The Minister of Agriculture, Rural Development and Land Reform, assured the Committee that all the legislative proposals would be presented to the Cabinet for consideration. Some of the provisions of these pieces of legislation had been found by the courts to be unconstitutional. The Minister said it would not take long for Parliament to conclude its work on these pieces of legislation because it was working with the Minister of Justice and state law advisers, and would also approach the constitutional court for extension of the deadlines, especially on the Rahube matter, which had to be concluded by 30 April 2020.
The Minister indicated the Department would consider the advice of the Parliamentary legal adviser, because the amendments to the Upgrading of Land Tenure Rights Act (ULTRA) were few. Parliament would not be amending the whole Bill, but only a few points. She added that the Department had developed a litigation strategy to monitor and ensure everything was being done in time, and that matters were dealt with speedily.
The Director-General for Agriculture told the Committee that the Preservation and Development of Agricultural Land Bill (PDALB) was long overdue. The Bill sought to amend or overhaul the Subdivision of the Agricultural Land Act 70 of 1970. The proposals had so far received a favourable opinion from the National Economic Development and Labour Council (NEDLAC). The municipalities and national departments were not in agreement, because the Bill clearly defined each sphere of government. The Mineral Council was also not comfortable with certain aspects of the Bill. The Minister had then suggested the segmentation of agricultural land and the carrying out of an investigation to see if the Bill needed further amendments. The Bill, among other important aspects, referred to food security.
The Committee was also briefed about the Bills that were expected to be submitted to Parliament from the Cabinet. The Bills to be submitted to Parliament during the months of July 2020 and August 2020 were the Agricultural Produce Agents (APA) Bill, Agricultural Products Standards (APS) Amendment Bill, Perishable Products Export Control Bill, Plant Health (Phytosanitary) Bill, and Preservation and Development of Agriculture Land Bill (PDALB).
Members commented that the information from the Department was not saying much about the number of people that were being dealt with regarding the court cases, because many communities were being forced by different departments to give up their communal rights. They wanted to find out if there were steps that had been taken to ensure the Department and Committee were in line with the constitution in the development of the bills, to avoid court cases. They said it was important for the Committee to know the shortcomings of the Department in completing pieces of legislation, and the systems to be put in place to correct these weaknesses, because the Legacy Report of the Fifth Parliament contained unfinished pieces of legislation. They also wanted to know why the Subdivision of the Agricultural Land Act 70 of 1970 (SALA) and Animal Health Act were not promulgated.
The Committee adopted its first term draft Committee programme.
Court judgments impacting on the legislative programme
Ms Thoko Didiza, Minister of Agriculture, Rural Development and Land Reform, referred to the court judgment on Tongoane, and said this piece of legislation sought to deal with land tenure reforms in the rural areas. The Act was declared invalid in its entirety because Parliament had failed to comply with section 76 of the constitution. The Act had to be concluded during 2020 to address issues raised by those who had taken the Minister to court. After the judgment was pronounced, no amendments had been made yet.
Concerning the Upgrading of Land Tenure Rights Bill, the Department had done everything necessary and had consulted the Office of the State Attorney to ensure the Bill was in line with the constitution. The Cabinet Committee had recommended the Bill to be submitted to Parliament for consideration by both Houses of Parliament.
On the Restitution Amendment Bill, the Minister pointed out the Lamosa judgment had asked the courts to put a moratorium into effect until all the 1998 claims were finalised. The Department would then report back to the Committee with the details.
Regarding the case of the Association for Rural Advancement (AFRA) v the Minister of Land Affairs and Rural Development, the judgment had indicated the court would appoint a master. Prof Richard Dlamini had been appointed already, and had assumed his duties to settle the labour tenants’ process. In 90 days’ time, he was expected to share with the courts how he planned to deal with the matter.
The Minister added that the Department was busy negotiating with National Treasury regarding the land settlement offer it made to Mr Ragatsi, so that it could stick with the initial offer it made at the time before the court judgment. She also said that the case against the Ingonyama Trust Board (ITB) launched by the Council for the Advancement of the South African Constitution (CASAC) would be heard during March 2020.
Mr Mdu Shabane, Director-General: Land Reform and Rural Development (DALRRD), reported the amendment to the Deeds Registration Act was going to be brought before the Committee for amendments, because loopholes had been identified.
Mr Mike Mlengana, Director-General: Agriculture, DALRRD, informed the Committee the Preservation and Development of Agricultural Land Bill (PDALB) was long overdue. The Bill sought to amend or overhaul sub-division of the Agricultural Land Act 70 of 1970. The proposals, so far, had received a favourable opinion from the National Economic Development and Labour Council (NEDLAC). The municipalities and national departments were not agreeing, because the Bill clearly defined each sphere of government. The Mineral Council was also not comfortable with certain aspects of the Bill. The Minister had then suggested the segmentation of agricultural land and carrying out of an investigation to see if the Bill needed further amendments. The Bill, amongst other important aspects, refers to food security.
Bills to be submitted
Ms Kanthi Nagiah, Chief Director: Legal Unit, DALRRD, briefed the Committee about the bills that were expected to be submitted to Parliament from the Cabinet.
- Agricultural Produce Agents (APA) Bill
This bill had been in the amendment process since 2013. It had been submitted at the Economic Sectors, Employment and Infrastructure Development (ESEID) cluster during January 2018, to seek approval to be submitted to Cabinet for approval so that it was introduced in Parliament. The DG Cluster had approved the Bill to be submitted to Parliament. The Bill had been submitted to the Socio-Economic Impact Assessment System (SEIAS) process and received pre-certification from the State Law Advisor.
- Agricultural Products Standards (APS) Amendment Bill
The State Law Advisers and the Department were of the opinion the Bill must be dealt with in accordance with the procedure established by section 76 of the constitution. The Bill had been SEIAS-ed and received pre-certification of the State Law Adviser, and would be submitted to Parliament by July 2020.
- Perishable Products Export Control Bill
This had been already certified and would be submitted to Parliament before July 2020.
- Plant Health (Phytosanitary) Bill
This Bill was withdrawn during May 2018, but it had now been already submitted to Cabinet. It had been certified and would come to Parliament during July 2020.
- Preservation and Development of Agriculture Land Bill (PDALB)
It was hoped it would be endorsed by NEDLAC and submitted to Parliament by August 2020.
Minister Didiza added that these Bills were very technical in nature, but would enable the Department to do thorough work on food security. She commented that the Subdivision of Agricultural Land Act 70 of 1970, which PDALB sought to amend, had zoned high potential agricultural land. Since the Fifth Administration, the Department had looked at the production of agricultural land instead of focusing on the sub-division of the agricultural land. The Department did not want to lose agricultural land. The tension was around losing agricultural land, even if it had low potential for production. The Minister wondered if this Act would allow low potential land set aside for agriculture to be used for other purposes. She indicated there was a need to differentiate between low potential, medium and high potential land, and see how this tension could be managed, because the focus was on food security and land for industrial purposes.
Ms Daksha Kassan, Parliamentary Legal Adviser, informed the Committee that Parliament had been given 18 months to correct the defects contained in the Upgrading of Land Tenure Rights Act (ULTRA) concerning issues raised in the Rahube case. Both Houses of Parliament would not be able to meet the 30 April 2020 deadline, and would need to request an extension. If the extension was not granted, the beneficiaries would be affected.
Minister Didiza said the Department would consider the advice of the Parliamentary legal adviser, because the amendments on ULTRA would not take a long time to happen. The Parliament would not be amending the whole Bill, but only a few points.
Ms A Steyn (DA) commented that information from the Department was not saying much about the number of people who were being dealt with concerning the court cases. Communities were being forced by different state departments to give up their communal rights. As a result, many departments were stealing from the communities because they did not have rights. She also wanted to understand if the amending of the Agricultural Legislation Act 70 of 1970 was another way of looking at the Spatial Planning and Land Use Management Act (SPLUMA), because it appeared the Department was bringing a new piece of legislation that would not be in line with the constitution.
The Chairperson reminded Members to focus on cases that were on the table, because the Committee was dealing with judgments that were having an impact on the legislation. If Members were interested in other cases, they would have the opportunity to raise their concerns in another Committee meeting at a later stage.
Minister Didiza said before rushing with the PDALB, it was important to look at SPLUMA to avoid duplication. Consultations would be done on the project to avoid the negative perception the traditional leadership had with regard to the SPLUMA.
Ms T Breedt (FF Plus) wanted to know if steps had been taken to ensure the Department and the Committee were in line with the constitution in the development of the Bills, to avoid court cases. She asked how much the court cases had cost the Department; and remarked the Bills should be aligned with the National Development Plan (NDP), not to the 2019 election manifesto of a certain party, because the country was a multi-party democracy.
Minister Didiza explained some of the matters had been served on the Committee, while others had been withdrawn. There were reasons for the withdrawals, because the Bills needed to be strengthened. Those bills that had been certified could be served to the Committee. These technical bills were drawn to address trade-related issues, and were informed by global challenges because South Africa belonged to global institutions. She said the costs of the court cases would be prepared and forwarded to the Committee.
Mr M Montwedi (EFF) remarked it was important for the Committee to know where the Department was failing when it come to finalising pieces of legislation and the systems to be put in place to correct the shortcomings, because he has gone through the Legacy Report of the Fifth Parliament and discovered there were pieces of legislation that had not been concluded, and there were judgments from 2009 and 2010 that were still there. He said the Committee should request more time to right the Rahube matter, because there was no indication the work would be finalised before 30 April 2020.
Minister Didiza explained the Department had developed a litigation strategy to monitor and ensure everything was being done in time and that matters were dealt with speedily.
Mr N Capa (ANC) wanted to understand what the challenges were with ULTRA, and the introduction of these pieces of legislation.
Minister Didiza made it clear that work on ULTRA should have been done much earlier. The Department should have worked with the Department of Justice and the State Attorney’s office from the beginning, but the Department would now make sure the Bill got passed. There was no need to put a burden on the Committee regarding the conversion of land. The capacity within the Department was there, but it needed to work on streamlining. For example, there had been instances where two departments had taken different decisions on an issue involving land. Some of these weaknesses would be dealt with. She also pointed out there were difficulties for not proceeding at the time on the Communal Land Rights Act (CLARA). Without clarity on traditional land, there would be misunderstandings on the matter between traditional leadership, the communities and the state. The Department was committed to dealing with the matter.
Ms M Tlhape (ANC) suggested the Committee should target bills that were expected to be introduced to Parliament around May 2020 so that it could be focused and be able to meet the deadlines. The Committee should draw up a schedule with time-frames, and stick to it for the sake of progress.
The Chairperson wanted know why the Sub-division of the Agricultural Land Act 70 of 1970 (SALA) and Animal Health Act were not promulgated.
Ms Nagia said there was no other law to substitute SALA if it was repealed. As a result, that would have caused a vacuum, in that there would be no law to protect agricultural land. It would have been open to abuse and led to a loss of valuable agricultural land.
On the Animal Health Act, it had been decided there were a number of pieces of legislation that needed to be addressed. If it got repealed, there would have been no adequate legislation to replace the Animal Diseases Act. That was why the Department had come with a comprehensive piece of legislation to cover all aspects of animal health.
First Term Committee Draft Programme
The Chairperson took the Members through the document, page by page.
Ms Steyn moved the adoption of the programme.
Ms Breedt seconded the motion.
The document was adopted, with minor amendments.
The meeting was adjourned.
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