The Portfolio Committee on Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development met on a virtual platform for the fifth day of public hearings on the Upgrading of the Land Tenure Rights Bill (ULTRA).
The Bill intends to amend ULTRA legislation to convert land tenure rights into ownership. The Committee received differing views from organisations, organised labour, and activist groups, about land ownership, the right to tenure reform, and tenure security.
Farm workers and dwellers living on farms most of their lives still face evictions. The rights of farm workers and dwellers are violated on farms, and workers struggle to get access to basic needs.
The Bill as it stands only includes one form of tenure. There must be a wider range of tenure available to people. The Committee also heard one piece of comprehensive legislation might help address land reform and remedy the gaps in the ULTRA Bill.
Submissions were also made saying ULTRA must not be upgraded in isolation. There must be a link between ULTRA and expropriation of land without compensation, which is happening in another Committee.
Most of the presenters felt the Bill is vague and its provisions are not enough to help farm workers and dwellers to secure ownership rights. The Bill must include all types of land, and not only focus on land in townships in the former homelands.
Members raised points of clarity on the submissions made by the organisations. Members asked for suggested solutions to the sections opposed in the ULTRA Bill, to ensure its effective implementation.
The Chairperson welcomed Members and stakeholders to the fifth day of public hearings on the upgrading of the Land Tenure Rights Bill (ULTRA). He said the Committee is looking forward to engaging with citizens from the Republic of South Africa. The Chairperson set out how the hearing will unfold, community representatives presenting will be given 10 minutes each and after each round of presenters the Committee will have discussions and ask questions of clarity.
Community Representative Mpumalanga Province
Mr Bongani Mtsweni said he lives on a farm in Standerton. As a rural dweller his wish is, upgrading the Land Tenure Rights Bill will finally provide rural dwellers with some form of documentation which shows ownership, or allows rural dwellers to occupy the land the rural dwellers currently live on. This will allow rural dwellers to build liveable structures on farms. Currently, the dwellers live in mud huts and are unable to get permission to build proper shelter. The documentation which gives the dwellers occupation and ownership rights still has not been signed by the farm owner. Farm owners are very reluctant to sign documents which enable rural dwellers to have ownership of the land the rural dwellers lived on for years. A piece of paper showing ownership will also provide the rural dwellers with protection when the farm is sold.
Rural dwellers are unable to get access to water and electricity. The farm owner has also prevented rural dwellers to get access to basic services provided by the municipality. Most rural dwellers get removed from the land the rural dwellers live on when a new owner takes control of the farm.
Cala University Students Association (CALUSA)
Dr Fanie Ncapayi, CALUSA, said he is a senior researcher at Trust for Community Outreach Education (TCOE). It is a national non-governmental organisation which works closely with the Inyanda National Land Movement. Inyanda consists of farmworkers, dwellers, small-scale producers, and landless rural women’s organisations such as the Rural Women’s Assembly. Some of these producers are on communal land and others are on land reform farms.
Most of Inyanda members are rural residents living under traditional authority. The issues contained in the Bill are relevant to all members of Inyanda. Because of colonisation and apartheid, South Africa is divided into different land spaces such as urban areas, rural areas under traditional authorities, rural areas under commercial farms, and rural land under former mission stations. These different areas have different land tenure arrangements. For instance, White people in urban areas have free hold titles. Black people in the same space have no formal tenure arrangements. At the same time large portions of land are mostly on long term leases to White farmers. Black farmers are on short term leases. Most White commercial farmers have free hold titles and the same applies to Black farmers who acquired land privately. However, some Black farmers who acquired land through the process of land reform either struggle to get free hold titles, or are on leasehold. The latter refers to people who receive land through government’s proactive land acquisition strategy.
On commercial farmers there is a large group of farm workers, who live and work on these farms for years and call these farms home. These workers usually get exploited by White farmers who use the extension of security of the Tenure Act to evict farm workers. The land use and cultural rights of people working and living on both Black and White owned farms are constantly violated. The experience of a family living and working on a White owned farm in Voorreg, which falls under the Emalahleni Local Municipality are telling.
These workers experience constant abuse and violation of rights. The situation of people living on church land on former mission stations is no better. The land tenure rights are precarious and leave the residents extremely vulnerable. The experience of residents living on the Pallotti farm under the Enoch Mgijima Local Municipality confirms the precarity of the situation of residents on church land. After spending their lives on church land, residents of the Palllotti farm are not allowed to bury family members there. The residents are also threatened with evictions and not allowed to perform cultural rituals such as taking their sons for initiation on the farm. Access to water and electricity is denied. The issues faced by residents on the Pallotti farm are issues faced by most farm workers living on farmland across South Africa. This clearly points to failures of land reform in the past 26 years of democracy. Land tenure issues must be central in any attempt at dealing with land reform. The overall intention of the ULTRA Bill, of ensuring land holders get ownership to the land the land holders occupy is commendable. However, the Bill is still a half measure which does not address various tenure challenges faced by residents.
According to schedule one (one) and two (two) of the ULTRA Bill, the Bill is mostly concerned about land in townships in former homelands. This will lead to the formulation of separate tenure for the residents of townships and those residents living under traditional authority. This will be a perpetuation of the colonial and apartheid systems, with different tenure regimes. The approach undermines the country’s efforts to forge for a common citizenship. There is a need to clarify the relationship between the ULTRA Bill and the process of reviewing land tenure. The Department is now involved with the United Nations Development Programme. If the Bill gets passed it needs to be structured so all citizens can participate at all levels of implementation.
Lastly the Bill promises the involvement of courts where ownership is disputed. The question is which courts will be involved in this process, and how will it work. Litigation can become very expensive and poor people will not be able to challenge resourceful parties, unless the Bill makes provision for special courts to deal with these issues.
Surplus People Project (SPP)
Mr Harry May, SPP, said the Bill’s framing does not provide for broader expansion of tenure rights. The Bill must include security of tenure as included in the Constitution in Section 25(6). The Constitution speaks about different tenures and most importantly speaks about tenure which is legally secure. However, the Bill only speaks about one form of tenure. One must look at the possibility of including a wider range of tenure forms. The issue of having a title deed must be considered under this Bill, as title deeds are more secure and provide more security. The State must provide support for land tenure administration. The lack of support from the State is one of the key issues in municipalities, who needs to administer land tenure rights. Without support it becomes difficult for people’s rights to remain protected. The Committee must also look at considerations around budget and the Department’s capacity.
Community Representative Mpumalanga Province
Mr Fanyana Mkondwane said the speakers covered most of his presentation but he wants to add on to what was already said. According to his cognisance, the ULTRA Bill seeks to address the unfair discrimination of women and seeks to restore land rights to such women. The amendments are very necessary to stop the discrimination of indigenous Black women. One of the key objectives of the ruling party is to create a united, non-racial, non-sexist, free, and prosperous South Africa, where everyone enjoys the wealth of the country. Young people make up 60% of the South African population. Therefore, he is lobbying the Committee to include young people and people living with disabilities in the ULTRA Bill. During apartheid, land ownership was only granted to men. He quoted the former President of Zimbabwe Mr Robert Mugabe, “do you know in the whole of Africa, Zimbabweans are the only people who own their land. We are the only Blacks who run, and own the means of production. We own our own companies and our own land. [This] the true meaning of independence”.
Community Representative North West
Mr Wanda Moilwa, a Councillor representing farming communities, addressed the Committee. He said the ULTRA Bill is vague when it comes to protecting farm workers and dwellers. The Bill must do more to give farm workers and dwellers, protection around issues of land use. People live on these farms for 30 years and more. Some lived on these farms for an entire life, but still face the possibility of eviction. The Land Tenure Act does not protect such people fully. He asked the Committee to consider these challenges when amending the Bill.
Ms M Tlhape (ANC) said the input of community representatives is very enriching. She asked Mr Montswedi if the ULTRA Bill will serve as a tool of empowerment or if it will just assist to solve challenges mentioned.
She asked Dr Ncapayi to further explain the different terms of leases he referred to when he spoke about long term and short-term leases. She said he mentioned the Bill is not clear on how it contributes to the work and process the Department is currently involved in with the United Nations. She asked for clarity on this.
She also asked if he thinks this Bill will help farm workers with the many challenges currently faced. She wondered, if the Committee had to come up with a comprehensive piece of legislation, if it is possible to cluster traditional land, communal land, farm dwellers, townships, urban and municipal land, together in one piece of legislation.
Lastly, she asked how the Committee can assist in educating farm workers on rights.
Ms N Mahlo (ANC) said she appreciates the input of all the presenters. She said these presenters represent the grassroots. It helps knowing people on the ground who will be directly affected by this Bill have some form of input on the Bill.
Ms A Steyn (DA) asked about the problems Mr Mtsweni is experiencing. She asked if he ever approached the Department of Agriculture or any other Department for assistance. She asked if he could submit his problems in writing to the Committee, so the Committee can follow up on his issues. She said she cannot believe this is still happening on farms, with all the laws in place to protect farm workers. It is important the Committee follow up on this issue.
She asked Dr Ncapayi if the current legislation up for discussion will solve the issues mentioned. She said there needs to be one piece of legislation dealing with all tenure rights on different lands. The different legislations out there cause a situation where a problem only gets dealt with when it is too late. She asked if there is legislation which will include all land tenure rights under one umbrella, and asked if this will help solve the land issues in South Africa.
Ms K Mahlatsi (ANC) said her connection is very bad and she will not ask any questions, but appreciates the input from the presenters.
Mr N Capa (ANC) thanked the presenters for giving input. He said it was quite informative. One common aspect of all the presentations is there is a need for a comprehensive land reform process. The issues raised by presenters reflect, people feel a lot has to be done in the process of land reform. He asked Dr Ncapayi what solutions he would put in place to remedy the gaps he identified within the Bill.
Ms T Mbabama (DA) had one question for both Dr Ncapayi and Mr May. She asked for the presenters view on how this legislation fits into the work around expropriation without compensation.
Mr N Masipa (DA) asked Mr Mtsweni if he could explain what his position is on this Bill, and if farm workers support this Bill. He asked Dr Ncapayi if the Bill includes rural land, and what type of security of tenure he recommends for rural people. He said he agrees with the view of a comprehensive Bill to address all land issues.
Dr Ncapayi said, regarding the disparities on lease hold arrangements, some White farmers have lease agreements with municipalities on communal land. It sometimes lasts 40 to 60 years, while people leasing under the current legislation get short term leases of about 3 to 5 years. He understands there are arrangements to increase short term leases to long term leases, but in the majority of cases people are getting short term leases. If a lease gets extended, it is normally only for 10 years, while White counterparts have leaseholds of 30 years.
The issue of farm workers is an issue which needs serious consideration. In most cases farm workers live on land belonging to somebody else. This person determines what tenure rights farm workers have. He said he does not see the Bill helping in this regard, without the Bill addressing ownership of land by farm workers and dwellers. This is why the Bill must be linked to the process of land reform.
The Bill must form part of the land distribution process, otherwise , the most the Bill can do for farm dwellers is to allow farm dwellers to stay in the houses on the farm, nothing more. Farm workers rights to water and how farm workers use the land must still be curtailed.
The Bill needs to allow farm workers and dwellers to own land. This cannot be done without dealing with the issue of land redistribution. Whatever tenure arrangement the Bill seeks to develop, must consider various parts of the country have different tenure arrangements which render some South African citizens non-citizens. The Bill must assess if it addresses landlessness and the overcrowding Black people find themselves in. It will not be right to give tenure rights to people who are in overcrowded spaces. He said the Bill must deal with the issue of access to land for livelihood. This must be used to address the shortcomings around land reform. The majority of South Africans who are landless and ravaged by poverty have no access to land or the means of production.
Mr May said this legislation and the expropriation legislation affords South Africa an opportunity to broadly relook agrarian transformation across the country. Here he mentioned the property system in particular. The legislation will make more land available. It will be useful to include all tenure rights in one single Bill rather than fragmenting it across land legislation.
Mr Moilwa said the Department is also discriminatory. When the Department does assessments on land it wants to purchase, most of the time the Department does not consult with people living on the land. It leases the land to outside people who never lived on the land. This causes the Department to lose out on nurturing small emerging farmers who already know the land.
Mr Mtsweni asked if the Committee can send people to come and look at the condition farm workers and dwellers have to deal with on a daily basis. Mr Mtsweni lost connection and could not reconnect to the hearing again.
AGRI North West
Mr Willem De Chavonnes Vrugt, President of AGRI North West, fully supports this Bill and the submissions made by AGRI- SA. In the rural arears there is a massive problem of food insecurity fuelled by COVID-19. Low food production is not the cause, rather it can be attributed to the high unemployment rate. One of the reasons for the high unemployment rate is, there is no tenure of security for a lot of people in South Africa. This Bill will help with food insecurity problems in rural areas. He said in his area over 60% of land is publicly owned. The 35% of private land, accounts for more than 80% of people employed. Giving people tenure of security will allow people to participate in the rural economy. He said AGRI North West wants to see individuals and groups empowered, specifically women.
Community Representatives Mpumalanga
Mr Mxolisi Hadebe said he supports the ULTRA Bill as it seeks to uplift women. This Bill will ensure women participate in the land reform process with this. There must be more training and development provided to ensure the Bill gets implemented successfully.
The Chairperson said there seems to be a connection problem with two of the presenters. He asked Members to ask questions of clarity, and said the Committee will come back to the disconnected presenters, as soon as the connection problem is solved.
Ms Tlhape said she does not have a question. She thanked the presenters for the input. She said this Bill is important because it will give poor women the chance to get land ownership. It brings comfort knowing organisations such as Agri North West supports the move for women to be included in the agricultural sector
Ms Steyn thanked the presenters for the input and said the Committee will take into consideration all the inputs when discussing the Bill.
Mr Masipa said he knows Agri SA was working with traditional leaders to address the issue of productivity on communal land. He asked if Mr de Chavonnes Vrugt is able to give the Committee feedback on this process, and what some of the challenges are in making communal land productive.
Mr M Montwedi (EFF) said the Committee is talking about redress and justice. This Bill is not about protecting private property. He asked Mr de Chavonnes Vrugt if the goal should not rather be redressing and delivering justice. If so, then the issue of protecting private property can be discussed from an equal footing.
The Chairperson said most presenters had a problem connecting to the hearing. The Chairperson asked if there is anyone in the hearing who would like to make submissions to the Committee. He said the Committee asked for a two-and-a-half-day extension to hear oral submissions. The Committee received 480 requests to make oral submissions, and the Committee heard only 60 of those. He asked Members to give input on the way forward.
The Committee content advisor suggested the Department appear before the Committee to present its responses to the submissions received. This will be followed by the content advisors, researchers, and legal advisors analysis. The officials can answer legal questions which may arise from these submissions. The Committee must also deal with the motion of desirability and report to the House before adopting the Bill.
The Chairperson thanked all participants for the input. The Committee will engage on the desirability of the Bill, and, if the Committee is indeed able to achieve the goals it set out in the start of the process.
The meeting was adjourned.
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