The Committee considered and adopted its Committee Report on the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (DALRRD) special adjustment budget and revised Annual Performance Plan. These adjustments had been necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic and the economic downturn faced by the country. Despite the essential nature of DALRRD services, the majority of its activities have been constrained during the national lockdown as they require provincial travel and face to face workshops and training. Therefore, it revised and in some cases suspended its APP targets. The overall budget has been reduced by R2.4 billion from R16.8 billion to R14.4 billion. The Committee added two further recommendations – that the Department substantiates the impact of the budget cuts on farmers plus it provide a plan detailing how it will support the 40 000 farmers whose applications for the Covid-19 Agricultural Disaster Support Fund were unsuccessful.
The Minister told MPs that the Farmer Register project was introduced in 2018 in collaboration with Statistics SA. Its primary objective is to collect data to give a sense of the South African smallholder farmer profile – size and typology of famers, location, infrastructure and support needed to make production possible. This will be used by the Department to determine where it needs to direct investment in the future to ensure the agricultural sector continues to grow. Data collection had been negatively impacted by the lockdown restrictions. However, the Department resumed this during Lockdown Level 3 and expects to be done in August, following which data analysis will commence. Notably, Gauteng and North West are lagging with the least amount of data collection. DALRRD expects to provide the Farmer Register report in October 2020.
Members asked if there would be a specific project targeting subsistence farmers and young farmers who did not meet the smallholder criteria of minimum R50 000 annual turnover. This is crucial as subsistence farming plays a key role in household food security. Additionally, agriculture is a key driver of economic growth which calls for the Department to invest in moving farmers from micro to macro-level farming. MPs also asked if farmers’ unions had been consulted in the implementation of the project.
The Department updated the Committee on the outstanding 9 333 labour tenant land claims to settle. Upon the instruction of the Land Claims Court, as upheld by Constitutional Court ruling, a Special Master has been appointed to develop an implementation plan for the settlement of the claims. The Department established and staffed the Office of the Special Master and has budgeted R27 million for its associated operational costs for 2020/21.
Members were concerned about the Office of the Special Master budget allocation as well as the numerous litigation cases DALRRD loses. The Minister indicated that the Department is developing a strategy to address this concern and expects to settle outstanding claims within the next five years.
Committee Chairperson, Nkosi Z Mandela could not attend the meeting following the family bereavement of Ms Zindziswa Mandela. The Committee was informed of the passing of the Chairperson’s maternal grandmother and that of Mr Gordon Kegakilwe, North West MEC of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA). The Committee observed a moment of silence in recognition of their passing.
Ms M Tlhape (ANC) was elected as Acting Chairperson to preside over the virtual meeting.
Committee Report on DALRRD adjustments budget & revised Annual Performance Plan
The Committee Content Advisor, Ms Nokuzola Mgxashe, presented the Committee Report, saying the special adjustments budget and the Annual Performance Plan (APP) were necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic and the country’s economic downturn.
Ms Mgxashe reported that despite the essential nature of the services provided by the DALRRD, the national lockdown restrictions have significantly constrained the implementation of its mandate. The majority of the Department’s functions are empirical in nature and key activities are in provinces and municipalities which requires travel, group gatherings and physical contact during training and workshops. As a result, the Department has a limited ability to perform tasks and has had to revise or suspend certain targets.
The Department’s original budget has been reduced from R16.8 billion to R14.4 billion. The R2.4 billion budgetary reduction is attributed to the suspension of:
R300 million for compensation of employees across all Programmes
R393.3 million in respect of public corporations and private enterprises (Land Bank);
R437.9 million in respect of Provinces and municipalities (conditional grants)
R624.6 million for households (food security and land reform grants)
R338.1 million in respect of Department agencies and accounts
R299.9 million for goods and services.
Notably, the reduction to compensation of employees is likely to impact filling of vacancies, particularly at critical and senior management levels which will in turn impact the fulfilment of certain APP targets. This reduction has been applied across all programme areas.
Programme 3: Food Security, Land Redistribution and Restitution saw the largest budget reduction of R1.9 billion which represents approximately 79% of the total reduction. MPs raised concern about the adjustment as this is one of the core functions of the Department and is likely to impact how well it meets its targets in the National Development Plan (NDP).
Programme 5: Economic Development, Trade and Marketing saw a budget reduction of R135.9 million. The Department has suspended all targets for Farmer Production Support Units. Remaining targets in the programme are those for processing of AgriBEE Fund applications and those based on reports on trade agreements and negotiations.
Programme 6: Land Administration is the only programme that saw an increased budget allocation. The budget increased from R756 million to R869.3 million for COVID-19 purposes and the operational funding of the Registration of Deeds Trading Account.
Key Committee Observations
• The inadequate budget after the R2.4 billion overall reduction, particularly the effect on Programme 3: Food Security, Land Redistribution and Restitution
• Suspension of core service delivery targets for Agriculture and the resultant impact on smallholder farmers
• Suspension of Draft Marketing of Agricultural Products Amendment Bill which was the only Bill on the APP.
Key Committee Recommendations
• Recommendations of the original Portfolio Committee Report on Budget Vote of 29 May 2020 remain.
• Additionally, the Minister of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development must submit to Parliament –
- The reviewed criteria for the Covid-19 Agricultural Disaster Support Fund including a comprehensive progress report on Support Fund implementation and funding arrangements including budget adjustment.
- A plan on how the Department is going to assist approximately 40 000 farmers whose applications for the Covid-19 Agricultural Disaster Support Fund were rejected. The plan should also provide a provincial breakdown of those farmers, commodities and required assistance/support
- An Action Plan outlining how DALRRD would catch up on delivery of core services for land redistribution and restitution, food security and farmer development support over the MTSF to meet the NDP targets
- A report that indicates specific land reform and conditional grant-funded projects affected by the budget adjustments and revised 2020/21 APP for each programme, specifying the type of project, location and budget, as well as the impact on service delivery in each case.
The Chairperson emphasised that the current report does not invalidate any of the recommendations made by the Committee to the February budget; it is supplementary to what was discussed.
Ms A Steyn (DA) asked what impact budget cuts will have on the current programmes within the three-year timeline. How will this affect farmers on the ground? She raised concern that the presentation did not illustrate the magnitude of impact on farmers. She requested a specific presentation on this aspect.
Ms T Breedt (FF+) commended the Committee staff for the work they have been doing. She indicated that she shared the same concerns as mentioned by Ms Steyn.
Ms B Tshwete (ANC) said her concerns had been captured and she had no additions to make.
Mr S Matiase (EFF) said the Committee had previously raised concern about DALRRD’s capacity to support all emerging black farmers through its Farmer Production Support Units. He noted that of the 55155 applicants for COVID-19 relief, 40 000 were unsuccessful. It is unacceptable to invite farmers to send applications if the majority will not receive assistance. DALRRD needs to provide a plan on how it will support those unsuccessful farmers. This needs to be factored into the recommendations.
Inkhosi R Cebekhulu (IFP) indicated that he did not have an outstanding concerns or recommendations.
Ms K Mahlatsi (ANC) said she did not have any new recommendations and moved for the adoption of the report.
Ms T Mbabama (DA) indicated that she did not have additional recommendations.
Mr N Masipa (DA) said he did not have additional inputs. He echoed concern on the budget cuts to Food Security and Land Reform. It is crucial for the Committee to discuss how the gap will be bridged.
Mr N Capa (ANC) raised concern about the suspension of most of the critical activities which form the core functions of DALRRD.
The Chairperson thanked the Committee Secretariat in compiling the report. It captured the essence of the discussions when the Department presented. She agreed with Ms Steyn and Mr Matiase on their concerns.
Ms Mgxashe replied that Ms Steyn’s concern is covered in the recommendation that requests submission of a report indicating the specific land reform and conditional grant-funded projects affected by the budget adjustments and revisions. However, this recommendation will be amended to better illustrate the Committee’s concern.
She responded that Mr Matiase’s point can be included in the recommendation which requests the submission of the reviewed criteria for the COVID-19 Agricultural Disaster Support Fund. Alternatively, this can be made a stand-alone recommendation requesting a plan for how DALRRD will support unsuccessful applicants.
The Chairperson agreed that the recommendation addressing Ms Steyn’s concern should be amended to give more emphasis. Mr Matiase’s concern should be presented as a stand-alone recommendation.
The Committee adopted with the Committee Report with these amendments.
The Chairperson said despite the budget adjustments, the Committee’s expectations are still high. Members look forward to working with DALRRD to ensure it can meet its targets with the resources available.
Minister's Opening Remarks on Farmer Register programme
Minister of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development, Thoko Didiza, joined the Committee in expressing condolences to Chairperson Mandela and the Mandela family for their loss. She remembered those who have lost loved ones and expressed support to those currently impacted by the pandemic.
The Minister's opening remarks spoke to the background context of the Farmer Register project. The Minister said both DALRRD presentations on its implementation of the Farmer Register programme and the Court ruling on labour tenants talk to the continuity of government’s work from the Fifth to the Sixth Administration.
The Farmer Register programme was introduced in 2018 with a particular focus on smallholder farmers which is an area least understood by DALRRD. The main purpose of the programme is to collect data to give a sense of the South African smallholder farmer profile on size and typology of famers, location, infrastructure and support needed to make production possible. The Minister said this data is necessary to ensure proper planning and the provision of adequate support for production, markets and other developmental outcomes.
The COVID-19 Agricultural Disaster Support programme has presented an opportunity for the DALRRD to receive more information on smallholder farmers who applied for this intervention. The information received during this process is being consolidated with the larger Farmer Register database. The Farmer Register Programme is driven internally, however, progress is largely dependent on collaboration with extension officers who are responsible for data collection across provinces. The pace has been slower than anticipated, work is currently in progress to improve this. The percentage of work done has been unsatisfactory in some provinces. As a remedial action, Deputy Director-General (DDG) has been visiting provinces to speak on the importance of the project for both DALRRD and the broader government.
Statistics SA has agreed to provide any necessary technical expertise which DALRRD may not have internally. The Farmer Register programme has been running concurrently with the Commercial Agriculture Census which was recently published by Stats SA. Critical information highlighted in this report is that consolidation process which was introduced in 1997 following the deregulation of the sector which has had several implications. The size of commercial farm units has been getting larger while the number of commercial farms has been declining. Today, DALRRD notes a total of 40122 commercial farms of which 6 500 are considered large farms. Over 50% of agricultural employment and two thirds of income are concentrated in those 6 500 farms. Unfortunately, concentration levels in the sector are making it difficult for smallholder farmers to participate meaningfully in the industry. The Commercial Census revealed that the majority of farms were livestock farms followed by mixed farming and then field crops. The majority of these farms are located in the Free State, Western Cape, North West and Northern Cape. Gauteng, Mpumalanga and Limpopo recorded the fewest commercial farms.
The Minister said the census had positively confirmed that most of the land in South African is farmable but not necessarily arable. The census indicates that livestock rearing, specifically cattle, sheep, goat and game farming are the leading activities in commercial farming. DALRRD looks forward to seeing what kind of information will emerge from the Farmer Register which will ultimately guide the areas in which DALRRD will invest in the future.
The Minister told MPs that the work pioneered by former Minister Senzeni Zokwana still remains relevant and will provide DALRRD with the necessary information on how to plan interventions to improve the agriculture sector. Once completed, the report will be shared with the Department of Fisheries and Forestry given the work was previously initiated under both departments.
Producer/Farmer Registrer programme implementation
Mr Mokutule Kgobokoe, Deputy Director-General: Policy, Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation, DALRRD, said the Minister had given a good overview of the conceptualisation of the Farmer Registrar programme.
As indicated by the Minister, DALRRD is in partnership with Stats SA. A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed in 2018 to assist with technical expertise. Stats SA was to conduct a Census on Commercial Agriculture (COCA) and DALRRD was to implement the Producer Farmer Registrar (PFR). The COCA report was completed and issued to the Minister on 23 March 2020. The PFR focusing on smallholder farmers was initiated to run from 2018/19-2020/21 and is therefore still ongoing.
As outlined in the National Policy on Comprehensive Producer Development Support, farmers are assigned to different categories. This categorisation primarily aims to conceptualise a fit for purpose. Farmers that fall under the smallholder category produce an average turnover of R50 000-R1 million per annum.
A key issue previously highlighted by the Committee was what DALRRD intends to do with the information once the study is completed. A structured questionnaire was developed to guide research. This questionnaire has been shared with provincial departments, Stats SA and is used by extension officers on the ground when engaging with farmers. Key items sought by the questionnaire include demographics (personal farmer identification, gender, age), assets and annual turnover.
A breakdown of the implementation process of the PFR is as follows:
• Engagement with industry leaders through stakeholder workshops and forums. This group is used as a reference group routinely consulted at each stage of implementation
• Partnership with Stats SA
• Training of extension officers to familiarise themselves with the project objectives
• Media launch to create awareness through radio and television advertisements
• Procurement of IT equipment to store data collected. This is currently housed within the DALRRD.
Seven workstreams have been involved in the implementation of the programme. DALRRD consults with provinces routinely to monitor progress.
Impact of COVID-19 on project
Prior to declaration of national lockdown, the project was at the peak of data collection. This resumed at Lockdown Level 3 under a risk adjusted approach to ensure that extension officers have the necessary personal protective equipment (PPE). Data on 9 135 farmers has been collected since resuming activities. The extension officers operate under the supervision of provincial departments.
A total of 89 615 smallholder farmers (out of an estimated 133 288 as per Stats SA) have been registered as of 10 July 2020. This represents a 67.23% completion rate. Notably, Gauteng 16.44% and North West 22.83% have the lowest data collection rates. Data collection is expected to continue for the next two months. DALRRD is putting more pressure on the two provinces to ensure they achieve the data targets.
DALRRD aims to complete data collection by August 2020, which will be followed by data analysis with Stats SA. GIS mapping to illustrate provincial concentration of farmers will be completed in September 2020. The final report on the register is expected to be completed in October 2020.
The project was initially expected to commence in 2017/18; however, it was not approved due to challenges with establishing and finalising the work to be done by Stats SA. In terms of the Act, Stats SA is not authorised to share information it gathers on farmers with any other entity. Therefore, it took longer than expected to sign an MoU. As a result, the project funds allocated for 2017/18 were returned to National Treasury and a roll over was not approved. Zero expenditure was recorded for this year.
Breakdown of the budget is as follows:
2017/18 R90 million (taken back to Treasury)
2018/19 R100 million
2019/20 R51 million
In implementing the Producer / Farmer Register, DALRRD was heavily dependent on the State Information Technology Agency (SITA) to run some of its projects. However, they were unable to successfully run some of these programmes and award the associated tender with a value of R10 million. This explains some of the low expenditure experienced in the programme. In addition, COVID-19 has contributed towards underspending, although not substantially.
Ms Breedt said that in the Free State, immense trouble had been experienced with farmers who were not aware of the project and who had received threatening messages from extension officers demanding that they immediately complete the census. She had received several phone calls from farmers who were dissatisfied with how they had been treated by extension officers during their first contact with the programme. She had previously spoken to Mr Mike Mlengana, Director-General for Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) on this matter. She appealed to DALRRD to ensure that extension officers interact well with farmers.
Ms Mbabama asked what assistance DALRRD provides for farmers below the smallholder category. Are these farmers not included in the programme at all? She asked which industry stakeholders had been workshopped and when. She requested a schedule of when the workshops took place and in which provinces. This is crucial for the Committee’s oversight.
On budget allocation, she asked for a detailed breakdown as it pertains to DALRRD. It appears as if DALRRD has succeeded in doing all work related to the Farmer Register programme in two years instead of three and without the R90 million budgeted for in FY2017/18. In retrospect, does this mean that DALRRD had overbudgeted for the project?
She asked DALRRD what it has done to improve data collection in Gauteng and the North West. Has DALRRD visited these provinces to see what challenges are on the ground?
Mr Capa echoed the concern about farmers who fall below the smallholder category. What happens to farmers who cannot produce the annual R50 000 turnover? Does this indicate an exclusion from this project?
He asked for further explanation on the non-expenditure. Mpumalanga and Free State have the lowest number of farmers, yet they have recorded the least data collection? He asked why Mpumalanga had recorded an excess of 131% for data collection.
Ms Steyn said that DALRRD had reported a large budget allocation for procuring an IT system for the project. She asked who is managing this system and who has access to the information database.
The Committee had been informed that 55 000 farmers had applied for COVID-19 relief, however the presentation and data do reflect this. She asked who the people were collecting this data and what is the link between this data and those who applied for relief. The Minister had said applicants must either already be registered or must register as a requirement to qualify for disaster relief.
In the past, other departments had indicated they had provided assistance to more farmers than those currently registered by DALRRD, especially in KwaZulu-Natal. Ultimately this raised concern about the accuracy of the data. She asked how data previously collected by other departments will be compared with the Farmer Register. She also asked for a breakdown of budget allocations.
Ms N Mahlo (ANC) commended DALRRD and Stats SA for taking action to record rural agriculture productivity as these statistics are crucial in measuring growth.
There is extensive research on the relationship between rural agriculture and land tenure. Has DALRRD looked at the impact that secure land tenure has on rural agriculture productivity? If not, what will DALRRD do to ensure that this study is done? She asked how DALRRD will attract younger farmers as the current profile indicates that the majority of farmers are above sixty.
She asked the Minister to provide information on what is happening on farms such as the Windhoek 50LR Farm located in Lephalale Local Municipality. In theory the business plans on how to assist these farms were very good, however, the farms are still collapsing. She said that a document will be submitted to DALRRD detailing the matter.
Mr M Montwedi (EFF) asked which categories of farmers were successful in their applications for the COVID-19 agricultural relief. Prior to national lockdown, how many farmers were registered on the database? He asked if there were challenges in registering farmers. He asked if the register will be available to the public and if it will group farmers according to their local and district municipalities. He asked if the register will indicate under which category farmers fall. The presentation gives the impression that the database is for farmers who applied for relief because the numbers indicated are low. He asked if data collection is still ongoing and how often the database will be updated.
Ms Mahlatsi commended the presentation which provides a specific timeline on the implementation of the programme. She asked about the authenticity of the data; in particular, has it been verified to ensure that registered farmers actually exist?
She asked if farmer organisations had been involved in the data collection process. The presentation clearly defines the five categories for farmers; however, it does not address young farmers. She raised concern that the majority of young farmers might not fall within the R50 000 - R1 million annual turnover. Is there a specific programme that will assist the needs of young farmers? When the relief package was introduced, it stipulated that 40% of funds would go to youth.
It is important to note that agriculture is the main driver of growth in this decade. The movement from micro-level to macro-level farming will require significant initiative from DALRRD to ensure that young people are able to participate meaningfully in the sector. She looked forward to receiving the finalised report in October.
Mr Masipa noted the Minister's observation that commercial farms were getting larger and that smaller farmers were falling away. One of the reasons for this is how heavily indebted farmers are due to drought and foot and mouth disease. He asked how DALRRD plans on bridging the gap between what it currently provides in the form of grants and the actual needs of farmers. In most instances, the needs of farmers far exceed the grant. There is a need to re-envisage how grants can be leveraged to make farms financially sustainable. Many farms which had been bought by DALRRD for land reform are not productive.
The DALRRD budget is approximately 1.4% of the consolidated fiscus which is not sufficient. Pre-1994, the budget allocation for agriculture was approximately 2.9%. The current budget allocation is not enough to fulfil the DALRRD mandate in areas such as redress. It is now crucial for DALRRD to find ways of leveraging private sector involvement in growing the sector. These are some of the issues which will need to be addressed following the completion of the register project.
The Chairperson commended the work done by DALRRD. She emphasized the need for a budget breakdown. She commended the involvement of the various stakeholders in the process.
Like other MPs, she raised concern about the low data collection in Gauteng and the North West and asked about the nature of challenges being experienced there.
The Chairperson said DALRRD has a policy for assisting vulnerable communities. How does this policy find expression in the Farmer Register project given that it targets those with an annual turnover of above R50 000? If the purpose of the database is to identify where support is needed, how will this be ensured for vulnerable groups such as women, the disabled and youth who do not meet the criteria of smallholder farms. How will subsistence farmers be assisted?
She echoed Ms Mahlatsi’s concern on the authenticity of data. What quality assurance will DALRRD perform to ensure the accuracy and credibility of data?
The Minister replied that the presentation is specifically based on work which has been done; however, the project is not yet complete. When launched in 2018, the Farmer Register ran concurrently with the Commercial Agriculture census by Stats SA. The Farmer Register was conceived to target smallholder famers; however, the next phase will look at subsistence farmers as they play a critical role in household food security. She emphasised that farmers that fall below the R50 000 turnover threshold have not been excluded from DALRRD’s priorities.
Variables indicated on database
The Minister replied that the presentation indicates the areas of information that the database will reflect. The demographics will indicate farmer profile information such as age, gender and disability. Production and land tenure will provide insight on the type of land farmers are farming on, if communal, leased or tenured. Available infrastructure will provide information on the types of resources available to the farmers and the source, such as farmer associations, government grants or personal income. Lastly, it will look at annual turnover over a three-year period to see if farmers have graduated from one category to the next. She emphasized that the work is still ongoing and would be analysed only once data collection has been fully completed.
The Minister shared the same concern as Ms Breedt on how extension officers ought to interact with farmers. It is important to explain why the information is necessary and how it will assist farmers and all spheres of government. This information will be useful to a variety of people.
Consolidation of commercial farms
The Minister said that as revealed by the census, farm consolidation is a critical issue that is rooted in a variety of challenges. Some relate to the heavy debt facing farmers as indicated by Mr Masipa. However, some is as a result of the arid environment in the country which pushes people to purchase more land in order to be more productive. These are only a few examples of the reasons behind consolidation.
She agreed with Mr Masipa that government resources are currently insufficient to support all the needs of farmers. Therefore, it has been in DALRRD’s interest to ensure that financial institutions such as the Land Bank give affordable credit to farmers.
Stakeholder workshops and budget
Mr Kgobokoe replied that details on the stakeholder engagements and workshops can be provided.
DALRRD will provide a detailed breakdown of the budget. Despite not using the R90 million for the Farmer Register in 2017/18, DALRRD could not necessarily say that it had over-budgeted for the project. The budget had been determined by Treasury. The allocation was made for both the Farmer Register and the Commercial Agriculture census. This was presumably done according to variables deemed fit by Treasury.
Gauteng and North West
DALRRD has already engaged with the two provinces who have committed to accelerating the rate of data collection. DALRRD has met with the Head of Department (HOD) of the two provinces. North West has specifically promised significant improvement by the end of August.
Mpumalanga data collection
Mr Kgobokoe replied that DALRRD had discovered that Mpumalanga had collected data on all categories of farmers and not just those who are smallholders – this being the current target group. This is why the province had a 131% data collection record. The data analysis will ascertain which farmers fit the smallholder category.
COVID-19 relief applicants
The Farmer Register is not a database for farmers who have applied for COVID-19 disaster relief. When the COVID-19 Agricultural Disaster Fund was introduced the advertisement stated that applicants should be registered and, if not, DALRRD will assist farmers to register. DALRRD has teams assessing those who applied for agricultural relief to ascertain if they already appear on the Farmer Register and, if not, to ensure they are registered.
Verification of data
The Farmer Register project is currently at the stage where raw data is being collected. This information will still be subjected to thorough analysis which will ensure the accuracy and authenticity of all data.
Involvement of farmers’ unions
The farmer unions have been involved in the project. As noted in the presentation, DALRRD routinely consults with a producer / farmer reference group which is comprised of various stakeholders, including farmer unions.
Ms Tsotso Sehoole, DALRRD Chief Information Officer, replied that the Department has invested in basic ICT. Any allocation going forward will be to enhance this infrastructure.
DALRRD had used SITA for procurement purposes. DALRRD had provided specifications on the solutions it needed in a documented form. SITA had then begun the procurement process in the form of an open tender and was expected to provide oversight. DALRRD had done month to month follow-ups in 2019 seeking updates. SITA then reported that it had narrowed the pool of potential awardees but, unfortunately, none met the required standard. By the time this happened, it was March and DALRRD had missed the window for procurement.
The general server environment belongs to DALRRD. More detailed information can be provided in writing along with the budget breakdown.
Implementation of Constitutional Court ruling
DALRRD Director General Mdu Shabane provided a progress report on implementing the judgment of: Mwelase & Others v Director-General for Department of Rural Development and Land Reform & Another (CCT 232/18)  ZACC 30; 2019 (11) BCLR 1358 (CC) ; 2019 (6) SA 597 (CC) (20 August 2019).
He explained that since 31 March 2001, the Department had 20 325 labour claims of which 10 992 had been settled and 9 333 were still outstanding. In 2009 there was a policy shift towards land development and state acquisition of land which led to grant-based sub-programmes being abolished. DALRRD was focusing more on land redistribution as opposed to tenure. Following the collapse of the labour tenants programme between 2010 and 2015, a class action was brought against DALRRD and ultimately ended up at the Constitutional Court.
Prof Richard Levin was appointed as the Special Master for labour tenants and was tasked to prepare and submit an Implementation Plan for the settlement of outstanding claims – this was to be done in consultation with DALRRD. The Special Master assumed his role on 2 January 2020 and was assisted by DALRRD in appointing members of his support team: Mr Kola Jolaolo, Mr Donovan Williams, Ms Mpho Moholo and Mr Reginald Khanzi. The Office of the Special Master is accommodated within the DALRRD offices and has a budget of R27 million for 2020/21.
The Special Master was expected to submit the Implementation Plan to the Land Claims Court by 31 March 2020, however, it was submitted only on 29 May 2020 as a result of the COVID-19 national lockdown.
Upon the request of the Land Claims Court, DALRRD provided its input objecting to some parts of the Implementation Plan. The DG explained to MPs that there were areas in which DALRRD felt the Special Master had gone beyond his purview of supervising and monitoring the implementation of the court order but rather, wanted to comment on the implementation of the settlements. However, these matters were resolved through a three-day workshop between DALRRD and the Office of the Special Master. The Special Master was ordered to deliver a finalised plan by 24 August 2020.
DALRRD is committed to settling all outstanding labour tenant applications and continues to work together with the Office of the Special Master on this. It has also made available 93 officials to implement the plan.
The Chairperson reminded Committee members that the settlement of labour tenant applications is still an ongoing process. She asked MPs to be mindful of time constraints in their discussion.
Ms Mahlo said R7.65 million had been allocated for the Medium-Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) period and that it will reprioritise its Programme 3 budget to settle the labour tenant applications should the need arise. DALRRD has already lost approximately R2 billion in 2020/21. Therefore, how will DALRRD achieve the targets associated with Programme 3 should they have to reprioritise funds? She asked how DALRRD intends to provide training for the 93 officials that will be implementing the plan.
Ms Mbabama commented that prior to the collapse of the labour tenants programme, DALRRD had successfully settled 55% of claims. The Office of the Special Master had been established as per the recommendation of the Land Claims Court as upheld by the Constitutional Court. However, is it necessary to spend R27 million for five officers who will oversee what DALRRD will do?
Ms Mahlatsi said that currently she did not have any input and would have to wait to assess further progress in implementation.
Ms Steyn raised concern that DALRRD continues to lose court cases and requested a presentation detailing its litigation. DALRRD is selective on which legislation it wants to adhere to when the legislation is there to be followed in its totality. If it does not, DALRRD will continue to receive claims against it. She asked for the Special Master's plan and DALRRD objections to improve the Committee’s understanding.
Mr Masipa said it is important to ensure that all claims are settled and that DALRRD does not continue to receive court judgments against it as this reflects badly on it – as well as the Committee.
Ms Matiase said since the programme was stopped, many tenants have been evicted from farms and some have been displaced. The Special Master must provide a report on the number of people who have been displaced and are eligible for assistance by the programme. He agreed with Ms Mahlatsi that it would be more fruitful to wait for the Special Master to present a comprehensive implementation plan to the Committee. This plan should include statistics on those displaced and evicted. He cited families in the Eastern Cape as an example of those the Special Master should survey.
Ms Breedt agreed with previous MPs and requested the implementation plan. She a noted a similar trend in other Committees where MPs talk extensively but are not given the plans that they are supposed to interrogate. She echoed Ms Mbabama’s concern on the budget allocation for the Office of the Special Master. The Committee will have to see if there is value for money.
She agreed with Ms Steyn that a lot of legislation has been found to be unconstitutional such as the Upgrading of Land Tenure Rights Amendment (ULTRA) Bill. DALRRD had indicated that it was dealing with two specific clauses which were deemed unconstitutional but it also envisaged other clauses could be problematic. Is there a plan of action for the clauses that DALRRD envisions will be problematic?
Mr Montwedi asked how soon DALRRD expects to finalise the 9 333 outstanding claims.
The Chair reiterated concern about the number of court cases DALRRD has lost. She is aware that there is currently a review of legislation. She asked what impact this has on cases that are already underway. What plan does DALRRD have to ensure that any other potentially problematic legislation is reviewed? She agreed with Ms Mahlatsi that the court ruling implementation is still a work in progress and that the Committee will therefore wait until the implementation plan has been finalised to interrogate it sufficiently.
Director General Shabane replied that the legislation dealing with labour tenants has not been found to be unconstitutional but rather it was the failure of DALRRD to implement the legislation to settle labour tenant application which led to the court judgement.
He replied that DALRRD was undertaking a comprehensive review of the ULTRA Bill due to its likely implications for the Communal Land Tenure Bill which is currently in development.
Office of the Special Master
The DG acknowledged Members' concerns on the costs for the Office of the Special Master.
The Special Master could only do what is mandated through the court order. Unfortunately, this does not include a survey of those who have been displaced or evicted.
Finalisation of settlements
DALRRD has a projected five-year plan during which it aims to settle all outstanding claims.
Minister Didiza said DALRRD has taken note of all of the concerns voiced by the Members. DALRRD is currently developing a litigation strategy which involves the review of legislation to identify areas which pose a threat. She acknowledged that the resources allocated to litigation could have helped fast track land reform. However, some cases are not as a result of negligence but rather due to DALRRD's legal support given to those who have been evicted and to cases where the claimant community may require negotiation.
She has met with the Minister of Justice and Correctional Services, Mr Ronald Lamola, and Judge Meer of the Land Claims Court to discuss the staffing of the Office of the Special Master. DALRRD had initially thought it would be financially prudent to house the office within DALRRD. However, the Special Master felt that this could potentially present a conflict of interest. The three parties are still in discussion to see what arrangement is most conducive for working together in finalising the case. She would raise the Committee’s concerns with Minister Lamola and Judge Meer.
She appreciated that the Committee had approved the revised APP. She indicated that DALRRD would like to request another meeting next week to amend one section. This was arising from an engagement with the Presidency during which it had indicated that it could potentially provide DALRRD with an additional R700 million stimulus to support food security. This will be finalised and factored into the APP and will be brought to the Committee for its consideration.
The Chairperson said the additional R700 million support for food security would certainly be helpful as MPs had already raised concern about the food security programme.
She requested DALRRD provide all written responses in writing by 20 July 2020. She wished MPs well in their plans for the upcoming Mandela Day.
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