Land Affairs Annual Report: Department briefing

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Meeting report

AGRICULTURE AND LAND AFFAIRS PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
4 February 2004
LAND AFFAIRS ANNUAL REPORT: DEPARTMENT BRIEFING

This report is an edited version of a report produced kind courtesy of the Contact Trust: www.contacttrust.org.za

Chair:

Mr N Masithela (ANC)

Documents handed out:
Land Affairs 2003/4 Annual Report (awaited)

SUMMARY
The Department of Land Affairs presented its 2002/3 Annual Report in which it was mentioned that the Department had spent 99% of its budget. The Director-General answered a wide range of questions from Department responsibilities to budget allocations.
Chair Masithela asked Department officials to report to the Committee within seven days on their plans to improve gender representation on their staff.

MINUTES
Land Affairs Department Director-General, Dr Gilinhne Mayende, introduced members of his senior management team to the Committee: Dr Nozizwe Makgalemele (Deputy Director-General, Land Planning and Information), Ms Sarah Choane (Deputy Director-General, Financial Management and Corporate Services), Mr Tozi Gwanya (Chief Land Claims Commissioner), Ms Maureen Tong (Chief Operations Officer), Ms Vuyi Nxasana (Chief Director of Land Reform), and Mr Anton van Staden (Director of Human Resources Management).

Department briefing
As the PowerPoint presentation was not working, Mr Mayende made some general remarks concerning the Department's performance. The DG announced that the fiscal year 2002/3 had been the most successful to date, and fiscal success was reflected in effective service delivery. In terms of land restoration, there was also quality and not just a quantity of achievements. The Auditor-General's Report on Land Affairs had found no irregularities, which indicated a marked improvement in the Department's fiscal capacity. The Department had spent 99% of its Department's budget. Once the data-projector was prepared, he presented the Annual Report. He added that it did not profile organisational challenges such as: 1) budgeting, 2) projects that were turned over to other authorities and were now failing, 3) gender representation, and 4) HIV/AIDS affecting communities and staff.

Discussion
Chair Masithela expressed appreciation but explained that the idea was not to emphasise success, but to flesh-out areas of concern. Performance would be measured against the Department's 2003/4 Strategic Plan, and not previous years.

Adv Holomisa (ANC) commended the Department for spending its budget but said the presentation raised questions: 1) what were specific budgetary challenges? and. 2) were there government factors outside the Department's jurisdiction that had worked against the successful transfer of government land to communities/individuals?

Chair Masithela asked whether the Department managed inter-jurisdictional challenges any better than affected South Africans.

Adv Holomisa continued his questions: 3) what specific challenges existed in terms of gender equity? 4) how were Communal Property Associations (CPAs) performing? 5) what measures had the Department taken to ensure the sustainability of farm workers and labour tenants? Mrs R Ndzanga (ANC) referred to the 150 new positions and asked what impact these would have on restitution and redress efforts in rural areas.

Mrs Ndzanga asked when the deregulation of public enterprises to administer land in former Bantustans would take place.

Dr Makgalemele explained that the Department's budget was not the challenge, but rather the Department's lack of autonomous control over its revenue. The Department intended to address a number of claims in 2004 that would have a substantial and unprecedented affect on the Department's budget.

Ms Vuyi Nxasana explained that there were fiscal challenges of constraint, noting the Department had underestimated the costs associated with redress.

Ms Sarah Choane explained that the spatial planning function had been transferred to the Department of Provincial and Local Government, but that the administrative responsibility for it had stayed with Land Affairs. Fiscal capacity was transferred despite administrative responsibility resting with Land Affairs. Chair Masithela said the Committee would have to apply their minds to this issue.

Dr Makgalemele referred to the challenges of sustained success in land projects once they had been returned to local administration. For example, the Department had invested R43 million in land, only to find that its administration had been taken over by the courts due to mismanagement. Local governments complained that land was provided, but the resources to manage and develop these assets did not follow. Community resettlement necessitated stronger and sustained support.

Mr Mayende said that there was room for improving development planning and ongoing support for resettled communities. There were problems with the priority Land Affairs placed on services provided by other departments - when other departments did not have the capacity to meet service delivery expectations, Land Affairs was seen to have failed in its mandate. The 'silo' nature of public administration hampered service delivery at the budgetary level as each silo had diverging and competing priorities.

Ms Maureen Tong explained that departmental concern regarding gender equity was that despite 54% of Land Affairs staff being women, men were still over-represented in senior positions.

Chair Masithela noted benchmark figures in the Land Affairs Strategic Plan and asked Department officials to report to the Committee within seven days on their plans to improve gender representation.

Mr Mayende referred to the question on Communal Property Associations, explaining that the Department had undertaken an audit for a clearer picture of association performance. Generally, associations lacked capacity and resources but a clear picture would be presented once the audit was complete.

Dr Makgalemele explained that rural areas hade disproportionately benefited from new staff positions, because of an emphasis on land dispensation.

Mr Mayende indicated that officials would establish a date for the decommissioning of public enterprises that were established to administer land in former Bantustans.

Dr R Schoeman (ANC) emphasised the important role that Committee Members had to ensure Departmental challenges were addressed in such a way that the redistribution target of 2050 was reached, specifically referring to the 'silo dilemma' affecting the budget process.

Mr P Gerber (ANC) suggested that Land Affairs workers in the field had been given areas too large to effectively serve and asked how effective established administrative areas were. Mr T Jeebodh (ANC) inquired into the percentage of state land that had been redistributed.

Chair Masithela enquired about the percentage of state allocated land that had been redistributed, by race.

Mrs Ndzanga (ANC) expressed concern that agricultural personnel did not seem to assist communities.

Chair Masithela asked the following questions: 1) How far along is the Department in implementing its strategic plan? 2) was formal regulation needed in the case of absorbing debts? 3) what steps were being taken to prevent South African land from being sold to foreigners?

Mr Mayende emphasised Dr. Schoeman's comments regarding the political will to improve cross-departmental objectives and financing. He explained that the percentage of state-owned land that had been redistributed was relatively high.

Adv Holomisa asked what factors were preventing a greater portion of this land being transferred.

Ms Nxasana explained that not all state-owned land was administered by Land Affairs, leaving a large portion that it did not have the ability to redistribute.

Adv Holomisa asked about the specific challenges in transferring land. Ms Nxasana explained that capacity was a barrier, specifying a shortage of staff. Mr Mayende explained that a racial and national breakdown was difficult to establish as forms were designed to specifically exclude criteria that could lead to discrimination.

Mr Mayende said the Department was trying to establish figures and was considering changes that would make demographic analysis easier. Chair Masithela asked that the Committee be advised when a figure had been established; in the meantime, he asked that measures be taken to prevent the sale of land to foreigners.

Mr Mayende explained that there was a need for greater resources to aid officials to not only transfer land, but to do so in a way that ensured that transfers were successful.

Ms Nxasana commented on the Extension of Security of Tenure Act and the ETA, and explained that the legislation had not been acted on because the Department was pre-occupied with the Communal Land Rights Bill.

Chair Masithela explained that it was unacceptable for the Department to delay action because government was busy with other issues, especially when the legislation was inter-related with government priority.

Mr Mayende said the Department would soon be moving forward on the Bills. They had not intended to prioritise one Bill over others.

Mrs Ndzanga (ANC) expressed that the ESTA and LTA were important components of the overall land tenure issue.

Ms Choane referred to the question of irreconcilable debt, explaining that the Department's policy was always based in a cost/benefit framework. They were working on a formal policy statement.

Chair Masithela said that, according to the Department's strategic plan, this policy should already have been formalised.

Mr Salamuddi Abram (ANC) asked: 1) would the Department be taking steps to market the Land Restitution Act, noting that it received a poor welcome in the media? 2) noting a sound legal foundation for government to receive land from time to time, what departments received land and on what criteria? 3) was the transfer of land constrained by the time taken to process appropriate departmental documentation? 4) did the department have officials dedicated to answering MPs' questions? and 5) referring to the portion of South African land owned by foreigners, could passport and SA ID numbers provide this information?

Chair Masithela explained that the last issue Mr Abram raised had already been considered.

Adv Holomisa asked the Department to expand about the land that traditional leaders had donated to local governments.

Chair Masithela suggested that officials respond to this question in writing. He then asked if there was a breakdown by field of bursaries awarded by the Department.

Mr Mayende responded that the Department could have done a better job of marketing the Restitution of Land Amendment Bill, as had those who had opposed it in the media. Regarding Department liaison with MPs, the DG commended Elton Greeve for playing such a useful role. Replies to further questions would come in writing.

Chair Masithela commended the Department on providing such a strong report. He emphasised the importance of meeting the strategic plan and developing effective communication strategies. He then adjourned the meeting.

 

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