The Committee was updated in a virtual meeting by the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (DALRRD) on matters that had been reported to it by stakeholders regarding land claims in Gwatyu, Baroka Ba Nkwana and Bakoni Ba Mmamaro. It also considered a matter concerning Mr Collen Mathebe, which had been received through the Public Protector's office.
The Committee heard that most of the claims that were lodged by the communities of Gwatyu in the Eastern Cape, and Baroka Ba Nkwana and Bakoni Ba Mmamaro in Limpopo, had not been finalised, and the Department was facing challenges with the process of resolving them. The Committee was disappointed that the presentation reports had been submitted late, and that not much information or work had been done by the DALRRD to settle the land claims.
Concern was also expressed that the Department had not made efforts to assist claimants who had lodged their claims before the 1998 cut-off date, which would delay the process of new land claims that had to be lodged, especially since the process of finalising land claims seemed to be taking forever. The Chairperson proposed that three meetings should be scheduled to receive reports from the regional offices about the outstanding pre-1998 land claims, because there were forestry claims, national parks claims and military base claims across the country, so an update was required on all of these. The finalisation of the claims also needed to be prioritised to pave the way for the consideration of the new order claims that needed to be looked at.
Late arrival of presentations
The Chairperson offered condolences and paid tribute to the former Deputy Minister of International Relations and Cooperation of South Africa, Mr Ebrahim Ebrahim. He invited officials of the Department to present to the Committee.
Ms A Steyn (DA) proposed that the Committee not engage with the Gwatyu presentation because the document was received late and because not a lot of work had been done on the Communal Property Association (CPA). A meeting should be scheduled for a briefing by the CPA on the matter.
The Chairperson noted the proposal by Ms Steyn.
Ms M Tlhape (ANC) also raised concerns that the Gwatyu presentation had been received late, and agreed that the Committee should not engage on the presentation, but said it should be presented. A separate meeting should be scheduled to deal with the matters in Gwatyu.
Ms T Breedt (FF+) agreed with the proposals made.
Mr N Capa (ANC) said that the presentation should not be postponed, but the engagements on it should. The Committee could identify areas of concern instead of engaging with the presentation so that future engagements were fruitful.
The Chairperson confirmed that the presentations had been received late, but the meeting was the Committee’s last for the year, so Members had to be aware that salaries could not be earned for work not done. The Committee’s mandate was to do its work, so patience should be exercised even though the information was submitted late by the officials of the Department. He proposed that the Committee engages with the presentation, and a session on clarity-seeking questions would be held with the Department in the following year. During the constituency period, individual oversights could be conducted by Members of the Committee, based on the information that would be presented by the Department.
The Committee agreed with the Chairperson’s proposal.
Land Claims Update Reports
Gwatyu (Eastern Cape)
Mr Bonginkosi Zulu, Acting Deputy Director-General: Land Redistribution and Development, DALRRD, said the purpose of the presentation was to provide feedback on stakeholder matters. A background on the matter was outlined and recommendations were given.
Mr Menton Tshililo, Acting Chief Director, DALRRD, Limpopo, presented the matter concerning Mr Collen Mathebe, which had been received through the Public Protector's office. The Land Title Adjustment Act (Act 111 of 1993) was found to be non-applicable, and could not be used to resolve the matter.
Bakoni Ba Mmamaro CPA
Mr Tele Maphoto, Head of Programmes: Restitution: DALRRD, Limpopo, presented on the matter of the Bakoni Ba Mmamaro CPA, which had not been established as a CPA because land had not been transferred, but the matter was being processed. 29 land claims had been lodged on the De Goedeverwachting farm, and seven land claims had been lodged on the Spitzkop 333 KT farm.
Baroka Ba Nkwana
He also presented the matter of the Baroka Ba Nkwana land claim KRP 2550, which was lodged in 23 farms.
Gwatyu (Eastern Cape)
Ms Tlhape said that the history of Gwatyu showed that there could not be one established CPA, and a political intervention was required to ensure that processes were smooth and CPA appointments were duly made. She said that the rightful people had to benefit from the CPAs in Gwatyu.
Ms Steyn said that there was a breakdown between the Gwatyu community and the Department’s officials who were handling the matter, because the trust that was supposed to be established was non-existent. She asked the Department why the Gwatyu CPA was never registered, because it did qualify at the time to be established. She noted that land audits had been made at the beginning of 2000, but they were never made available and implementation had never taken place.
She asked the Commission on Restitution of Land Rights (CRL) why the land claims were dismissed before the cut-off date. It was unfortunate that there was land that was not being used because of a breakdown of trust between the communities and the Department, especially when land invasions were happening and lives were being threatened. She raised concerns that not much work had been done by the Department since 2019, and said that support would have to be provided by the Committee on the issue.
Mr S Matiase (EFF) agreed that based on the presentation, there was no evidence that work had been done since 2019, and raised concern that the Department had reported that the enquiry collapsed because a meeting was disrupted. Nothing was fruitful from the presentation, and it did not provide details on the long history of Gwatyu, when the matters were first presented to Parliament in 2016 by the EFF --not by the DA in 2018 -- which proved how shallow the feedback report was. He supported the proposal that the Committee intervene, because the matter was not being concluded and there was ethnic and tribal polarisation in the Gwatyu community. The relationship between the Minister in the Presidency and the AmaTshatshu Tribal Council might also be a factor in the delays in the progress of resolving disputes. A commitment had to be made that 2022 would not end without the matters in Gwatyu being resolved.
Mr Capa said that the Department should highlight the sustainability of the farms in Gwatyu and the amount of farming that happened on these farms, because there was a tendency of people occupying land for the sake of occupying instead of for agricultural purposes. It was important that the matter should be separated from political interference. He asked whether the assistance from the DA to the Department had been useful and sustainable, and whether other political parties could provide assistance. The Department should also indicate the involvement of the traditional council. He asked the Department to highlight the areas that it had botched, and how they had been corrected.
Ms Breedt said that the Committee had been encouraging service delivery so that there would be a change in communities for land ownership, farming and empowerment, but this was not the case because of many factors. Details on the CPAs and lessees were required, and engagements with the Gwatyu community needed to be held by the Committee as the "middle-man."
Ms N Mahlo (ANC) said that the DALRRD should work hard to resolve all the outstanding matters so that the Committee could conduct oversight visits. The Department should understand the problems facing the country so that work could be done correctly in order for people to get land. The Committee, as political figures, had the responsibility to assist the Department to resolve political conflict, and it would persist until the people had land.
The Chairperson said that it was difficult to see progress in the work that had been done by the Department since February to November 2021, because on 9 February, the Deputy Minister, Mr Mcebisi Skwatsha, had reported that the land rights enquiries had been completed on all 93 properties in Gwatyu and that the Provincial Shared Services Centre (PSSC) stakeholders' meeting had been disrupted by the Gwatyu farm dwellers, who had rejected the presence of the AmaTshatshu Tribal Council. An intervention meeting which was led by the Deputy Minister Skwatsha, had resulted in the development of a plan which had not been made available to the Committee. The workshop for the CPA members was meant to ensure that there was compliance with legislation. The Chairperson asked whether there was a registered CPA in Gwatyu, and said that the Department should be able to account for the work that had been done between February and December 2021 so that the interventions by the Department were identified. The Committee expected to hear the results of the land rights enquiry, with detailed analysis of the rights from the Department, including overlapping rights as well as competing claims to the land and adjudication processes and confirmation of rights, to ensure that the land tenure rights were secure and clear. The Chairperson said that the Interim Protection of informal Land Rights Act could provide guidance on the matters.
The Committee was also expecting to hear details on the land audit report, which detailed the extent of the farms’ land use, occupiers, lessees, former farm workers, communities and vacant farms, and to hear the stakeholder analysis and processes of stakeholder engagements. Future action plans with clear timelines were expected so that the Department's action could be overseen by the Committee.
The Chairperson said that the audit commissioned by the Department of Land Affairs in the Eastern Cape in the year 2000 was an interesting matter, and asked how the audit was different and the reasons for the recommendations of the report not being implemented.
He supported the proposal by the Committee to conduct oversight in Gwatyu so that the challenges and the reasons for the delays could be understood. On the AmaTshatshu matter, every Traditional Council was subject to the king, so it would be better for the Committee to engage with King Siyambonga Dalimvula Matanzima, who was the actual administrator of the western Thembu land, on the matters in and around Gwatyu so that the claims could be understood.
Ms Tlhape asked about the status of the Collen Mathebe matter, because the presentation had mentioned that the Department lacked the legal instruments to assist Mr Mathebe.
On the Baroka Ba Nkwana matter, she asked for clarity on terms that were used in the presentation, such as ‘gazetted,’ because most portions were said to have been gazetted, while the research reports had not been concluded. She commented that gazetting had been done since 2018, and asked if the land claims would be restored or restituted. On the non-compliant research reports, she asked if there were mechanisms in place to assist the research for claims to be approved. On the statement that the King had a proclamation on the land, she asked for clarity on this statement.
Ms Steyn said that it was time for a database on the land claim processes to be established, because the process was difficult to understand and complicated. A database would assist in tracking the land claims. The Committee was also unable to provide status reports to communities that were awaiting the finalisation of these processes. She raised concern as to what would happen when the process was reopened for the second phase of the land claims audits if there was a challenge in finalising claims with a cut-off date of 1998, because there were overlapping land claims. There were people living in communal land who wanted titles to their land, and the Committee should look at how to assist these people. She suggested a week-long training session for the Committee to gain an understanding of the legislation involved in the land claims process, because there was slow progress on these matters.
Mr Matiase said that the report had not provided a clear way forward or recommendations for each of the cases that had been presented, which raised more questions than solutions. He asked about the number of farms that had been acquired from private individuals by the state, and at what the value of each farm was. He also asked about the method used for acquiring the farms -- was it through restitution or land redistribution? Regarding the overlapping claims, Limpopo was rich in mineral resources and mines, especially in the Skhukhune region, so had the Department established the real motive for the claimants -- was it for land and farming purposes, or about having access to mines that had not been explored, so that the nature of overlapping claims could be better understood?
Ms Breedt shared concern with the Committee on the terminologies and the land claims database. A lot of the claims were in process, and she asked for clarity on what the 'gazetting' included, and the status and timelines of the gazetting process. She raised concerns that if there was a lot of gazetting in the final phase of the claims, it would affect the new phase of claims and title deeds.
Ms Mahlo was concerned about the Collen Mathebe matter, because it showed that a lot of people were not getting assistance, and she questioned how Mr Mathebe had got access to the land before he was able to claim or occupy it. She asked how long it took to finalise research reports on land claims, whether the Department had the capacity to conduct research, and if it had internal service providers who assisted in conducting evaluations. If there was capacity, why was it taking so long for the issues of land to be resolved? She commented that a lot of people were losing their rights, and asked about the challenges that the Department was facing and how they were being addressed, because the government was emphasising the need for people to get land. The President had also mentioned that municipalities must invest, but how could this happen if the issue of land was not being resolved? A favourable environment had to be created to attract investors.
The Chairperson said that the Collen Mathebe case showed that there was a gap in the Communal Land Tenure Law, which had to give effect to Section 25 (6) of the Constitution, and requested the Department to speed up this process. During the Upgrading of Land Tenure Rights Amendment (ULTRA) Bill process, the Committee had been informed that the Bill would be tabled soon, but to date nothing had been done.
On the Bakoni Ba Mmamaro matter, he asked for clarity on the claims that had been finalised. The Mmamaro claim was still being gazetted. Were all the claims that had been reported by the Department, on state land, and if not, what would be the total cost for the finalisation of the claims.
Mr Zulu said that all the comments from the Committee and any information that might be required from the Department had been noted for the next engagement. All the additional information and documents would be forwarded to the Committee’s secretariat.
The Chairperson asked that written responses be submitted to the secretariat by no later than 17 December so that the Committee could get a clear understanding on the Gwatyu situation, in preparation for the engagement with the Department next year.
Mr Zulu confirmed that there was a gap in the law when it came to communal land tenure, especially since Mr Mathebe lived in a communal area where a land claim had been lodged and settled through financial compensation because the land could not be restored. The Department was working on the Communal Land Tenure Bill, and the draft bill would be taken for consultations.
Mr Maphoto said that there had been no land restoration on the finalised claims in Bakoni Ba Mmamaro, but financial compensation. The period for research to be finalised varied, because the Department had Rule 3, which involved researching archives and took three weeks to complete. Then there was Rule 5, which indicated where people were removed and on which side of the farms, and this research took about five months to complete. Capacity would always be required by the Department, and the research on the 98 land claims was being finalised, so there was confidence that the remaining ones would also be finalised.
Internal service providers were sourced when they were needed, and the land at Baroka Ba Nkwana had not yet been acquired because it was a complex claim. There were three research reports on the land claim, so the magnitude of the issue could be understood, but there was no value to the land because it had not been acquired. When the restorations happened for people who had been removed from communal land, they would happen through restitution, because claims were lodged by the communities and the claims had to be processed by the Department. If the claims were found to be non-compliant, then they were not processed, because there would be no trace of dispossession from the land.
Regarding the terminologies in the report, he explained that gazetting was a legal process. Once a research report was approved that rights to a piece of land had been lost, then a gazetting took place. A gazette meant that people could object or accept the process of land claims before the claims were verified further and settled. The claims that were gazetted in Baroka Ba Nkwana had been done at the same time and had not been restituted.
For the claims that did not qualify, there was a process in Section 6(2)(b) of the Restitution of Land Rights Amendment Act, which stated that a recommendation could be made to the Minister if there was a need for land for the people to be identified as potential land allocation beneficiaries. This process had never happened in the Department, so when a claim was dismissed there was no restitution.
On the proclamation by the King, he explained that a proclamation meant that during the homeland system in Limpopo, because of the decision-making processes that were followed, an area could be allocated under the jurisdiction of another chief. The proclamations had changed over time, and were causing challenges for the Department because they were still valid, as one community could have three different chiefs, especially in rural communities in Skhukhune.
He said that the figures on the value of the land would have to be sent at a later stage.
Mr Zulu said that written responses would be provided by the Department on some of the issues.
Ms Tlhape said that the question on the gazetting was related to the dates, because the presentation had stated that gazetting had been done in 2018, but there was no progress report on whether the claims were settled or if land had been handed over.
The Chairperson proposed that three meetings should be scheduled to receive reports from the regional offices about the outstanding pre-1998 land claims, because there were forestry claims, national parks claims and military base claims across the country, so an update was required on all of these. The finalisation of the claims also needed to be prioritised to pave the way for the consideration of new order claims that needed to be looked at.
The officials of the Department were thanked for presenting the reports. The Chairperson thanked the Committee for the work that was done during 2021 and wished everyone a wonderful and safe constituency period.
The meeting minutes of 30 November were adopted.
The meeting was adjourned.
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