Communal Land Rights Bill: deliberations and adoption; Department Annual Report: adoption

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Meeting report

AGRICULTURE AND LAND AFFAIRS PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
27 January 2004
COMMUNAL LAND RIGHTS BILL: DELIBERATIONS; DEPARTMENT ANNUAL REPORT: ADOPTION

This report was a collaboration between PMG and a reporter from Contact Trust: www.contacttrust.org.za

Chair:

Mr Masithela, followed by Acting Chair Ms M Ntuli (ANC)

Documents handed out:

Communal Land Rights Bill [B67-2003]
Communal Land Rights Bill [B67A-2003]
Communal Land Rights Bill [B67B-2003]
Department Annual Report
Draft Communal Land Rights Bill (Amendments Agreed To).
Information on Avian Influenza (Not discussed)

SUMMARY
The Committee considered the Communal Land Rights Bill and amendments and voted to adopt both. In the afternoon, the Committee heard a presentation from the Department on their Annual Report 2002/3.

MINUTES

Communal Land Rights Bill
Chair Masithela explained that the Committee had already addressed the major issues concerning the Communal Land Rights Bill. For this reason, a simply clause-by-clause review would be appropriate.

Dr C Brocker (Director: Legal Services) proposed a further amendment: Clause 28(1) to add the words "generally and in particular with regard to matter concerning sustainability land ownership and use, the development of land and the provision of access to land on an equitable basis" after the word "community".

Chair Masithela asked Members to consider the new amendment, noting it did not depart from the Bill's intention, but strengthened this relationship.

Mr Ngema (IFP) asked whether the Land Rights Boards would belong to affected communities or the Minister, and expressed that South Africans should find utility in these boards, not just the Minister. He suggested that the wording in 28 (1) be amended from "advise the Minister and advise and assist a community generally" to "advise and assist a community and advise the Minister generally".

Deputy Minister Adv DC du Toit believed Mr Ngema's suggestion would refocus the clause on the community component, which was not a fundamental change. So long as there were no fundamental legal ramifications, the suggestion could be accommodated.

Dr Brocker explained that the change was semantic and would in no way affect application. The Minister was an agent of South Africans so peoples' concerns would be taken into account.

Chair Masithela asked Department officials to consider wording that would compel Land Rights Boards to consult affected communities prior to advising the Minister.

Mr Broker explained that the clause was being written in such a way that Land Rights Boards would consult affected communities before advising the Minister, but also that the Minister ask Land Rights Boards to consult affected communities on issues as they arose.

Ms E Ngaleka (ANC) suggested that the Bill as presented provided for a dialogue and said the amendment was not required. Chair Masithela thought it was a matter of semantics. Ms R Ndzanga (ANC) thought the the change was not needed.

Mr Brocker said that from a legal perspective, the clause, as written, was open for boards, the Minister and communities to inter-relate and the order of mention had no bearing on legal interpretation.

Mr Ngema said that in practical application, in Zulu areas at least, the order of mention was important. Listing communities first would indicate to communities that the clause was intended to give them a voice in their land affairs. Mr Ditshetelo (UCDP) agreed.

Mrs MB Ntuli (ANC) provided the opinion that wording should be found that reflects the need for the Minister to base decisions on community input.

After some brief committee discussion on cultures, Chair Masithela suggested that the suggested change be made, provided that the state law advisors believed that the change will not have other ramifications. Mr Brocker agreed to do this and Deputy Minister du Toit expressed approval.

Chair Masithela excused himself and turned over the chairship to Ms M Ntuli.

Mr Ditshetelo expressed concern for the creation of ongoing Land Administration Boards, suggesting that the notion of permanence made these institutions susceptible to corruption.

A Member explained that Board appointments were for five-year terms, so the concern was baseless.

Acting Chair Ntuli said that the terms would address the corruptibility of Boards, but that there was still the question as to whether the Boards should be permanent.

Dr Sipho Sibanda (Director, Tenure Reform Services) explained that international experience had shown that there was an ongoing need for these types of Boards with a specific mandate.

Mr S Abram (UDM) explained that five-year appointments addressed the corruption concern. He suggested that government keep appointing Boards until such time that they had met their mandate.

Acting Chair Ntuli speculated that the Bill could remain as presented.

Mr A J Botha (DP) asked a series of questions:
1) referring to clause 17, powers and duties of land rights enquirer, he asked how to ensure that the process was democratic;
2) referring to section 21, establishing of land administration committee, he asked what would determine if a traditional or community council should be used;
3) referring to clause 26 (2)(d)(i), composition of land rights boards, he asked if the female representatives would be selected by women, Members or another way, as female representatives could only represent women so long as women select their own representatives; and
4) referring to section 18 (5), determination by Minister, he asked who would incur the costs associated with court fees should the Minister resort to the court system.

Mr Brocker answered:
1) the democratic process to be followed would be detailed in regulations
2) where traditional councils existed, they would play the role of community councils.
3) women would be selected by the electoral college (all registered voters) as a different system would codify gender discrimination "of the second worst kind."
4) referral to the courts would be a last recourse and that the Bill provided alternatives that would be exhausted before the matter would be taken to court. Generally, whoever won the case would be awarded associated costs, but these matters would rest with the court.

After the tea break, Mr Botha profiled and compared the dispute resolution process in the Land Restitution Act and the Communal Land Rights Bill, asking why the Communal Land Rights Bill had recourse to the courts and the other did not.

Deputy Minister du Toit expressed frustration with Mr Botha's questions, explaining that it was not appropriate for the Committee to debate the merits of the Land Restitution Act and that Mr Botha supported the Bill in any event.

Mr Ditshetelo referred to the clause 16, notice of land rights enquiry, and asked what language "media" would be used to advertise land rights enquiries.

Ms Cheryllyn Dudley (ACDP) suggested that if everyone agreed with the Bill, further debate was not useful. Dr Schoeman said that points of order should be respected.

Mr Brocker explained that it was government policy to use multiple languages in the application of all legislation. The Minister would select the most effective way of reaching the broadest spectrum of South Africans.

Acting Chair Ntuli referred to the composition of Land Rights Boards and suggested that a space be created to accommodate female-headed households.

Mr Ngema asked for clarity on whether she was suggesting that, of the two existing positions reserved for women, one should be reserved for the head of a household, or if she was proposing creating another female position?

Dr Sibanda profiled clause 26 (3)(b) which ensured that at least one-third of land rights board positions to female, suggesting that this will informally almost make it a certainty that the a female head of a household would be on the board.

Deputy Minister du Toit asked whether it was possible to amend clause 26 (3)(b) to ensure that at least one female head of household was on each board.

Mr Brocker said that the Deputy Minister's suggested amendment was possible, but asked about a situation where there would be no female-headed households.

Dr Schoeman suggested that the same eventuality could exist for child-headed households, but recognising the reality that this was highly unlikely, it would be equally as (in)appropriate to create a position for female headed-households.

Mr Botha suggested that clause 26 (3)(b) was an inappropriate place to dedicate a position, and suggested that the amendment be incorporated into clause 26 (2)(d).

Mr Botha added that the Committee consider his Party's question: why does the Bill provide recourse to the courts, but other similar legislation did not.

Mr Ngema voiced his preference that if female headed-households were to be guaranteed representation, that this be done under clause 26 (3)(b).

A committee member drew attention to clause 4(3), which gave women the same rights as men, and asked whether female headed-households could not find legal recourse through this provision, therefore not necessitating representation.

Mr Botha expressed concern for the amendment providing for clause 18(5), suggesting that it was new and had not originated with the Committee.

Mr Broker explained that the amendment of concern originated with the committee in a meeting late in 2003 that Mr Botha had not attended.

Acting Chair Ntuli turned the meeting back to the Chair, noting that a female headed-household position would be added to 26 (2)(d).

As no Members had other outstanding concerns, the Committee Secretary read the Motion of Desirability for the Bill with amendments. It received unanimous support but Ms Dudley and Mr Ngema made the reservation that their support was contingent on the support of their party caucuses, as they had not intended to vote on the Bill until the following day.

Department of Agriculture Annual Report
In the afternoon, Mr Mabombo, the Department Chief Operating Officer, introduced his team of Mr P. Ngobese, Mr A. Swart, Mr T Marais, Dr S Moephuli, Dr S Mkize, Dr E Mogajane, and Mr S Mahlangu. He apologized on behalf of the DG who was unable to attend due to the meeting of the Technical Committee in preparation for the first Minmec meeting.

The Chair noted that in the period under review, there was also the passing of the Department's Mr Thule, which should have been noted.

Overview and Administration - Mr L Mabombo
Mr Mabombo outlined the vision, mission and values of the Department and said their strategic objectives were aimed at economic performance, particularly among the formerly disadvantaged agricultural sector. The Department's key clients ranged from provincial departments, to those working, producing and exporting and consumers. He then outlined their administration programme, designed to support internal business processes and sound financial management.

Farmer Support and Development Programme - Mr P Ngobese
Mr Ngobese noted that during the year, the Draft Co-operatives Bill was transferred to the Department of Trade and Industry to administer and table in Parliament. All agricultural co-operatives continued to receive support from the Department. Two major achievements had been the establishment of the National Food Emergency Scheme and the National Relief Scheme. With regard to farmer settlement, the Land Redistribution for Agricultural Development Programme (LRAD) continued to be implemented and LRAD beneficiaries received training and capacity building on a provincial basis. Intergovernmental work focussed primarily on food production within SADC.

Trade and Business Development Programme - Mr A Swart
Mr Swart introduced the programme's three main directorates: Trade, Marketing and Black Economic Empowerment (BEE). The 2002/03 year had presented many challenges, which he regarded the programme to have handled well. The drafting and development of AgriBEE policy aimed at growth and equity in the agricultural sector, was one of the major achievements and much progress had been made since then. He highlighted the excellence models for the key commodities of cotton, wine, grain and livestock.

The Marketing Directorate, established during the review year, was involved in marketing training at three different economic levels. The Department had been involved in trade negotiations with, among others, Mercosur and SADC. His programme was also responsible for approving preferential import and export permits that aimed at increasing competition, particularly from smaller countries. Challenges included increasing intergovernmental capacity and adjusting to the implementation of NEPAD. At some stage, he would like to present the results of the initial evaluation of AgriBEE and the inventory of BEE incentives in the sector.

Agricultural Research and Economic Analysis Programme - Mr T Marais

Mr Marais said the purpose of this programme was to support the establishment and management of an agricultural database and analysis of statistics. Among other projects, the programme had established a National Agricultural Economics Working Group between the national and provincial departments and other interested parties. The Department had also commissioned a census of commercial agriculture.

Agricultural Production Programme - Dr S Moephuli
Dr Moephuli introduced this new programme that had started out with only one full-time and one part-time staff member. Its purpose was to develop policies, norms and standards to enhance sustainable agriculture production. It focussed on animal, plant and aqua production systems through scientific research and development and client needs.

Dr Moephuli said the Department had facilitated public interaction through farmers' days, workshops and production advice. He also discussed various projects aimed at helping smaller and emerging farmers. On an international level, the Department had entered into several bilateral agreements under NEPAD, proposed programmes to SADC and had been involved in discussions on production. The greatest challenge facing the Department was building capacity and coherency in the provincial governments.

National Regulatory Service Programme - Dr E Mogajane
Dr Mogajane said their greatest challenge had been the outbreak of foot and mouth disease (FMD) and they had worked hard at getting South Africa reinstated as an FMD free country. This was largely a result of increased border control and vigilance of the international disease control fence. During the review year, the Department had taken over the administration of the chemical residue programme for the Department of Health.

She also highlighted the programme's client and public interaction through meetings, workshops and conferences and campaigns such as one aimed at ending the illegal use of Aldicarb. The Department had also been involved in various international interactions, both in Southern Africa and the world.

Dr Mogajane suggested that future challenges for the programme would be to clarify and strengthen the role of provincial agriculture departments, maintain international standards to minimise the risks associated with importing agricultural products, and increase vigilance on the borders

Sustainable Resources Management and Use Programme - Dr S Mkhize
Dr Mkhize noted that a Bill was currently being formulated to replace the Conservation of Agricultural Resources Act. Departmental projects included the drilling of boreholes, the rehabilitation of irrigation schemes, the support of soil conservation and LandCare projects and the development of the Agricultural Geographic Information System.International partnerships and interactions had been most valuable in gaining expertise and ensuring South Africa stayed abreast of international developments.

Communication, Planning and Evaluation Programme - Mr S Mahlangu
Mr Mahlangu said his programme had been responsible for many interactions with both industry and agriculture. They had been awarded an accolade for being a top government department. The year's highlight had been the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) where the Department had made a presentation. On the policy front, the programme had undertaken steps such as subsidising maize during the high food prices.

He noted the various campaigns to encourage and recognise female farmers, as well as mentioning the various external bursary schemes and internship programmes the Department facilitated. He also highlighted the publications issued by the Department but acknowledged that there was a need to improve communication in general.

Discussion
Ms Ntuli (ANC) queried how far the Department was in terms of developing the key outputs for the Co-operatives Development Fund, and asked if the funds were in place, how rural people were informed, and about the administration expense savings due to unfilled vacancies. This had been the same position in the previous report, and she asked when the positions would be filled. It was not clear how these policies benefited the poor. The Chair asked the Committee to put this comment/query on hold as it would take a long discussion.

Ms Ngaleka asked the following questions:
1./ Could the Department explain why the number of hectares in the Eastern Cape was higher than Limpopo but the money allocated was higher in Limpopo. Also why the same was true of beneficiaries.
2./ Why was there no reference to training in the Northern Cape and North West Province, and what was being done in this regard.
3./ She asked for information about the external bursary Scheme
4./ She noted underspending of R 27.3 million and asked what the Department was doing to ensure that this did not happen in future.
5./ She noted that in terms of Employment Equity the Department. was male dominated. She asked when this was going to change.

Mr Ngobese responded that with regard to the Cooperative Development Fund, the overall function was transferred to the DTI. He noted that there was ongoing discussion with the DTI and Treasury. The Bill still needs to be taken through Parliament.

With regard to informing emerging farmers, he said that there were various workshops that were held, and there was a series of materials developed. There was also the Summit with the Financial Services Co-operatives. The rural Financial Service system was the main thing discussed at the Summit. The situation is that originally the Reserve Bank gave special dispensation for co-operatives to manage themselves. However he noted that more effort needs to be put into making them sustainable, through capacity building.

In terms of the question regarding the discrepancy between provinces spending on training he noted that this was a function of the institutional readiness of those provinces. However they are now committed for the current year.

He noted that regarding the success of LRAD, there was a response given to the Committee last year, but this could be updated.

The Chair noted that as the Committee is involved in oversight this information should be given every year, and asked that the updated report also include challenges being faced.

Mr Marais responded to the questions about the vacancies and underspending. On the question of vacancies he noted that for more than a year, no vacancies were filled but up to the end of 2003, 365 posts were filled or in the process of being filled.

The Chair noted that the PC should be briefed if there were changes in the structure of the Department.

Mr Marais noted that there were no changes in the structure of top management which was approved in 2001/2 year, but there were in the lower categories where the Resolution 7 process was involved.

With regard to under spending he noted that there were various reasons, one being the implementation of Resolution 7, as even though there were no new appointments people still resigned, went on pension etc. Also there was the purchase of a building, but the Deed of Sale has only been received recently. Also there was the problem of invoices being delayed, so although work was done the Department had not yet paid for it. Taking all this into account, the under spending was quite a small amount, and the Department was pleased that it had not overspent.

Mr Mabombo noted that there were very few posts that now remained vacant.

With regard to the external bursary scheme the Department noted that they had recognized that funds may not be fully used, and so it was agreed that these savings would be used as external bursary schemes and these were advertised.

They noted that during 2002 the Department took over 100 interns who are in the system.

In terms of employment equity the Department noted that it was only coincidence that there was only one female in the delegation, and that the Department would provide statistics on the numbers of designated groups employed by the Department.

Ms. Ngcengwane (ANC) commended the Department for their flexibility and their efforts on advancing women in top positions. She noted that in the previous report it had been noted that some problems came from the fact that the ex homeland areas were not well administered. She asked if this had been sorted out.

Mr Mathibela (ANC) asked whether the bursary scheme benefited the disadvantaged. He said he knew that they advertised in national newspapers, but asked why the did not use the constituency infrastructure.

The Chair noted that the Department should take up this suggestion in addition to what they are already doing.

Mr Botha (DA) asked about the reference on p.8 of the presentation under Client and Public interaction regarding relief. He asked whether the numbers referred to the applications and verifications, or actual assistance. He also asked for clarity on the issue of disaster relief, saying that there should be guidelines for the prevention of runaway fires.

Mr Schoeman (ANC) asked about the LRAD programme, saying that it's success relied heavily on the identification and training of prospective farmers. He added that it seemed that the programme was failing in many ways, and asked if the Department had a programme for identifying farmers and assisting them.

He noted that on p35 R3.75m had been transferred to LRAD, but on the next page over 15 000 farmers had benefited - this amounted to R237 per farmer!!

The Chair added that the Department should also respond on the issue of after care support mechanisms.

Mr Schoeman also referred to p36 and asked about what had happened to Ncera
and Sondela.

Ms Ngaleka asked the Department to report also on the amount of disabled people when reporting on employment equity. She also requested them to elaborate on the strategies.

She also questioned the department about the use of boreholes in the household food security strategy, and its strategies for debt recovery.

Mr Ngobese responded that the Department had been grappling with the question of infrastructure. He said that in the next financial year the Treasury would be allocating a sizeable budget.

In terms of identifying and selecting prospective farmers he said that they work closely with the Provincial structures. He added that the cost for training is not standard across the country which is why it is higher per farmer in some areas.

In terms of after care he said that they focus on infrastructure.

With regard to disaster relief he said that the Department could give a breakdown of the disasters and how much was spent as well as the guidelines and criteria used.

With regard to disposal of land, he said that the plans were completed and they were awaiting implementation and for the budget to be finalised.

Dr Moephuli said that with regard to the veldfire guidelines the Department needs the assistance of experts with this, but that one of the key issues is ensuring the sustainability of agricultural production.

On the question of BEE the Department noted that it aimed to get a baseline from the inventory and then develop norms and standards. A report had been received. There had bee some consultation but they hoped to have a more in-Departmenth discussion with the PC and include their comments. There would then be a workshop where stakeholders can participate. The idea is to have the Charter agreed on and then events to publicize it, as well as an annual showcase.

Regarding the debt there are two kinds of debt:
Agricultural - which is the greater part - refer to p118 item 8 of the Annual Report. With regard to Multiple Debt this is from the previous era.
Department debt - there is a standard procedure in place to recover these

The Chair noted that debt recovery falls under the Public Accounts Committee and that this committee should not deal with debt recovery and writing them off.

A member asked about the external bursary scheme. He also asked about the report on the Office of the Registrar of Co-operatives, saying that they had registered 439 co-op's but 53 have been struck off, and 40 were in the process of being removed, and 24 liquidated. He asked whether there were mechanisms in place that assisted these structures in terms of development.

Mr Ditshetelo (UCDP) asked about the LRAD and whether the Department could indicate their success and the challenges facing them.

He then asked about the animal improvement scheme and how successful it is - testing of Bulls etc.

Mr Ntuli asked about the timeframe for the transfer of the Bill to DTI.

Mr Botha asked about p34 of the Annual Report on agricultural risk management.

Mr Ngobese (Department) responded to the question about the registration of Co-ops saying that
the Registrar has the function of deregistering those that do not provide Annual reports, financial statements etc. The DTI has the Companies office to deal with companies generally. There are training programme in place for co-operatives. Some co-operatives are not active and therefore deregistered.

In terms of the timeframe for the Bill, the DTI has started a series of consultations and are currently consulting in NEDLAC. The Department was not sure of the timeframes.

The Department went on to say that they would take up the proposal of indicating in the report what is on p34. They will also provide an update on what is happening regarding challenges and successes. One success is the number of farmers benefiting. The challenge is to provide budgetary support. Treasury has acceded to a request to increase the budget.

Dr Moepuli noted that regarding the livestock and animal improvement schemes the Department has been funding the development of the database INTERGIS. This information allows you to do adjustments and improvements on farm animals. The Development of the database took longer than expected, but the milk side was completed in the year under review.

The improvement schemes continue to exist in terms of bull testing. These are reviewed and evaluated and reorganized in line with the Department's strategic objectives.

Mr Mabombo noted that in terms of written responses the Department would provide the following:
1./ Successes and failures of the LRAD
2./ Employment Equity
3./ Disaster management schemes

The Bursary scheme was accounted for in the 2004 budget vote. He noted the suggestion that the constituency offices be used to advertise bursaries.

The Chair added that he would like to know what the Department aimed to achieve out of the Bursary schemes.

Mr Mabombo answered that the aim was to develop the necessary expertise. He said that the Department needed to take the initiative to ensure that there were experts in the field.

The Chair asked about the targets, and commented that, in terms of LRAD, the Department did not market itself properly regarding the good work done. He was happy with the Employment Equity in the Department. The Committee was convinced of the good work of the Department.

The meeting was adjourned.

 

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