National Rural Youth Service Corps (NARYSEC) Programme: briefing

Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development

26 May 2020
Chairperson: Nkosi ZM Mandela (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

Video: Portfolio Committee on Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development, 26 May 2020
Audio: National Rural Youth Service Corps (NARYSEC) Programme: briefing 

Portfolio Committee on Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development today postponed the briefing it was going to receive from the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development on the Upgrade of Land Tenure Rights Amendment Bill to 26 June 2020.

The postponement will allow the National Economic Development and Labour Council (NEDLAC) and the National House of Traditional Leaders (NHTL) to present their inputs on the Bill for the consideration of the committee.

The Committee received a presentation from the National Rural Youth Service Corps (NARYSEC) on the NARYSEC programme which was launched in 2010 for the equipment of the rural youth with skills that would empower them to create employment in their communities. The Committee heard that 25 244 young people are now trained as a result of the programme.

Members asked questions relating to timeframes, placement of the youth, reduction of the 2020 budget, the change from the two-year programme to a three-month one, participation in the NYDA and statistics for the NARYSEC’s impact on reduced unemployment. Some Members voiced their disappointment with the poor conceptualisation of the policy. Further questions probed the tracking systems used, stakeholders consulted and the effects of COVID19 on the work of NARYSEC. The Committee stressed the need for the creation of sustainable jobs, clarity on the purpose of the program and the need for racial diversity in the program.

Meeting report

Upgrading of Land Tenure Amendment Bill: postponement of discussion

The Chairperson welcomed all Members and the delegation. He started the meeting by opening a discussion on the letter written to the Committee by NEDLAC regarding the amendment of the Upgrading of Land Tenure Amendment Bill. Members were then given an opportunity to decide whether or not discuss the Bill or to defer to a later date when NEDLAC had provided its input.

Majority of Members concurred the meeting should be deferred to a later date for the following reasons:

-There is no need to hasten the process because the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform (DRDLR) had been given an extension from the court to submit the Bill by 20 April 2021,

-It is important to be thorough as there are several loopholes in the Bill, and it is important not to overlook anything,

-it would allow for broader consultation

-there would need to be some form of public participation on the Bill

To avoid a situation where after NEDLAC has submitted their opinion then they have to make amendments.

-not to duplicate processes and allow NEDLAC the chance to submit its comments first which the Committee could then consider

-to give the National House of Traditional Leaders time to engage the Bill

Mr M Montwedi (EFF) initially agreed with Members but noted it seemed the Department had left the decision with the Committee which could lead the Committee to be blamed for delaying finalisation of the Bill  

Adv Nathi Mjenxane, Parliamentary Legal Advisor, weighed in on the letter by NEDLAC and whether it had any impact on the proceedings of the Committee. He was of the position that there is nothing in the letter specifically prohibiting the Committee from fulfilling its mandated duties as it relates to the Bill. Further, it was in the discretion of the Committee to continue with discussion or wait for the written submission that NEDLAC intends to submit to the Committee. While the NEDLAC process is underway, the Committee can continue with its processes.

The Department was also given an opportunity to weigh in - it concurred that the meeting can be deferred in order to wait for NEDLAC however, it should not prevent the Department from concluding other matters concurrently.  The Department also acknowledged that the submission of NEDLAC is important because of the various constituencies it represented. 

The Chairperson concluded this discussion by deferring the meeting on the Bill to 26 June 2020.

Progress Report:
National Rural Youth Services Corps Programme

Ms Nonala Buthelezi, National Coordinator: NARYSEC, took the Committee through the presentation. She began by looking at NARYSEC since inception, the Human Science Research Council (HSRC) impact assessment study findings on the NARYSEC programme in 2017/18, repurposing/refocusing of the NARYSEC programme and what is to be expected. 

The presentation moved on to look at the recruitment for the District Development Model (DDM), NARYSEC policy objectives, youth recruited for the DDM and what has been done. 

Some programme successes includes:

  • The stipend received during the Programme contributed towards improving the livelihoods of the youth and their families
  • Youth reported that household income increased for the youth during and after the NARYSEC Programme due to some of the youth being employed and having started their own business
  • Opportunities were provided for youth to acquire a skill they did not have before joining the programme – large numbers of youth have been certified through the Programme
  • A culture of community service has been instilled in the youth

Planned activities included:

  • Obtain policy approval
  • Youth to finalise the  leadership development programme at Thaba Nchu College
  • Youth to participate in NYDA programme for 1 month
  • Graduation
  • Placement in line with approved policy
  • Link recruitment of new youth to predetermined employment and enterprise development opportunities
  • Monitor and evaluate success

Discussion

Ms M Tlhape (ANC) noted that it was said a new policy will be developed in line with refocusing NARYSEC and asked if the policy was developed because it was supposed to be handed over to the Minister? This is a shift from skill development to job creation. Is there a transition plan? How is NARYSEC going to ensure that those who were recruited from the three districts are going to find jobs after the training? Out of the 25 000 recruited, is there a record of how many have been absorbed not only by the Department but by other entities? Is the private sector on board with this program?

Ms K Mahlatsi (ANC) was concerned because the Committee has previously requested to see the policy but had not yet received it probably as it had not yet been signed. She pointed out the current presentation is not new other than the mention of the policy. Secondly, on the slide discussing recruitment, the Free State stands at zero – how true is the information considering that there were young people that participated in that program? The program was launched in Thaba ‘Nchu bu no-one from that province is recruited. Why was the focus on those four districts when every province is affected by unemployment? Are there any success stories from the program? What happened to those participants and what have they achieved? The budget for 2020 was reduced, why? More young people need to be recruited.

Ms A Steyn (DA) said in the beginning, the youth were recruited for a two-year program but in 2020 they were recruited for a threee-month program. What are the 1 919, recruited in 2019, currently doing? What kind of participation will the youth be involved in with the National Youth Development Agency (NYDA), according to slide 15? There is a report that youth income has increased - where are the stats and information? Who is having discussions in those designated districts?

Mr S Matiase (EFF) voiced his disappointment at the feedback from the Department - it comes across as though the Department has not been taking its work seriously. The policy on NARSYEC was badly conceptualised hence the failures that it has. What is the program repurposed for if it was well conceptualised in the beginning? If NARSYEC has not had any major impact on youth unemployment, then it means the policy is bad. Does the Department think this policy was well conceptualised? If so, why has it failed to reduce levels of unemployment? Can it provide statistics if the program has reduced unemployment for young people? Or if they have skilled or reskilled young people, can they provide the data? Can the Department the budget for NARSYEC and how it was spent?

Ms S Mbata (ANC) was concerned about the unemployment rate among the youth. When is the program going to spread to other regions? She also requested a follow-up on the 19 000 youth.  

Ms B Tshwete (ANC) asked if there was a tracking system to check the progress of this program? The Committee has previously raised issues with the NARSYEC program. However it is not addressed because there is no understanding. The Committee submitted a proposal to the Department. The Department agreed that it had to change its criteria in terms of the training of youth. The Committee identified agriculture as an industry in shortage. The Department committed to addressing this. Can the Department provide a list laying out which field and skills those young people are being trained in? The Department must provide a list of stakeholders that have been consulted and entered into partnership with the Department on district level to implement practical training for the youth. It has challenges in placing them for practical experience - why recruit so many young people if the Department did not have the placement for them?

Ms T Mbabama (DA) said NARSYEC is supposed to reduce the high rate of unemployment in the rural areas. Does the Department have data on how many young people are unemployed in every province? This will assist with an understanding of the impact it has in rural areas. Can the Department provide three things it envisages with NARSYEC going forward? Three things that are different from the past program.  

Ms T Breedt (FF+) agrees that NARSYEC was a badly conceptualised idea. When the Department does oversight work, it should go to Thaba Nchu to see the training college and see what it does. How has COVID-19 impacted NARSYEC and the training program for the 2020 intakes? There were certification issues - how many have actually received their certificates? How many have graduated and how many have dropped out? Why was there a move from a two-year program to a six-week program? What does the one-month program with the NYDA entail? Is NARSYEC working with NYDA and the Department Of Women, Youth and People with Disabilities? Is the Department reaching out to those disabled youth? Can there be an idea or timeframe in terms of when the Department will bring the policy to the Committee? What does the monitoring and evaluation framework look like?

Inkosi R Cebekhulu (IFP) said when youth are being recruited, they should be taken to the field they are interested in. it is important that young people are trained in areas that will provide immediate job opportunities or opportunities that they can create.

Mr N Masipa (DA) found the jobs created for NARSYEC were not sustainable yet the Department advised that the training and skills development would be directly linked to the mandate of the Department. How many of the NARSYEC graduates of the Department have been employed or received any internship from the Department and in which areas?

Mr Montwedi echoed the same sentiments of the draft policy and NARSYEC being badly conceptualised. When the Department presented the district development model, it chose 25 but now it is only moving nine in. Why was the NARSYEC model not aligned with the district development model? This would enable each province to have recruited. What informed the selection of the three districts? How is the Committee going to play an oversight role in the NARSYEC program when there is not a proper timeframe for when the program will be fulfilled? In the instance when the Committee does indeed want to perform oversight, the program is incomplete. Did the consultation with the 1 400 stakeholders take place in the three districts or were all districts consulted?

The Chairperson added that there is no program for NARSYEC in the Department and this is concerning in terms of implementation of programs without policy. There needs to be clarity on the project’s purpose - if it is about youth being employed then it will be assessed on that but if it is about skills then it will be assessed on skilled youth that is empowered. How does the Department define success in terms of the NARSYEC program? The Chairperson was concerned about the lack of racial diversity in the program. How has racial diversity been mapped out in this program to enable young people to be self-sustainable within their own enterprises? How can the Department radically hike up the numbers of those unemployed? In slide 11, the youth that were recruited in the KSD municipality were 60 but there is a total of 300 – these numbers do not add up.  

Response:

Mr M Mlengana, DRDLR Director-General, responded that the Department finds the sentiments by the Chairperson unfortunate and disagrees with them. The Department was informed by the launch by the President of the district development model in the three provinces. The recruitment of the 1 001 young people before lockdown was informed by those district pilots. The President had then announced that the district development model will not be rolled out to the rest of the provinces. Before that could be done, the programm was affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and the youth had to be sent home. The 900 youth that were at the training camps were sent home. The Department still intends to continue the program in other districts with the resources it has at its disposal. There are not sufficient resources to scale up the recruitment.

There is a draft policy but it is awaiting the signature of the Minister - it will then be presented to the Committee. Policy gaps through monitoring and evaluation by the Department and various entities have been seen. The Department has seen the limitations of the policy from its original conceptualisation and have implemented those recommendations. The Department relied on the independent assessment by various bodies, such as the HSRC, WITS University, to review the policy and to point out weaknesses of the policy at the time. For instance, the policy initially did not include young people without matric. The policy was then changed to include young people without matric by looking at their own potential and what they can do. Recruitment must be evidence-based, hence the repurposing of NARSYEC and the Department advertising for the youth to apply. There must be a socio-economic analysis of every district using a number of variables and data sources from various institutions to evaluate the extent of poverty in those districts and the extent of unemployment and other social ills. The Department uses this as an analysis on which to base recruitment in the district. This is so that when the youth are trained, they can return and plough back into the district.

The second major difference with the policy is that when the youth leave the training college, they go to any other form of training and are provided funding to establish enterprises of their own. Some of the youth are trained as para-vets to look after animals in their villages. There is also partnership with the Department of Small Business Development to provide business incubation for young people. The future of the program is led by the district development model. The Department has commenced with the socio-economic assessment of all 54 districts in the country, including the metros, but COVID19 presents challenges for recruitment at this time.  

NARSYEC can only contribute to the reduction of unemployment both in rural and urban areas. The Department has partnered with other departments such as the Department of Trade and Industry, Public Works, Defence, Small Business Development and others.

Ms Buthelezi added that in 2010, NARSYEC did not recruit NARSYEC participants in the two provinces as it was not ready at the time. The college was launched in 2012.  

Dr Moshe Swarts, DDG: Rural Enterprise and Industrial Development, DRDLR, added that the Department cannot respond to some of the questions presently but can return and provide Members with the facts. The program was initially designed to perform a multiplicity of things such as equipping young people with leadership skills.

The Chairperson concluded that he could not withdraw his comment on tribalism because the country is diverse and poor people branch out to different races. All questions that are not answered to must be provided in writing even though the Department has not met these requests in the past.  

Meeting adjourned.

 

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