14 000 hectares state land transfer to Human Settlements: DPWI progress, with Deputy Minister

NCOP Transport, Public Service and Administration, Public Works and Infrastructure

08 June 2022
Chairperson: Mr M Mmoiemang (ANC, Northern Cape)
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Meeting Summary


In a virtual meeting, the Select Committee received a progress report from the Department of Public Works and Infrastructure (DPWI) on the transfer of 14 000 hectares of state land to the Housing Development Agency (HDA).
The Committee heard that the Cabinet Memorandum No 03 of 2019 approved 167 land parcels under DPWI custodianship, measuring 14 105 hectaresto be released and aligned to the Priority Housing Development Areas between 2019/20 to 2024/25. DPWI had done a high-level verification and due diligence process to determine the viability and availability of the 167 land parcels and had established that 91 land parcels (920 hectares) cannot be released. The reasons for this are that 28 land parcels (370 ha) were not available due to utilisation by user departments and custodianship vesting with other spheres of government and privately-owned parties. A total of 63 land parcels (550 ha) listed in the Cabinet memo are currently used by the Department of Defence’s four military bases: Tamboerskloof Magazine site, Youngsfield Military Base, Wingfield Naval Base and Ysterplaat Air Force Base. A provincial breakdown of the land parcels and transfers for 2021/22 was provided

Identified challenges included supporting documentation awaited from HDA; vesting challenges; land claim confirmation; conveyancing delays; non-availability of land due to its use by departments. As a way forward, DPWI will brief Cabinet on the articulated challenges.
The Committee called for a breakdown of the land parcels per district within the next seven days. Members' biggest concerns were speeding up the Human Settlements programme and the lack of security of tenure under the communal land regime in rural areas.

The Deputy Minister noted that DPWI cannot commit to seven days as it is heavily dependent on HDA to provide this information – which the Committee accepted. There is a plan in place to formalise ownership in informal settlements, but it needs to be balanced with environmental laws as the land people are occupying needs to be safe. The Deputy Minister and her team spoke about the Communal Land Administration and Tenure Summit held on 27 May 2022 which considered the rural area challenges the Committee is concerned about. The solutions engaged with at this summit will be presented once made available.

Meeting report

Deputy Minister’s Overview
Deputy Minister Noxolo Kiviet opened by celebrating the Public Works Department's completion and handover of the Saldanha Bay Harbour development project the day before which will bring local economic development. This meeting engages with land and property rights and the role that DPWI can play in this. There is an understanding that these rights fall within the ambit of the Constitution and it is a concurrent function that Public Works has with the national department and provinces. DPWI has had engagements with the provinces on the release of land, which is targeted for development within our communities, especially for human settlements. The progress report provides details of how much land release has taken place and where, as well as the challenges encountered and what has been put in place to deal with these.

Department of Public Works and Infrastructure (DPWI) land transfer progress report
Ms Sasa Subban, DPWI Deputy Director-General of Real Estate and Investment Services, said the Cabinet Memorandum No. 03 of 2019 approved 167 land parcels, measuring 14 105 hectares, to be released and aligned to the Priority Housing Development Areas (PHDAs) from 2019/20 to 2024/25.

She outlined the processes that the National and Provincial DPWI has followed in releasing land parcels required for Human Settlement programmes. Since 2019, DPWI has conducted high-level verification and due diligence processes to determine the viability and availability of the 167 land parcels. It was established that, of the total of 14 105 hectares, 91 land parcels measuring 920 hectares cannot be released. The reasons for this are that 28 land parcels measuring 370 hectares were not available due to the utilisation by user departments and custodianship vesting with other spheres of government and privately-owned parties. A total of 63 land parcels measuring 550 hectares are currently in use as four Department of Defence (DOD) military bases: Tamboerskloof Magazine Site, Youngsfield Military Base Wingfield Naval Base, and Ysterplaat Air Force Base.

DPWI is thus required to release a total of 76 land parcels measuring 13 185 hectares. Of this, 44 land parcels measuring 2 257 hectares have been released to the HDA. Power of Attorneys (POAs) have been issued to enable development planning.

The presentation outlined the progress per province by the Provincial Departments of Public Works which holds a concurrent mandate for this.

It noted a land parcel in Blaauwbergstrand (277 hectares) is held in abeyance for a study to be commissioned on land use maximisation, including considerations for a mixed-use development. There are 32 land parcels (10 350 hectares) awaiting supporting documentation from HDA for processing by DPWI.

HDA is in process of submitting documentation for the 32 land parcels. A special power of attorney will then be issued to the HDA to fast-track site planning and enablement processes. Apart from the DPWI land requirements identified in the Cabinet Memorandum, DPWI has also released 13 land parcels (532 hectares) for human settlement purposes since 2019. All of the properties released for Human Settlements development have been spatially mapped by HDA, aligned to the National Spatial Development Framework and the Priority Housing Development Areas.

DPWI outlined five challenges in releasing land for land redistribution and tenure reform:
1. Supporting documentation awaited from HDA to advance the disposal process
2. Vesting challenges
3. Land claim confirmation
4. Conveyancing delays
5. Non-availability of land due to its use by departments such as DOD.

To these challenges, the DPWI has identified the way forward.

On the way forward, as per the Inter-Ministerial Committee (IMC) resolution, DPWI will sponsor a Cabinet Memorandum brief Cabinet on the progress and articulated challenges. The technical team led by DPWI constituting planning specialists will undertake studies to determine the maximisation of land use for development including mixed-use developments for the land parcels available. 

Mr T Apleni (EFF, Eastern Cape) said that his concern is about people occupying land who are being displaced. People are building structures to have shelter and one sometimes finds these structures being demolished by municipalities and authorities. There is an understanding that sometimes displacement occurs by way of court order. He suggested that it would be better for DPWI to consider granting those pieces of land to people already occupying them. For example, around the East London airport, structures have been removed, and they still have not been replaced. The people building these structures are some of the poorest people in the country and therefore they should be considered for land parcels.

Mr M Dangor (ANC, Gauteng) said his gravest concern is about the speed at which these informal structures are being set up. Land and housing are a concrete concern in South Africa. He therefore urged DPWI to speed up the land transfers to assist with the land and housing demand.

Another concern was Acacia Park where the ministers live. Structures have been built on Acacia Park's Wingfield military base which is not well maintained and has snakes and other dangerous issues. The request is for Acacia Park to be developed soon to curb the issues which MPs are facing.

The Chairperson noted the progress, the provincial breakdown and the way forward but said that it is important for the Committee to be made aware of the timeframe for receiving a response. DPWI is urged therefore to provide the Committee with a response that contains a breakdown of the land parcels per district in the next seven days.

The Chairperson raised a concern about the state communal land regime under the watchful eye of traditional leaders. The state is merely a guardian of this land. In terms of the Agricultural Land Act, this land is vested in the state. However, the property regime in South Africa presents a dilemma. In the last seven years, villagers under traditional leadership do not have ownership of the land they are occupying. The question is if the DPWI model can cater for rural areas facing this dilemma. When can rural areas start enjoying the fruits of ownership of the land they are occupying, such as title deeds and security of tenure? In the past, the Communal Land Rights Act was introduced to deal with these challenges, but the Constitutional Court found it to be unconstitutional. The Act created a discriminatory dual system property regime. It is therefore necessary to put a plan in action to assist with this dilemma

DPWI response
Ms Subban replied that the Human Settlements programme acknowledged that there are many informal structures. This programme is trying to formalise them and formalise the ownership of land. The Human Settlements programme is looking at giving ownership entitlements. When people own the land, they are able to put up appropriate structures and increase the value of the land. On the other hand, the Human Settlements programme is looking at ensuring that people are in areas that meet environmental laws. For example, the land close to the East London airport is dangerous for structures to be built on. In cases of dangerous land, the Human Settlements programme has an incumbent requirement to provide alternative land. There is a plan led by Human Settlements to formalise informal ownership, but it needs to be in safe areas.

Ms Subban acknowledged Mr Dangor's concerns and that the process needs to be sped up. However, there is a massive dependence on HDA. DPWI will fast-track when HDA provides a response aligning to DPWI’s plan. Secondly, Acacia Park is high on the list and considerations to fast track with the DOD is being put in place for developing Acacia Park’s land.

Ms Subban expressed gratitude to the Chairperson for acknowledging the provincial breakdown. DPWI confirms that in the next seven days the District Development Model (DDM) breakdown linking to the provinces will be presented to the Committee.

Ms Subban explained that state land under the communal land regime is within the ambit of the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development as it is the custodian of the communal land. There was recently a Communal Land Administration and Tenure Summit with communities living in the areas as well as the traditional leaders. The summit acknowledged the concerns the Chairperson raised. The summit engaged with solutions to effect security of tenure, especially for dwellers that have been living on that land for a long period of time.

The Chairperson thanked Ms Subban and requested the district breakdown of the land parcels.

Deputy Minister’s response
Deputy Minister Kiviet acknowledged that it is painful to demolish structures. However, there needs to be a balance drawn between allowing people to build structures and the disasters such building causes. There are areas which are dangerous which cause great pressure on government and creates more land challenges government faces. The public state cannot condone such behaviour of building on dangerous land. For example, the land in East London is owned by the airport company for the sole purpose of extending the airport runway. Those people who have built structures on that land are in immediate danger when planes need to take off or land. Government has availed some of its land in cases like this, but often times people insist on remaining where they are. Government has a mandate to promote good governance and lawfulness, not anarchy and lawlessness.

The Deputy Minister noted that DPWI may not be able to respond to the Committee in seven days as it is heavily dependent on other structures such as HDA to provide this information. Her department will work toward the seven-day deadline but cannot commit to this and will rather provide the information to the Committee once it is available.

The Communal Land Administration and Tenure Summit held two weeks ago engaged with the challenges experienced when dealing with communal land such as security of tenure and title deeds. The pattern of land ownership in communal areas includes that the land or structure is usually not owned by an individual but by a family. It is therefore difficult to grant a title deed to someone in this pattern of ownership because it could cause external issues. Communal land ownership is sensitive and challenging. Following the engagement with communities living in the areas, traditional leadership, and national and provincial houses of traditional leaders, these resolutions once finalised will be shared with the Committee.

The Chairperson thanked the Deputy Minister and her team for their responses and presentation. The National Assembly rises next week and the National Council of Provinces rises the week thereafter. He confirmed that DPWI can have more than seven days and it will present to the Committee on its return from recess. He noted that next term the Committee will request a DPWI induction as well.

The Committee adopted the 1 June meeting minutes and the meeting was adjourned.

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