The Committee met for a virtual presentation of the Annual Performance Plan of the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development, and entities, for the 2021/22 financial year. The Committee wanted the Department to provide its policy documents and inquired on what the plans were in including small-scale poultry farmers. Concerns around the slow process of transferring land to the hands of the beneficiaries were raised, as affected communities were in turmoil. The Department was asked on the set processes which would be in place to look into exports and imports, recovery of lost markets due to the covid pandemic and the concern around emerging animal diseases. Issue on non-performance of Extension Officers was also brought forward in addressing the lack of assistance received by farmers, including small-scale farmers and the overall performance of the targets put in place by the Department. The Committee expressed disappointed in the quality of the APP as there were numerous errors identified although all published work had been signed off by several officials and also on the issue of prolonged processes in filling open vacancies.
The Commission on Restitution of Land Rights presented its Strategic Plan 2021-2024 and Annual Performance Plan 2021/22. Concerns around the backlog of outstanding land claims emerged as the Committee was dissatisfied with the current progress citing that it was impossible to consider new order claims as old order claims still were to be processed. The entity was commended for electing to move away and become a standalone Commission and asked if there would be any skills transfer between the Commission and the Department.
The Ingonyama Trust Board (ITB) presented its Revised Strategic plan and the Annual Performance Plan before the Portfolio Committee on Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development. The presentation outlined the mandate, land tenure rights process, five-year strategic outcomes, annual performance plan 2021/22 and the budget for 2021/22. The Committee raised concerns on the budget, expenditure and the constant drop in performance of the trust. Issues arose on set targets which had not been achieved from previous years and how these pending issues would be dealt with. The functionality of the entity was also brought under questioning due to the resent death of the Zulu King, as he was the sole trustee. However, this was clarified, indicating that the ITB was a functioning office and that there would be successor. Ownership of the land was also under discussion, as it was not clear who the legal owners were due to the misinterpretation of the information provide by board members.
The Chairperson, in his opening remarks, expressed shock on the news of the death of Queen Mantfombi Dlamini Zulu and conveyed his condolences to the royal family and the Zulu nation.
He said that oversight, in its nature, must ask the difficult questions and at times probe the uncomfortable, challenging and sometimes unpleasant issues. He further explained that the role and purpose of the Committee, in the meeting, was to assess the performance of the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development as well as to interrogate the Committee’s own oversight role over what the application (APP) assessed, committed, and demonstrated.
Ms Thoko Didiza, Minister of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development, thanked the Chairperson for his opening remarks and said it also reminded the Department of the importance of the work they do for the people. She thanked the Members for keeping the Department on its toes to ensure that it did its best to serve the needs of the people. She said the presentation would outline the strategic alignment and focus for the Department and its entities towards contributions to job creation, food security and economic reconstruction and recovery.
Mr Mooketsa Ramasodi, Acting Director-General, Department of Agriculture, Rural Development and Land Reform (DARDLR), led the Department’s presentation which detailed the following;
- Constitutional mandate
- Strategic focus
- Strategic outcomes
- Contribution to government priorities
- DALRRD response to SONA
- Alignment of APP to MTSF
- Measuring our performance (APP Indicators and Targets)
- Funding the plan: Budget allocation
[see presentation attached for details]
Ms M Tlhape (ANC) agreed that the Department had tried to align the expectation as announced by the president. She asked on who the producers of the mentioned one million extra poultry were. She reiterated that during the presentation it was mentioned that for three quarters there would be mobilisation of farmers and data collection for Kaonafatso ya Dikgomo (KyD) and poultry schemes and two animal schemes were implemented in the fourth quarter. She further asked on what the implementation was, how it was going to work and how the Department intended on supporting small poultry farmers.
On the sugar support programme, she said it was mentioned that support provided to small-scale farmers was going to be stepped up and asked how the Department was going to have small-scale farmers participate in beverage production.
She was concerned that some of the indigenous producers of cannabis were going to be left behind on the cannabis masterplan and asked why the Department did not initiate the mobilisation of farmers and data collection. She added that there was no deliberate effort from the Department to help the producers of cannabis, especially in the rural Eastern Cape where women were producing, and this would result in informal or illegal producers.
She asked if the Department was going to have the youth training for the current financial year, what future plans were the in place for the National Rural Youth Service Corps (NARYSEC) and on the current progress in the establishment of an agency on land reform and agrarian services.
Ms A Steyn (DA) requested that the Committee be given all the policy documents of the Department, which she read, emphasising on those that dealt with land issues. She mentioned that in some there had been changes while others were still listed on the Departmental APP. She asked the Department to indicate the policies which were currently in place and being used as a number were not on the website.
She highlighted that there were several court cases concerning the sub-division of agricultural land that might be linked to policy and legislation and asked on the progress of the matter. She directed her question to the Minister and asked about the outstanding court cases regarding restitution as there were about 300 court cases before the board, mostly dealing with fights amongst communities.
She asked about the transferring of land to beneficiaries and whether the land was kept under the State as the custodian of the beneficiaries. While the Committee received reports indicating that a certain number of hectares of land was transferred, several court cases were finalised and, on the ground, there was still massive infighting. She inquired on why the land had not been transferred to communities, especially those dealt with in restitution cases. She added that by the time communities received land, when cases had been finalised, the land would be vandalised, and this would cost more for the state to get the land back into full capacity.
She asked if the Committee could be given the list of the 35 Farmer Production Support Units (FPSU) mentioned by the Acting Director General that the Department was currently concentrating on. She said that in her oversight duty, she visited a farm in the Eastern where there was an FPSU area that was supposed to be updated, however, there was land invasion happening. She asked if the state properly took care of its properties, and whether the Committee could get details on the Presidential employment stimulus packages and a breakdown of the funding budget for land restitution and food security.
Ms N Mahlo (ANC) asked that, as the Committee, they should be reassured that the evaluation on policies that were to guide the Department on implementing the budge accordingly were always adhered to. She added that the Department must share their progress on projects targeting young people such as LIMA, as an oversight needed to be done.
Ms T Breedt (FF+) said she was worried about the 10 000 Extension Officers that would be employed to support small and subsistent scale farmers as the current officers were not doing their prescribed jobs. She asked on how the Department planned to ensure that officers get to allocated farmers and provide the necessary assistance and how the focus on exports and imports impact small scale farmers, the country’s local food and household security. She further asked on how the Department was going to balance increasing exports and regain the markets lost during the lockdown period.
She agreed that there was need to focus on prioritising small-scale farmers on the climate change action plan and asked for clarity on how the roll out of the action plan was to be projected to the larger community. The Committee previously discussed the climate change action plan, how it was to be envisioned, rolled out and how commercial farmers were going to assist the Department. She asked on the status of the relationship between the Department and land bank, how the bank would offer assistance and whether or not assistance would be extended to farmers.
Mr S Masipa (DA) mentioned that the poultry industry produces over 90 million chickens per week to South African citizens, however, through the master plan; the Department mentioned that there was a turnover of one million chickens per week although the program had been launched in a short period of time. He added that the Committee was struggling to find the provided numbers.
The presentation indicated that 100% of the applications that were currently on the Department’s system was the required number. He asked for an explanation as to what the 100% indicated and the applications which were being referred to.
He asked or a realistic budget assigned to the Agri BEE fund. He mentioned that the Agri BEE fund was strategic and important to commercialising most of the struggling black farmers.
He highlighted that it was important that the Department creates a policy framework before venturing into the non-agriculture enterprise support as the plan was to look for a non-agriculture enterprise support in rural areas without a clear policy guideline and without understanding which sectors needed support. He added that there also needed to be clarity on the enterprises which were to be given support and the Departments competencies to ensure that these enterprises were correctly identified.
He welcomed the provincialisation of the veterinary services. He said that the Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) was a national challenge because the World Health Forum viewed it at a national level. He cautioned the Department that as they were doing provincialisation, it is important that FMD is not left in the hands of the province to resolve but addressed at a national level.
He mentioned that the problem, with regards to the land reform issue, was because the Committee was addressing the Department on a reactive basis as there was no proper monitoring and control in place. He recommended to the Minister that there should be in place when addressing challenges within the Department.
He asked on who the contributors were to the R1 billion fund, whether it came from the solidarity fund.
Ms T Mbabama (DA) said she was disappointed with the quality of the actual APP. She felt like the Minister’s officials were letting her down as the quality of the APP showed a lot of copy and paste, spelling, and grammatical errors in the Minister’s statement which had been signed off by more than ten officials. She wanted to know if the Department was using the beneficiary, selection and land allocation policy because based on her oversight on the ground this was not the case as some people were given leases and some title deeds. She wanted to know the standard used in giving out leases and title deed as It did not make sense in terms of consistency.
She asked the meaning of the statement “Members of Parliament were divided in terms of land reform and that had resulted in different policies and approaches being adopted over the years which limited the potential for follow through”. The fact that the Department was not implementing land reform was because of the lack of follow through and not what was happening in Parliament. She asked on what the Department intend to do to address the manipulation of the process. She added that interacting with those on the ground paints a horror picture with the stories being told, she asked whether the Department was aware of these realities and how would corrupt officials be dealt with. She mentioned that women and youth were crying because they were not being allocated farms and this is a major problem. She asked on how new programmes in the Department would be a mitigator for an incoherent operating model. She also mentioned that there was no apparent focus on the draught although it is still an ongoing issue.
The Chairperson mentioned that the year under review indicated that what had been achieved by the Department in terms of performance rating only amounted to 37% of expenditure which was about R3.6 billion. The trend analysis on land reform showed a significant decline of land reform performance when compared to the current year under review. He asked that the Department explain why that this was the case. The land reform programme had a vacancy rate of about 16.4% and performance rate of 37% with a 100% spent budget. He added that this did not show a programme that was regarded as a priority and wondered whether there was value for money for all the funds spent on land reform. He asked if the Committee should be concerned about the vacancies in the Department as there were about 73 vacancies as it was clear that the vacancies had contributed to the Departments poor performance. He asked on the progress made to address pending vacancies.
The Minister said that agriculture as a function stated in schedule 4 was a concurrent function. The Department needed to work with the provinces on the implementation of some of the given programmes. Nationally, the Department dealt largely with issues of norms and standards and the international space in terms of agricultural trade while working with the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and the Department of International Relations and Corporations at some stage. The Department also dealt with issues of standard setting, which was the reason why the Perishable Products Export Control Board (PPECB) was with the Department giving it the outline on how the market operated. She mentioned that she was raising the above because they were important when the Committee and the Department looked at the APP as some of the implementation took root in provinces.
She mentioned that money was allocated to the Department, but the employment of extension officers was going to happen at a provincial level and collaboration with the provinces would be in place to make sure that they dealt with the gaps. The mentioned 1000 extension officers were not going to be employed directly by the National Department because they must be answerable to the Provincial Department. Thereafter, the provinces would indicate the number of officials to be employed in the Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) period.
Extension and advisory services were services rendered to all farmers and not only for small holder farmers and subsistence farmers. There were farmers who were able to employ the extension services directly into their own farms and an agricultural business chamber which sometimes offered some of the services to the farmers according to commodities at a commercial level.
On the ground, some of the commercial farmers worked together in terms of technology and were able to transfer skills to the small farmers that were in their neighbourhood and that was not directed by the government.
The Department worked on the poultry master plan with the DTI as there were certain agricultural industries that reported both to the Department and to the Minister of DTI. There were commitments made by the organised poultry industry on the number of new farms to build to ensure that there was an increase in the sector when the masterplan was agreed to. This is where some of the figures came from. There were poultry producers who were not affiliated to the South African Poultry Association (SAPA) who also made their own commitments on how they were going to up-scale and the Department also had subsistence poultry farmers in the industry that it supported. The masterplan and its assessment, the figures the Committee was asking about, came in the poultry master council when each party had to report.
In agriculture, one of the concerns was on the biosecurity weakness that was identified to have an impact on the importation and exportation of poultry. The Department monitored the commitments of SAPA and other stakeholders on the increase and scaling of production that they had committed to. The other issue in the masterplan related to the cost of feed, that was where the Department looked at how it could work with other industries such as the grain industry because a lot of the price shooters in the poultry industry would come from maize and soya.
The Department supported the masterplan through strengthening the Department’s regulatory system, through strengthening the biosecurity, and working with the provinces to ensure that those who were in the poultry industry as independent or small-scale producers were mobilised to be part of the masterplan in terms of the commitments that were made by the entirety of the industry. In the masterplan development, it was not only SAPA which was the bigger group, there was also African Farmers Association of South Africa (AFASA), other independent poultry producers and those producers who were not producing broilers but hardbody chickens. The intention was to look at how to grow this sector so that it could increase its production and be able to export.
The Department was working with provinces to support small-scale sugar producers. The support work with the provinces and producers was how it made sure that extension advisory services, links with the industry, market access issues were addressed.
The uptake by one of the beverage companies was part of the sugar masterplan. One of the things that became clear in the beginning was that some of the players in sugar industry were complaining about a lot of imports that were coming from outside and the tax that was on sugar. The Department worked on the masterplan with the beverage industries which highlighted that if the industry was assisted through the Competition Commission to monitor the dumping of sugar in the country, this would ensure an increase in the uptake of sugar from South Africa. The Department of Finance and the Department of Health allowed for a two-year conversion where sugar tax would not increase to allow for an adjustment by beverage companies and the sugar industry.
Part of the work in supporting industries was done with the province and the money in the division of revenue went to provinces as it did not sit nationally. The work done with the provinces was to make sure that the commitments made with Fetsa tlala and on Comprehensive Agricultural Support Programme (CASP) were dealt with.
She agreed with the Committee on strengthening monitoring and evaluation to make sure that what the provinces commit to was done with the resources from the division of revenue fund and out of their own allocation.
She also agreed with the Committee regarding the policy framework and said the Department would forward them to the members as requested.
She mentioned that the court case issues on subdivision of land related to Act 70 of 1970, however, a new legislation was being developed and was on the parliamentary stage. The Department wanted to deal with the protection of agricultural land, and Act 70 of 1970 created a challenge when agricultural producers wanted to subdivide their land in uneconomical units. When the Department would intervene is such cases, producers would take them to court and say the Department had allowed for conversion and subdivision for another person while they denied the complainant. When some of the matters got to the Minister, an Agricultural Research Council (ARC) expert would be deployed to conduct a soil evaluation so it could be determined whether that land was usable for agricultural purposes or could be rezoned as per the application received. She indicated that she had been able to agree with the appeals that were received and stood by the initial decision in some.
Some of the restitution cases were cases that went directly to the court while some community members had launched claims with the land claims court. At times, even before a claim had been made, members took each other to court, as was seen in the case of Amazizi which involved the Fish River Sun Hotel. In such instances, the Department did not make a transfer of the land to the claimant communities until the court had dealt with the matter. There where claims which had been resolved but transfer of title deeds had not been made, in these cases, a claim would be settled, and the community would not have the legal title either because that land was in another sphere of the state and there had been a challenge on getting such to be transferred.
With the leadership provided by the inter-ministerial committee led by the Deputy President which brought all the departments together, progress moved much faster than before. Land that the Department transferred a title deed for, in the Western Cape, was under Public Works and conveyancing had been done. This is where some of the experienced delays had happened. The challenges between communities after transfers had been made, in instances when the Master of court had intervened, the Communal Property Associations (CPAs) would be placed under administration of the Master of the court.
The Presidential Employment Stimulus Initiative (PESI) that was announced by the President in the previous year was aimed at supporting subsistence farmers whose size of the land they were operating on was as the size of the soccer field. The largest amount farmers would receive to buy what was needed amounted to approximately R9000. About 51 000 farmers had received vouchers and these were specifically subsistence farmers and not small-holder or commercial farmers as the intention was to retain them in employment activities.
The Department was retaining and working to retain the markets it had and those it had lost and be able to increase to new markets while working with the industry. Sometimes the industry would go ahead on its own and come back to request the government’s assistance to open a new market. The Department was not leaving the issue of FMD to provinces, but it was working and strengthening the capacity of the provinces to maintain the FMD free status. The Department was working with the provinces at national level on all animal diseases because a majority of those would inevitably impact the national space and the Department’s capacity to export if not managed well. She also appreciated the proposal made on building and strengthening the capacity of land administration. The Department did apply the beneficiary selection policy. She reminded members that the policy was only adopted last year.
The issue on vacancy rates, when they were dealing with amalgamation there were processes that were outlined to make sure that in the merger of the Departments, everybody who was in the system was absorbed. The Department was also dealing with the issue of the qualification of its employees and their proper deployment in the places they worked. They were also streamlining its Provincial Shared Service Centers (PSSC) because one of the challenges when the two Departments were still apart, the Department of Land Affairs ended up doing more of the agricultural functions. The Department was doing the alignment working with the provinces to make sure they cut out issues of duplication.
Mr Terries Ndove, Deputy Director-General: Land Redistribution and Development, DALRRD, said indeed on the ground males were still dominating even though there were commitments made to give 50% of the land that was being allocated to women. The Department was addressing a legacy that was previously not the great focus and had acquired 22 000 hectares of land, 11 000 hectares which was given to the youth and 7 500 hectares given to women. However, they had not reached the stage where they were satisfied but things were changing. They accepted that there were still challenges in the land administration and there were efforts to address that.
Ms Vusani Matshidza, DARDLR, said in terms of KyD there were engagements at departmental level to try and source new poultry producers and bring them into the small-scale production route. In addition, there was going to be a mobilisation of new poultry producers, province by province. She requested that they present the masterplan before the Committee.
She mentioned that what Ms Tlhape indicated on the cannabis masterplan was true and as such, that was the reason why the consultation phase was extended to ensure that no one was left behind. The original producers of cannabis were the ones that were going to benefit from the plan. The rural development space training was going to be continuous, on a yearly basis as it was part of the district development model.
She said that the Department would avail the names of the Agri-parks and highlighted that they would take the issue of land invasions up with the Eastern Cape province.
The Department had an intention of growing PESI beyond the current year and an application had been launched with National Treasury to ensure that production was sustained at a subsistence level.
The discussions that the Committee had on food security should take three levels into cognisance, the household food security, country food security and global food security. They needed to ensure there was no over reliance in terms of the production facets and that there was also land for the small-scale farmers. The output would be on commercialisation and in striking a balance to ensure that the country produced the food that they ate and exported. The Department had some elements that it was looking at when it came to climate change adaptation and mitigation plan which included zero tillage and minimum soil disturbance. There were also interventions made in terms of the technology which could assist small scale farmers. The land bank had a major role to play in terms of the Department’s sector when it came to the financing of small-scale farmers. The view was to ensure that most of small holders continued to benefit as finance was outlined as one of those important aspects.
She admitted that the Department had challenges, and they were not going to shy away from them, but deal with them directly. They were optimistic that as soon as the Department started to get its act together in term of land reform, agricultural production would increase.
They also welcomed the indication on small holders and the social partners in terms of their engagements.
The Department was currently working with all the social partners to ensure that agriculture, land reform and rural development were in unity in dealing with food security, economic reconstruction and recovery and the issue of job creation.
Page 35 and 36 of the presentation showed the situational analysis and part of the research the Department had done. The Department agreed on the use of a strategy to mitigate against policy issues.
All the aspects that were raised by the advisory panel to the President were currently being dealt with within the inter-ministerial committee.
The Department of Corporative Governance and Traditional Affairs, through the National Disaster Management Centre, had convened all the departments earlier in the year to deal with issues of draught. She mentioned that there had been reports forwarded on areas that were dealing with draughts and she would be engaging the Head of Department (HOD) and would come back and report to the Committee.
The Department had taken on the issues raised by the Chairperson on value for money.
The vacancy rate had an impact on how the Department performed and an outlook had been done to fill the vacancies at executive level and all the posts that were critical for delivery of services. They were currently dealing with macro level one to twelve where individuals were placed.
Ms Rendani Sadiki, DARDLR, said food security, land reform and restitution got 52% of the budget allocated which amounted to R8.8 billion and it was distributed as follows; food security received R2 billion, land redistribution and tenure reform received R965 million which also included the budget allocation for the special master and redistribution. The National Extension Services and Sector Capacity Development had R569 million allocated and the Farmer Support and Development budgeted R612 million, restitution had a budget of R3.5 billion and Agriculture Land Holding Account had a budget of R937 million which also included the budget for acquiring land through redistribution. Ingonyama Trust Board had R23.5 million and the office of the valuer general had R131 million, and these amounts made up the budget allocated to food security, land reform and restitution to be R8.8 billion. The budget was allocated based on the strength of the allocation bids submitted by the different branches. On a monthly basis the Department reported to different structures on the monitoring and evaluation of those budgets to ensure that there was still alignment between implementation and the plans that the branches had given to the Department.
Follow up questions
Ms Tlhape said on the CPAs the Department seemed to be more concerned about compliance with the same legislation that was under review. She asked on the kind of support the Department was going to provide and if this was to address the institutional and structural challenges within the CPAs that rendered them dysfunctional.
She asked if the Department had considered reviewing CPAs as land holding entities since there had been revision of some of the targets including the support of small holder farmers in 2020 due to covid pandemic and further asked if there was a particular reason the target was omitted on the current plan.
Ms Steyn asked on basis used by the Department in choosing small holder farmers who were eligible to receive support as there had been a lot of unhappiness and corruption regarding the handing out of vouchers during the covid period as in some cases those who were not farmers received vouchers. She added that when the Committee and Department gave funding during the pandemic, the expectation was that recipients were to be on the database and asked how the database was structured.
She thanked the Minister for the response to her questions and asked on what was happening to the land while there was infighting and court cases and if there was a policy in place for government to step in and look after that land during these periods. She said they needed to get clarity on how the infightings were dealt with to protect the future of people on land.
Ms Mahlo asked for the total number of the Agri BEE to be finalised as the presentation only stated that the Department would like to finalise 100 applications. She clarified that she wanted the target number and the finalised application to be revised from all the provinces and asked on the criteria used to assist non-agricultural enterprises.
The Chairperson asked the Minister to explain how the blended finance initiative had been incorporated into the APP, the funding arrangements and how the utilisation of the funds was going to be managed and monitored.
He asked the Department to explain how the land development support programme and Micro-Agricultural Finance Institutions of South Africa (MAFISA) were linked to the branded finance initiative. He also asked on the status on the MAFISA as it had been previously reported that its funding was depleted.
He asked on what informed the numbers and types of diseases that the Department conducted risk surveillance on, and the current actions implemented to contain the spread of avian influenza.
Responses to follow up questions
The Minister said there was no policy on what the Department should do when there were disputes amongst claimants while the land had not been transferred and mentioned that she appreciated the suggestion that the Department needed to look after the land while the claimants were still in disputes.
In the agricultural sector, each day there are always some issues in respect of animal diseases. Once a farmer picked up that there was a problem with the animals, they alerted the veterinary services, a personal or public veterinary which would inform the provincial office which would inform the national office. The Department would also track and trace to see if a disease came from outside, inform the International Animal Health body on the findings and once confirmation on the origins of the disease had been found, other countries would be informed thereby allowing them to exercise their rights to temporarily suspend imports.
The blended finance scheme was where the government contributed a grant funding, and partners would be able to put in loan funding to enable affordability of financing to farmers. The challenges faced were that the land bank prevented the Department from continuing with their on-going partnership with the bank. There were, however, established relationships with Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) and four commercial banks, in the country, who had also shown interest and the used model would was kept the same.
Mr Ndove said the role of the Department in the CPA space formed the basis of the limitation of what the Department could do. The Act allowed the Director- General (DG) to take certain measures to address challenges in the CPA.
In terms of institutional challenges, there were also some issues related to abuse of resources and the land as land was being sold without knowledge of some of the members. The Department was providing training to the leader and management of the CPA and conducting an audit. This allowed the gathering of enough data to determine whether it was a viable strategy to use the CPA as the holding entity.
Mr Joe Kgobokoe Deputy Director-General: Policy, Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation, DARDLR, said there was an effort to develop a database for small holder farmers. There was a preliminary database for small holder farmers under the name “producer-farmer register” and it was done jointly with Statistics South Africa. The register had over 90 000 farmers with details that could be used for decision-making and had been presented to the Minister.
He mentioned that the small holder support with blended finance was removed from the APP because at the time there was no database or predetermined farmers who were supposed to be supported with the finance.
Mr Ramasodi said that the total for the Agri BEE was R275 million carried over from the previous financial year and these funds would be used together with the R14 million set aside for projects.
All the applications would be considered based on compliance.
He indicated that the total amount that was disbursed by the land bank for MAFISA was R415 million and that the Department had non-financial institutions that had to deal with MAFISA during the period that they received contracts. The institutions were not able to perform due duties until a total of five were left which are currently disbursing funds. There were two disbursed funds in the previous year, one to the value of R1.7 million and another from the South African Sugar Association to the value of R5 million to 183 farmers which resulted in 2 858 jobs.
The Department was concerned about the highly pathogenic avian influenza and there was surveillance being conducted in that space. The focus was also on diseases that got international recognition from the OIE (World Organisation for Animal Health) in terms of freedom status which allowed the Department freedom to export to other countries. It also provided protection to the country which inspired confidence and could allow the country to set measures higher than normal.
The Department was working with the provincial Department in Limpopo to deal with FMD.
Commission on Restitution of Land Rights (CRLR) APP 2021/22
Ms Cindy Benyane, Deputy Chief Land Claims Commissioner, CRLR, presented the outlined.
- Situational analysis
- National development plan vision 2030 - The NDP is a long-term action plan that aims to eliminate poverty, reduce inequality and unemployment by 2030.
- Medium term strategic framework
- The backlog reduction strategy has been developed to help the commission accelerate the claims process (pre 1998 claims) by addressing the following four impact areas.
- The finalised backlog strategy will include four main areas: project charter development, planning timeframes and estimated costs.
- Medium term expenditure framework.
- Annual performance plan.
[see presentation attached for details]
Ms Tlhape said, when looking at the slow pace of finalising the outstanding claims, it was going to take ten years to be finalised and asked on what the Commission intended on doing to speed up the claims. She highlighted that the presenter indicated that the Commission had dealt with the concerns raised by the Auditor-General. She asked on the activities that would hold the Commission back to being autonomous as it had been indicated that it would take three to five years and if these were an indication that even in the next term, they would still be part of programme three of the Department.
She asked on the progress regarding the first quarter recruitments as the Commission had 60 vacancies to be filled.
Ms Steyn asked on the skills transfer from the Department to the Commission and the process in place to deal with the backlog of land claim cases. She added that when she had forwarded questions to the Minister, in written format, regarding outstanding land restitution claims she never received a response.
There were claimants who said the Department informed them six years ago that their processes were ready to be finalised. She asked on what the Commission was physically doing to ensure that these processes were in place.
The Chairperson indicated that members should note that the presentation before the Committee was put by the Commission on Restitution of Land Rights and not the Department.
Ms Mbabama mentioned that she was worried that the Chief Land claims officer was ill.
She said that what was keeping her awake was the backlog of restitution cases, as these reached a total of 8 000 cases, yet the Committee was given small targets. She asked on what the progress was with the backlog and what the Commission intend to do regarding this issue.
Ms Breedt said that it seemed like there was a clear-cut way in which the Commission planned to move away from the Department and be a standalone and commended them for that. She was worried that there was more focus on becoming a standalone commission than there was on the claims. She said the plans of the Commission seemed to be a lot and she wanted to understand if they were executable.
She mentioned that the organogram the commission currently had was not the most streamlined when considering open vacancies.
She said that the Committee was dealing with a backlog of the old claims and there were still new claims coming in daily. She mentioned that they receive calls from people who had claims on their owned properties or had submitted claims as part of the new order claims. The complaints brought forward that they could not proceed with due processes and buyers were not willing to buy property because of claims that were still outstanding. She asked on the timeline to conclude with these issues and what the plan was in addressing the backlog.
Ms Mahlo said her biggest problem with the presentation was that the Bill that the presenter talked about had no given timeline. She added that she did not hear whether the Commission would have policies to govern them as a standalone commission.
Ms Benyane mentioned that a previous presentation dealt with the irregularities in understanding the backlog and defining the backlog and how much it represented in financial terms. She said they had been advised, under National Treasury, to follow a two-stage approach and stage one had already been completed. Stage two was currently being dealt with, where independent entities were assisting the Commission with auditing and verification of the backlog. The appointed company experienced delays during the pandemic due to multiple closures of the provincial office and therefore could not have access to physical files for verification.
The Commission was pre-empting the process of dealing with land claims after the old order claims had been finalised and the new strategy for the new order land claims referred to the 160 000 claims that had been directly lodged.
The Chief Land Claims Commissioner spoke to the issue of the Commission having over stretched its purpose and role as, according to the legislation, the last step to process would have been the recommendation stage of the settlement of a claim. The Commission had been stuck at implementing the settlement which was the function of the branch restitution and the estimated amount which would allow progress to the recommendation of claims was set at R500 million. The backlog strategy looked at a five-year plan to work on eliminating the backlog of old order claims. The business case had been developed and there were still minor amendments that needed to be clarified with the Department.
The second issue left to finalise was the issue regarding the Bill, she mentioned that she was not able to give a timeline in this case.
The Commission had completed the relook of its policies and the policy realignment was linked to the Commission’s Standard Operating Procedure (SOP). An external assistance in auditing SOPs had been received and upon completion, an address regarding policies to be developed would be plausible.
Referring to the issue of skills transfer, there was a section in place that dealt with the structure and identification of the skills gap that would exist between the Department and the Commission.
Follow up questions
Ms Steyn said the response given summed up the problem, as it clearly showed that the issue was still as the result of the policy on the verification process and the policy on hybrid claims. She added that there was a lot of fighting on the ground and was shocked at the fact that there was no policy on verification and hybrid claims. She asked on how the Commission or Department planned on dealing with the claims issue.
She inquired on how the findings on the realities on the ground assisted towards establishing better policy programmes and emphasised that without a proper policy, it would not be possible to settle land claims process. She added that without a proper plan in place to deal with the current claims, there is no possibility of opening new claims.
She asked if the Commission had a policy in place and what the plan was in addressing issues on the ground.
The Chairperson said that one of the core issues that the Committee needed to directly deal with was understanding who the land beneficiaries were. He mentioned that those that had been afforded the land would not be the rightful landowners as land dispossession in the country did not happen overnight. He asked, in whose interest, was the Commission pursuing and whether it had, in past land claims, given land to the wrong beneficiaries.
Responses to follow up questions
The Minister said the Restitution of Land Rights Act outlined the process of the Commission, how it must function and how it must undertake the lodgement of claims. One of the realities in the country was that a lot of dispossessions happened prior to 1913 and the 1913 Native Act was a legal formalisation of the dispossession that had taken place. The negotiators of the Constitution, in the wisdom of how to build a new country, decided on the 1913 cut-off date. The opening was very clear in 2014 and 2016 that it was about addressing the San and the Khoi. One of the things that became much clearer was that because people wanted to receive restoration, they agreed on the joinder of claims and this was by no means forced upon them by the Commission and they now dealt with cases of communities who no longer felt like their claims should have been joined.
She highlighted that some claimants had said that they had bought land while others who were evicted from farms were lodgers. There were still deliberations on issues such as aboriginal titles, which had never been considered. She suggested the Committee needed time where it would sit and reflect on those issues, however, this did not deny the need to pick up the speed in dealing with the old order claims.
Ms Benyane emphasised that there were policies in place, and on the standard operating procedure the Commission had about 36 policies. There was a problem with only about nine of the procedures and the rest were existing.
She apologised for the camera situation; and added that it was by no means meant disrespect to the Committee.
The Chairperson said he wanted to ascertain some issues for clarity. He said research was the main stumbling block in settlement of claims as most of the 43% outstanding claims were at a research and gazetting stage. He asked the Department to indicate whether the research strategy was still under pilot in KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo and Mpumalanga provincial offices and to include the lessons learnt from such pilots. He added that the Commission should also be able to provide a timeframe on how it was going to conduct and finalise the research.
Another issue that arose was that of financial resources. It was estimated that about R65 billion was needed to settle the outstanding claims which excluded the Commission’s running costs. The cost to finalise old order and new order claims was around R129 billion. The budgetary implications meant that the current yearly and medium-term allocations were far below the required amount to finalise the claims. The Commission should provide a progress report on the development and approval of the new financial model to finance the settlement of claims and indicate how and when claims were to be finalised considering the current financial restraints. He asked if the Commission looked at the work of the Section 25 Ad Hoc Committee that was underway to fast track and speed up the process.
In light of the vacancy rate, he asked on the plans in place to address challenges associated with the government, wide moratorium on filling of vacancies and how vacancies were to impact the Commission’s plans on becoming an autonomous entity.
Ms Benyane said the research strategy was designed after piloting had been signed off by the Minister and the plan looked at a two-year strategy to finalise all the research as identified. The Commission had a clear identification of properties at research stage. The strategy also meant that the reallocation of some of the financial resources had to speedily address the issue of research. She highlighted that there was a chapter in the business space that dealt with the financial model and this clearly splits the Commission and branch restitution.
She said that the Minister gave approval to continue with the engagement of the establishment of the interim structure and that any additional post that the Commission might require in their engagement with the Department of Public Service and Administration (DPSA) they would be able to address the questions asked. The structure the Commission still had was the version 2.9 which was not fit for purpose as already there was a huge vacancy of above 50 openings. She added that a detailed strategy to deal with all those questions would be addressed.
The Chairperson asked on the Commissions approach to land of traditional leaders that were forcefully removed and dispossessed off their land.
Ms Benyane said the decision on the approach of a specific claim lied with the Regional Land Claims Commissioner
Mr Lebjane Maphutha, Regional Land Claims Commissioner, CRLR, said when they were dealing with land claims, they were guided by the Restitution Act. For people to be eligible they must have been removed after 1913 which was why it was hard to deal with claims affecting the Khoisan. If claims had been lodged, the Commission would process them and consider whether it met the criteria for validation of a claim. In the opening of claims in 2014, the main focus was to deal with cases that were lodged by traditional leaders and communities which related to dispossessions that took place lower than 1913 and the Commission was not able to do anything beyond what was prescribed by the Restitution Act and the Constitution.
Ingonyama Trust Board (ITB) 2021/22 APP
The Chairperson welcomed the members and the board members of the ITB.
Ms Zethu Qunta, Deputy Chairperson: Ingonyama Trust Board, submitted apologies for the absence of the Chairperson, Mr J Ngwenya. The presentation briefly provided the mandate, land tenure rights process, five-year strategic outcomes, annual performance plan 2021/22 and the budget for 2021/22. The five-year strategic outcomes intended to improve corporate governance and service excellence, improve stakeholder relations, improve security of land tenure, and improve coordination of human settlement on communal land.
[see presentation attached for details]
Ms Tlhape highlighted that the board’s budget and expenditure was worrisome and that the budget and expenditure performance on the third quarter painted a picture of an entity that was collapsing. In quarter three, the expenditure was about 13.5% across the programmes, goods and services had an expenditure of 49% in quarter two, then dropped to 9% and then 20% in quarter four. She said that an estimated amount of R7 million was used on legal fees and asked in whose benefit were the legal cases. She added that the cost on employees dropped to 34% and inquired if this was because of suspensions or not.
She mentioned that in the previous year, the ITB, in its official APP, had explained targeting five policies but these could not be achieved due to capacity issues. She asked on the changes made in the current financial year or APP and how the capacity issues where to be dealt with.
She inquired about the number of traditional councils currently under SICB and where the total number of ten came from.
She added that the main mandate was the material well-being of the people residing in the ITB and asked how the trust land, through administrations, was to serve this purpose.
Ms Steyn wanted to find out whether the issue of the beneficiaries who received lease agreements had been resolved.
Ms Mahlo asked the ITB to give the Committee the turnaround strategy that stipulated the timeline of implementing the mentioned five policies.
The Chairperson asked on the implications of the passing of King Zwelithini as the sole beneficiary of the ITB, who the beneficiary was and if work continued after the passing. He asked on how other traditional councils fell under the ITB and if they formed part of the beneficiaries.
He mentioned that the ITB had not provided any information on activities in communities of traditional councils and that the Committee had asked on numerous occasions to be given the projects supported over the past fiscal and over the past five years which they had not yet received.
With regards to the allocated R23 million, he asked on the portion which would be used on administrative work and how community work was going to ensure that people who lived under extreme conditions of poverty were assisted.
Ms Qunta assured the Committee that the entity was not collapsing and that they were working with the Minister to address pending capacity challenges. What had changed was that there were improvements on systems of internal control in terms of monitoring the performance of the organisation. There was also capacity building in place.
She emphasised that the entity would achieve its five policies and other targets because there were greater systems of monitoring performance put in place which were working already.
The ten councils were based on the capacity that the ITB believed it could achieve and the capacity that existed or could be attained during the course of the year. The number seemed small for a period of five years but the ITB did not want to bite more than they could chew. She apologised for the delay on the update on the case of leases and added that these would be provided in written format.
She highlighted that the ITB is an office, meaning that work continued although the Zulu King had passed. She added that the Zulu nation would continue to have a King who would become the sole trustee and details would be provided on the projects undertaken to support traditional councils.
The allocated R23 million was only for the secretariat of the board to cater to administrative duties and therefore they were not able to provide support. Funds for the support to communities were allocated from the trust and not the budget from the Department. She highlighted that funding from the Department was not enough to even cover the administration of the board.
Inkosi T Mavundla, CEO: ITB, said at the present moment there were 250 traditional councils. He confirmed the responses given by the Deputy Chairperson of ITB and confirmed that the money used by the entity to assist communities came from the trust. The funding from the Department was insufficient and was always yearly supplemented by funds from the trust.
Follow up questions
Ms Tlhape asked if there was any reason why the bursary grants the ITB used to give were discontinued as they were no longer on the APP. She asked if there were reasons why the ITB did not have any plans targeting women, youth and people living with disabilities.
She inquired on the standards used to inform a target of 1000 on the improved security of land tenure as applications for tenure depended on the demand. She added and asked on the number of residential lease holders.
The Chairperson said traditional councils, by nature, managed the land and its resources on behalf of the communities. He asked on the direct work of the ITB when it came to land and its resources and who the landowners were and whether it was the traditional councils and the communities or the ITB. He asked on the progress in the amendment of the KwaZulu-Natal Ingonyama Trust Act.
He mentioned that the board planned to achieve an unqualified audit opinion in 2020/21 and a clean audit in 2022/23 but it had not indicated any measures taken to achieve the set targets which it had failed to achieve for several years and had received an adverse opinion in the past year. He asked on the possibilities that these targets would be dealt with.
Ms Qunta said that the educational grant was not budgeted for due to budget constraints, but the bursary scheme was something that the board would have to look into.
The lack of projects for women, youth and people living with disabilities was due the fact that the entity had not been able to budget specifically for those programmes.
Project reports and plans to amend the Act would be submitted to the Committee.
She mentioned that it was possible to achieve an unqualified opinion and clean audit, the ITB received a qualified opinion because of one transaction.
Inkosi Mavundla said that the board did not do anything about land administration without the consent of the traditional council. The office of the board was responsible to provide skills and professionalism to assist the communities. The land in KZN was owned in terms of the trusteeship, the King was the trustee on behalf of the communities that he led.
The board did not have a standard fee to offer bursaries.
The board did not use land anyhow; it used the land with the consent of the traditional councils.
The Ingonyama Trust Act fell within the section 78 and 79 legislations and the province of KZN could not amend the Act because it was not provincial legislation but national legislation.
The Chairperson asked if the land of traditional communities under traditional councils was owned by the traditional councils and its chiefs or by Ingonyama Trust Board and its sole trustee the King.
Inkosi Mavundla said the land was vested in the trust and the trustee held it on behalf of the communities.
The Chairperson asked if the trust owned the land, and also on behalf of the communities.
Inkosi Mavundla answered that that was in fact true.
The Chairperson put it to the members that Judge Ngwenya as the Chairperson of ITB, in a previous meeting, said something different. Judge Ngwenya said the chiefs in KZN owned the land of their traditional councils. The Committee would like for that to be looked into and perhaps do an oversight on the traditional house of KZN.
Adv V Mngwengwe, board member, ITB, said that it might come as a contradiction, but he and the other two board members were saying the same thing. At the deeds office, the land was registered under the trust, but in reality, the land belonged to the communities and chiefs under the traditional councils. The Ingonyama Trust Act prohibits the trustee from dealing anyhow with the land without the consent of the traditional council. The ITB was not actively asking holders of informal rights to give up their rights in favour of residential leases and the numbers presented were informed by historical experiences and were demand driven.
The Chairperson said the Committee had to take the issue with the chiefs in KZN and ask them who owned the land. He asked the plans of amending the Ingonyama Trust Act.
Ms Qunta requested to do a background check on that and send the written answer to the Committee.
The Chairperson asked for the responses to be sent to the secretariat of the Committee no later than noon the next coming Friday.
Inkosi Mavundla requested that the ITB be pardoned as it could not provide the written answers due to having the funeral of the queen.
The Chairperson said not all the board members were going to the funeral and some should work on it and submit the answers.
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