01 Dec 2020
The Portfolio Committee on Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development received a virtual briefing from the Minister of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development on the progress on the release of state land for agricultural purposes.
At this meeting, the Committee was briefed by the Minister of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development, Ms Thoko Didiza, on the progress on the release of state land for agricultural purposes. The Minister clarified that only farms which were under the South African Development Trust have been released. In the Western Cape and Gauteng, there were no farms under the South African Development Trust, as there were no Bantustans or homelands in those two provinces. Minister Didiza said that her Department was pressing ahead with land reform; hundreds of state-owned farms had been release for agricultural purposes.
The Chairperson of the Committee welcomed the presentation and the establishment of the steering committee and its sub streams. The electronic management system for the database of the farms was developed in-house and thus no additional costs were incurred.
The Department received a total of 43 997 applications for the 700 000 hectares of farm land, which comprises 627 farms.
The Committee has requested a database of these farms, and a list of the eligible beneficiaries. The Committee further called for a full database of all state land ownership in both the Agriculture and Land Reform departments.
The Committee heard that the land rights enquiry has been completed with the exception of Mpumalanga and North West provinces. In Mpumalanga, 33 farms were completed with the exception of one farm which is awaiting a meeting confirmation with the traditional authority. In the North West province, 246 farms were completed with 150 farm enquiries outstanding in one district.
It was noted that with regards to the Department of Public Works and Infrastructure (DPWI), the majority of land under that department is state land. The DPWI released that land to the Department for restitution.
The Department has to respond to all questions posed in writing by 12 noon on 19 February 2021.
Chairperson’s Opening Remarks
The Chairperson requested to start the meeting two or three minutes early because of the tight schedule; there was only an hour for this session. The Portfolio Committee (PC) would give the Minister 20 minutes to present, then also have 20 minutes for questions of clarity, and then give the Minister the last 20 minutes to respond. He welcomed the Minister, Deputy Ministers, Committee Members, officials of the Department, and members of the media. The PC has on more than one occasion made reference to President Ramaphosa’s first State of the Nation address, in which he affirmed Government’s commitment to accelerate South Africa’s land redistribution programme, not only to redress a grave historical injustice, but also to bring more producers into the sector, and to make more land available for cultivation. It is therefore with much eagerness and appreciation that the PC receives this presentation. The Chairperson wanted to make remarks in respect of this important initiative, “lest we forget that every step that we take forward with land redistribution helps to erase that horrid legacy that stripped our people of their honour, and their land”. There is probably no issue more emotive than this, for it represents the healing of intergenerational trauma, as well as the opening of opportunity to expand South Africa’s agricultural economy. With each passing day, South Africa becomes more cognisant of the devastating impact of this global pandemic. This squarely brings into view the critical nature of the economic recovery plan tabled by the President, in which he emphasised that agriculture is one of those sectors of the economy that are poised to contribute positively to job creation, food security, and economic growth, particularly as South Africa strengthens its market access for South African agricultural products globally. The PC was “profoundly encouraged” that the Minister was with the PC, albeit via a virtual platform, to appraise the Committee of progress in respect of redistribution of state land of agricultural purpose. The Committee is under no illusions that this process has its challenges, and at times is fraught with the technicalities of administrative justice. The Chairperson realised only last week when it was brought to his attention the case of one Ivan Cloete, who was awarded a lease on state-owned land, Bellevue, and subsequently moved to Gelukwaarts, and thereafter to Colenso. This case is a story of “the good, the bad and the ugly” of land redistribution, with all the drama of acrimony between partners, relocation after relocation, intimidation, malicious damage to property, contending claims, allegations of corruption, collusion, and even crime and land invasion. The PC looks forward to hearing how this and other cases are amicably resolved in order to advance the national agenda of land redistribution. No process is without challenge, but “the measure of our success is how we navigate and negotiate those challenges”. The PC was also keen to hear how the Department has dealt with land that is currently occupied by individuals and communities who are residing on state land without lease agreements. These are communities that applied for the 30-year lease, and their applications were never finalised, and those who never applied for state land, but are interested in performing agricultural activities. He wanted to emphasise that the creation of the Bantustan homelands was one of the most pernicious acts perpetrated against South Africa’s people; that overnight, in the words of Sol Plaatje, “rendered Africans foreigners in the land of their birth”. How South Africa proceeds with completing the transfer of ownership of land from South African Development Trust (SADT) land to affected communities is critical, but also long overdue. The PC is under no illusions as the pressures on land reform, redistribution, and expropriation grows with each passing day. “We must as a collective pursue a part that both addresses the historic injustices while unlocking the latent economic potential and relieving the pressure resulting from land hunger, poverty, and gross inequality”.
Briefing: Agricultural State Land Allocation Project
Ms Thoko Didiza, Minister of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (DALRRD) thanked the Chairperson for an opening address that reflected and highlighted the important issues that the Department, as well as the PC, as Members of the legislature, need to address in order to redress imbalances of the past. There are many areas that the Department would have liked to reflect on in this meeting, but it narrowed its presentation to reflect on the state land release that was announced by the President last year. The Department also wanted to brief the PC and give it an update after its first presentation to see how far the Department has gone, and what it thinks would be the best way to move forward. The Department has also reflected specifically on matters that were raised last time relating to Gwatyu, as well as the issue of Mr Rakgase. The Minister said that she would not take 20 minutes, because she thought it would be good to have more time for reflection and discussion. After the presentation, she was sure that there would be discussion, but also advice from the PC on how best to move forward.
Mr Terries Ndove, Deputy Director General (DDG): Land Redistribution and Development, DALRRD, presented.
The presentation included the following headings:
2. List of Acronyms
3. Progress from last meeting
4. Adjusted Project Approach
5. High Level Process to Support Revised Project Approach
6. High Level Project Plan
7. Critical Activities
8. Pipeline for Achieving Provincial Phase 1 Targets (Hectares)
9. Feedback on Gwatyu Intervention
10. Rakgase Matter
3. Progress from the last meeting: Establishment of a Steering Committee (SC) and its sub-streams: Completed.
Mr Ndove added that there are eight sub-streams that were critical in ensuring that there was proper governance with regard to this project. The eight sub-streams were: Applications Sub-stream; Data and Electronic Management System Sub-stream; Communication Sub-stream; Land Rights Enquiry Sub-stream; Farm Development Support Sub-stream; Training and Capacity Development Sub-stream; Dispute Resolution Sub-stream; and Appeals Sub-stream. He added (in relation to the Land Rights Enquiry Sub-stream) that there have been communities and individuals on state land. The Department ensures that it conducts land rights enquiries, determine people’s status, and make a determination.
(See pages 9-10 for the full details.)
2. Establishment of approval structures: Completed.
2.1. District Beneficiary Screening Committee (DBSC)
2.2. Provincial Technical Committee (PTC)
2.3. National Selection and Approval Committee (NSAC)
The role of the DBSC is to ensure that it collects information that will be necessary during the adjudication process, to make sure that information is verified against the Government Personnel and Salary System (PERSAL), Home Affairs and the Military Veterans Database, in order to ensure that people in government do not benefit from this process. It also conducts screening, verification, as well as mandatory site visits to ensure that applicants familiarise themselves with the land that will be provided. Once the DBSC has done that, everything goes to the PTC.
Roles and Responsibility of the PTC:
Receives and verifies the results of automated screening process.
Confirms that the absence or availability of an objection on the property concerned.
Conduct an automated screening process on the scoring model for purposes of shortlisting.
Draw-up a list of shortlisted applicants and hand it over to the DBSC for assets verification.
Conduct a review of the reports on the asset verification and mandatory farm visit.
Conduct interviews with all applicants following the outcomes of the mandatory farm visit.
Recommend the successful/ preferred applicant to the NSAC for approval and allocation.
Send a representative to the NSAC to provide explanations if there are areas requiring clarity.
Record in writing any reasons for deviations for future reference.
Roles and Responsibility of the NSAC:
Receive, consider and/or review the recommendations for allocation of agricultural state land properties/ farms from the Provincial Technical Committees (PTCs).
Refer back a submission/ memo to the PTC for more information or further clarity on the contents of the documents presented to it.
Confirm any objections or disputes on the properties concerned prior to approval.
Record in writing any reason(s) for deviation from the recommendations of the PTCs.
Approve and allocate the recommended qualifying applicants and the allocation of the identified property.
Issue a signed approval and allocation letter to the successful applicants.
3. Applications captured in the central database: completed (provincial overview of applications received and screenshot of data in the database (see page 19.)
Applications captured in the central database: applications received via the online system and manual forms and all manual forms have been captured into one database.
The Department received 43 997 applications in total. The highest number of applications comes from Limpopo (14 049), followed by North West (11 968) and the Eastern Cape (6 809). Mr Ndove added the following on the Land Parcel Identifier (LPID) matter: These are people who have applied, but it was difficult to ascertain what such people have applied for. The Department has put means in place to ensure that it traces these people, and to ensure that it assists people to identify exactly which farms they have applied to. 25 189 individuals and organisations accounted for the 43 997 applications received. This means that there are applicants who have applied for more than one farm. Hence, there are 43 997 applications, but only 25 189 applicants.
4. Verification and Scoring
4.1. Eligibility Screening: Eligibility and scoring model has been implemented.
4.2. Applicant Scoring: Automated screening tool has been developed.
4.3. Snapshot of the automated screening tool (See page 24.): Verification of data against some datasets has been completed.
4.4. Preliminary Outcomes of the Verification of Applications for Eligibility
Eligibility criteria has been developed and applied to the advertisement.
Scoring model using the criteria was developed and automated.
Verification is focusing on identity numbers and legal entity registration numbers against:
Department of Home Affairs
Department of Public Service and Administration
Companies Intellectual Property Commission (CIPC).
Military Veterans Database
- Check if applicant is from a previously disadvantaged (PDI) Group
- Check if applicant is a natural person
- Check if Applicant is a Juristic person/ Legal entity
- Check if applicant is older is 18 years or older
- Check if applicant is a current or former public servant
- Check if applicant is a public office bearer/politician
- Check if applicant is currently farming.
- Check if applicant is South African Revenue Service (SARS) compliant or exempted
Applicant Scoring based on the following:
Persons with disabilities
Unemployed military veterans
Unemployed agricultural graduates
Technical interview questions
Preliminary Outcomes of the Verification of Applications for Eligibility:
1. Outcome of Completed Verifications:
a) Number of Identity Numbers confirmed as invalid by Department of Home Affairs – 408 (completed on 03 February 2021)
b) Number of Public Servants (Persal) who applied – 475 (Completed on 05 February 2021)
c) Number of Public Servants (Persal) who resigned within 24 months of the advertising of farms – 310 (Completed on 05 February 2021)
2. Verifications in progress
a) CIPC – Companies and Intellectual Property Commission (12 February 2021)
b) Military Veterans (12 February 2021)
5. Land Rights Enquiry (LRE)
Progress: All provinces except for Mpumalanga and North West have been completed:
- Mpumalanga – 33 farms completed. One farm is outstanding. Awaiting meeting confirmation with the traditional authority.
- North West – 246 farms completed. 150 farms outstanding in one district.
(See page 27 for a table summarising the broad outcomes from the Land Rights Enquiry [LRE].)
6. Farm Development Support Assessments
Progress: 245 out of 647 farm assessments have been completed (38%). KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga, Free Sate and Northern Cape have been completed. Of the 382 assessments which are incomplete, the majority of the outstanding farms, totalling 299, are in North-West.
(See page 29 for a table summarising the broad outcomes from the Farm Development Support Assessments.)
7. Training and Capacity Development Assessments
Progress: Skills audit on already allocated 204 farms will be completed by 26 February 2021.
4. Adjusted Project Approach
Due to the complexity of the project, e.g. land that is already encumbered, invasions, and disputes, the approach was readjusted into the two phases below:
Phase 1: Categories of encumbered farms:
-Existing land claims
-Renewal of Leases
Unencumbered farms total hectarage: 443 925
- Access to conduct LRE refused
-Farms with invasion
-LRE not finalised in North West
Total Hectarage: 256 075*
*217 256 hectares come from Limpopo, Mpumalanga and North West provinces
The Department is dealing with phase 1, but it is already synchronised into the second phase.
5. High Level Process to Support Adjusted Project Plan (See page 34.)
6. High Level Project Plan (See page 35.) The first part (up to 12 January 2021) had already been done, where the Department had dealt with 154 000 Ha.
7. Critical Activities
From the high-level plan, below are the critical activities which have been lifted:
1. Complete the outstanding Land Rights Enquiries.
2. Complete the outstanding farm assessments and finalise the startup package per farm.
3. Training and capacity development to commence after skills audit has been completed on the already allocated farms.
4. Dispute Resolution to commence on disputes which have been lodged.
8. Pipeline for Achieving Provincial Phase One Targets (hectares) (See the table on page 37.)
9. Feedback on Gwatyu Intervention:
Comprises of 95 properties with an extent of 35 000 hectares.
Former Transkei lessees with expired leases
Amatshatshu traditional settlement with a traditional council
Gwatyu farm dwellers who wants to be registered as a Communal Property Association (CPA)
LRE completed on all 95 properties.
Provincial Shared Services Centre (PSSC) held a meeting with the stakeholders including the Chris Hani District ward councilor and the police. The meeting was disrupted by the Gwatyu farm dwellers who rejected the presence of the Amatshatshu traditional council. The meeting was stopped.
The province received a communication from the Gwatyu farm dwellers attorneys and resolved that the farms will be excluded from the allocations. A written response has since been sent to the attorneys on 19 January 2021.
The provincial office has issued an invite and is awaiting a response from all Gwatyu stakeholders following the previous meeting which was disrupted:
To agree on the land rights enquiry report.
Thereafter present the report to the Gwatyu community.
An intervention meeting was led by the Deputy Minister and a plan has been developed, and it is awaiting a further discussion with the Deputy Minister to finalise and implement.
10. Rakgase Matter:
1. The two farms (remaining extent and portion one of the farm Nooitgedacht No.11 JQ) that formed the basis for litigation between Mr M D Rakgase and government were identified as part of the underutilised state land at the commencement of the State Land Allocation Project.
2. One of the two farms (Portion 1 of the farm Nooitgedacht No.11 JQ) accidentally got advertised in October 2020 with the state land that was being advertised for redistribution.
3. The land transfer process was well underway at that stage to get the land transferred to Mr Rakgase.
4. On the 22 December 2020, both farms were indeed transferred to Mr Rakgase.
It is recommended that the Portfolio Committee takes note of:
1. The progress on the Agricultural State Land Allocation Project; and
2. The high-level project plan and its critical activities.
The Chairperson said that he would give each Member two minutes to ask questions.
Mr N Capa (ANC) asked whether there has been any training or retraining for the officials who are engaged in this task. Can the Department assist with the relation between farms and hectares? If the hectares are often translated into farms, it will always have a meaning. Are there any possible challenges that the Department will expect to be facing here? Mr Capa added a caveat that if his next question was unconstitutional, then the Chairperson could discard it. “How do we address the conflict or contradiction between the categories of people who are supposed to be preferred, and how they are not always the ones willing to farm?” It is eligibility and ability.
Ms A Steyn (DA) said that the PC had not learned much from last year. Under what programme does Mr Ivan Cloete’s farm eviction fall? Mr Cloete is not part of the 700 000 Ha the PC was discussing that day. She had sent the Chairperson a request with the letters from the Eastern Cape, and the same in Mpumalanga. Mr Cloete is not the only person that got evicted from his land. Can the PC find out from the Department what that programme is called, and what is the policy for that programme? When can the PC get a full database? She saw that Mpumalanga and North West were falling behind on the finalisation. When to get database to see how much land identified? Slide 19 showed a screenshot of a database. When will the PC be able to get a database to see how much land has been identified? Does the Department have a full database of all land ownership in the name of the two departments (Land Reform and Agriculture)? She would refer the Minister to written questions that were asked in November or December about two districts in the country. She analysed those two districts, and found a lot more land registered in the name of the Department of Rural Development that is not on this list. She did some research, and all of them were under the Pro-Active Land Acquisition Strategy (PLAS) or other programmes that land was bought under. She wanted to know if the Department was giving the PC full details, and disclosure of the land registered in the name of the Department. When will the Department know what funding is available for comprehensive cost for farmers? That was one of the failures in the past; government transferred land, and then there was no funding.
Mr S Matiase (EFF) appreciated the report from the Minister, and appreciated the speed with which the Minister has deemed it necessary to compile this report while the work is being carried through. The report answers some questions that the PC asked the Minister to answer. The PC appreciated that, though the report partially answers the questions, but at least there is a report. Now the PC knows of the 700 000 Ha of land breaks down into about 627 farms. Now the PC knows the number of farms involved. It is important to have that clarity, which was lacking when the announcement was first made by the Minister last year. Of these 627 farms, the PC would want to know the status of each farm – are these farms which have been leased in the past, and have these farms been having lessees or occupants? If the answer is yes, it means that these are farms that are not newly acquired. These have been state farms which have been occupied. The PC needs to know the breakdown of each farm. On Gwatyu: The Gwatyu matter should not be a political football; it is a serious matter. Of 95 farms that are there, the occupants, or farm dwellers; have they been recognised in the past, have they been given leases to occupy the land, and if so, why have the leases not been confirmed “for about 30 years”? There is the Gwatyu Communal Property Association – is it recognised? If not, why has it not been recognised?
Ms B Tshwete (ANC) noticed that on the presentation, the Western Cape was not reflected. Why is that? Is there no agricultural state land in the Western Cape that needs to be allocated? Can the PC get a comprehensive report? If the Western Cape is not included, then it would mean that the presentation is not accurate.
[Ms Steyn wrote in the chat box: Gauteng is also not reflected.]
[A Member wrote in the chat box: [I] [a]lso saw that. Last answer was that [Gauteng] has no land, if I remember correctly.]
Ms T Mbabama (DA) noted that on slide 39, it said that an intervention meeting was led by the Deputy Minister, and the plan has been developed. It says awaiting further discussion with the Deputy Minister to finalise and implement. To her, this looked like a top-down approach. When the Department says that an intervention meeting was led by the Deputy Minister, were the residents of Gwatyu there in that intervention meeting? If a plan has been developed, was it developed with the residents? The Department said that the provincial office has issued an invitation, and is awaiting a response from all Gwatyu stakeholders. The Gwatyu stakeholders that she is in touch with have not received an invitation. When was the invitation sent? What date would this envisaged meeting be? Did the Department send it to all the Gwatyu stakeholders?
Ms T Breedt (FF+) said that she was glad to see that the Department was using an electronic system, and not using Excel sheets anymore. Who developed this electronic system, and at what cost? What are the terms of reference of this? Will Members be able to use this electronic system for their other matters? She said Ms Steyn gave a good example of that in terms of the PLAS farms, of which the Members do not quite know which is where. The presentation said that the Department is currently in the phase where current occupants of state land are being dealt with. How is the Department dealing with the current occupants? She was concerned; other Members mentioned evictions as well. What is the Department doing, and how is it doing this? Page 37 spoke to the phase 1 targets: The Northern Cape is on 0% because its committee is only scheduled to sit in two days’ time. Worrisome as well is that Limpopo is at 7%, while the rest of the provinces are 70% and above. How is the Department addressing this? For her, that is a backlog; how will it address that backlog? How will the Department ensure that it does not have provinces that continue in that way? On competency to run farms: with this state land that the Department is acquiring – Members have seen the residential properties, but how will the Department actually equip farmers to get land that can be farmed, to ensure that that land does not go barren?
Inkosi R Cebekhulu (IFP) shared a concern: out of these properties, the Department takes too long to release the farms to those who are eligible to occupy them. As a result, properties end up being vandalised. What is the Department doing to protect those properties before they get vandalised, so that the beneficiaries who are coming in will find that the houses on those farms are still intact, rather than what one sees on such properties when one drives around?
Mr N Masipa (DA) asked how the Department will make sure that the process can be trusted. This also relates to the issue in the Western Cape with Mr Ivan Cloete, who has been a good farmer over the years, had the opportunity to farm, but was moved from one farm to the other. There is also the case of Mr Rakgase. People are questioning the processes that the Department follows. How is the Department making sure that their processes are trusted? He asked about farm capacity, specifically land for farming. Many of these farms have been vandalised – what are the conditions of these farms that have been allocated to the farmers? Is there a budget envisaged to ensure that those who need capacity from a financial point of view are supported adequately to ensure that these farms are productive, not dilapidated?
Mr M Montwedi (EFF) asked which audit the Department is relying on in terms of it having agreed to then allocate some of those farms. It is a serious concern. There is an audit that was done by the Department of Public Works and Infrastructure (DPWI). Most of those farms, because they are currently occupied by white people, have not been advertised by the Department. He wanted to know why that was the case. Most of the farms that are advertised are currently occupied by black people. How many of the advertised farms are actually occupied now, and what are the activities that are happening on those farms? The PC requested from the Department a comprehensive plan on land identified, productivity, recapitalisation, and development, including a consultation report. He said that he might have missed this document, but he had not seen it.
Ms M Tlhape (ANC) wanted to reiterate the issue of farms available for new tenants. She thought it would be proper for the Committee to know if this programme helped to get new tenants. In previous engagements, it was indicated that other farms might be occupied, and this process would [00:53:53 unclear] that occupation. Moving forward, the Committee’s interest is to know new farms that can be occupied. On eligibility screening: there is a bullet point on the slide that talks about applicants’ SARS compliance or exemption. She did not know if it was initially part of the application. What is importance of this? Does it return to the issue of people who not working, and not having a means of income, who are trying as subsistence farmers to get into space of having farms, and being excluded by SARS compliance? She asked about slide 33, which talks about categories of incumbent farms. The slide talked about the total hectares. Is it possible for consistency’s sake to go back to the total number of farms, because the PC has been tracking different provinces with the number of farms that were available? If the discussion was on hectares, she would lose track of how many farms had been screened in phase one.
The Chairperson said that is was commendable that the establishment of the Steering Committee has been completed. What is the role of the Steering Committee, and how will it coordinate and work in cooperation with the land district councils? In relation to land that was already occupied by the time the Department made it available, and advertised land to be allocated – has the Department conducted the land enquiry on the land that was already occupied? The capturing of applications for land allocations has been completed, and a central database created. What is the total number of applications received? What will the Department do with other applications that either met or did not meet the criteria, or requirements for land allocation? In particular with reference to both Gauteng and the Western Cape, why have there not been any applications made? He wanted to be “more biased” to the San and Khoi people, who were some of the first people to be located in this part of the world. Have the San and Khoi people been considered for farm applications, and will they be prioritised for receiving these farms? In Mpumalanga, only one farm is outstanding, and has not yet been surveyed, and the Department is awaiting a meeting with the traditional authority, and awaiting confirmation with the traditional authority. Are there other reasons that might warrant great concern?
Minister Didiza wanted to go back to the issue raised earlier on what farms the Department is talking about. The farms that were under SADT do not include PLAS farms or Transformation of Certain Rural Areas Act (TRANCA) farms, which are also state land - it is important to appreciate that. In the Western Cape, one did not have SADT because in the then-apartheid government, there was no homeland in the Western Cape. There is TRANCA land in the Western Cape, and the Department will report how far it is with that process, which was given to coloured communities. There was not discrimination in the Western Cape. The land parcels which the Department is dealing with are those under the SADT. It is the same with Gauteng. Even though there were few lands under the areas that fell under the KwaNdebele homeland. The Department did report that after the President made his announcement in February, the Department started a process, and within that, there were allocations that were already made. The 600-odd farms that were advertised in October were the balance of that 700 000. This answers the question that has been raised by Members such as Ms Steyn in respect of the state land. The Department was very clear from the beginning that what it is dealing with now is the unfinished story of land that was taken away, supposed to be given to communities, and left in a situation where no regularisation of the land was done. The Department is trying to complete that process. The Department commits to come back to the Committee to say that this is the extent of land that has been acquired by the state under the programme PLAS; these are the allocations that have been done on PLAS land; these are the remaining land parcels that have to be transferred. With regards to the DPWI, the majority of land under the DPWI that is state land has been released to the Department for restitution. The other land parcels have not been released because they are used by other state departments such as Defence and Military Veterans. The Department will come back to the Committee again, but what it was dealing with on these lands is the SADT land.
On training: the Department did not have enough time. It did indicate in the slides that the work on development support and training has been started. The Department can give a detailed plan on when it will commence and how it will do it, what it will comprise of, and what resources are attached to that.
Deputy Minister Mcebisi Skwatsha responded to questions. On the question of Mr Cloete: that issue is an “old matter”. Mr Cloete was allocated a farm in 2013, which was a farm called Bellevue, together with Mr Theo Sibeko. This was in relation to the PLAS project. When the two were operating the farm, there were serious problems between them. The differences that appeared between Mr Cloete and Mr Sibeko necessitated a situation where the Department then allocated Mr Cloete a farm called Gelukwaarts. The Department had a lease agreement with Mr Cloete in relation to that farm during the previous administration. It was later discovered that the previous owner from whom the Department had purchased the farm had an agreement with someone without the Department knowing. As Mr Cloete and this person operated the farm, “tensions and a fight ensued”. When that situation ensued, the Department wanted to evict the person, because it thought that she had trespassed. When it realised that she had not, the Department took Mr Cloete, because both he and the Department felt that his life would be in danger. Mr Cloete had reported that there were people who had wanted to physically harm him. It then placed him – as a sort of refuge – on the farm called Colenso, whilst it was looking at resolving this particular problem. The Department did not have a lease with Mr Cloete vis-a-vis that particular farm. The Department can say that it knows and acknowledges that Mr Cloete should be given land so that he can be able to farm. The issue with Mr Cloete is one that the Department is assisting with at the present moment, and it thinks that it will be able to resolve the situation amicably without any conflict.
The issue of Gwatyu has its own history. Mr Matiase rightly said for it not to be used as a political football. The Department agrees with that. The Department has been busy with this matter for quite a while. When this particular process of state land allocation ensued, it came when the Department was already busy with a land rights enquiry in the area of Gwatyu. The 95 farms referred to in Gwatyu, in relation to that land rights enquiry, the Department has now finalised it. Gwatyu has become a volatile area where it is difficult for the Department to do its work. Many times, its officials “were sent out running there”, but the Department was able, in the process led by Deputy Minister Skwatsha, to get all the necessary, important stakeholders in the area. At a particular stage, the CPA people did allow the Department to go there to do a land rights enquiry. The Department has finalised that land rights enquiry. There was a meeting where there were serious differences between the traditional authorities, the municipality, and the CPA referred to here. The Department has requested that it would like to present its land rights enquiry in a forum of the leadership of the area, instead of taking that land rights enquiry that has been finalised into a mass meeting in the area. The Department knows that some mass meetings can and have been volatile in the past. The Legal Resource Centre that represents the CPA said that the CPA does not want a meeting with the Department; it wants it to send a report. The Department insists that it needs to have that meeting, so can it explain how it reached the conclusions that it has reached. As soon as it smoothly does that, it will then be able to undertake this important work of allocation in that particular area.
A CPA becomes a CPA when it is complaint. The Department has requested to the people that are leading this entity that the Department has a workshop with the CPA to make sure that it is compliant. The Department also wants to know who stays there (on the Gwatyu farms) and who does not stay there so that there are no problems in that regard.
Mr Mooketsa Ramasodi: Deputy Director-General (DDG): Agricultural Production, Health and Food Safety, DALRRD said that the Department has taken note of the questions that the Members asked the Department. With the time pressures that the Committee has, the Department commits that it will send written responses to Parliament.
The Chairperson encouraged Mr Ramasodi to proceed in answering some of the questions. The PC would also appreciate some of the questions being answered in writing by 19 February by noon. The PC would use another ten to 15 minutes to get the Department’s responses.
Mr Ramasodi said that the questions could be put into three categories: applications, the land rights enquiry and the allocation process. He spoke to the criteria the Department used for the applications. The criteria are congruent with what the Department said on the application process that it outlined. Tax compliance is one of the issues that was raised. There is either SARS compliance or an exemption. The exemption would talk to individuals who might not necessarily be in a position to be compliant with SARS. The opportunity that the Department is taking with SARS compliance is to ensure that everybody who is in the bracket of being assisted by government, or is in line to receive benefits from government, would then also be in line with compliance with the laws of the country, if not; these people should have the necessary exemptions. The projections that the Department is having should be in line with the legislation. In the application process, there is also a way to indicate how many applications the Department has received. It has also outlined the 106 applications wherein it is still trying to see which farms those applicants applied for.
[Ms Steyn wrote in the chat box: Chairperson, could we please find out under what policy/program is current PLAS farmers evicted? Mr Cloete is not the only farmer.]
On the land rights enquiry: each piece of land that has been advertised goes through that process to ensure that the Department knows who is currently occupying the land, and how those people came to occupy that land. The Department may need to indicate what the land enquiries were saying in terms of outlining the enquiry on each of the 621 farms, and to say what the findings on each farm are.
On the allocation process and how the Department will ensure that there is a catch-up: the committees that have not sat are sitting from 12 February. For those that are behind, there is a process that the Department is engaging in to ensure that the committees are on par with the other provinces. The Department will ensure that it engages with the provinces to ensure that everything is done according to plan. There was a slide where the Department outlined the breakdown structure of how it is attempting to deal with this. The outline clearly stipulates each aspect which needs to be completed, so that each process that it outlined has an end date, and everyone in the three committees that are there would be kept accountable to ensure that those dates are not missed, because the Department understand the importance of this work, and the importance of this work to the populace of South Africa.
Mr Ndove commented on the training of officials. The training has happened, even including the national level. Everybody will participate in this process. There has been what can be called an orientation of how the work is supposed to be done. It is not training per se, because it is work that people know, but it gives guidance on how the Department wants the work to be done.
On using the hectares of farms: the Department will clarify that. In its next presentation, the Department will try to make the relationship clear.
There will be possible challenges. One is the issue of invasion. Two is the high number of applications. There is limited land, but there is high interest in terms of applications. That in itself will pose some challenges.
On the database: the Department is dealing land that is not all state land, it is dealing only with the state land that is under SADT. The Department does have information on that. If it is needed, the Department can provide information on the 700 000 Ha mentioned in the presentation.
On the breakdown on leases: if it relates to the PLAS land, the Department can provide that, if it is related to the state land in terms of what the Department is dealing with. It is a work in progress; the Department can only provide information where leases have been made, because there are many areas where there are no leases.
The issue of Gwatyu had been dealt with, as well as the issues of Gauteng and the Western Cape.
On the system that the Department is using: the system has been designed in-house, so there were no additional costs for the development of this system. It was a huge task for the Department, but it has completed it. It was developed by the Department’s internal staff from IT.
On dealing with those occupying land: the Department has indicated the exercise that has been done through the land rights enquiry to all the farms that have been advertised. The DDG explained the issue of the provinces lagging behind.
With respect to the budget: the Department has dealt with that.
With the issue of what the Department does with people who are on the farms, those who have got rights must have their rights respected. That was the reason why the Department has to go through the land rights enquiry, so that it does not prejudice those who already have rights because of omission by the state to have not acted earlier to deal with these matters. Those people have stayed on that land for quite a long time. If those people have rights, they must be respected; people will not be removed. In cases where land is vacant, where there is opportunity for new applicants to occupy the land, that is also in process.
[Ms Mbabama wrote in the chat box: My questions on Gwatyu have not been answered. Specifically, those pertaining to the intervention by the Deputy Minister. I reiterate: Was the Gwatyu Leadership part of that meeting and solution so as to avoid a top down approach? I see that the report states that after the Deputy Minister has seen the plan it will be implemented. Will it be implemented without buy-in from the residents?]
The Chairperson said that due to the short time that the Committee had, some questions had not been attended to, particularly if one looked at what Ms Steyn raised on what policy or programme currently concerns PLAS farmers being evicted. For example, Mr Cloete is not the only farmer who seems to have been affected by this. The PC would like to understand what programme or policy is being used to evict farmers on PLAS land. Ms Mbabama also asked a question on Gwatyu; she was specific on that regarding whether the Gwatyu leadership part of that meeting which came out of the Deputy Minister’s intervention. That has not been attended to, and a solution needs to be found to avoid a top-down approach. It will be important for the PC to understand if there has been an efficient consultation. The Chairperson would take this up in the Management Committee (MANCO) of the PC, so that it can look at what the possibility is of the PC going to Gwatyu for an oversight visit, in order to meet the communities there. The PC would need to understand the COVID-19 regulations, specifically, if it will be permitted to carry out an oversight visit due to level 3 lockdown regulations. The MANCO would get back to the PC on this matter.
He requested the Department, in the absence of the Minister who had to be excused to attend to other political committee meetings, that the Deputy Ministers and officials that were with the PC please note that the PC would like the responses in writing no later than 12 noon, 19 February 2021.
The Chairperson thanked the Members for affording the PC the time to do its work; it had been “a marathon”, from the earlier session with the ITB, and again in the evening session. He wished the Members a peaceful evening. He thanked the Minister and the Deputy Ministers who were able to attend for their time, and for giving a briefing to the Committee. He also thanked the officials of the Department who put the presentation together, and those who were able to participate in giving responses to questions posed by Members. The Chairperson thanked the members of the media who have an interest in the issues that the PC has been engaging with today.
The meeting was adjourned.
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