In this virtual meeting the Committee held public hearings on the 2022 Division of Revenue Bill. Two organisations presented oral submissions.
The Women on Farms Project said that despite significant gains in democratic South Africa, farmworkers remain poor, marginalised and vulnerable. Women farmworkers and dwellers remain landless, experience evictions, and earn low wages for the increasingly precarious seasonal work they do on farms. With poor health outcomes arising from generations of inadequate nutrition, exposure to pesticides, gender-based violence, and the legacy of the dop system, farm women also have low levels of formal education and literacy.
The organisation called for a wealth tax on the richest one percent of South Africans and said that the revenue generate – estimated between R70 to R160 billion – should be ring-fenced to finance the social redistributive spending for poor South Africans, including farmworkers and dwellers.
Amandla.Mobi welcomed the year-long extension of the R350 grants, however it had hoped that the grant would be increased and expanded to include more people. It emphasised the need for a basic income grant and proposed that this be implemented for people aged 18 to 59 years with little to no income. It also called for a wealth tax on the richest one percent of South Africans.
The organisation informed the Committee that National Treasury’s current approach to public consultations and the creation of the budget was not accessible enough and left many people out.
Lastly, it highlighted that Treasury and the former Minister had failed to meet with pensioners despite making an undertaking and that this commitment should be honoured.
Members expressed concern about the plight of farmworkers in relation to housing and related matters. They said that engagements with municipalities, Legal Aid South Africa and relevant departments would help to address some of the issues affecting this vulnerable sector.
A Member disagreed with the proposal of a wealth tax and pointed out that given the small tax base, this proposal would drive the existing taxpayers out the country.
The Committee agreed with the input on public participation, noting that only the privileged were able to contribute during public participation. Members suggested that constituency offices could be used for the public to engage directly with lawmakers and that other structures at ward committee level could also be used.
The Committee indicated that the meeting between the petitioners and the Minister of Finance should be rescheduled and prioritised.
A Member highlighted that South Africa was currently striving to be a developmental state. However, if one looked at the demands that South Africans had, a welfare state was being built.
Presentation by the Women on Farms Project (WFP)
Ms Kara Mackay, Coordinator of the Women on Farms Project, and Ms Louise Fontein, a representative of the Women on Farms Project in Stellenbosch, presented the organisation’s submission on the 2022 Division of Revenue Bill.
Ms Fontein outlined a personal account of the realities of living on a farm with the threat of eviction.
The summary of National Treasury’s Briefing on the Division of Revenue Bill to the Standing Committee on Appropriations showed that the Division of Revenue was skewed in favour of rural households, municipalities and provinces. The WFP welcomed the redistributive approach, as rural and farm communities were the most historically deprived during apartheid and therefore required more resources.
Despite significant gains made in democratic South Africa, farmworkers remain poor, marginalised and vulnerable. Women farmworkers and dwellers remain landless, experience evictions, and earn low wages for the increasingly precarious seasonal work they do on farms. With poor health outcomes arising from generations of inadequate nutrition, exposure to pesticides, gender-based violence, and the legacy of the dop system, farm women also have low levels of formal education and literacy.
From Minister Godongwana’s 2022 Budget Speech, it was evident that there were budgetary constraints and spending worsened the fiscal deficit. For the WFP, this was concrete evidence of the need for a wealth tax on the richest one percent of South Africans.
The World Inequality Lab, affiliated to the University of the Witwatersrand, found that a Wealth Tax of three percent to seven percent on the richest one percent of South Africans could raise about R70 to R160 billion per annum. The WFP believed that such revenue should be ring-fenced to finance the social redistributive spending for poor South Africans, including farmworkers and dwellers. A progressive solidarity Wealth Tax on the richest one percent of South Africans was therefore an untapped tax revenue source that could be used to reduce the large budget deficit, finance more redistributive social spending and address South Africa’s wealth inequality.
See the WFP presentation for more information.
Presentation by Amandla.Mobi
Ms Tlou Seopa, Senior Campaigner, Amandla.Mobi, presented the organisation’s presentation on the 2022 Division of Revenue Bill.
Amandla.Mobi welcomed the year-long extension of the R350 grants, however there was disappointment that the grant was not increased nor expanded to include more people. The need for a basic income grant was emphasised; it was proposed that this be implemented for people aged 18 to 59 with little to no income
For the past three years, Amandla.Mobi had presented the same demands to the Committee, including a call to reverse budget cuts to health, education, sanitation and other areas of social spending. The need to expand the Child Support grant to include pregnant mothers was proposed as well an increase of the old-age grant to R2500.
Amandla.Mobi was proposed that a wealth tax on the richest one percent be implemented. It suggested that everyone was a taxpayer and that ‘taxing rich people more would not leave them to starve.’ Researchers estimated that had a net wealth tax been implemented the year before, it could have raised between R70 and R160 Billion.
Amandla.Mobi put forward that an Increase in the sugary drinks tax to 20 percent be implemented.
National Treasury’s current approach to public consultations and the creation of the budget was not accessible enough. People in marginalised communities struggled the most to engage with Treasury; many still did not know about public hearings and participation, and many were still left out of these processes. Treasury was seemingly unwilling to meet with the Gogos (pensioners), even after Former Finance Minister Tito Mboweni promised to meet with them. Amandla.Mobi proposed that the Committee formally request that Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana meet with the Gogos and allow them to explain in detail why it was important that more funds were allocated to the Old-age grant.
See the Amandla.Mobi presentation for more information.
Mr A Shaik Emam (NFP) agreed with the presentation given by WFP. He had personally visited many farms, particularly in the Western Cape. The Police were very reluctant to assist in such matters. One way of forcing people out of the farms was to disconnect the electricity and water, even though many of them had been paying for pre-paid electricity. There was however another side to it. He suggested that he might have a solution to the problem. Farm owners experienced difficulties in continuing to keep people on farms, once retired etc. The farm owners could work with the Municipality. The responsibility of the municipalities was to provide a fully serviced site, with water and sanitation. The farm owner paid a monthly amount to the municipality from the time the person was employed – thus an arrangement could be made with the municipality after retirement to ensure continued accommodation. Farmworkers were very vulnerable in society and did not earn a lot of money. Many farmworkers did not have the opportunity to receive proper education. He suggested something needed to be done to address the issue of law enforcement authorities that did not follow through on issues brought to their attention by farmworkers. There was no legal representation for farmworkers to protect them. Legal Aid was not interested. He suggested the option of legal representation be looked into so that vulnerable people could receive legal representation. This would prevent farm owners and businesses, who had the means and resources, from walking all over the workers.
He noted the proposals about taking one percent from the rich to give to the poor. He did not necessarily agree. Currently, a low percentage of the population paid taxes, and many taxpayers were leaving the country. Thus, if taxes were increased, the few taxpayers would leave, which was not beneficial. A conducive environment needed to be created so that people could become productive. A small percentage of the country was productive at the moment. The R350 grant had not increased in line with the increases in prices. Was it sustainable to continuously increase the number of social assistance recipients? Surely, a more productive society could be created.
He agreed with the input on public participation – this was raised at previous meetings. Only the privileged were able to contribute during public participation. There were also institutions that wanted to push their own mandates etc. It did not benefit the most vulnerable nor the poorest of the poor.
Ms D Peters (ANC) asked if Amandla.Mobi had informed its members of the parliamentary constituency offices; there was no need to wait for public participation opportunities amongst the committees. Issues could be addressed directly by the Member of Parliament (MP) nearest to Amandla.Mobi’s members. That was the purpose of the parliamentary constituency offices. Parliament needed to create a space for everyone to participate in the public hearings.
She stated that a lot of the issues raised by Ms Fontein – needed to be addressed to the appropriate departments. She asked if the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development had been engaged on these matters. [another language spoken timestamp: 45:00:00 to 46:40].
The Committee would need to engage the Department of Human Settlements, about the suggestion made by Mr Shaik Emam, to allow for the nearest municipalities to work with the farmers so that farm labourers could have access to land to build their houses, whilst working on the farmland. There was a farm owner in the Northern Cape who had once suggested that farm labourers be given the opportunity to apply for the Human Settlements Subsidy, he would put an additional R10 000 as a subsidy for housing. Those were the farmers that the Committee needed to engage with. There needed to be security of tenure, which did not only mean living on the farm where one worked. She suggested that Amandla.Mobi should become the source of information for communities to be able to access the services that were available.
She suggested that the proposed grant for pregnant women should be taken through the correct channels. She appreciated learning that the gogos appreciated the increase of R90 in April and a further of R10 in October 2022. She noted that this was still not enough. When the Committee met with the gogos, this particular issue was raised and the Committee did engage with them on this particular issue. As it was known that gogos were burdened with children and grandchildren, they needed the money. The Department of Social Development and South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) should do what the then Minister of Social Development had intended. The child support grant was not for the mother but for the child. [another language spoken timestamp: 50:14]. She wanted to apologise on behalf of the Former Minister of Finance… [Another Language Spoken Timestamp: 51:05]. That appointment with the Minister of Finance should have first been confirmed, before people were put on the trains or buses to meet the Minister. If Amandla.Mobi was a national body, it would make it easier for the Minister – as he would be meeting a representative body of all the gogos in the country. [another language spoken timestamp 52:55].
Mr Z Mlenzana (ANC) agreed with the proposal that the Committee needed to link up with the Department of Human Settlements and see what could be done. He similarly supported the suggestion that the Department engage with municipalities, as proposed by Mr Shaik Emam, on the issue of housing for farmworkers.
Amandla.Mobi had presented to the Committee on previous occasions, and the Committee had advised it on what to do. He asked if Amandla.Mobi had a ‘per person expenditure’ of the gogos, in terms of welfare provided by government, such as free water, access to healthcare etc. At a local level, there may be subsidised buses etc. That would provide a basis. He noted that the grants were used by the wider families and dependents of the gogos, particularly when family members were unemployed.
He asked if Amandla.Mobi had done an expenditure spend analysis per department and looked at how the departments' budgets had been used in the past. This was asked in the context of the budget cuts that Amandla.Mobi had highlighted. He asked what Amandla.Mobi and WFP’s views were on a developmental state versus a welfare state. South Africa was currently striving to be a developmental state. However, if one looked at the demands that South Africans had, a welfare state was being built.
Ms N Hlonyana (EFF) stated that the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) had in the past said that the issue of land was one of the most critical and important issues in South Africa. Without land, people would forever be subjected to situations, such as what was heard in the meeting, where evictions took place. Land expropriation without compensation would allow for equal distribution and use of land. This needed to happen in South Africa, to be able to give land to South Africans. She did not see another way in which the situation could be resolved. There were haves and have nots. Those who had would forever treat those who did not have in ways similar to that which was outlined by WFP.
Amandla.Mobi had raised an important issue - that South Africans wanted to work – there were just no jobs in the country. There was an expectation that people could live on R350. It was well-known that R350 was not enough. It was obvious that the current government did not care about people going back to work. The fiscus did not speak to how the economy would be turned around and get as many South Africans as possible back to work.
She was sad to hear about the matter of the former Minister of Finance, who had promised a meeting with the gogos. That was what MPs were meant to do – the job was always to go and meet the people. She suggested the Committee communicate with the minister to honour that invitation and meeting.
She noted that there was a lot of information that was not easily available. There was no synergy in government. She noted the costs of transport to clinics, as stated in the presentation.
Ms M Dikgale (ANC) expressed her concern about the number of issues that remained unaddressed, in terms of education, the police etc. She suggested the Committee engage with the Department of Basic Education so that the Department could give preference to farm dwellers so that their children could get a sufficient education. She noted the comments about the land issues and agreed with the other Members on this. Without land there was nothing that could be done.
She noted that Amandla.Mobi had been before the Committee a number of times. She appreciated that Amandla.Mobi was taking care of the gogos. She requested that Amandla.Mobi try and organise the gogos to formulate a project so that Amandla.Mobi could contact the Department of Social Development. The Lottery was also funding such projects. It was hard work – but it was something – rather than looking at the social grant. She highlighted the barriers to accessing education, such as the cost of transport. On the issue of health, mobile clinics existed that assisted people who stayed far from main clinics that were overcrowded – such initiatives should be looked into.
Mr X Qayiso (ANC) noted the views expressed. Perhaps the Committee should measure the outcomes of the engagement to see if the issues raised repeatedly were followed up through the system. The issues raised by Amandla.Mobi had been raised on previous occasions. To address inequality and poverty – there was a range of issues that needed to be addressed. The lack of land, for instance, was something that could exacerbate both poverty and inequality. There was a lot of pressure on the poor due to a lack of access to land. The faster the issue of land expropriation without compensation was processed the better. There were serious issues of unemployment in families. As a result, many were not able to contribute economically to the family household. This impacted the entire household. The level of unemployment and inequality added an additional burden on the elderly in caring for children. He asked what the role of the Human Rights Commission was, when it came to evictions, perhaps it needed to play a role in that space. Illegal evictions needed to be stopped – government needed to challenge these evictions at a court level. What was the success rate of this?
He suggested there needed to be fine-tuning of communication with the public so that inputs took place before the budgets were finalised. He agreed that the parliamentary constituency offices were another way of doing it. There were structures at the level of ward committees as well as other structures on the ground that could be used. This could be used to address the issues around transport for the elderly for example. If ward committees were functional [another language spoken timestamp: 1:21:15].
He noted the systems that had been put in place to ensure that pensions could be collected from the nearest points. The closing of post-offices might pose a challenge for the gogos. The struggle being faced by the gogos should not be separated from the broader struggle of poverty, unemployment and inequality. Perhaps engagement needed to take place on another platform with the Ministry to resolve these issues. There was a struggle of financial institutions being unable to supply pensioners, small or informal businesses. There needed to be a lot of transformation of financial institutions.
Ms Dikgale indicated that if Amandla.Mobi assisted the gogos to establish a project – Amandla.Mobi would also be remunerated, as the people running the project would be allocated funds.
The Chairperson stated that there was no doubt that the issues raised were very important to South Africans. Amandla.Mobi would be the first to agree that coming before the Committee had not been in vain. The extension of the R350 grant was something that Amandla.Mobi was really pushing for – Parliament had taken it up with the Executive. The Executive agreed to extend the grant. The Minister of Finance had stated that there was a process of re-looking at all the grants to ensure that once the grants were given out it was efficient and better served its purpose. There were a number of grants in the system, it was important to get updates once a month on the impacts of those grants, including the investigation of the basic income grant. It was important that the issues were not looked at in isolation. About 60 percent of the budget went to social wage – such as education as well as formal grants. [another language spoken timestamp: 1:30:54]. He appreciated the initiative taken by Amandla.Mobi. The President had said that nobody should be left behind. He would not like the farm dwellers to be left behind when the whole of South Africa was said to be free, and farmworkers were living in sub-human conditions.
Responses from the WFP
Ms Mackay stated that Ms Fontein would respond to some of the on-the-ground questions after which she would address the policy and structural questions.
Ms Fontein provided input which was translated by Ms Mackay. Ms Fontein stated that she had opened cases at the police department on the assault cases. Unfortunately, she did not receive good service from the police, who never got back to her. She received an SMS, but that was it. For her to leave the farm, she had to spend a lot on transport fees. Every time she had gone back to the police, the officer was not available or was on leave. To date, there had been no court case. When she approached Legal Aid, Legal Aid had proposed that she try to reconcile with the farmer. This was not possible as they did not see eye to eye. It was a difficult situation. She had gone to the municipality and was currently on the waiting list. The municipality said that it could not help her because she did not have a date of eviction. She was sitting in a bit of a bind, the municipality could help her, but only when she had an eviction date – and she did not want to be evicted. There were currently 13 people in the house where she was staying, with only two rooms. Seven of the 13 were children. Legal Aid simply asked if she had family members in whose backyard she could stay. It was her deepest desire for her children to have an education so that they could be more than farmworkers. The children had dropped out of school because they had to work on the farms – the cycle continued. She would like to, with her children, go to night school. The issue was about fees. There was concern about living on the farm with the threat of evictions – it was hard to make choices and continue one’s life not knowing if one was going to be evicted or not.
Ms Mackay stated that WFP had been working with municipalities – and many had received land which was being used by women for food gardens. The Department of Land Reform’s new policy was to identify the places where farmworkers were living and purchase that particular part of the farm from the farmer. WFP was also working with the Drakenstein Municipality to see what land could be purchased by the municipality for the farmworkers. There were various strategies. WFP welcomed any strategy with any institution. without land it was very difficult. WFP had a meeting with the Legal Resource Centre, which indicated that at the moment, there was no land redistribution legislation. There was a policy that agriculture followed but nothing was legislated. There was nothing stating how much land would be nor how it would be distributed. Sadly, the land distribution programme was declining in general, but it was specifically declining for women. There were issues of defining tenure security – the title deed still seemed to be the primary form of ownership. There were so many different ways in which South Africans lived on land. For example, farmworkers might never have owned the land they worked on, but through being there for generations, they were entitled to be on that land. The title deed was too blunt an instrument. One needed to think of new ways to ensure tenure security.
Responses from Amandla.Mobi
Ms Seopa stated that there was a misconception that Amandla.Mobi just wanted grants for people. The reality was that right now there was a high rate of unemployment in the country. The fact that people were asking for the R350 grant, despite it being so little, showed how bad things were. While one waited for the interventions that would improve the economy and increase jobs etc., the important thing was to provide incentives that would allow people to survive, particularly people who were job-seeking. The proposal was not that everyone be on the grant system – people who needed the grants should get grants.
Amandla.Mobi was a very small organisation, of less than 15 people, and there were more than one million members who mostly came from low-income backgrounds. Amandla.Mobi had limited resources. Amandla.Mobi circulated information regarding any public participation initiatives and informed them of the process etc. In 2020, gogos went to National Treasury in Pretoria to submit a petition calling for a 2.5 percent increase to the grant. That was not only the Pietermaritzburg pensioners forum, there were other gogos from other communities from all around the country there. Amandla.Mobi first met with the gogos during a submission to Parliament in 2018. Amandla.Mobi only got on board with the gogos after COVID-19 started and it was realised that the gogos did not necessarily have access to platforms such as this.
Information was hard to get, even at Amandla.Mobi. The year before, Amandla.Mobi had submitted its submission late because no information could be found about when the public hearings were happening. Now, imagine what it was like for the gogos and other members of the public in marginalised communities to access information. One needed information to be able to access indigent services. Two of the gogos spoke about free electricity and water. The gogos were, in that instance, responding to a comment by a Member made the year before. The gogos paid for such services, like employed people did because they did not have enough information. The economic situation in the country affected the poor people more severely. A country needed to take care of its people.
It was important to honour the invitation with Treasury and the gogos. It was well understood that things happened. The gogos had confirmed the meeting with former Minister Tito Mboweni; the gogos did not just get on a bus all the way from Pietermaritzburg to Pretoria. It was the responsibility of the current Finance Minister and Treasury to honour that invitation and meet with them. It did not just have to be the gogos from the Pietermaritzburg forum. It could be gogos from different communities coming together and meeting with Treasury, the Minister and other members of the executive. Amandla.Mobi acknowledged that coming before the Committee had not been in vain. This Committee had some power to ensure that these demands were implemented.
The Chairperson stated that it was good to see young people presenting to the Committee. These were the people that were able to assist the elderly to raise their voices.
Mr E Marais (DA) commented on the low-cost housing. There were various relevant policies in municipalities. Drakenstein municipality changed its low-cost housing policy five years before. If a project of 300 units was developed, ten percent would be allocated to people with disabilities and people from farms. Drakenstein Municipality kept separate lists for this purpose. Drakenstein Municipality did not jump the list. There were few municipalities that had gone that route – it was very innovative at a local level.
Mr Qayiso brought to the attention of the Committee, a message in the chat, regarding the name of the policeman assigned to Ms Fontein’s case. This suggested that there was an expectation that the Committee would deal with the matter.
The Chairperson noted this. He appreciated the young people taking up the issues of the elders. The plight of farm dwellers was something that was easily forgotten. It was appreciated that there were people, like the WFP, that picked up on these and followed-up on them.
Consideration and Adoption of Minutes
The Committee considered minutes from the meeting on 9 March 2022.
Minutes of Meeting held on 9 March 2022
In the meeting held on 9 March 2022, the Committee received comments from the Financial Fiscal Commission (FFC) on the 2022 Division of Revenue Bill.
The Chairperson indicated that the minutes had been circulated. He asked if there were any amendments to the minutes.
Mr O Mathafa (ANC) moved to adopt the minutes.
Mr Mlenzana seconded the adoption of the minutes.
The Minutes of 9 March 2022 were adopted.
The Chairperson asked if there were any announcements.
The Committee Secretary stated that there were no announcements, the next meeting would be held on Tuesday 22 March 2022, where the Committee would consider and adopt the report on the 2022 Division of Revenue Bill.
Mr Mlenzana asked for clarity about the debate the following week.
The Committee Secretary stated that the second reading debate on the bill would be held on Thursday 24 March 2022. The Report would appear in the Announcements, Tablings and Committee reports (ATC) before the debate.
The Chairperson made brief closing remarks.
The meeting was adjourned.
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