Land Redistribution & Communal Land: government position; with Deputy Minister

NCOP Land Reform, Environment, Mineral Resources and Energy

15 September 2020
Chairperson: Ms T Modise (North West, ANC)
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Meeting Summary

Video: SC on Land Reform, Environment, Mineral Resources and Energy, (NCOP) 15 Sep 2020

The Department of Agriculture, Rural Development and Land Reform indicated that although communal land is either registered in the name of the state or is deemed as unregistered state land, it is not actually state land. The government’s position is that communal land will play no part in land redistribution but will rather be transferred to the people who live on it. The Department is developing policy and legislation in line with the recommendations of the Presidential Advisory Panel on Land Reform and Agriculture, adopted by Cabinet in December 2019. This will clarify the government’s position and provide the necessary institutional framework for future administration of communal land. Relevant stakeholders, including traditional leaders, will participate in the process.

The National Agricultural Marketing Council spoke about the development of an agriculture and agro processing master plan and building the capacity of emerging farmers.

The Committee found the presentation to be thin on detail about communal land. Members welcomed the government-led development of infrastructure in rural areas to assist subsistence farming on communal land and the importance of food security was noted. Members questioned if government has budgeted for this development, but commended the Department for supporting farmers, as this contributes to the economy. It urged the Department to finalise the policy and legislation regarding communal land, and requested more interaction with the department on policy and the finances needed to take the process forward.

The Chairperson expressed concern about the Agri-park model saying that based on assessment during Committee oversight visits, the model has not proven to be a success and the use of the troubled Land Bank to offer financial assistance is worrisome. However, the private-public partnership plan is welcomed in an effort to assist the farmers and the community. She spoke of the need for an ownership document. Others spoke of a communal trust and each member should have a share certificate. It was agreed that the rights of people living in communal areas should be guaranteed.

Members noted the importance of including everyone in the public consultation process when formulating policy. It advised that the planning for the transfer of land must consider ways to avoid conflict between communities and traditional authorities and that water rights must also be considered. Members asked that the Department ensure that land reform remains pro poor and not become pro elite

Meeting report

Chairperson opening remarks
The Chairperson welcomed Deputy Minister Dlamini and conveyed the apologies of the Minister and other Deputy Minister. He explained the Department of Agriculture, Rural Development and Land Reform (DARDLR) will present on the question of communal land which is in the hands of traditional leaders. Given that the Committee is made of individuals representing the provinces, this presentation is important for them to report to their constituencies on this.

Deputy Minister opening remarks
Mr Sdumo Dlamini, Deputy Minister of Agriculture, Rural Development and Land Reform, emphasised the importance of the land question. This meeting is a sign that the Department is taking this matter seriously. He said that he did not want to delay the meeting by saying too much and handed over to the Director General to lay out the presentation.

Land Redistribution and Communal Land: DARDLR briefing
Mr Mdu Shabane, DARDLR Director General, indicated that tenure reform is about the rights of communities and individuals that reside on communal land being regarded as de facto owners. Even though communal land is either registered in the name of the state or is deemed as unregistered state land, it is not actually state land. The government’s position is that communal land will play no part in land redistribution but will rather be transferred to the people who live on it.

Former homelands do not form part of land redistribution as it already has owners. Land redistribution seeks to address equity in land ownership in South Africa. Land redistribution seeks to provide the disadvantaged and the poor with access to land for residential and productive purposes. Its scope includes the urban and rural poor, labour tenants, farm workers as well as new entrants to agriculture (White Paper on South African Land Policy 1997). Land redistribution is not limited to agricultural land, it extends to other uses. It seeks to address landlessness, homelessness and disrupt the patterns of the apartheid spatial order.

The Department is developing policy and legislation, in line with the recommendations of the Presidential Advisory Panel on Land Reform and Agriculture adopted by Cabinet in December 2019. The policy and legislation will clarify the government position and give the necessary institutional framework for future administration of communal land. Relevant stakeholders, including traditional leaders will participate in the process.

Dr Sifiso Ntombela, Chief Economist: National Agricultural Marketing Council, explained that NAMC as a department agency is working with DARDLR in the development of an agriculture and agro processing master plan (AAMP). This master plan is part of a seven sector plan whose sectors were identified by the President and Cabinet as key drivers of the economy. The master plan focuses on agriculture and agro processing industries and building the capacity of emerging farmers. It has adopted Change Theory which involves mass production, processing and consumption for South Africans with eight production schemes to create 317 000 new jobs, 63 500 SMMEs, uplift 1.2 million households. The production schemes will be based on commodity corridors.

Mr C Smit (Limpopo, DA) remarked that the presentation touched only very softly on what the Committee requested. The presentation did not really address the question about the future of land in these areas under discussion. The Department said communal land is not subject to restitution as it is already in the hands of the owners but that is a contradiction as the Department says the land belongs to the state legally. That is a redistribution process supported by the Constitution as highlighted in Chapter Two, Bill of Rights, section 25(2) and (6).

Is this communal land legally secured? Tribal authorities managing the land on behalf of the communities were consulted by the Department but were community members consulted as it often happens that tribal authorities get into conflict with community members. Do the community members who you say own the land have legal document proving they have legally secured it? If the land is owned by the community it should be in a communal trust and each member should have a share certificate. When one looks at the communal land in tribal areas, you find individuals building big houses there. Do they own that land? No. What will the government do in such cases?

He wanted to know if it is part of the Department’s plan to transfer the title of that communal land over to the community, if not, why not? How much of communal land has been transferred to the communities or individuals beyond Ingonyama Trust since 1994?

Mr A Cloete (Free State, FF+) said it feels we are already moving to getting rid of Section 25 of the Constitution. It does not make sense to claim that communal land which is registered or unregistered under the state does not belong to the state. There needs to clarity. There are to be several projects happening in these communal lands. From where is the money for irrigation systems and infrastructure coming? Will there be a bigger budget for this? Slide 6 speaks about Adopted Change Theory, what does that entail? Mass production – will there be another budget to drive commercial farming within traditional authorities?

State land allocation – what happens with the skills assessment process? Will there be a kind of performance management system, where women, youth and people with disabilities are assessed afterwards on whether the land is utilised correctly? If those allocated the land are not using it correctly, will the government take it from them to hand to someone who will make good use of it? The political issue that needs to be addressed is that land reform has moved from being pro poor to pro elite. The question therefore is what is the Department doing to ensure food security after land reform and that the land is not captured by politicians?

Ms C Labuschagne (Western Cape, DA) noted that DARDLR said that communal land is critical for food security but it needs infrastructure and production investment led by government to realise its potential. What does "led by government" really mean in detail and why must government lead, is there a budget for that? The document states: "DARDLR has positioned communal land and state-acquired land as engine for growth in the Agriculture and Agro Processing Master Plan". How does it fit in with communal land?

How many of these AgriHubs are close to communal land to give support? What will the Department do to ensure all the support systems are functional? What is the time frame for policy and legislation on communal and state acquired land? What is the time frame for the whole land redistribution mentioned? How many hectares of land in this master plan has been earmarked for redistribution for agriculture and how much of it for housing?

Mr A Arnolds (Western Cape, EFF) thanked the Department for the presentation. On the state land allocation for 2021, why is the Western Cape not included? There is an urgent need to address landlessness and homelessness. The cost of land reform is one of the major challenges for the current government. The rights of the people living on communal land must be guaranteed. Consultation and participation is important in the traditional leaders' role in the redistribution and allocation process. Most of the communal areas are under utilized and there is potential for them to develop but resources are needed and that should be addressed. Policy and the financial aspect should also be attended to take the process forward.

Mr M Nhanha (Eastern Cape, DA) referred to crop farmers in Mount Fletcher and Matatiele. These farmers largely produce and export maize, to what extent is the Department involve in that operation? What kind of support have those farmers receive up to date and what are the future plans of the Department for the operation? People have built big houses on the land which was said to be for farming. This practice is prevalent in the Eastern Cape. Is the Department aware of this? Have they been consulted as the land is fertile for farming not housing?

Mr A Cloete (Free State, FF+) said a land audit booklet had been published by the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform which showed private land ownership versus state land ownership. About four million hectares of land in the Eastern Cape was unaccounted for. Is the Department aware of this? To whom does the land belong to – does it form part of communal land?

Mr T Matibe (Limpopo, ANC) thank the Department for presentation. How long will it take the Department to complete the policies it is working on? It says it will have consultation with traditional leaders. Does this mean the community members will not be included in these consultations? Creating infrastructure in rural areas is appreciated but what support will it provide to small scale farmers producing red meat on communal land?

Mr Arnolds asked how the Department will address the access to water challenge.

The Chairperson expressed concern about the cost of the plan to change communal land to commercial farming as that would be very expensive. It seems as if the Agri-park model is seen as a cornerstone. However, the Committee's assessment during its oversight visits is that the model is not functional and has not proven to be a success and it will lead the Department to failure. The use of the Land Bank to offer financial assistance is worrisome, considering the financial problems it is currently experiencing. However, the private-public partnership plan is welcomed in an effort to assist farmers and the community. She expressed concern about the use of the Communal Property Association (CPA) which led to conflict. Communal land redistribution should be done with a clear strategy that works to avoid conflict. The land that is in the hands of traditional leaders that is allocated to people should have a smooth and well thought-out plan on redistribution. You cannot allocate people who are not in that community to that land and she said this was happening in her province of North West. Also, there should also be an ownership document. However, the plan as laid out in the presentation if one can implement, it can help communities.

Mr Mdu Shabane, DARDLR Director General, replied about the concern that the presentation was thin about what is going to happen on communal land. We are going to consult nationwide before the policy is approved so we thought  that the Department would come to the meeting to give the Committee a holistic view on government’s position on communal land. Communal land has never been part of land redistribution as it is only 13% in any case, already occupied, overcrowded and underdeveloped. Land redistribution is in line with Constitution and from its outset set a target of redistribution of 30% white-owned agricultural land.

Communities living on communal land do not have full title as the land is registered to the state, but they have right in land. The recommended policies for development seek to address the question of 800+ traditional councils who in them there are communities and villages who have individual with rights living in that land.

What is the legal form or the content of the rights to communities and to individuals? Government is not going to decide on a single instrument. There is a suite of options available for people to own the land they live on that can be explored – whether through shared certificate or full title. But government wants to shy away from full title. If the Department takes full title as set out in the Deeds Registry Act not only will the process take a 100 years to accomplish but it will be very expensive to survey and register every homestead and it is unaffordable. In Asia there are different models of registering rights given people legal right of full ownership without using the expensive method we have in this country. Those rights have full legal substance - they are tradable, transferable and can be bonded by the bank.

This is what we want to consult about. Traditional leaders are clear about their position - they want the land transferred to traditional leaders. Government has to take into account the views of all sections of society not just the traditional leaders, but also the views of people in the community and civil society and look at practicality and affordability.

We note the concerns of the Chairperson that we need to be careful not to set community and traditional leaders against each other and other communities. The policy that we will develop should also look at how to intervene in conflicts which is a challenge experienced in the current CPAs.

The DG said that he cannot put his head on a block about a timeline. He cannot say if the policy takes three or six months. However, the Department hopes that by June 2021 after consultation in the provinces, it can table a policy and Bill in Parliament.

There is no intention for the state to be the perpetual owner of the 700 000 hectare of state-acquired land. There will be an option to buy that leased land. There will be a process allowing people to be assisted by the state to have full title. Labour tenants and farm dwellers can achieve full title transfer through blended finance. The 800 farms on state land must be farmed by those assigned to them - they cannot lease them out to others or they will be removed.

The starter support given to livestock farmers is not just about training. They plan to train thousands through Agricultural Research Council (ARC) and Onderstepoort Biological Products (OBP) to bring services closer to communities. DARDLR is alive to the District Development Model (DDM). They plan for crowding in of resources from all departments to the 44 districts and decentralise the production schemes.

Water reform is needed for water rights. Commercial farmers have 95% of the 55% of water used for agricultural purposes.

Potential customers like DOD part of the public spend goes to those communities. Department cannot fund the whole plan, consolidate programmes around the master plan private sector coming to partner to support famers and speed up land reform - it is a broad social compact.

The DG agreed that the invading of land is a serious problem. The Department needs to find a way with traditional leaders to implement the Spatial Planning and Land Use Management Act (SPLUMA) on communal land. There needs to be proper zoning of what is land for farming and for building houses. There is a stalemate on SPLUMA as traditional leaders say they were not consulted sufficiently on that Act and want to have a bigger say in zoning.

He acknowledged the large role that conflicts play in the in the common property institutions such as CPAs and trusts set up for land returned through the restitution process.

The DG agreed that the Department needs to report more regularly, if not quarterly, to the Committee on the roll out plan and the allocation of the 700 000 hectares and the implementation of the Master Plan.

There is a distinct difference between the Agri-park and the AAMP. It will use the Agri-park built infrastructure and farmer production support unit and enhance it for the production schemes. The two are separate - the AAMP envisages total fully operational production schemes.

As the four million hectares shown as unaccounted for in the land audit booklet, this could be unsurveyed unregistered land. That is quite a frightening number and the Department must check on that and respond to the Committee.

On the Chairperson's concern about the Land Bank, the DG replied that the money will come from the Department in partnership with the private sector and not so much from the Land Bank.

Deputy Minister closing remarks
Deputy Minister Dlamini thanked the DG for the presentation and his response to questions. Chairperson, you have guided us in this meeting. The road ahead is long. However, we take courage from working together and we will reach a point where we say, land redistribution is indeed happening in South Africa. The Department and Committee will certainly provide support that will see us achieving the desired targets.

Chairperson closing remarks
The Department is commended for this achievement thus far, even more so on supporting farmers and distributing the land. The work is highly appreciated. Beneficiaries should be granted land where there is access to work. The Committee shall be having follow ups on land redistribution as it is very serious matter.

Meeting adjourned.


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