The Committee met on a virtual platform to consider and adopt its Committee Report on the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (DALRRD) 2021/22 Annual Performance Plan and Budget
The Committee commended the Committee Report for capturing all their suggestions. Amendments were suggested as follows:
• Strengthening the introduction of the Biosecurity sub-programme to protect the sector from outbreaks in the farming industry with additional resources to ensure that the Department develops a functional alert system to promote proactive response to disease outbreaks and other biosecurity threats.
• DALRRD quarterly reports have a section dealing with the progress made with all committee report recommendations. This will allow the Committee to track and trace these and hold the Department accountable for implementation of recommendations.
• A Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) process was needed to keep track of the funds that are going out to the provinces and other third parties such as the Land Bank.
• DALRRD update the Committee on all trade agreements so it is aware of the threats and opportunities that exist on a global scale for farmers.
• DALRRD support Communal Property Associations (CPAs) not only to comply with the Act but support them to be functional and productive.
The Committee adopted the Committee Report on DALRRD 2021/22 Budget Vote which will be debated in plenary on 13 May 2021.
The Chairperson addressed the situation in Palestine stating that it is with a heavy heart that they are gathered in this meeting, having witnessed the atrocities and brutality that is daily meted out against defenseless Palestinians, by a brutal Apartheid regime. Today we sit with a heavy heart after last night’s bombing of Gaza, which left many innocent women and children dead. He are re-experiencing the brutality of our own Apartheid that we experienced. The cold blooded assassins in broad daylight, the letter bombs ripping off our limbs, landmines blasting off feet and legs, sending fragments of bombs and flesh flying all over. It is all happening again, yesterday, today and rest assured tomorrow. The only difference, is the unimaginable scale of brutality that Apartheid Israel resorts to without any humanitarian concern or flinching at the deterrents of human rights and international law, the Geneva Convention or even the International Criminal Court. Who burns human beings alive as if they are some incendiary target practice?
The Chairperson called on the Portfolio Committee, this august National Assembly, and all of the Parliament of the Republic of South Africa to call for sanctions against Apartheid Israel. He urged everyone to look into their own past, to understand that as South Africans we have to be morally grounded. He condemned the actions of the Israeli government as despicable and they must be stopped. Their cruelty and brutality knows no mercy. He appealed to Members of Parliament to be the voice for change because we can turn the tide around, in this Committee, in this National Assembly, in this Parliament. We are having sleepless nights watching children as young as 12 and 14 years old being shot in the back. He asked them to utilise their voice and speak out against such brutality. Call for sanctions now. He would truly appreciate if they would speak about this so that we do not become complacent about what is daily meted out against the innocent people of Palestine.
He will hand over to the content advisors to take us through our Committee Report on DALRRD 2021/22 Budget Vote that has been put together by them. After engaging with the document we will move for the adoption of the report. The virtual budget vote plenary debate will be on 13 May 2021.
Committee Report on DALRRD 2021/22 Budget Vote
Ms Nokuzola Mgxashe, Committee Content Advisor: Agriculture, emphasized that this report is a summary of the discussion that transpired over the two days last week when the Committee was considering the annual performance plan and budget of the department and its entities. This was informed by the Medium Term Strategic Framework and the State of the Nation Address (SONA). She encouraged the Committee to add any items to the observations and recommendations.
In essence, the Department’s budget of R16.9 billion has not increased much from 2020/21 which was R16.8 billion. She reminded the Committee of the special adjustments budget allocated later in that year. Funding from various departments had to be reprioritized as a result of the pandemic. During these adjustments, the Department’s budget was reduced further to R15.2 billion in 2020/21.
For the medium term which ends in 2024, the Department budget will nominally increase by an average of 4.5%. Approximately 52% of its total budget goes to transfers to provinces and to the Department's entities.
Table 3 provide an illustration of the allocations for each programme and sub-programmes. included in this table, are the previous budget allocations for comparison.
Ms Mgxashe presented a breakdown of the 2021/22 budget allocation and performance plan for each programme:
Programme 1: Administration. This programme received 16.4%, which is the second largest allocation and is approximately R 2.8 billion. This is more or less the same amount received in the previous financial year.
Programme 2: Agricultural Production, Biosecurity and Natural Resources Management. This programme covers disaster management and received the third largest allocation but it has not seen growth since the previous financial year.
Programme 3: Food Security, Land Reform and Restitution. This programme received the largest allocation of R8.8 billion, approximately 52% of the total appropriation.
Programme 4: Rural Development. This programme allocation is R1.08 billion, which is an increase from R770.4 million in 2020/21. This increase is driven by a substantial increase of 92.7% in the allocation to Rural Infrastructure Development.
Programme 5: Economic Development, Trade and Marketing. This was allocated R886.3 million for 2021/22 and R530.5 million (59.9%) will be allocated to Agroprocessing, Marketing and Rural Industrial Development sub-programme and R216.5 million to International Relations and Trade sub-programme (24%).
Programme 6: Land Administration. The allocation has decreased from an adjusted appropriation of R1.06 billion in 2020/21 to R758.2 million in 2021/22 due to a transfer of R358 million to Deeds Registration. National Geomatics Management Services (NGMS) had the largest share of 71.3%. NGMS and Spatial Planning and Land Use (SPLU) account for 98.5% of the total allocation.
Ns Mgxashe and Dr Tshililo Manenzhe, Content Advisor: Land Reform and Rural Development, presented the rest of the report to the Committee which provided the strategic focus of the public entities of the Department, the Annual Performance Plans and Budget Allocation, Observations and Committee Recommendations (see document).
Ms M Tlhape (ANC) commended the work done on the Committee Report, as it covers everything as well as the concerns raised by the Committee. Having looked at the recommendations she supports the elevation of blended finance. This is a new programme that seeks to deal with the commercialization of black producers and it is a programme that needs a follow up. She noted that most of the time the department will jump into new concepts, while no one is sure what happened to the previous concepts. She noted the allocation to the Land Bank, as there is no way a programme like this can be left behind. She welcomed the new biosecurity sub-programme to prevent vulnerability in the sector against common diseases – it is not only the farmers that are affected but our reputation is at risk in international markets.
It is worrisome that the Agricultural Research Council (ARC) budget remains the same and there is no help for it. Next year we have to get our voice heard to get help for ARC. There is also a need to salvage what remains of Onderstepoort Biological Products (OBP). If OBP is a national key point then we need to curb the problem of aging infrastructure before it becomes too expensive to do anything. She agreed with the report that quality assurance is still a challenge. The Department’s need to re-align some of the programmes as the Committee alluded to is captured in the Recommendations. The inadequate support to landholding entities is noted in the Report, not only in the Rural Development sector, but the expansion of agriculture and productivity of farms as part of land reform.
Ms A Steyn (DA) commended the support staff on doing an excellent job in compiling the report and highlighting all the issues. She had nothing to add. She shared her observation and noted that the Committee had been having a lot of the same discussions for many years. She suggested that the Committee request a report on specific concerns in the quarterly reports from the department as those mentioned in the Committee Report, so that they can keep track and address these in the course of the year. She proposed that a section for the purpose of tracking be added to the department quarterly reports.
Ms N Mahlo (ANC) welcomed the good work done by the content advisors as the report is of a high standard and quality, and she supports it. Her emphasis was on a quality management system (QMS) for monitoring and evaluation of all the policies that has been put in place.
Ms T Breedt (FF+) commended the content advisors and Committee staff on doing an excellent job in getting to the crux of what was said by the Committee. She added to Ms Steyn’s suggestion that the Committee have an excel spreadsheet so it can hold the department accountable for all the recommendations and to actually have deadlines. This list that can be circulated so that the Committee can actually keep the department accountable during meetings.
Ms K Mahlatsi (ANC) also commended the quality body of work. We must appreciate the ability of the administrative staff to trace and track all the concerns the Committee has raised. These concerns are clearly stated in the Observations of the report and they need to be urgently raised with the Department because the APP is the plan of the department and its entities. If the quality of the documents are not of a great standard, it clearly tells you the type of outcomes you will achieve at the end of the term.
If you have a look at Recommendation 6.4 where it speaks about the funds that have been sent to third parties. We know that the concurrent function of the department is indeed a third party, but it is not specified in that paragraph. We speak about the Land Bank and other financial institutions, but it is very important to monitor the funds that are going to the provinces. The department has always said that they are unable to be accountable for the monitoring of these funds as they only work with the transfers. However the department should nevertheless still be able to see how the funds are utilized. Since this is a concurrent function it has always been a thorny issue for the Committee.
On Recommendation 6.13 about the Office of the Valuer-General (OVG), the recommendation indicates that there is a need to expedite the appointment of senior executives, but it does not speak about the entire staff complement and the OVG has had challenges in as far as its capacity. The focus should not only be at the helm of the institution, but to ensure that vacancies in the entire staff complement become a priority.
An overall observation is that the Committee does receive a quarterly report to check the recommendations made in the previous financial year. She supported what Ms Steyn suggested that the Committee should have an overall assessment of all the recommendations it has raised in all previous adopted reports. This will allow the Committee to assess how far the department has come in implementation of the issues raised previously. Surely this will assist the Committee to have an overall assessment of the achievements made in the previous financial year.
Mr N Masipa (DA) thanked the staff for the stellar work in producing the report. He suggested that the strengthening of the biosecurity sub-programme should be included in the recommendation section. We are now challenged with avian flu and obviously the virus. It will create a lead system to ensure that farmers are alerted which will be beneficial. He is not sure if the budget was cut, or if it was introduced and never followed through.
He agreed with Ms Mahlatsi that the Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) area has to extended. He recommends that it extends to Land Reform. At Land Reform, they are always only reactive to challenges happening on farms being bought by the department. He suggested the Committee consider M&E on Land Reform farms, and that it be part of this quarterly reporting.
He noted the recommendation on the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) Trade Agreement and mentioned the National Agricultural Marketing Council (NAMC) presentation. Perhaps, the Committee could request that there is a quarterly feedback on all agreements, looking at the threats and opportunities that exist internationally to support our farmers.
The Chairperson raised some concerns but before doing so, he applauded the stunning work done the content advisors and researchers. On Recommendation 6.2 about submitting to Parliament an updated Legislation and Policy Review Programme with clear time lines. He does not recall there was an opportunity for the Department to present on its intentions to update legislation and do a policy review. This recommendation might be problematic as the department itself has not been able to come before the Committee and present on Legislation and Policy. He would like the Committee to comment on this.
The Chairperson suggested that Recommendation 6.3 be better constructed so it articulates its meaning better and the Committee is not exercising overreach.
On Communal Property Associations (CPAs) which always seems to be a challenge, it is recommended that the department should ensure that the department must give support to CPAs that transcends the narrow focus on compliance to the CPA Act. It must focus on creating compliant and functional legal entities that administer communally owned properties for the benefit of the members of the CPA. This recommendation might be problematic as he does not recall when the Committee had made such a recommendation that legal entities be created to administer communally owned properties. Some of the challenges faced by CPAs are as a result of external factors. This includes external services procured from professionals. Emphasis should be put on capacity building, training, and skills development for CPA members.
Ms Mgxashe replied about Recommendation 6.2 which states "Submit to Parliament an updated Legislation and Policy Review Programme with clear time lines and available resources for processing and finalisation of such legislation and policies during the current financial year and the medium term period. In the case of legislation, indicate timeframes for planned introduction to Parliament". She stated that the APP does list pieces of legislation and policies that the department plans to introduce into Parliament for that year. However, there are pieces of legislation that the Committee knows have been promised to the Committee by the Department. So if they are not in the APP, there is no way of the Committee knowing when they will eventually surface. For example, the Communal Land Tenure Bill – which Bill the Committee made an undertaking to follow up for stakeholders that made a submission on the ULTRA Bill. The Department assured the Committee that this Bill will be finalised by the end of the last financial year so it said if it is not in the APP, that Bill was still in Department process, not one for introduction to Parliament.
However, the Committee wants to know if something has been done, whether it is just progress, it is expected to be reflected in the plan. The Department has previously done this in 2019 just to give the Committee an idea of the pieces of legislation that it is busy working on. That helps the Committee in its oversight responsibility in checking in cases where draft legislation is outstanding that is supposed to have been finalized by the department, but is not part of the APP for introduction to Parliament. The Committee wants to find out from the Department how far is that process. Therefore the Legislative Programme and Policy Review should exist for information purposes to assist in Committee oversight and to ensure that the resources are located for those pieces of legislation for implementation. Oftentimes there have challenges where Parliament will process legislation but after it has been passed, there are not enough resources. We know that as much as the Department may plan, we are in lockdown so that means department consultation takes longer, or in some cases, it is not possible. A Bill might be introduced this year, but for reasons out of their control, the introduction to Parliament happens in the following year.
Dr Manenzhe added that the context to Recommendation 6.2 arises from the fact that the Minister said to the Committee that she is picking up policing the Legislative Programme and Policy Review Unit. Secondly, the Minister tabled the APP in Parliament submitting a list of policies and pieces of legislation to be approved by Cabinet or the Minister. Thus even if there was no particular mention of a Bill to be tabled before Committee, it makes mention of legislation and policies to be reviewed. In the discussion, comments were made by Members around policies. There was discussion around risk policy with regards to restitution. So it is in that context that we built in this particular Recommendation. This is a mechanism to hold the Department accountable.
He reminded Members of the discussion around the ULTRA Bill. There was a discussion that the Committee had around extending hearings to the rest of the country. The decision that the Committee took not to expand it to the rest of the country was based on the Department saying to the Committee that they will be bringing the Communal Land Tenure Bill to Parliament this year. Therefore when the support staff write the Committee Report, they bring those issues that form the context to the debate. That is the reason it is there and we do not think that it is going to be a problem because those policies and pieces of legislation are in the tabled APP.
Ms Mgxashe noted that Members pointed out that the department did a direct cut and paste from a previous report such as including legislation that had already been processed. That is a reason for Members to doubt everything. There is no way of knowing the actual legislative programme that the department is busy with. Hence an "updated" programme will assist in pinning them about which policies and legislation they are busy with and the timelines.
The call for an action plan to review and streamline the Department’s existing support programmes into an integrated Producer Support Programme was included as a recommendation in the previous financial year. But there was no response. Nothing has changed in the APP; that means the Department has not worked on the recommendation. The Committee in this case wants something that shows that the Department is working at streamlining the different support programmes and conditional grants as emphasized. The challenges with having many different programmes is its oversight and accountability. In this case, the Recommendation does not necessarily have to be confined to what the department has said. Where there is a weakness that the Committee has observed, it is at liberty to make a Recommendation if the department has not streamline those support programmes, as the Committee has previously suggested. To have this Recommendation repeated can point out to them the need to address this matter.
The other challenges with having many support programmes we have already indicated. Members would know that previously the Department had no database on smallholder farmers. It is only recently that it said that it had concluded the farmer registration programme. Thus it is possible that double support is going to some and that there are farmers that have not been covered at all. It is possible that some recipients do not even qualify for various reasons depending on the criteria of the support programme. Duplication has been a concern that Members will recall from previous oversight activities.
The challenge with the infrastructure programmes, particularly the former Department of Land Reform and Rural Development which put up lots of infrastructure for agricultural purposes without consulting the former Department of Agriculture or the beneficiaries. As a result, there are cases where you will find infrastructure not being used because it is not fit for the purpose required.
Ms Mgxashe noted the suggested amendment has been added to the report that the action plan should show the alignment to the Department's new mandate to marry the two departments. Since the Departments have been combined, the Committee expects that all programmes should show that alignment or at least work towards the new mandate. She encourages the Department to think about this hoping it will recognize there are duplications on some of the programmes and sub-programmes that have been observed by the Committee.
Ms Mgxashe noted the suggestion in Recommendation 6.4 where Ms Mahlatsi asked that emphasis be placed on concurrency as well as the monitoring of funds allocated to provinces.
Dr Manenzhe drew the Committee’s attention to Recommendation 6.13 that all vacant positions of Valuer-General and Chief Operating Officer are filled. He explained that the reason the senior management was emphasized was because the Office of the Valuer General (OVG) indicated that they were going to be recruiting people to occupy those positions. That is why it was not a Recommendation as it was already an OVG undertaking. Perhaps as a matter of emphasis what the Committee has noted will be drawn up as a Recommendation as something it will monitor to support the idea that the OVG will be recruiting more people not only at a senior management level.
He recognised the Chairperson's suggestion that the report should perhaps be speaking to CPA capacity building training. That was exactly what was intended. If you read the APP it speaks only about 'compliance to the CPA Act'. The CPA is regarded as compliant once it submits it annual financial statements and shows it had its election of chairperson. However, a CPA can "comply" yet still have internal divisions. While they are fighting, production is being prevented by all these internal fights.
Perhaps the report wording has been misinterpreted to say the department must create legal entities to administer communally owned properties. It seems that is where there is misinterpretation. Dr Manenzhe reminded the Committee that CPAs own properties communally. The report is not referring to the communal lands in the homeland areas, which are owned by the state and administered by traditional councils. We are referring to communally owned farms. Perhaps we should say communally owned land reform farms because they own and administer that for the benefit of members of the CPA. To improve this Recommendation, the suggestion is to focus on capacitating CPAs, as well as the CPA Committees and its members. This should be done by capacity building and training programmes to ensure the management of communally owned land reform farms are for the material benefit of the members.
Ms Mgxashe noted the amendment by Mr Masipa to add the Biosecurity sub-programme in the Recommendations. Members have raised concern that even though they appreciated its inclusion as a sub programme that the inadequate budget for its strengthening, resources and for the issuing of alerts be an added Recommendation.
The Chairperson notes the amendments requested and appreciated the clarity that the Committee has gained through the discussion. The Committee is very happy with the report and thinks it has been well articulated and captured.
The Committee adopted its report with its amendments.
The Committee adopted the minutes of meetings of 16 and 23 March and 4 May 2021.
Ms Steyn request that the secretariat request the information the Committee requested in Point 9.1.4-5 of the 23 March 2021 minutes. That was meant to be sent long ago. The Committee has yet to receive that information.
The Chairperson recognised the request, and directed the secretariat to request the information from the Department.
The meeting was adjourned.
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