The Committee convened virtually to receive a briefing from the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development and Commission on Restitution of Land Rights on their quarterly performance. The Minister was in attendance.
Most notably, the Minister remarked that the Department's capacity is being continually expanded. At the previous Cabinet meeting in January, Deputy Directors-General were appointed for Food Security, Spatial Planning and Rural Development. These appointments will strengthen the ability to support the sector in a variety of ways. She thanked the Chairperson for the opportunities to engage with the Committee.
The Department reported that out of 110 targets for quarters one to three, the Department met 58 of them. The delegation mostly cited the working conditions that have been imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic and the related regulations.
Members expressed their frustration and disappointment with the Department’s underperformance. They expressed that such an underachievement of targets was unacceptable. specifically taking into account the service delivery targets of this Department. Why is there such underachievement given that, to a large extent, the country's economy has opened again? Members felt that state officials will continually blame the pandemic until there is no longer a pandemic.
They asked the Department a range of questions including the issues underpinning the slow redistribution of land, and how the Department defines equitable access to land. Members also asked about the Department’s efforts to address disparities in vulnerable groups, including women, youth and people with disabilities, being able to access programme benefits.
The Chairperson recounted that in the November 2021 annual report, the Committee highlighted its concerns with the Department's failure to effectively address repeat audit findings, as reported by the Auditor-General of South Africa. The Committee's request for the Department to report on its steps to prevent repeat findings of irregular expenditure from the Auditor-General was not present in the report or submitted to the Committee, as expected. Without an effective Audit Improvement Action Plan, the Department is unlikely to fully address repeat findings, as it is evident in some of the targets that were not achieved by the end of quarter three.
The Committee then heard from the Commission on Restitution of Land Rights on its quarterly performance. The Commission said that the target for settlement of land claims was not achieved during the first three quarters of the 2021/22 financial year. It was also reported that the strategy adopted to circumvent the constraints posed by COVID-19 was to place focus on finalisation of claims, as this required less engagement with large groups of claimants. As a result, a significant increase was achieved on the indicator for finalisation of claims, particularly in quarter two, with a slight decline in quarter 3, as the Commission had more office closures posed by COVID-19 identified cases.
Members welcomed the report and asked about the planned targets that were not reported on.
Also, what are the costs incurred for the court cases that the Commission loses? Does the Department have a proper database for outstanding land claims, and how far they are? What is the total of outstanding claims on the old order claim, in line with the Constitutional Court’s order? When is the Commission likely to start processing the older order claims beneficiaries?
They were concerned about the expenditure and asked what the percentage of staff working at the office and staff working from home are. How does this impact the Commission's functionality?
Opening Remarks by the Chairperson
The Chairperson opened the virtual meeting and welcomed the Committee, Ministry as well as the Department to their first sitting of the year, following the Committee’s return from oversight in the Eastern Cape.
“The pandemic taught us that we cannot take anything or anyone or granted. In the State of Nation Address (SONA), the President reminded us that we have lost 100 000 South Africans, including fellow Members of Parliament, family and friends”, he said.
He asked Members of the Committee to replicate his condolences to the family of the oldest District Six land claimant, Ms Shariefa Khan, who joined the meeting in previous deliberations regarding District Six. Her being deprived of being able to move back to her home in District Six is a tragedy of the highest order. “We tend to forget that physical restitution is minor compensation for the many decades of emotional, psychological and social trauma inflicted upon our people”, he added.
The President had also referenced the critical role that land reform and restitution play in national consensus and in forming social contracts. A number of references had been made to agriculture during the SONA. It is his conviction that Members must mobilise ordinary South Africans to adopt agriculture as a vital lifeline and encourage them to become self-sustainable as poverty and food insecurity are as big a reality as the country’s energy deficit is. Members have a responsibility to advocate this approach before the country reaches greater levels of food shortages and mass hunger. The President had also emphasised that South Africa has enough arable land to support millions of small-scale farmers in poultry, livestock, fruit and vegetables. “We must therefore ensure that this becomes a reality and expand agriculture and agri-business value chain, especially the catalytic role that logistics play in unlocking their potential”, he added. Reference was also made to the potential of hemp and cannabis industries as well as other value quality agricultural qualities that South Africa is renowned for. “We must ensure that agricultural research explores such high potential crops to fully extract value for the economy and expand job creation”, he added.
A number of references were made to rural development, including dams, rivers and road construction. This is extremely encouraging, as there is an old maxim that says that, “roads build economies, and economies do not build roads”. The Umzimvubu Dam has been on the cards for a long time, and he hopes that it will see the light of the day because it has huge potential to impact rural development and agricultural expansion, particularly in the Eastern Cape.
Remarks by Minister
Ms Thoko Didiza, Minister of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development, acknowledged that the President raised a number of issues relating to this Portfolio, which must be addressed. In the past year, matters that led to the appointment of the Task Team on Animal Diseases arose, which produced a report. MECs had been invited to be part of the engagement. This report, although initial, has highlighted some weaknesses in the animal health system within the country as well as areas that need to be strengthened. Similarly, engagement was had with the Red Meat Forum where they looked at the challenges faced by that industry, particularly as it relates to access to critical vaccines. The issues that they have engaged with in the past year have brought to surface some key questions that need to be addressed. One such issue is whether there is capacity to develop vaccines. With the engagement with the livestock industry, they have looked at how partnering with the private sector can enable the capacity of vaccine production in South Africa to grow beyond the State. These matters will be relayed back to the Committee for their advice on how to move forward.
With regards to the Presidential Employment Stimulus Initiative (PESI): it proceeded well in 2021, but there have always been issues that have been raised by farmers on the challenges they face when it comes to the supplier of their inputs. This led to a temporary suspension in January 2022, to resolve those matters, since the costs have been charged as mark-up by some suppliers; this led to the depreciation in the value of the vouchers that farmers receive. There will soon be an announcement regarding the resumption of the initiative. The temporary suspension was aimed at correcting the problem, not stopping the issuance of vouchers completely as it was sometimes misconstrued.
The Department's capacity is being continually expanded. At the previous Cabinet meeting in January, Deputy Directors-General were appointed for Food Security, Spatial Planning and Rural Development. These appointments will strengthen the ability to support the sector in a variety of ways. She thanked the Chairperson for the opportunities to engage with the Committee. The Committee’s oversight will allow them to advise the Executive on what the solution will be for the areas they visited.
On the District Six land claimants, she said that it was their hope for the claimants to go back to the houses that were constructed. In engagement with the City, certain technical issues were raised, particularly those regarding entrance and access to the units where they asked the contractor to undo certain developments to make access for elderly people easier. However, this has caused delays, with the unfortunate consequence that some elderly District Six were not able to return to their homes. She said they will continue to work to the best of their ability to deliver services to citizens and ensure that they reverse the tide of issues like poverty and also address issues of land for both human settlement and agricultural development.
Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development: Consolidated Q1-Q3 Performance Report for the 2021/22 Financial Year
The briefing was delivered by Mr Rebaone Doctor Phuthi, Acting Chief Director: Monitoring and Evaluation, DALRRD, and Ms Rendani Sadiki, CFO, DALRRD.
The highlights of the presentation, per programme, were:
-Programme One – Administration: out of four targets, one was achieved.
-Programme Two – Agricultural Production, Biosecurity and Natural Resources Management: Out of 29 targets, 25 were achieved.
-Programme Three – Food Security Land Reform & Restitution: 31 targets were set, but seven were achieved.
-Programme Four – Rural Development. 13 targets were planned, but seven were achieved.
-Programme Five – Economic Development, Trade & Marketing: 22 targets, 11 were achieved.
-Programme Six – Land Administration: 11 targets, seven were achieved.
See presentation for further details
Ms M Tlhape (ANC) welcomed the presentation but expressed concern around the quarterly performance. The fact that there is consistent underachievement on certain programmes but the Department represents that there will be improvement in the next quarter does not inspire belief in them – especially on critical programmes. This goes alongside concerns raised in the financial report, which raised issues of under expenditure on programmes such as Rural Development. She was worried about the impact these programmes will have on the people the Department is supposed to serve. Issues like Food Security and Farmer Support are bread and butter issues, and the sector is time-bound – once you lose time you cannot recoup it and that may result in farmers losing business. The Department creates the impression that something can be done in the fourth quarter. If you did not support farmers during the other three quarters, how are they supposed to recoup their losses or improve production in the fourth quarter?
On vulnerable groups, such as women, youth and people with disabilities: on advertisements for positions within government, there is always a line that says that "people with disabilities are encouraged to apply". However, when the Department accounts to the Committee it reports that it had no applications from people with disabilities. This is an insult to their community, as it cannot be fine for the Department to not have deliberate programmes to attract people with disabilities to work for them. Cumulatively, if one looks at the annual performance of the Department, what will be said about this Committee’s legacy?
On the excuse that the Department always sets ambitious targets: it is a norm that they should be smart and realistic. Across all nine provinces, is this the performance to be expected from the Department? This is not acceptable, and there is a long way to go. Something drastic needs to be done.
To the CFO: what is the reason for the under expenditure across all three quarters, alongside the underachievement of the targets? She expressed that she has no hope for the fourth quarter based on these results.
Ms A Steyn (DA) concurred with Ms Tlhape and said that frustrations are running very high, as she is constantly getting calls from farmers who are frustrated with the Department. What is the percentage of staff who have returned to work? Is the Department working on staff who have not returned to work? She noted that the Department mentioned ‘subdivision’, and she asked what the current issue is and how it will be solved.
On government's land policy: what are the criteria for people who can apply for long-term leases? There are people who applied but are unsuccessful. Last year, she had asked for a list of names of people or farms who received long-term leases from the Department, and she still has not received it. When can she receive it?
The target for buying land is very low and very problematic, but the Committee needs to focus on the land that is currently in the possession of the state. She mentioned that she wrote to the Minister about a land invasion that took place on such property, and would like to know if there is any new information about this incident.
On the infrastructure: is there an update on the Presidential Infrastructure Grant that was supposed to be put in place with regard to the harbours, specifically? Also, what is the role of the agriculture sector in the harbours, specifically? Farmers are doing relatively well, and it seems that the harbours are hampering their progress.
Mr M Montwedi (EFF) noted that the presenters mentioned the procurement process as one of the reasons for underachievement on more than one occasion. He recounted that this was raised as early as 2019, when he started his time as a Member of Parliament, and it is still being used as an excuse in 2022. What has the Department done and how do they plan on dealing with the problem legislatively through engagement as was suggested by the former Director-General of the Department? This is a concern as farmers have not been able to receive assistance from the Department on their irrigation problems.
The presenter explained that the delays in land tenants were a result of prolonged facilitation. There has been a concern since 2019 regarding the lack of capacity in the OVG offices; is this still the reason for the delays today?
There is also the issue of untraceable land claims. If it is said that beneficiaries are untraceable, what exactly has the Department done to trace those beneficiaries? Is there a list of these people that the Department can furnish to the Committee with details such as the province and names of the beneficiaries?
On the Land Development Support, the Department said that, out of the 128, only 35 were assisted. This is a serious issue because Land Development Support is key in making sure that farmers contribute to food security. What are the delays in this regard? Is it because of delays in the supply chain? Because this also happens yearly.
He also asked a question on how the FPSU is supported towards functionality. The presentation mentioned four FPSU – two were in the red. Out of those two, one is in Taung. What is the Department doing to support its functionality?
The presentation also mentioned that, of 75 targeted Mafisa loans, only 53 were achieved. Are the Mafisa loans loaned directly to farmers or are intermediaries used? Farmers would love to take advantage of these loans. However, because of the middlemen who the Department dealt with, there is no direct engagement from the Department. Who are the beneficiaries of these loans?
Ms K Mahlatsi (ANC), regarding programme one on slide 12, noted that 97% of the target was achieved. She said that the matter of invoices has been raised since 2019. The reason given for the variant on the presentation is not convincing. When the Department gives these reasons, they must be cognisant of the fact that some Members from that space are in government as well. They say that certain invoices were not paid because service providers were not registered on the system. However, before even starting with the procurement process, one must first make sure that the service provider actually is on the system. Why were they not on the system before they were given the business? If that is the case, what steps will the Department take against responsible parties to make sure that service providers are on the system? How many invoices were not paid within 30 days, and what is1 the value of those invoices?
On programme two, one of the targets was not achieved and no reasons were provided for this. Reasons for the variant say something contradictory to the actual reason: on the one hand, the Department said that Covid-19 prevented them from capturing the data, but on the other hand they say that Covid-19 has provided them with new possibilities of doing things differently. This particular target was put in place during the Covid19 pandemic. It does not make sense for the target to be set, as it is during the pandemic. But this was an opportunity for things to be done differently; the Department only wants to do things differently when it is time to deal with the quarterly report.
She commented that the Department’s implementation of the Cannabis Master Plan must be applauded. Regarding 3.3.1, she noted that the output exceeded the actual target. Normally, this means irregular expenditure of some sort, but the explanation in the variant is that this over-expenditure is due to overtime. Was this overtime necessary, and how will it affect the audit outcome? Overtime is normally recorded as a loss under irregular expenditure.
In the second and third quarters, it is clear that the Department has not achieved at least 70% of their budget. To make this worse, they requested an additional allocation via budget adjustment. The process of budget adjustment is a two-way process: the Department makes a presentation to Treasury for a request based on their needs and their ability to spend. How do you request more money when you have not spent at least 70% of your budget in the third quarter? How will the money be spent in the three months? It is clear that they will not be able to spend all that money. Are there possibilities of rollovers or money sent back to Treasury? If this is the case the Ministry has to investigate this, as there are people in poverty and unemployed young people. Requesting money just to send it back to Treasury would be nonsensical. “Consequence management must happen; we cannot afford money being taken to Treasury under these circumstances”, she added. She said that she is happy about the appointment of the three DDGs, and she is hopeful that the Department will spend at least 97% of its budget in the future.
Ms T Mbabama (DA) also concurred with her colleagues and said that the DG should really start cracking his whip. He has a difficult job ahead of him, and changes need to be made now that he has been appointed permanently.
In the previous financial year (2020/21), the Department had to surrender R1.15 bn of voted funds back to Treasury as a result of under expenditure, which mostly fell under the Presidential Economic Stimulus Initiative (PESI) and unfilled vacancies. A rollover was requested for these funds. On 13 January 2022, the Department issued a media statement on the immediate suspension of PESI implementation, reportedly stemming from complaints from PESI beneficiaries and the wider community. The Department should indicate whether this suspension has since been lifted. If it has not, what is its current status, when is it likely to be reinstated and what are the plans for it henceforth?
By the end of quarter three, PESI was, again, cited for under-expenditure in programme three – a situation that may remain until the end of the financial year, March 2022. This is a very serious concern, as subsistence farmers have suffered severely in the last two years because of the pandemic. A situation that was further compounded by climate change-related disasters and other disease outbreaks. As one of its corrective measures, the Department announced that it has secured the services of commodity organisations and implementing agents to expedite the implementation of projects. It also highlighted the use of implementing agents to fast-track cases of water to farmers. Can the Department please provide details on the specific services that are provided by these external service providers, including the accountability frameworks like Service Level Agreements, Monitoring and Evaluation Plans etc. – particularly in light of the audit findings with respect to non-compliance with the PFMA and Treasury regulations?
She also asked for reasons as to why the Department thinks that implementing agents are better suited to implement PESI and address the farmer challenges, in light of serious issues that were raised by the AGSA in the Covid19 Agricultural Disaster Fund. Is reliance on commodity organisations and implementing agents possibly indicative of incapacity challenges within the Department?
Ms T Breedt (FF+) concurred with her colleagues and expressed that the Committee should be deeply troubled by this Department and by its underachievement of targets, specifically taking into account the Service Delivery Targets of this Department. Why is there such underachievement? To a large extent, the country’s economy has opened again. Her theory is that state officials will continually blame the pandemic until there is no longer a pandemic.
Additionally, during the conclusion, the presenter mentioned the quality of the APPs. What is the target for ensuring that the quality of the APPs is directly linked to service delivery? Why is the Department underspending? It is worrying, especially in quarter one, due to the drought that was declared. She mentioned that it almost feels like the agriculture sector has been hit by the ten plagues, and farmer support is not reaching subsistence farmers or commercial farmers.
She expressed her concern for the processes within the Department concerning the process of drafting bills and engaging with the public about them. “We are not seeing desperate bills or bills that need to be reworked, as there are conflicting bills or bills that do not speak to the current situation”, she added. How is this being addressed? On the NSDF Draft, which the Department is envisioning to be completed by March 2022: how realistic is this target, especially given the other targets mostly not being met?
Mr N Capa (ANC) welcomed the report but said that the only thing about it that makes him happy is that he discovered that he is not the only one who was disappointed. He said that his problem is that it seems to be routine work. In the Committee, they work for five years and then their service ends, but at the Department, they work for decades with the knowledge from that timeframe as well. Many things can make one unhappy about this report – even small things like a delay of service providers becoming acceptable. The figures given to the Committee are also a great cause for unhappiness. On this basis, he asked the Department to convince him that the way they are operating currently is not how it routinely happens, and it will change; he also asked that the processes designed should not just be for reporting but for actually achieving the targets that were set. The under-expenditure on infrastructure is nonsensical and should not even be considered ‘Rural Development’. The corrective measures that were used by the Department worries him; he asked when these measures were identified, and what will be done differently to actually make a difference. He asked the Department officials if they are really satisfied that what they are doing is the best.
Mr N Masipa (DA) expressed his concern and said that the Department does not seem to be taking the Committee seriously. The report gives many excuses for why targets were not met. There is a massive problem with animal health in the country, and it needs Parliament to hold the Department and the Minister to account.
The vaccine situation, the vacant leadership structure, the management of OPPS and biosecurity are not up to standard. He said that animal health practitioners must be called to engage with the Committee to voice their frustrations and concerns. Slide four shows that only R61 million out of R351 million was spent towards this cause; the Committee knows and has highlighted the issues around biosecurity around the Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) zone. “Why is the expenditure so low while we are battling with FMD in the KZN area?” he asked. Biosecurity is a challenge in the whole country. The Department should do a better job of presenting what the reasons are for targets not being met. The Department is an essential service yet they have been using the excuse of Covid-19 regulations limiting interaction; this is incongruent. He emphasised that this Department needs to be held more accountable because their presentations to the Committee just seem like a routine exercise while their Department is like a ticking time bomb. No one is being held to account for their lack of service delivery while people are living in poverty.
Ms N Mahlo (ANC) asked what the Department is doing about the operational standards they had. She used to ask the Department if they implement ‘isotating’ – a document that monitors the movement of all the employees at the Department. This will allow the Department to account for the actions of all employees.
Her next question concerns the Food and Security programme: what are the reasons for the low expenditure on this vital programme?
On Land Development Support: this programme is not doing very well. How will the Department ensure adequate support to foster improvement? What is the monitoring and evaluation tool the Department uses for the agriculture programmes?
She supported her colleagues’ sentiments that the Department just treat their accounting to the Committee as a routine exercise. She implored the DG to implement 'isotating', as this will greatly improve the Department's performance.
The Chairperson recounted that, in the November 2021 annual report, the Committee highlighted its concerns with the Department’s failure to effectively address repeat audit findings, as reported by the AGSA. In this regard, the Committee has specifically recommended that the Department engages with the Internal Audit Unit and the chairperson of the Audit Committee in reviewing the Department’s audit improvement action plan, and to report to Parliament on a quarterly basis on the implementation of actions to address specific audit findings, including (but not limited to): investigations and actions taken on the reported, and other identified irregular fruitless and wasteful expenditure. In the previous financial year, the Department’s irregular expenditure amounted to R203 million, and the fruitless and wasteful expenditure amounted to R44.5 million. In both cases, the AGSA reported that appropriate steps were not taken to prevent this, but disciplinary steps were not taken against officials who had incurred or had not prevented this expenditure, as required by the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA). The Committee’s request for the Department to report on their steps to prevent repeat findings of irregular expenditure from the AGSA was not present in the report or submitted to the Committee as expected. Without an effective Audit Improvement Action Plan, the Department is unlikely to fully address repeat findings, as it is evident in some of the targets that were not achieved by the end of quarter three. A notable example is the failure to pay invoices within 30 days of receipt by the Department, which is a non-compliance with National Treasury regulations; this was also raised by the AGSA in previous financial years. In the previous financial year, this non-compliance cost the Department R8.8 million in interest and has been flagged as a serious concern, as it has a negative impact not only on Departmental resources but also on the suppliers and service providers, particularly SMMEs.
The Chairperson said that equitable access to land is one of the most emotive issues in our country. Reports on the redistribution of land show that the country is not doing well, and the problem is not money. What are the issues underpinning the slow redistribution of land? He also asked how the Department defines equitable access to land. For monitoring and evaluation, at what stage will we be able to say we have achieved this? Can the Department differentiate a number of farmworkers or labour tenants from land or labour claims? Is there an update from the Department on the role of COGTA, DPME and the DALRRD on the implementation of SPLUMA? For a long time, there has been tension regarding the role of traditional leaders in the SPLUMA. Have the tensions been addressed? If yes, how was it dealt with? If not, what are the reasons for not addressing this?
On the Draft Additional Spatial Development Framework: when was the Draft concluded? The version he saw was dated April 2019 and was published for public comment on 19 March 2020. It has been almost two years since then; why is it taking so long to finalise the NSDF?
On tenure security: there is silence about work being done with farmworkers, especially both legal and illegal evictions and the threat thereof. What is the Department’s eviction monitoring strategy? Is there any strategy to monitor if there are farmworkers facing evictions in the country? What is the progress regarding the negotiations with Legal Aid SA around providing legal services to farm dwellers and farmworkers?
Mr Mooketsa Ramasodi, Director-General, Department of Agriculture Land Reform and Rural Development, said that he feels embarrassed about the Department's performance after hearing Member's frustrations. In the past, he indicated that the issues are systemic and will be overcome. Part of the challenge is the way the planning was done in the past. Based on the issues that were picked up, there are now weekly meetings where concerns around the performance are discussed within the Department. To the Chairperson, he mentioned that the reason for the absence of the Audit Improvement plan was due to an oversight in the documentation, which was meant to be delivered. It will be sent.
Ms Sadiki (CFO), on the Audit Improvement Implementation Plan and irregular, fruitless and wasteful expenditure, said that the Department reports on to the Audit Committee on these matters on a quarterly basis. The latest report considers what can be done regarding the audit findings and they will be made available.
On services providers not being on the system, she explained that normally, when payments are made, service providers are sourced from the CSD, which would have registered them and their banking details on the national central database for suppliers. It is not administered by the Department. Therefore, sometimes, when service providers are selected, they realise that they are not registered on the database.
On the number and value of the invoices: she indicated that there are monthly reports that are submitted to Treasury, and they will be made available to the Committee as well.
On the request for additional funds from Treasury: she recounted that, at the beginning of the financial year, the Department was informed that there would be money made available for the PESI. They were not told how much it would be; they just bid for how much they thought they would be able to use. This process takes longer for Treasury to finalise what the allocation would be. This impacted the ability to plan on time because there was uncertainty around whether the Department would receive the money or not. It would be preferable to receive the money at the beginning of the financial year rather than when it is only received in the third quarter it is not necessary, because that is when the additional funds were requested.
On the possibility of the funds being rolled over or being sent back to Treasury: based on the forecasts, monies will definitely be surrendered to Treasury, mostly stemming from the COE and PESI, as is referenced. Programmes like Rural Development and Land Development might not be able to exhaust their budgets. There are, however, plans with the Provincial Departments of Agriculture to use the money towards attending to diseases like FMD in KZN and Limpopo.
On the external service providers: he responded that the Department cooperates with the private sector often. This has been happening since 2018, and the agreements in place have been signed with the commodity organisations in 2018. The collaboration is not necessarily indicative of a lack of capacity but rather due to the expertise of these commodity organisations where it is actually beneficial for government to collaborate with the private sector.
On whether there is hope for under-expenditure in the fourth quarter: she said there is hope, as there are many projects that came through in December. “We will only see the expenditure start to move in the fourth quarter. The projection indicates that, although there is hope, the budget will not be exhausted”, he added.
Mr Mokotule Kgobokoe, Deputy Director-General: Strategic Management, DALRRD, said that, as a senior official, the questions that have been asked are fundamental; taking them seriously will spark progress at the Department.
On the number of employees that have returned to work, he said that the targeted percentage for employees to return to work under lockdown level one has been 75% of all employees, in line with DPSA guidelines. This was, however, a mountain to climb, but the Department has done its best to make employees aware that it is a requirement for them to be there. There was a recent circular from DPSA that was quite detailed on what should happen going forward. One of the cardinal statements in the circular was that the accounting officers must determine to work towards a 100% return of employees to the workplace. As late as last week, the accounting officer issued a circular that instructed all employees to return to work. There were meetings held with labour unions to enforce this and elicit their support. While it is agreed that all employees must report to work, issues such as risks and preparation should be looked at. While this happens, the goal is for all employees to return by 01 March 2022.
Monitoring and evaluation are quite central to the Department. As a newly integrated Department, the foundation needs to be set right. Under the formerly separate departments, there was a need to develop new frameworks. During the third quarter of this financial year, a number of frameworks have taken into account the newly integrated DALRRD. Some of these frameworks looked at how monitoring and evaluation will be brought in. There are offices in the provinces but for a long time, there was some disjuncture between the monitoring and evaluation at the head office and the monitoring and evaluation at the provincial offices. The process of integrating the two frameworks has now been finalised. The Department has an oversight responsibility to oversee the provincial Departments of Agriculture. With an integrated Department, a new framework had to be approved as well. Time needed to be spent deliberating on how the monitoring and evaluation will be done. The new framework pronounces on processes to be followed. One such critical process involves validation of information. If, for example, programme three reports on five young people being given hectares of land, this report is not taken as true until a team is dispatched to verify that it is. This helps maintain a high standard for reported information. This process has been, to an extent, impeded by the Covid-19 pandemic. Now that regulations are easing and employees are returning to work, this process will be enhanced.
On the planning process, he said that it was indicated that one problem related to the construction of targets. This is an important part of planning: if you fail to plan, you plan to fail. There was a recent agreement to have a workshop to verify the targets for 2022/23 financial year.
Mr Nasele Mehlomakulu, Deputy Director-General: Rural Development, DALRRD, responded to the question about ADS implementation challenges. He said that the Department opted to draw on the technical insight from the commodity organisations for obvious reasons – they are specialists in what they do and the Department can benefit and draw from that. However, this was done on the assumption that they will have sufficient capacity to do this across the board. The assumption was incorrect in the sense that, as much as they have the expertise, considering the amount of funds the Department is given in a financial year, they are unable to do what is necessary for all the farms. Before funds can be released, the Department must wait for these organisations to submit a business plan that they draw up for each farm, in consultation with the Department. This causes a bottleneck in the system due to the number of farms that need to be serviced and the other work they do on their own; this has resulted in very slow spending. Another challenge is that the bulk of the work that needs to go into farms is mostly related to infrastructure. Even though they were happy to take a comprehensive approach in developing these farms, they realise that their built environment capacity is lacking. The Department is therefore trying to diversify its approach for the next financial year so that this problem does not pop up again.
Mr Terries Ndove, Deputy Director-General: Land Redistribution and Tenure Reform, DALDRR, opened by acknowledging that there have been challenges with land redistribution and achieving the targets that were set. However, he assured the Committee that they are working around the clock to address some challenges that are being faced, as this is something that should have been done much earlier.
In the effort to address disparities in accessing programmes by vulnerable groups, the Department has deliberately targeted vulnerable groups, specifically 50% to women, 40% to youth, and also 10% to people with disabilities. It is therefore unfortunate that the performance has not been good for the period under review. Once the performance is not good in the acquisition of land, it will reflect badly on the distribution of land to vulnerable groups. Another challenge faced is that the Department cannot provide land to vulnerable groups such as people with disabilities, as the land might not be accessible to them as is. So, the infrastructure must first be put in place before the land can be distributed; this has also contributed to targets not being met.
On the target for land acquisitions being seen as ambitious: he said that it may look like that but, when the Department must match what they must acquire and project it in line with what the need is, and taking into account various factors such as diverging opinions on the value of land causing acquisitions not to be made, one can see where ground is lost in meeting targets. Other factors to take into account, which cause delays, are also the credit status of the land sellers. The projections will, from now on, be informed by the land that is available and not entirely on the above factors; this will result in targets not being seen as overly ambitious.
On the solution for subdivision, he said that subdivision is inherent in many cases and has to be acquired in a farm for tenure security of occupiers in that space. Subdividing the land has to be done to ensure that the land that is in the possession of farm dwellers or labour tenants, is actually secured through being registered in their names. Therefore, there is a process. They are making use of the Surveyor-General to make sure that the subdivision is done in a compliant manner, and it is registered with the Deeds Office to secure title deeds for the land that is being excised from the mainland. The Department will have to find a better way to report this in the planning for the year ahead so that it does not become an issue. Policies will be made available as requested. The list of people that have long-term leases will be made available as well.
On the land invasions: it is a huge threat to land reform in general, because in some cases it is a deliberate invasion of state land, and it creates a huge problem for sustainability of programmes. The Department makes use of the services of Law Enforcement. This is sometimes successful but also more difficult at times, but the Department tries to make sure that invasion is discouraged.
On the quality of indicators, he admitted that it may be a source of problems as well, specifically the quality of the targets being set. It is an area that needs to improve, as there should be one mind when setting the target and when performing the duty so that there is no excuse when the time comes to perform.
On why the Department should be more worried about compliance: if there is a problem with the holding entities of land, it will affect the production of the land.
On the land redistribution: he recounted that, in the past, different instruments were being used. In recent times the Department uses the Proactive Land Distribution Strategy as their main instrument of acquiring land and redistributing it. In the broader sense, redistribution of land goes beyond agricultural purposes and includes industrial land use, settlement and other societal needs. There is an allocation policy to ensure that vulnerable people are actually targeted and it is also aimed at easing congestion for purposes such as settlement or grazing.
There is land that was acquired for labour tenants; this is an ongoing project. In some other cases, land is acquired from private owners to address tenure security, and this may be disposed fully to labour tenants.
On rural challenges such as farm evictions and other atrocities: he explained that a strategy has been developed, sponsored by SAPS, which was aimed holistically addressing these issues that affect people living in rural areas.
On the LRMF: this is the facility that is used to address eviction and provide legal services. A decision has been taken to acquire the assistance of Legal Aid SA from April 2021 to December 2021. As of 01 January 2022, Legal Aid has taken over the programme completely.
Mr Ramasodi, on the LRMF, indicated that the Minister of Public Service and Administration has signed off on the final document, and the process of protecting labour tenants has recently started.
On the NSDF, he said that consultations have taken place within government and a Cabinet memorandum is ready to move to Cabinet by 31 March 2020.
There is a workshop that will have a different approach on a variety of issues through doing an environmental scan that will come with a paradigm shift, and APPS will be developed to address the current issues.
On issues with the budgeting process: agriculture is different and must therefore be treated differently. There was a ruling from the High Court that specified that a cow cannot wait six months to be fed, and government processes must respond to these issues. New ways will be invented to assist agriculture and Treasury.
On the Department’s involvement in dealing with infrastructure: there are engagements with the Department of Transport around the infrastructure, providing for the learners who need to travel through the rural areas and the broadening of space to improve exports; COGTA is involved as well.
On PESI: he confirmed that it was, indeed, suspended due to issues around the suppliers; this process will be concluded soon and the announcement will be made in the following two weeks. Subsistence farmers are not given much money, so the money that they are given should go towards production and not to other expenses.
On the spending on programme two in quarter three: the spending is almost at 88%, and they have even requested additional funding for some of the funding constraints.
On the Marketing of Agricultural Products Bill: the Bill has gone through the processes and is on its way to the consultation phase.
On animal health: he said that practitioners can be brought in to engage with the Committee on issues such as vaccines, biosecurity and animal health issues.
Briefing by the Commission on Restitution of Land Rights on Programme 3: Restitution APP
The briefing was delivered by Mr Sunjay Singh, Chief Director: Restitution Management Support, Commission. He was reporting for the period between 01 April 2021 to 31 December 2021. He reported the following:
- The target for settlement of land claims was not achieved during the first three quarters of the 2021/22 financial year.
- The strategy adopted to circumvent the constraints posed by COVID-19 was to place focus on finalisation of claims, as this required less engagement with large groups of claimants. As a result, a significant increase was achieved on the indicator for finalisation of claims, particularly in quarter two – with a slight decline in quarter three, as the Commission (CRLR) had more office closures posed by COVID-19 identified cases.
- Currently, there are 20 submissions routed to the Minister for approval, which, if approved, will increase the number of claims settled.
- There are a total number of 98 claims projected for settlement in quarter four, with Limpopo and Eastern Cape having the highest number – totalling 22 and 48, respectively. If the projected target is achieved the Commission will be able to meet the annual target on settlement of claims.
-The CRLR has projected to finalise 138 claims during quarter four, and if all are finalised the annual target will be achieved.
Ms Nomfundo Ntloko-Gobodo, Chief Land Claims Commissioner, said that they are meeting with the provinces biweekly to ensure that the overall targets are being met, both APP and financial plans. She acknowledges the fact that, in the national offices, many of the finance staff ended up in hospital as a result of Covid-19, and this had a big impact. They are writing a report on the impact of this one productivity.
Ms Tlhape welcomed the report and asked about the planned targets that were not reported on. She noted that there was an increase in the APP targets relative to the previous one, but only two were reported. Why were the others not reported on?
On the issue of land claims: the commission indicated that their inability to achieve the targets over the three quarters was due to the moratorium. Why was it necessary to have a moratorium? She also asked what their strategy is in dealing with untraceable claimants, as this is a recurring reason.
Ms Steyn expressed her concern that she does not like answers like ‘something is available’. In previous meetings, the Committee had asked for information and it was told that information is available, but it never received it. She asked for the latest report that was submitted, regarding the targets.
Also, what are the costs incurred for the court cases that the Commission loses? Does the Department have a proper database for outstanding land claims, and how far they are? “This links to the question regarding the report from the Land Claims Court because we need to track our progress on land claims”, she added.
Ms Breedt was concerned about the expenditure and asked what the percentage of staff working at the office and staff working from home are. How does this impact the Commission’s functionality?
Ms Mahlo asked what measures have been put in place if the Commission does not agree with presentations made by landowners. She also asked if there is any process in place to deal with land-related disputes. On slide nine, what is the explanation for the target not being achieved? What are the reasons delaying the evaluation requests of clients, and how will the defences be addressed on those issues?
The Chairperson, for Mr Montwedi, asked what the total of outstanding claims on the old order claim, in line with the Constitutional Court’s order, is. He also asked when they are likely to start processing the older order claims, as a delay will make it difficult to trace the beneficiaries. Is the Commission still operating as a programme under the Department or is it now totally autonomous? What work has it done thus far, operating as an independent entity?
He also asked to reflect on reporting to the Land Claims Court.
Ms Ntloko-Gobodo, Chief Land Claims Commissioner, said that some of the issues that were mentioned were part of the operational plan, not the APP. But they will be happy to report to the Committee on those issues.
On the moratorium in the Eastern Cape, the province mostly has claims for financial compensation because the people were mostly moved from one village to another. They would prefer financial compensation to approve on their property, which they currently occupy. One claim can have more than 9 000 beneficiaries; this means a lot of money has to be released to many individuals because the families do not want the money to be released to one person. The Eastern Cape has a high commitment (which is like an ‘I owe you’) at around R800 million, and there is a capacity problem in the province, but a strategy is being worked on. The budget for the EC is R300 million. If the commitment is R800 million from the past financial year, the risk had to be managed. The focus was therefore on getting the staff to release some of the money from the commitment register, and the agreement was for the first six months to be on releasing the money for old claims and the second six months of the year to focus on new claims. The Commission will still be able to help the EC to meet its targets.
On timelines of untraceable claimants, the timeline would be from December 1998, but the full policy will be submitted to the Committee for the Members’ consideration.
On challenges with the OVG, she explained that the challenges arise when the offers are rejected. The Valuer-General is an independent office that conducts valuations for land reform purposes. So, if the land claimants reject the offer, the landowners want justification on why their offer was not accepted. There was a recent judgment that said that it looks like the Commission is beginning to look at the OVG’s valuations in line with s25 (3) of the Constitution. So, if the landowners reject, the matter might end up in court and then valuers must go to court and testify as experts, on how they derived their valuations. There are high numbers of offers being rejected, and this will therefore definitely have an impact on their work.
On the claims that the Commission does not refer information back to the Committee: she said that the Commission does not receive any requests for information in the first place. There is a person specifically appointed for registering requests for information. On submissions to the Land Claims Court: she explained that, whenever a submission is made to the Land Claims Court, one is also sent to the Committee. There have been five of these, and all five have been submitted to the Committee as well.
Mr Singh, on the issue of staff at work, said that 95% of staff have returned to work both nationally and provincially. There is a five-percent variant that is being worked on, and the DG's circular will help in attaining 100%.
On slide nine, R244 million is projected as expenditure for the year. Sitting at the CLCC’s office at the moment is R550 million, which needs to be spent as well. So, expenditure is being pushed both nationally and provincially to meet the target.
The meeting was adjourned.
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