The Committee was briefed on the Department’s response to the Presidents’ SONA, the Stimulus Package Update Report and the District Development Model (DDM). At the outset the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (DALRRD) stated that it was in the process of developing an allocation plan for the identified 700 000 hectares of agricultural land owned by the state that will be allocated to youth, women, people with disabilities, small holders and subsistence farmers. Members were pleased that the President, in the SONA speech this year, stated that government will implement key recommendations of the Presidential Advisory Panel on Land Reform and Agriculture to accelerate land redistribution, expand agricultural production and transform the industry.
With regard to the Department’s presentation, Members felt that the Department seemed to be repeating itself with regard to assisting the people to work the land. The Extension Officers were not trained and land that should have been used to enable the unemployed to put food on their tables was still lying fallow. Members asked when details will be made available regarding the 700 hectares; if the Committee be getting a proper report on the Agricultural Masterplan on Commodity and Mapping at a later stage; and how was the figure of ‘54 000 jobs saved in the poultry masterplan’ reached.
The Committee was very keen to find out more about the youth and farming and asked: ‘How is the Department equipping the youth to want to farm and be able to farm when they have this land’; ‘With the 300 youth identified as already trained, what programme is this under’?; ‘How is this advertised and do the youth know about this’; ‘Is the 300 youth to be recruited or still to be identified’?; ‘What will the Department do to ensure that the youth selected are passionate about farming’ and more importantly: ‘What are the incentives given that propels them to like farming’?
With the understanding that the land audit was still incomplete Members wanted to know ‘which land belongs to whom in all municipalities’; ‘Which land was released’? ‘When the 44 000 hectares was released, who did the Department speak to and ‘Could the Committee get the report if it has already been compiled’. The Committee’s major concern was that the Department’s plan to fix the crisis in this sector was already too late because sugar mills were closing down rapidly and asked. ‘What will the plan achieve when the industry has already collapsed’? On organic farming Members asked ‘why are farmers who are on communal land using genetically modified seeds being referred to as organic farmers’.
Members were concerned that the presentation did not highlight anything about the empowerment of women as domestic access still remained a challenge to women and small farmers. The Committee asked the Department to shed some light on which agri-products will form part of the 1 000 locally produced products that had to be procured from SMMEs as pronounced by the President. The Committee also asked for the full data base of all state land. The Committee heard that the Department is supporting organic farming as opposed to organic farmers, and the farmers are being prepared to be certified through the certification process.
The Committee was briefed on the Stimulus Package Update Report. Members heard that stimulus package projects were being supported through the Land Development Support Policy which came into effect after the termination of the Recapitalisation and Development Programme introduced in 2018/19.
The Committee was briefed on the District Development Model. Members heard that the District Development Model (DDM) announced by the President sought to address the silos and the lack of coherence of planning and implementation in all spheres of governance. This work has garnered support among various departments.
Members asked about the commercial viability of the farms and who would make them viable; on commodity groups, they asked there was no presence of Grain SA in the Eastern Cape; on pilots they asked if there were nine pilots in every province; and on agricultural skills, they asked what it meant and entailed. The Committee was concerned that it had not received any documents on agri-parks and questioned the Land Bank’s role in assisting with the situation regarding R3.9 billion and the Blended Finance Model. Members were concerned because according to the AG report the Stimulus Project had failed in number of areas. There were just too many plans and no action, and ‘there seemed to be a big disconnect between the plans and what is on the ground’. Members asked what criteria were used in identifying the areas especially in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN); why the metros were chosen where no agricultural activity was taking place; and how the ARC was evaluated in terms of being able to fulfil their mandate.
The Committee asked for a full list of every cent that was spent on every farm and declared that ‘the Department is still operating in silos’, ‘Some of these plans look good on paper but they are just dreams’. Members were very concerned about the outstanding R3.9 billion as that money was meant for black commercial farmers and people were suffering because of this. Out of concern the Committee felt that the R3.9 Billion Land Bank issue should be documented and it needed a response about it from the Department. They asked ‘What really happened to the Blended Finance Model’?
Members said that ‘The Department is speaking in tongues on the Land Bank issue as they had not dealt with the issues being raised today in terms of administering the processes’. Members were angry that this piloting caused R500 million to be spent, and ‘when one goes to the site where this money was supposed to have been spent there is nothing to show for it’. The Committee was at pains to understand why the report was more about expenditure to commodity organisations and silent on the effect of expenditure on farmers and on the designated groups that were supposed to be supported including the social economic impact assessment. The Committee therefore requested copies of sample of agreements; and all tripartite agreements with commodity organisations. The Department was asked to attend to the questions posed in the 04 March 2020 meeting
Introductory Remarks from the Chairperson
The Chairperson welcomed all to the meeting and reminded Members that the deliberations today will focus on the relevant sections of the President’s State of Nation Address. Much of the debates of the last few days have centred not on the President’s remarks but on the former president F.W. de Klerk and on the crime of apartheid as a crime against humanity. Most of the criticism came from Father (Fr) Michael Lapsey who lost both his hands and an eye from a bomb concealed in two religious magazines. He referred to the “frozen reconciliation” that obstructs South Africa’s (SA) march to freedom. He suggested that the Department should be allowed to present a roadmap and the progress report on how they have taken the public participation process forward and also present a report on the outcomes. This formed part of the mandate of the Presidential Task Team on Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development. This Committee must take their recommendations on review and see which of the Department’s proposals have been drafted according to their Annual Performance Plan which will then be revisited as part of the coming presentations. The Committee is required by law to give expression to the constitutional provisions especially as it pertains to non-discrimination and gender advocacy. He ended off by saying that the Department is the major contributor in accounting on the progress made because it pertains to the mandate of this Committee.
Briefing on the Response by the Department to the 2020 State of the Nation Address
Dr Jemina Moeng, Chief Director (CD), Food Security: Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (DALRRD), stated that the President in the SONA speech this year stated that government will implement key recommendations of the Presidential Advisory Panel on Land Reform and Agriculture to accelerate land redistribution, expand agricultural production and transform the industry.
Government’s response to the recommendations of the Advisory Panel was approved by Cabinet in December 2019. The DALRRD in collaboration with all the affected departments has developed a programme of action /implementation plan for addressing all the accepted recommendations. Progress reports on the implementation of the plan will be presented to the IMC (Inter-Ministerial Committee) on Land Reform quarterly.
Dr Moeng said that the President pronounced that government is prioritising youth, women, people with disabilities, those who have been farming on communal land and are ready to expand their operations for training and the allocation of land. Here the Department responded that the Beneficiary Selection and Land Allocation Policy was presented to Cabinet in December 2019. This policy provides for prioritising those who need land and for transparency; defines how they will be selected and purposefully redresses gender imbalances in land ownership by revising existing customary and statutory laws rules of property administration. The DALRRD will therefore Identify, affirm, prioritise and assist “organic” farmers and remove red tape. 50% of the land will be allocated to women farmers. Youth in agriculture will be targeted to introduce a new cohort of producers. 40% of the land will be allocated to youth small holder farmers. The Department will also target participation of women in market access.
Dr Moeng said that the President had pronounced that to date, it has released 44,000 hectares of state land for the settlement of land restitution claims, and will release around 700,000 hectares of state land for agricultural production this year.
The Department’s response was that the DALRRD is in the process of developing an allocation plan for the 700 000 hectares of agricultural state-land that has been identified. The allocation process will among others be guided by the provisions of the Beneficiary Selection and Allocation Policy as discussed above. Youth women and people with disabilities will be prioritised. In addition, those who already work the land (smallholders and subsistence farmers) will be prioritised during allocation.
Inkosi Cebekhulu (IFP) said he feels the Department seems to be repeating itself with regard to assisting the people to work the land. The extension officers are not trained and lands that should have been used to enable the unemployed to put food on their tables are still lying fallow. Something needs to be done with regard to training the extension officers. On the issue of organic food, the Department should encourage people to work the land organically instead of using fertilisers.
Ms T Mbabama (DA) asked when details will be made available regarding the 700 hectares. ‘There was an example of the Agricultural Masterplan on Commodity and Mapping, is this just an example and will the Committee be getting a proper report on it at a later stage’? With regard to the 54 000 jobs saved in the poultry masterplan, Ms Mbabama asked how this figure was reached. ‘What does setting phytosanitary conditions for hemp seeds mean’?
Mr N Masipa (DA) asked if commercial agriculture is part of the work that is being planned regarding the roll out of the support for farmers, youth and previously disadvantaged persons. ‘Will this be done especially around the 700 hectares target in addressing agricultural production’?
Ms T Breedt (FF+) said that in previous meetings, the agreement was that assistance will be provided to farmers who are able and willing to farm. Although it is going to empower women and youth, the fear is that by focusing only on them, the emerging and subsistence farmers are being ignored. Speaking of youth, it is 40% of the 700 hectares that is going to them when indeed agriculture is not a popular profession or career choice for this variable. ‘How is the Department equipping the youth to want to farm and be able to farm when they have this land’? ‘There seems to be too big a focus on the concurrence of the national department and provincial departments as implementing agents, how are they addressing it’? The Committee will also want to see action plans and time frames for all of these projects.
Ms A Steyn (DA) was concerned about the drought resistance seed mentioned in the President’s SONA speech. ‘Knowing that there were provinces that did not take up the seed, can the Committee get an update on the planting and harvesting impact of this seed in the last season’? On the cannabis issue, two years ago the Committee had a presentation on the certain requirements in this regard. ‘Could the Department update the Committee on this matter’? ‘Is there something to look up in the two pieces of legislation being considered as a matter of urgency? ‘With the 300 youth identified as already trained, what programme is this under’? ‘How is this advertised and do the youth know about this’? On state land that the Minister replied to in a written question, the answer was that about 6 000 farms were currently under state control with leases on it, 50% does not have a valid lease agreement. Some of the reasons advanced was the invasion of land and that the state land lease policy has changed; the question to the Department is if they bring the Committee information regarding 44 000 hectares and 700 000 hectares, the Committee would want to know about this so what currently is the lease status? The Committee wants to have a full data base of all state land.
Mr N Capa (ANC) wanted to be sure what true the position is. ‘Is the 300 youth to be recruited or still to be identified’? As the department is already working with them, they should be able to know who to take for this programme because recruitment does not produce the exact material and calibre of people needed. ‘What will the Department do to ensure that the youth selected are passionate about farming’? ‘What are the incentives given that propels them to like farming’? There is a worry about the euphemistic approach between hemp and cannabis. There is the belief that the emphasis on cannabis is deliberate because it has a negative connotation and must be controlled.
Mr M Montwedi (EFF) said the Department spoke of the release of 44 000 hectares of state land, and another 700 000; there has been a serious crisis with regard to the land audit; ‘do we know which land belongs to who in all municipalities’? The understanding is that work on the land audit is not yet completed as the traditional leadership has also not received the report. In terms of the land audit, there is state and traditional land. ‘Which land was released’? ‘When the 44 000 hectares was released, who did the Department speak to’? ‘Could the Committee get the report if it has already been compiled’? ‘On the issue of Section 25, is there any duplication of the mandate because the Expropriation Act lies with the Department of Public Works even though the bulk of the implementation is with the Department of Rural Development’? ‘Don’t you think that this Department should have expropriation powers in all matters relating to land’? ‘How is the work on agro parks progressing’? On the Masterplan, there was a crisis matter raised about it in Parliament in 2017 with the hope that the previous Parliament should have dealt with it especially in the sugar industry. The worry is that the Department’s plan to fix the crisis in this sector is already too late because sugar mills are closing down rapidly. ‘What will the plan achieve when the industry has already collapsed’? ‘On organic farming, why are farmers who are on communal land using genetically modified seeds being referred to as organic farmers’?
Ms N Mahlo (ANC) welcomed the presentation. The Department said they will target women and youth in market access. ‘What are they actually going to do to accomplish this’? On the allocation process that is said to be guided by the provisions of the Beneficiary Selection and Allocation Policy; this Committee must interrogate this policy to ascertain if it fits into the environment we live in. ‘When will the Property Valuation Act be reviewed’? It is said that 300 youth per district will be recruited and trained, the Committee will like to have the names of those young people recruited for this purpose. On the provision of technical support towards poultry production; in a Committee site visit to KZN, it was realised that veterinary services were not operational. ‘How will the Department provide technical support in poultry production when there are no veterinarians available’?
Ms M Tlhape (ANC) asked if the Department feeds into the Presidents’ SONA pronouncements. ‘Do we have a policy on organic farming’? ‘Has land restitution allocations been done for the 44 000 hectares of state land earmarked for settlements’. ‘In which provinces and municipalities are these’? ‘What is the released land used for’? ‘On the 700 000 envisaged to be released this year, could the Committee be briefed on what provinces this will cover and what the provincial distribution will be’?
The Chairperson appreciated the presentation and said that it poses some questions as well. He said his concern is on beneficiary selection and land allocation policy which talks to prioritisation of youth, women and people with disabilities and communal farmers. The deployment of beneficiary selection and the Land Allocation Policy is welcome and the Department should indicate how far this process is to finalise the policy. The Committee would like to know the policy prioritisation of those that need land which as stated meets the variable just mentioned including the farm dwellers. The Department should also explain what it means by identification, affirmation and prioritisation of organic farmers; and if there is a policy on organic farming in the country and if not state how it is going to assist potential organic farmers with the removal of red tape. It was also mentioned in the presentation that 50% of land will be allocated to women and 40% to youth; ‘could the Department explain from which specific land in terms of hectares’? ‘Is it going to come from 44 000 hectares that has already been spoken about or from the 700 000’? ‘In addition, currently, how much land has been redistributed to women and youth’? Market access is a huge challenge to youth and small holder farmers. ‘Is the Department planning on targeting the participation of women and youth in market related access to land’? ‘What about other farmer categories that do not have access to markets’? ‘The Committee will also like to know how Indians, Khoi San and Coloured people’s needs with regard to access have been addressed’. In terms of land redistribution and agricultural production, the Department reports that to date it has been able to dispense with the 44 000 hectares of state land which has been released for settlement of restitution claims, and this year it will release another 700 000 hectares of state land for agricultural production. This is a welcome development and contributes hugely to land reform. A detailed table that clearly shows the distribution of this 44 000 hectares and land sizes of restitution claims across the provinces as well as the identified 700 000 hectares of state land would have been useful. The Committee would like to revisit this in order to satisfy itself as to where this land is located. The Department should therefore provide information to the Committee indicating from which year this 44 000 hectares of state land was released for redistribution, and which in areas in terms of municipalities or provinces. ‘This should show how much land in each case and what is it used for’? The Chairperson said that the Department should also provide and indicate the provincial distribution of the identified 700 000 hectares of state land for agricultural production and the kind of agricultural commodities the land is suitable for. Since the Department has prioritised women in agriculture and hosts the female farmer awards, it was expected that the presentation would at least shed some light on earmarked women owned agricultural businesses that could be assisted through the SHE-trade ZA platform. Domestic access still remains a challenge to women and small farmers. The presentation did not highlight anything about the empowerment of women except the prioritisation for land allocation without specific details on how female farmers and agri-businesses are going to be assisted for participation in the global value chain and markets. In the creation of markets for small businesses, the Department should shed some light on which agri-products will form part of the 1 000 locally produced products that must be procured from SMMEs as pronounced by the President.
Mr Mike Mlengana, Director-General (DG), Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development, in response stated that the questions raised by Members cannot be answered within this short space of time. He extended his appreciation for the leadership qualities of Members of the Committee, their insights, depth of knowledge and interest in the issues at hand. Since Members are aware of these issues, the Department’s approach can never be superficial. The Department would like to request that it would assist the Committee if it could have some of the questions in writing as well. This will help the Department to be specific in relating to them. Issues such as districts and provinces as they relates to the 44 000 hectares, that information is available and now that there is an awareness of what is needed, the Department will endeavour to dig in and provide the required answers. ‘Will 10% be enough for small holder and subsistence farmers’? ‘What happened to former President Kgalema Motlanthe’s report’?
With regard to the issues raised such as the Agricultural Masterplan and the criteria for selecting them, and the Beneficiary Selection criteria; the policy is already published and available. The Department is just converging as it is in a transition. There are issues that are specific to other Departments still being dealt with within this Department and the convergence will help to address them. On the issue of language being misused regarding organic agriculture; what was meant there is organic growth. In the rural areas one has farmers whose growth of produce is never dependent on assistance from anyone and they use their own organic means. The questions asked by the Chairperson are more detailed and the Department will humbly request for it to be answered in writing.
Dr Moeng in response thanked Members for their insightful questions and said that it showed the extent of knowledge that Members had in the field. On involving Extension Officers; it is something the DG will take note of and the Department is in the process of empowering unemployed graduates through a two-year programme. It started last year and they are placed on farms and the intention is to target the youth in farming. On Extension Officers, there is already an Extension Recovery Programme in place. It is aimed at empowering Extension Officers with an intention to support farmers. The Department procures suitable equipment for them, trains and exposes them to fields of registration as professionals. On the fertilizers, it is something the Department will take home to ponder on about where it will be kept as it aims to support organic farming. The Department is supporting organic farming as opposed to organic farmers, and the farmers are being prepared to be certified through the certification process.
The Department will provide the details requested with regard to the 700 000 hectares and Dr Moeng added that a lot of work has already taken place on land capability, soil classification and the spread of the hectares per province. That work has been done and what is remaining is the verification and assessment of the needs on those farms. As a result of the high number of unemployed youth, the DG and all other stakeholders are working on bringing the youth to choose agriculture as a profession. The work being done is at an advanced stage and what is left is looking at what to do to make that land fully functional. In an assessment that was done on those lands, the Agricultural Potential (Class 1) is zero, Class 2 is about 5 000 hectares and the rest is just marginal. This information will be provided to the Committee. On the involvement of the commercial sector in this work to improve production, this is being noted.
On how to encourage youth to participate in agriculture and create interest, the Department wants the Committee to visit some of its programmes especially the June Youth programmes which is always the highlight of the Department where the youth are encouraged to participate in agriculture. It is a whole day event where farms are visited, and young farmers are honoured in an evening event.
Dr Moeng said that another event is a woman only farmer’s event. Here female farmers are recognised. The Department also notes the impact of the drought resistance seeds. The Department is trying its best to strengthen the Agricultural Research Council (ARC) in all respects. It wants to ensure that these seeds are produced by the ARC and provinces are allowed to buy them. A farmer in Mpumalanga has confessed to the effectiveness of the seeds and was happy and had to share the information with her province. The Section 25 review on expropriation is mainly driven by the Department of Public Works and the Inter-Ministerial Committee (IMC) keeping in mind that the Department of Public Works owns most of the state properties and that the actual transfer of land lies with the Minister of this Department. These are all cabinet processes. The closure of sugar mills is being taken note of too.
Mr Mooketsa Ramasodi, Deputy Director-General (DDG): Agricultural Production, Health and Food Safety, DALRRD, also responded to the issue of cannabis. On a scientific point of view, cannabis has two related varieties. One is Hemp and another is Marijuana or Dagga. This family has got 70 compounds that differentiates it from others. Hemp has got lower TC (tissue culture) than Dagga. What the President was referring to in terms of the commercialisation strategy was Hemp. In terms of Hemp there were studies that were done since 1999 by the Department through the ARC. Through these studies the Department has developed two seed varieties for Hemp (SA Hemp 1 & 2). Through the Agricultural Marketing Council (AMC) the Department conducted feasibility studies from an economic point of view on the use of Hemp. All of the studies point to the potential of success to plant Hemp in SA. What prohibited the Department from going ahead is the existence of two legislative Acts that prohibits the planting of Hemp. The Drug and Drug Trafficking Act of 1992 as administered by the Department of Justice and Correctional Services and the Medicines and Substance Act that is administered by the Department of Health. The first piece of legislation prohibits the possession while the other looks at the scheduling and utilisation of Hemp. If they are not repealed there will be no commercialisation strategy. The President has set up An Inter-Ministerial Council that comprises all the departments that were referred to by Members in terms of dealing with the Hemp issue. There are three critical areas being looked at; a look at the legislative space and how to remove the legislative impediments that prohibit commercialisation; coming up with a policy framework that would ensure the Department was on par with to ensure commercialisation; and lastly a strategy that the President alluded to. All the departments concerned are working as a team to ensure commercialisation happens and there is optimism that by 30 June 2020, the Department would have done the necessaries. Also it has to be noted that before a seed could be used in SA it has to be registered. Three acts of importance when it relates to seeds are: the plant breeders’ rights; plant improvement rights and the Agricultural Pest Act to ensure a risk assessment has been carried out on the plant to ensure it is not going to be risky and evasive. Seeds therefore should not be imported from countries that have diseases and pests from a risk assessment point of view. It is important that before any commercialisation can take place the seeds are also registered.
Mr Nasele Mehlomakulu, Acting Deputy Director-General, Rural Infrastructure Development: DALRRD, reported that according to the latest judgement on the Office of the Valuer General (OVG) issue, the court said that the OVG office does not have the final say on the value of the property but the Minister, and if there is a dispute between the Minister and the land owner, then it could be taken to the courts. Based on that, the Department is on a review process and the Minister has appointed a team of specialists to look into the Act with a timeline to provide feedbacks around June 2020.
Mr Rirhandzu Shilote, Chief Director, DALRRD stated that Cabinet approved the draft policy after it was taken through the IMC process. In January 2020, the policy was published for public comments in the Government Gazette and the comments window will close 03 March 2020. After this, the Department will go through the comments and specific role players to crystallise the inputs, refine the policy and take it through Cabinet again for finalisation. The Department also noted the issues relating to the farm workers and farm dwellers and if there is a gap in the policy, it will be strengthened. On the issue of the allocation of 44 000 hectares to women and youth, it has to be clarified that the 44 000 hectares is for restitution. These are land claims by individuals and communities and does not affect the allocation.
Mr Sidumo Dlamini, Deputy Minister of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development, apologised for arriving late and said he has not got much to say and feels humbled by the grasp of issues these Committee Members have on the issues at hand and that all the issues raised are taken very seriously.
Briefing on the Stimulus Package Update Report
Mr Shilote, in his presentation, indicated that the stimulus package projects are being supported through the Land Development Support Policy which came into effect after the termination of the Recapitalisation and Development Programme introduced in 2018/19.
The main criteria for identifying the 262 projects are:
1. Farms must be commercially viable. The assumption is that once they are supported they would not take long to produce optimally so that they can contribute towards growth of the economy and finally achieving food security for households and the country as a whole and create necessary jobs; and
2. The farms should not have received recapitalisation previously. This would also assist in reducing the backlog on farms requiring support through a targeted intervention given their potential to succeed.
Action Plan on Outstanding Activities
- Signing of Tripartite Agreements by farmers and the Department by 14 February 2020;
- Revision of Implementation Plans and sign-off by farmers by 14 February 2020;
- Transfer of funds to Holding Accounts by end of February 2020; and
- Implementation of Business Plans in preparation for winter crops in the Western Cape and next summer season for other provinces.
Challenges which caused a delay in implementation;
* Process to be followed as required by Section 66(1) of the Public Finance Management
* Act No. 1 of 1999 (PFMA);
* Section 66(2) Section 70 of the PFMA; and
* Interpretation of the Principal Agency principle from the National Treasury Regulations. The
process above delayed the opening of Grant Holding accounts and the signing of the
tripartite agreement between the bank, farmers and the Department.
Briefing on the District Development Model: Pilot Progress Report
Mr Nasele stated in this presentation that the District Development Model (DDM) announced by the President seeks to address the silos and the lack of coherence of planning and implementation in all spheres of governance. The first launch of the Model took place in OR Tambo District Municipality on 17 September 2019. The second launch was held in eThekwini Metropolitan Municipality on 18 October 2019. The third and last launch was held in Waterberg District Municipality on the 26th of November 2019. The overall aim of these launches is amongst others, to kick-start a diagnostic process towards the formulation of “ONE PLAN” for implementation in each of the 52 districts and metro spaces. This plan will ensure that government plans and implements in unison with other stakeholders over the short, medium and long terms. This plan will also address current challenges of poor intergovernmental coordination, planning, budgeting and implementation. This plan is directly linked to the District Rural Development Plans developed by Spatial Planning and Land Use Management (SPLUM). As part of the DALRRD Strategy for re-prioritisation, the NARYSEC youth programme has been identified to pilot the DDM. 300 youth per District will be targeted. Mr Nasele outlined the Khawuleza Programme Pilot Roadmap with the respective districts and time frames.
The DG added that as far as this work is concerned, it has garnered support among various departments and the call of the President for breaking silos is being heard. As far as the 1 000 youth in Thaba Nchu are concerned, the consequences of the lack of work has manifested in ill-discipline amongst the youth. They will be taken through the process of farming production discipline. After that they will be taken to various districts as per the profile which was presented to Members last week. A detailed profile of each district has been undertaken showing the specific needs of the district, the skills needed, the commodity needed and so forth. At the core of all of this is mass production, mass agro-processing and mass localised consumption. The Department is working with the FAO (Food and Agricultural Organisation) in various provinces.
Mr Capa asked about the commercial viability of the farms and who would make them viable. There are cases where people were given farms that were not commercially viable and given obsolete equipment and this have to be corrected. ‘Could the Committee get some clarity on this’? ‘On commodity groups, why is there no presence of Grain SA in the Eastern Cape? ‘On pilots, are we having nine pilots in every province’? ‘On agricultural skills, what does that mean and entail’?
Ms Steyn said she gets more confused by the minute. The presenter when talking about the district model mentioned district parasites. ‘What does that mean’? The Committee also had not received any documents on agri-parks and this matter cannot be said to be shelved. A lot of money was spent on this and one other thing money was spent on was to write business plans. ‘What has happened to that’? ‘What happened to PHAKISA’? Government spends millions every year on plans, launches and new things but when it gets presented to the Parliament it is the same thing just with a new name. ‘Are the youth engaged in your programmes paid a stipend’? ‘What awaits them after 12 weeks of engagement’? Looking up the three districts that was launched it is shocking to find Makati in the OR Tambo district as Makati received at least R150 million in the last ten years and this is not a viable project. ‘Will more money be pumped in there’? ‘Why do we have to pick the same projects over and over again and yet no success is recorded’? Either a new project has to be inaugurated or private people engaged to run them. She asked how the service providers were chosen and what the terms of reference were. Last week she visited a farmer who was in the Recap Programme and he had nothing. He just asked for a tractor and nothing else was given to him. They do not know the cost of the tractor and how much money was spent on Recap funding. The full list of every cent that was spent on every farm must be provided to this Committee. That farmer did not get the amount registered in the books and between the farmers and the Department funds are missing.
Ms Mbabama said that there were just too many plans and no action. If she was a new Member she would have been so impressed with the presentation because it was saying all the right things but there is a big disconnect between the plans what is on the ground.
Inkosi Cebekhulu agreed with the observations made by the last speaker. He asked what criteria were used in identifying the areas especially in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN). The Durban Metro was identified there was a high concentration of unemployed youth there. Driving around that metro, the area is mostly residential instead of the agricultural which was stated as the reason for its choice. There are other districts that fit into the rural and agricultural profile but were not chosen. ‘Why choose the metros where no agricultural activity was taking place’?
Mr Masipa said the concern is the problem of the ARC regarding their capacity to deliver within their mandate. The question is how the ARC was evaluated in terms of being able to fulfil this because according to the AG report they have failed in number of areas. Another important area is the Land Bank. The Land Bank is there to assist with financial products that will facilitate access to finance by the new entrants to agriculture from historically disadvantaged backgrounds. ‘Why couldn’t the Department and Land Bank sit in one room to iron out the problem and see how to reach common ground’? ‘Is the Agriculture Job Fund Programme part of this project and how is it going to be rolled out’? ‘Is the R3.9 billion Blended Finance Model now completely out of the way’?
Mrs Breedt said that the Department is still operating in silos. It speaks about 33 new projects in the district models and one is conflicted because last year one heard of 44 new projects. It is not clear cut how they were identified and yet we do not know what is happening to the agri-parks. The DG talks of mass agro-processing but not even one in the Free state is functional. ‘Some of these plans look good on paper but they are just dreams’. ‘What are the time frames’?
Ms B Tshwete (ANC) said that she noted two things. One is the issue of the Land Bank. Last year the Land Bank was called to give the Committee a presentation and when asked about their mandate, they said that when it comes to Blended Finance, they only pay the beneficiaries that they receive from the Department. The Department chooses the beneficiaries based on their own selection criteria. Later the Committee hear that between the Department and the Land Bank there was R3.9 Billion outstanding that was put on hold. That money was meant for black commercial farmers. People are suffering because these two bodies could not agree. ‘What is meant by reinventing the wheel’? ‘Is it about changing the criteria or the allocation’? It is only the farmers who were suffering and this does not help the country as whole as they are unable to assist in job creation and food security. The new District Development Model is very similar to the same one presented last year. The concerns raised last year still holds true especially regarding the exit plans of these young people. After two years of training, these young people go back to nothing and start wandering around and are then regarded as unemployed youth. ‘What is the exit plan about when placing them in an industry’? The R3.9 Billion Land Bank issue should be documented and this Committee needs a response about it from the Department. ‘What really happened to the Blended Finance’?
Mr Montwedi noted that the DG in one meeting had said that he approves of presentations given to the Committee. Therefore it is worrying that the DG is approving presentations that are in conflict with each other. There was a presentation given last year obviously approved by the DG that said that Blended Finance Model was discontinued because of corruption from Departmental Officials. But in today’s presentation, it is saying something different from that and it is worrying. ‘How many equity deals were concluded through that programme and what is still left with Land Bank’? Last September the Department in their presentation to this Committee said that they had problems with the PFMA and the same thing is repeated today after it was identified a long time ago. ‘What was done to fix some those challenges’? The Department also said it has committed R1.2 Billion to special products. Yet it is also said that it allocated R897million and that is only on paper. In fact, only 17% of that budget has been allocated and the rest is unspent. A farmer during an oversight tour stated that nothing has been done for them. ‘What role will this Department play in instances where the Department of Minerals and Energy invades arable and agricultural land’? This Department has always kept quiet on issues like this. Another issue is the 1 000 recruited young people who are said to be from the SANDF but who also on their own have recruited young people for a three-year programme on agriculture. There is an obvious duplication in terms of that programme.
Ms K Mahlatsi (ANC) agreed with Members on many issues because what was presented before is similar to this one. On the NARESEC programme, the Committee told the Department that before it implements this programme; they should have a strategy in place to be presented to this Committee. Since inception of the programme, R5.3 Billion has been spent on NARESEC. That should be value for money and SA citizens must be assured that their tax money is utilised efficiently by government departments. When next they present on NARESEC, the Committee must see that new strategy. The Department is speaking in tongues on the Land Bank issue. ‘When they initially had an agreement with the Land Bank did they not initially deal with the issues being raised today in terms of administering the processes?
The Chairperson told Members who were not satisfied with responses to utilise the Secretariat to ensure that their questions are not left unattended. He proposed that the questions posed should be well captured by the Department who could come back on a date yet to be announced. He added to some of the questions already raised by the Members and asked the Department to note them too. The Department was piloting a comprehensive rural development programme and also agri parks, but the problem is that this piloting caused R500 million to be spent. And when one goes to the site where this money was supposed to have been spent there is nothing to show for it. The District Development Model being spoken of was executed in the OR Tambo District Municipality that also had an agri park and R45 million was spent on that agri-park. ‘Does it still exist’? Another R150 million was spent at Makwati and yet there is nothing to show for all this money. One is a bit wary of all the pilots. They speak of working with 1 000 youth with stakeholders that include traditional leaders; ‘how many of these young people come from a traditional authority and are sponsored by them’?
On the Stimulus Package, the report states that the Department pulled out of the Blended Finance Model and no discussions on the status thereof has been through to this Committee. The reason for withdrawing was said to be because the Land bank wanted to re-invent the wheel with regard to technical and financial assessments. This contradicts the Report from the Department presented on 10 September 2019 where it was reported that the main reason for withdrawal was corruption. ‘What then was the role of the former Department in the Blended Finance Model’? It is also unclear if the Department has discontinued the Blended Finance Model or not. This report seems to be incomplete because it does not account for the contribution of the former DAFF into the Stimulus Package via the Land Bank allocation. On the distribution of approved projects per province, the Department spoke of 143 approved projects. About R1.2 Billion is budgeted for commodity organisations supporting farmers. The Committee wants to understand why the report is more about expenditure to commodity organisations and silent on the effect of expenditure on farmers and on the designated groups that are supposed to be supported including the social economic impact assessment. The Committee therefore requested copies of sample of agreements; and all tripartite agreements with commodity organisations. The Department was asked to attend to the questions posed in the 04 March 2020 meeting.
Minutes of meetings held on the 11 November 2019, 4 February 2020 and 11 February 2020 were adopted without amendments.
The meeting was adjourned.
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