Department of Agriculture, Land Reform & Rural Development 2020/21 Annual Performance Plan; with Ministry

Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development

05 May 2020
Chairperson: Nkosi Z Mandela (ANC); Ms T Modise (ANC; North West)
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Meeting Summary

Video: JM: PC on Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development and SC on Land Reform, Environment, Minerals and Energy 5 May 2020
Audio: Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development  2020/21 Annual Performance Plan

Annual Performance Plan (APP) of Government Departments & Entities 20/2021

In this virtual Portfolio and Select Committee joint meeting with the Minister, the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (DALRRD) presented its Strategic and Annual Performance Plans and Budget for the 2020/21 financial year.

Minister Didiza stated that R1.2 billion had been made available in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and farmers who had a yearly turnover of at least R20 000 were to be accommodated in the relief plan. Within  the first application window between the 8 and 22 April 2020, 55 000 applications were received.

The Department outlined its targets and budget for each of its six programmes: Administration; Agricultural Production, Health, Food Safety, Natural Resources and Disaster Management; Food Security, Land Reform and Restitution; Rural Development; Economic Development, Trade and Marketing; Land Administration.
  
Committees members asked about excess staff after the merger between the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries and the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform; about its state of readiness for expanding markets throughout Africa;  the Department response to the drought and the COVID-19 pandemic; why there were now only nine Agri-Parks to be implemented; about its disaster management plan; about the Department's oversight role of the ailing Land Bank; if the criteria for applications for farms had the effect of excluding emerging black farmers and if feedback had been given to applicants whose applications had been unsuccessful; and about the commitment to the Lamoosa judgement.

Meeting report

Nkosi Z Mandela, Portfolio Committee Chairperson, thanked the IT Division that played a support role in the meeting and especially welcomed the Minister of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development for her presence in the virtual meeting. An apology was noted from Director General Mike Mlengana.

Minister's opening remarks
Minister Thoko Didiza stated that the Department had requested R1.2 billion from Treasury to assist farmers who were negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The initial criteria was helping farmers whose annual turnover was at least R50 000, but this had been revised to accommodate smaller scale farmers whose yearly turnover was at least R20 000. DALRRD was assessing the impact of COVID-19 on agriculture and SADC was to hold meetings in response to the pandemic.

The Minister stated that DALRRD had tabled its organisational structure to work with DPSA in accommodating those officials who had been affected by the restructuring model when the departments were reconfigured after the June 2019 elections. Those staff members who were not yet accommodated and absorbed into the new structure were to be accommodated in due time to ensure that no one was left out; except for cases where the staff members wished to exercise different options.

The Minister responded to some previous Committee questions:
• On administration and the posts that remained vacant within the structure, it was the Presidency which had the power to appoint executive members such as the DG and DDG and not the Department itself.
• Agri-Parks were to continue and there was no contradiction between the Agri- Parks and the District Development Model, which was a nationwide government programme. Agri-Parks were projects within a district, aimed at stimulating agricultural work in a particular district.
• The Department was working with the Land Bank to come up with a strategic method to help the Land Bank with the challenges it was facing in terms of funding.

At this point the Minister was excused to attend an AU virtual meeting. She said that the two Deputy Ministers would remain available to answer questions that may arise during her absence. She would return once the AU meeting was finished.

Department of Agriculture, Land Reform & Rural Development 2020/21 Annual Performance Plan
Director General Mdu Shabane handed over to a senior manager to present. The focus of the DALRRD six programmes were noted and the targets:
• Administration: The focus was on compliance and accountability with regards to public funds.
• Agricultural Production, Health, Food Safety, Natural Resources and Disaster Management: The focus was on increased production in the agricultural sector by increasing production of indigenous plants and animal improvement schemes. DALRRD was looking into finalising the Cannabis Master Plan and was planning to implement it in the current financial year. DALRRD was looking into implementing a Climate Change mitigation and adaptation plan and its target was to have 120 smallholder producers capacitated on crop suitability and climate change.
• Food Security, Land Reform and Restitution: Targets for incorporating smallholder and medium scale producers into the blended finance plan were noted and 1100 students would be enrolled in agricultural training.
• Rural Development: 7591 skills development opportunities would be offered to those meeting the criteria and DALRRD was targeting to create 5652 jobs in rural areas.
• Economic Development, Trade and Marketing: The emphasis was on policy development and reviewing the marketing of agricultural products.
• Land Administration: The target was the approval of the land administration legislative framework, the development of the national land information system and the development of electronic disc registration system (phase 1). Other targets were piloting three District Recordal projects, five National Spatial Development Framework projects implemented, 23 District Development Plans (Operation Khauleza) and 477 communal property associations targeted for support to ensure their compliance with legislation.

DALRRD 2020/21 Budget
The DALRRD CFO provided a breakdown of the 2020/21 budget allocation for each of the six programmes (see document). In 2009 when the Department of Agriculture merged with Forestry and Fisheries, there was no budget allocation for office accommodation and it had to reprioritise; hence the increase in the budget allocation to account for that. On the 30 days for invoice payment, he stated that if the invoice documents are in order, the person would be paid in 15 days. He noted that the bulk of the budget went to core business while the rest went to organisational support.

Ms Rendani Sadiki was supposed to present on the DALRRD organisational structure but there was a  technical problem on her side.

DALRRD responses to previous Committee questions
Mr Shabane suggested the Department answer the questions submitted by Committee members previously  and the Chair welcomed this.

The DALRRD CFO replied that he had already addressed the question on office accommodation and the one on invoice payments within 30 days.

On how far DALRRD was with the applications for farms, he replied that the closing date for the applications was on 20 January 2020, 725 applications were received and 162 met the initial criteria for further assessment. Of these, 87 met all the requirements to initiate site inspections and continue with technical due diligence. The outcome of the site inspections resulted in 67 of the applications qualifying for financial assistance by the Land Bank and these were submitted to the Land Bank for financial due diligence.

On whether DALRRD had budgeted for disaster management, he replied that disasters were accounted for by the National Disaster Management Centre which would allocate financial resources should it deem such measures necessary.

On the R1.7 billion in the document which the Committee had queried, he replied that it was an error and the correct amount was R1.2 billion.

Ms Rendani Sadiki replied about the tabling of the Regulation of Agricultural Land Holdings Bill, saying that there were aspects of the Bill that still needed further deliberations and DALRRD was busy with consultations on it. One issue that appeared to be problematic in the Bill was that of foreign ownership of land.

On the Communal Land Tenure Bill, Ms Sadiki replied that the Bill still required a lot of consultation and that DALRRD would give notice to the Committees with regards to its progress.

On the request for the inclusion of time-lines for the tabling of the bills in Parliament, she said that the time-lines had been finalised and included in DALRRD plans.

Ms Sadiki explained that the macro-structure of the new department, DALRRD, had been approved in November 2019. On the status of department senior management service (SMS) members, the mandatory consultation with the members of SMS had been delayed due to the COVID-19 virus outbreak and would resume in due course.

Answering the question on DALRRD vacancies, Ms Sadiki said that vacancies accounted for 13% of the full staff capacity and this amounted to 945 vacancies. The assessment of supernumerary staff indicated that there were 95 vacancies at SMS level.

On DALRRD’s plans in the Medium Term Strategic Framework, Director General Shabane replied that DALRRD was targeting to revive agricultural land across the provinces and there would be a rolling out of the Agro-Processing and Agriculture Master plan in the coming two to three months. There was an ongoing audit of communal land. DALRRD would continue with the implementation of Agri Parks. DALRRD still outsourced some of its functions such as internal auditors.

Mr Shabane replied about the DALRRD response to the COVID-19 crisis. The Blended Finance Programme had been stopped from operation to review it. R800 million was withdrawn from it and R600 million from it was redirected to the COVID-19 response in support of small scale farmers.

Mr Shabane replied that a master plan to aid the sugar industry existed and 11 000 sugar cane farmers DALRRD had targeted to assist.

On the 2014 plan to produce 2500 commercial farmers, Mr Shabane replied that farmers had been assisted with land acquisition, some of whom had reached a commercial level in the industry.
 

He replied that 1 600 CPAs are registered.

Mr Shabane said that DALRRD had been allocated R1.2 billion to mitigate the impact of COVID-19. Farmer support was to be provided. The Department would be helping communities by providing seeds instead of food parcels, as this would provide long term relief. 27 Farmer Production Support Units (FPSUs) would be maintained during this time.

On the impact of COVID-19 on the DALRRD budget, Mr Shabane replied that the COVID-19 pandemic had led to the budget being reprioritised in order to help farmers and other stakeholders during the crisis. There was talk of further budget cuts but there has been no indication of money, if any, being taken from DALRRD.

On the criteria being used to identify smallholder farmers for support during the pandemic, Mr Shabane replied that the qualifying criteria was initially to support farmers with a turnover of at least R50 000 per annum and this was revised to R20 000 per annum. As a result, 55 000 applications were received between the 8 and 22 April 2020. These are being evalauted. A second window will be opened thereafter for

On the Transformation of Certain Rural Areas Act (TRANCRAA) land which consists of 1.3 million hectares, DALRRD has plans in place to ensure that the land was transferred to the communities by the end of the financial year. However, with COVID-19 travel restrictions, it might not be possible to transfer all the land but the plans would continue as stipulated.

Discussion
Ms W Ngwenya (ANC, Gauteng) asked DALRRD what its plans were to ensure success with its APP and budget. She asked the Minister about the Lamoosa judgement on the 1998 land claims. What was the progress in addressing the commitment the Minister made in her budget speech last year to deal with the 1998 claims.

Mr T Matibe (ANC, Limpopo) asked about the Department's state of readiness for expanding its market and trade throughout Africa. He asked how DALRRD was responding to both the drought and the COVID-19 pandemic given that there was a drought challenge before the pandemic outbreak.

Ms M Thlape (ANC) asked why there were only nine Agri-Parks for implementation as that suggested the distribution would be only one per province. She requested DALRRD make a submission about its infrastructure targeted projects. There had been reports of farm evictions and she asked how DALRRD was helping those evicted.

Ms A Steyn (DA) said that a proper disaster management plan had to be submitted by DALRRD to Treasury. He asked DALRRD for further elaboration on its plans for Food Security and Land Reform.

Mr M Nhanha (DA, Eastern Cape) asked for clarity on what DALRRD meant by stating that 83% of the budget had gone to organisational support.

Mr C Smith (DA, Limpopo) asked where in the budget specifically were changes made to account for the COVID-19 pandemic. The Land Bank was facing financial challenges and it had been offered R100 million by DALRRD. How was the Department planning to ensure accountability of those funds provided?

Mr M Montwedi (EFF) stated that DALRRD was supposed to play an oversight role over Land Bank. He asked how difficult was this to realise and achieve.

Mr Montwedi said that the applications made to DALRRD indicated an exclusion of emerging black farmers. He asked if DALRRD had given feedback to all applicants despite their applications being unsuccessful.

Mr Montwedi asked how soon DALRRD was planning to implement its blended finance strategy. He asked  how soon the applications for COVID-19 relief would start being processed.

Ms T Breedt (FF+) stated that food security was a major priority and hence requested a report on how it would be maintained throughout. She asked about the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic that would be felt specifically by the agricultural sector. Not all farmers were able to apply for relief and she asked DALRRD to inform the Committee when the new application window period would be commencing. She said that there was no clear relief to those farmers who were not farmers of essential produce. She gave an example of this as the grape farmers who are linked to the wine production industry.

Chairperson Mandela requested that the DG and two Deputy Ministers answer the questions.

Responses
Mr Shabane replied to the question about the limitation of Agri- Parks to only nine, saying that the number had been revised by the Department following the COVID-19 outbreak. DALRRD was seeking partnership with the African Development Bank and suggestions had been made to bring the private sector on board to ensure the attainment of more funds.

On farm eviction assistance, Mr Shabane replied that the Land Rights Management Facility (LRMF) had transferred the function to Legal Aid SA which would be dealing with all the cases involving farm evictions.

On Land Bank oversight, Mr Shabane replied that providing oversight over the Land Bank would prove difficult in executing since the shareholder there was the Finance Ministry. The Land Bank was in the process of reviewing its business model and that there had been negotiations with Absa and FNB to structure a blended finance programme with these banks.

On land acquisition, the plan was to reintroduce grants to give full title of the land to the successful farmer applicant as opposed to the title deed being given to the state and being leased to the farmer.

Mr Shabane replied that DALRRD was still to assess the impact of COVID-19 on agriculture.

Deputy Minister Skwatsha was offered the opportunity to answer the remaining questions but he was not available.

Ms Modise, Select Committee Chairperson, requested that the rest of the answers be submitted to the Committees in writing since time was running out and the Deputy Minister was not online.

Ms L Bebee (ANC, KwaZulu Natal) asked for a breakdown of the funds used by DALRRD for consultants, specifically how much each consultant was paid.

The Chair asked what measures were being taken by DALRRD to eradicate fruitless and wasteful expenditure. He offered DALRRD the opportunity to answer those questions it could in the remaining time. The remainder of the answers should be submitted in writing to the Committees.

Mr Shabane replied about the finalisation of applications, saying that the adjudication of applications would be finalised by the end of the week. He stated that in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, DALRRD had shelved its Land Tenure Summit. On the finalisation of draft Bills, he said the Bills were available but could not be finalised at this stage. On managing fruitless and wasteful expenditure, DALRRD was going to undertake corrective measures in the areas where this had occurred.

The Chair called for the meeting to end and requested the remaining answers be submitted in writing.

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