the organisational structure for the next meeting for another review.  She said that there must be a willingness and commitment to ensure that the Department operates effectively and efficiently for the benefit of the people.

The meeting was adjourned.

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