The Committee met on a virtual platform to be briefed by the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (DALRRD), and the Commission on Land Restitution Rights on their respective performances in the fourth quarter of 2021/22 and the first quarter of 2022/23.
The DALRRD presentation covered performance and targets achieved by the Department in six programmes covering the areas of administration, agricultural production, biosecurity, natural resources, trade management, food security, land reform, restitution, rural development, economic development, trade, marketing, and land administration. The presentation also covered the Department's expenditure on programmes, branches, and the Presidential Economic Stimulus Initiative (PESI).
The Committee was unhappy about the DALRRD’s performance and described it as unacceptable. Members asked the Department to submit detailed reports on various areas of concern, such as communal property associations, farm dwellers and labour tenants, the allocation of land, the cannabis master plan, Mafisa loans, and funds transferred to the Land Bank.
The Commission on Land Restitution Rights also presented its quarterly performance results, providing details of land settlements finalised and settled, as well as its expenditure and financial status.
The Committee's concerns included some provinces being reported as not having spent any of their funds, the process of making the Commission autonomous, the Commission as a special service delivery unit, and the filling of the Deputy Commissioner position.
Chairperson’s opening remarks
The Chairperson welcomed Members and officials to the meeting. He apologised for any future disturbances, as he was currently attending a Palestinian International Solidarity Conference in Iraq.
During engagements with the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (DALRRD) in November 2021, it was recommended by the Committee that the Department and its entities (not including the Perishable Products Export Control Board and South African Veterinary Council) provide quarterly progress reports on the implementation of their audit improvement action plans. DALRRD had not sent or presented the audit improvement plans for some entities which the Committee had requested, during the first to third quarter report briefings in February. The Committee had still not been sent the plans, and he hoped for an explanation from the Department’s Director General or officials.
The Committee recommended that the Department engage with the internal audit unit and the chairperson of the Audit Committee to review the DALRRD’s audit improvement plan and to then report quarterly to Parliament on the implementation of the plan and actions to be taken regarding specific audit outcome findings, which included investigations and actions to be taken concerning reported fruitless, irregular wasteful expenditure. During the presentation, the Committee would appreciate an update on actions taken regarding such matters. In the 2020/21 financial year, irregular and wasteful expenditure amounted to R203.8 million and R244.5 million respectively, and the Auditor General (AG) reported that there was no consequence management implemented by the Department as mandated by s38(1)(H) of the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA).
The Committee recommended that the DALRRD provide a quarterly progress report on how the Department was addressing such findings through their audit improvement plan, to prevent future occurrences.
The Chairperson said that in the interests of time, the presentation should focus on actual performance and expenditure, and provide explanations for underachievement and any deviations in terms of finances.
DALRRD 's 2021/22 fourth quarter performance report
Programme 1: Administration
The target of invoices paid within 30 days was not achieved.
Programme 2: Agricultural production, biosecurity, and natural resources management
The target set for the livestock improvement scheme was not achieved.
Programme 3: Food security, land reform & restitution
The targets set on the allocation of land for women, youth and the disabled were not achieved.
Programme 4: Rural development
The target set for the number of farms that were supported by the Land Development Support (LDS) was not achieved.
Programme 5: Economic development, trade & marketing
The target for Farmer Production Support Units (FPSUs) that were to be supported towards functionality, was not achieved.
Programme 6: Land administration
Target concerning the Deeds Registries Amendment Bill was not achieved.
(See attached document for details)
DALRRD 's 2022/23 first quarter performance report
Reporting on its 2022/23 first quarter performance scorecard, the Department said that in total, 22 targets were achieved out of 43 targeted. By programme, the performance was:
Programme 1: Administration -- one target, not achieved.
Programme 2: Agricultural production, biosecurity and natural resources management -- seven targets, all achieved.
Programme 3: Food security, land reform & restitution -- six targets, four achieved.
Programme 4: Rural development -- two targets, both achieved.
Programme 5: Economic development, trade & marketing -- five targets, three achieved.
Programme 6: Land administration -- seven targets, six achieved.
(See attached document for details)
DALRRD expenditure as at end of Q4 of 2021/22
The Department reported that it had spent R16 899 708 of its current budget of R18 023 260, and had
spent R16 899 708 of its current R18 023 260 Presidential Employment Stimulus Initiative (PESI) budget. The under-expenditure under the PESI allocation was mainly due to delays in the verification of applicants and a shortage of suppliers
DALRRD expenditure as at end of Q1 of 2022/23
The Department reported that it had spent 2 487 162 of its current budget of R17 287 698.
(See attached document for details).
Ms M Tlhape (ANC) thanked the officials for their presentation and said that she was unsure if the Chairperson was still in the meeting. She asked the Committee to engage.
Ms N Mahlo (ANC) raised questions concerning the Communal Property Associations (CPAs) in Programme 3. She referred to the 2021/22 fourth quarter CPAs' outcomes, where 123 of the targeted 183 CPAs were supported to comply with legislation. In the 2022/23 first quarter, 783 CPAs were supported, and 97 were targeted. By March 2021, there were 1 707 registered CPAs. She asked how many CPAs were registered in the 2021/22 fourth quarter and the 2022/23 first quarter.
She said 783 CPAs were trained in the first quarter of 2022/23, and 45% of the CPAs were registered, and asked if this meant it was possible to train all registered CPAs within the financial year. She asked the Department to submit a list of all registered CPAs and indicate which CPAs were trained, the details of what the training entailed, the number of training sessions, and all related costs concerning training the 783 CPAs.
The Committee had tried in the past to focus on legislation compliance, rather than the functions of CPAs. She noted that the report lacked indicators that informed the Committee, as an oversight body, on the functionality of the 1 707 registered CPAs, and asked why the indicators had changed from legislation compliance to training and governance.
She referred to the acquisition of strategically located land in Programme 3. In the fourth quarter of 2021/22, 5 469 hectares had been acquired compared to the targeted 8 495 hectares, and in the first quarter of 2022/23, 13 102 hectares as opposed to the targeted 2 437. She noted the big transaction in the North-West, which had yielded 30 000 hectares that were received for restitution and finalised under the Land Redistribution branch, and asked for clarity on how a land claim under restitution could be an acquisition of strategically allocated land. Why had the indicator for the acquisition of strategically located land dropped and changed to the acquisition of land through the Proactive Land Acquisition Strategy (PLAS)?
Mr H Kruger (DA) expressed concern about the 30-day payment issue. The directive was clear -- small businesses had to be paid within 30 days. He asked how many invoices were involved and the total rand value of these invoices. It seemed the Department had underperformed but had spent R16 billion with a 10% under-spend. The underperformance was at 57%. He accepted there were reasons for this performance, but the amount of money spent had to reflect the performance, which it had not. He asked for clarity on this issue.
Mr M Montwedi (EFF) expressed concern about the Land Development Support programme, which was important as it could assist in ensuring food security. What the DALRRD was doing was concerning, as many farms had been productive before their acquisition by the Department and were now no longer productive, as no support was being given to those who had been given land to ensure continued productivity. He provided the example of a farm in the North West which was not being used, as the people who were given the farm were waiting on the business report. He asked why the Department had still not resolved this issue, given that two years ago the Department had reported that a commodity organisation had been appointed to fast-track support for farmers.
He asked what plans the Department had to ensure the LDS programme was implemented effectively. The Department had stated that the Micro Agricultural Financial Institutions of South Africa (Mafisa) loans were demand-driven, and had mentioned something about intermediaries. It was untrue that farmers did not want access to these loans. What the Department had to look at were the intermediaries they used to distribute the Mafisa loans to the farmers, who charged farmers exorbitant fees. Demand for the loans was high, and the Department had to look at the reasons farmers were no longer interested in Mafisa loans.
The Department had said the reason the Animal Improvement Programme was underperforming was due to the Agriculture Research Council (ARC) implementation. He asked why the DALRRD could not hold the ARC accountable, as it was an entity of the Department. Using the ARC as an excuse for underperformance was not sufficient, as this had been the excuse for two to three years. This was unfair to farmers who wanted to be a part of the programme. He asked why the programmes were failing.
Mr N Masipa (DA) said the variation between the 57% performance and the 10% under-spending was concerning. The performance of the DALRRD was also an indictment of the Committee as an oversight body. The performance reflected at the end of the year would be poor, failing farmers and food security provision. He wanted the DG to clarify the information on slides 13 and 14. He also had an issue with the ARC, and suggested the ARC should have been brought to account.
About surveillance of food and mouth disease (FMD) in slide 24, he noted the target had been met, despite issues faced due to FMD. However, with the continued theft of stock, there did not seem to be police stop searches or strict biosecurity measures on the ground. During the 21-day lockdown, he had received reports of animal theft in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) and North West (NW) province. He requested clarity on this issue.
Mr Masipa said slide 25 indicated that Compulsory Community Service had been employed for eligible vetting services. He asked how many veterinarians and vacant posts the country had. Slide 27 showed the biosecurity target had been met, and the biosecurity and budget reports were separate. He raised concern about the bio-security budget allocation. He asked for information on biosecurity for the whole country, and not just the Northern Cape. He also asked for reasons why just the Northern Cape had been attended to in terms of biosecurity.
The Department had reported on the target budget for the citrus export, but issues concerning citrus exports had not been reported to the Committee. He asked the Department to brief the Committee on the dispute lodged with the World Trade Organisation (WTO) concerning the European Union (EU) regulations. He also asked for a briefing on the support the Department was giving farmers affected by the dispute. The report on CPAs that the Department was submitting should include the number of CPAs that were working or not working, and what it was doing about it. The picture in the presentation had been favourable, but that was not what was happening on the ground.
Mr Masipa expressed concern about whether there were enough extension service officers employed to assist with managing FMD. The presentation had indicated that the employment of officers had been achieved, and he asked about the number of officers the Minister had said would be employed and how far the Department was in ensuring this number was achieved.
The presentation also indicated that the agriculture colleges were doing well. However, infrastructure remained a challenge. There was no information on production on farms. He asked for a report on the condition of the colleges. He had done oversight in Potchefstroom, and the condition of the college was bad -- children should not be learning under those circumstances.
Mr Masipa said the reporting on how many hectares had been bought looked good on paper, but it was not only about buying land but also making sure the land was productive with economic value, and that support was given to farmers. He asked for a report on how many of the hectares were productive, the challenges faced and the post-settlement support given to farmers.
He commented that reports were given previously on the blended finance programme. He agreed with Mr Montwedi that although the Department reported that working with commodity groups was going smoothly, it seemed things were not going smoothly. He asked what was happening with the working relationships with the commodity groups which were meant to ensure farmers were supported. He asked for reports on the Department’s agreement with the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC), blended finance, and AgriBEE.
He asked for further information on the jobs created and job-creation initiatives, and said the Farmers Production Support Unit was an area where a lot of funds had been spent, but with no value for money created. The Department had said support would be provided to FPSUs, but he knew of one on the West Rand that was a mess, and in the Western Cape, it was not working. He asked if the Department was going to continue spending money on this problem, even if it was not solving the issue. He asked for feedback on this matter.
Mr N Capa (ANC) expressed unhappiness with the DALRRD's performance. He asked if there was legislation that the Committee needed to attend to or reconsider, to improve the Department’s performance. Was consequence management or incentives provided, based on management performance, to encourage improved performance? When and how was the Department going to improve its performance? He wanted to remain in the lane of hope, not discouragement. He asked if moving development areas or responsibilities that were within the Department to research entities, was a viable and best way of doing things.
He added calculating the Department’s performance was difficult, as there were no indicators on how poverty, unemployment and inequality were being addressed. The programmes did not consciously aim to address these issues, which meant they were not showing how they could be quantified to provide benefits to the people.
Ms B Tshwete (ANC) did not understand how the Department had under-spent on rural development and food security, as these were the functions that spoke to people. The DALRRD had a planning problem and perhaps the DG needed to monitor closely those dealing with planning. The Department had set up its targets but still failed to meet them. She was disturbed by the under-spending on food security, land reform and restitution. People were landless and wanted land so they could work the land. The country had a poverty challenge, and under-spending on food security did not make sense, especially concerning the Comprehensive Agricultural Support Programme (CASP) payments, the Lima Rural Development Foundation (LIMA) and the national LandCare programme. In February, the Department had presented the first to third-quarter reports and said the implementation of the Presidential Economic Stimulus Initiative was being finalised following its suspension, to ensure that farmers benefit. An announcement had been made that the PESI would resume in the next few days, which had been questioned by the Committee as the financial year was ending in March. The Department had learned nothing from the poor implementation of the Covid-19 Disaster Fund, despite important issues and recommendations reported by the Auditor General (AG). DALRRD had reported that the under-expenditure of the PESI was due to application verification delays and a shortage of suppliers. Ms Tshwete commented this was even though the Department had reported that issues concerning the Covid-19 Disaster Fund implementation had been addressed and an efficient application verification system had been implemented, and R1 million had been spent on the information communication technology (ICT) system. Why was the Covid-19 Disaster Fund verification system not used for PESI? Was a different system used? What was being done to stop beneficiaries from double dipping? The double dipping concern had been raised by farmers to the Department, as it was reported that there were instances of corruption, where beneficiaries did not have the required documentation. She also asked if the Department had a supplier database for PESI.
The Department had reported that in the fourth quarter, the allocation of land to women, youth and people with disabilities was 9%. She asked if the Department had programmes that spoke to these groups. She also asked if the CPA list requested be submitted in writing by 12 September, if that was acceptable to the Committee. She asked for clarity on a big transaction in the North-West that had yielded 30 000 hectares received under restitution and finalised under land redistribution -- how was it possible that land claimed under restitution could be an acquisition under land redistribution?
Inkosi R Cebhukulu (IFP) referred to FMD, and asked about the relaxation of animal movement controls, as at the beginning of the outbreak officials had been stationed at points from northern KZN to southern KZN. As the outbreak was spreading across the country, why had the Department not focused on controlling animal movements, following the Minister’s banning of animal movement?
He expressed concern about the mismanagement of the handing out of assistance vouchers to emerging subsistence farmers, as there were ineligible applicants receiving vouchers and using the vouchers to purchase products to resell to eligible farmers. The Department needed strict measures to determine beneficiary eligibility to ensure resources were not being wasted.
Alien plants were starving subsistence farmers' livestock. He asked if national employees were deployed in provinces and what their roles were if they could not ensure provinces were using their allocated funds to solve this issue.
He asked about the assistance given by the Department to those for whom land was acquired to improve their lives. If time allowed, these areas needed to be visited to ensure progress was being made and to determine what people needed assistance with.
The DALRRD spent a lot of money buying farms for communities, and CPAs were formed to take care of those farms. However, since CPAs had occupied the land, in some areas there had been destruction caused by neighbouring communities. He asked if assistance was being provided to enable people to erect fences to stop others from driving livestock from these farms, and to deal with the vandalism and destruction.
Mr S Matiase (EFF) said the Department was underperforming in all aspects of its programmes. There were 1 707 CPAs registered, and most were not compliant. As a result, the Department could not help or intervene, and the claim that the CPAs were trained was hard to believe. The Department admitted that most CPAs were non-compliant and did not meet the minimum requirements to be recognised as CPAs and due to disputes, some had been deregistered.
The Department needed to ensure the necessary additional capacity to deal with the issues faced by CPAs. If the CPA model was not working as a vehicle to manage land-related affairs, it needed to be reviewed.
The Department had reported that land acquired through the PLAS in the fourth quarter of 2021/22 had not met the set target, and the same was true for the first quarter of 2022/23. He asked what had stopped the Department from meeting targets if the land was available for acquisition. If the land was not available, it needed to tell the Committee. However, if there was an issue of availability of land, why had the Department set targets it could not meet? How much had been set aside by the Department to acquire its objective of 8 495 hectares of land?
On the acquisition of farms for farm dwellers and labour tenants, the Department was underperforming at a time when the plight of farmers, farm dwellers, and tenants was getting public attention. He asked why the Department was under-servicing people when there was a great demand for measures that would attend to this plight. He noted that a special master plan was being developed to address these challenges, and suggested that the plan should be presented to the Committee.
Ms K Mahlatsi (ANC) said the Department had not performed as desired, given its centrality and the devastating situation in South Africa. Its payment of service providers was below the expectations of the core mandate and the policy of the government. The non-payment of service providers had the potential to collapse small, medium and micro enterprises (SMMEs) that had struggled due to Covid-19. The reason provided for why this had occurred did not make sense. The Department had failed to do due diligence, as evidenced by the banking details of service providers not being correct.
The Department did not achieve the targets in Programme 2, reportedly due to the ARC having similar targets and outputs. She asked if there was a collaboration between the Department and the ARC during the mapping out of the annual performance plan (APP) and the outcomes to ensure there was no double-dipping.
The Department had not met its critical food security targets, nor the land allocation targets for women, youth, and people with disability. The performance for land allocation for these specific groups had been 38%, 9%, and 0% respectively. She said the youth struggled during Covid-19, and agriculture had to be the centre of food security and elevating the lives of the poor. The Department had not performed well in these critical areas.
There had been a dismal performance regarding the finalisation of labour applications, as only 30 out of the targeted 550 applications had been finalised, and the deviations to not make sense. There was a clear indication that the poor performance of programmes was linked to poor administration on the Department’s part. She asked if the Department’s APPs were smart enough to deal with these issues, and added it was not right that its indicators did not relate to targets set by the Department itself. This was an indication of weak planning and implementation processes. There was also no indication of how issues would be mitigated, besides referring them to the financial quarter. She asked how planning was done and commented that it was depressing that the Department could not meet the APP targets set by themselves. The under-spending correlated with its inability to meet targets. She asked what the Department intended to do to improve performance and mitigate issues in the future and what the way forward was with unmet targets, to ensure people on the ground received service. She was unhappy with the performance, and it was unfortunate the executive was not present.
The Chairperson apologised for connectivity issues. He referred to the DALRRD’s reported implementation of a Cannabis Master Plan. The Department had indicated that consultations about the Master Plan were underway, as issues such as the legal status, regulatory framework, seed supply, distribution and education initiatives, and producer support needed to be addressed. He asked if the Department could provide an update on the amendment of the Drug Trafficking Act, which prohibited and restricted the commercialisation of cannabis, and the implications of the Cannabis for Private Purpose Bill that was with Parliament. He asked for an indication of which department was leading the master plan, and an outline of things such as buildings and support programmes that had been implemented as part of the master plan in 2021/22 for emerging producers and rural communities that historically derived a livelihood from cannabis. He added that he was speaking with a specific focus on the AmaMpondo community.
He noted the Department had made financial transfers to the Land Bank amounting to R385 million through Programme 3, and R41 million through Programme 5, and no reasons for these transfers had been provided in the 2021 and 2022 APPs. To date, the Department had failed to account for all the funds that have been transferred to the Land Bank since 2019, despite the Committee’s requests for detailed reports on these funds. He asked the DG to provide a detailed report on the utilisation of all the funds transferred to the Land Bank.
The Committee had gone to great lengths to raise important issues during the presentations by the DALRRD on its APPs and budget, and these engagements had culminated in the development of the Budget Vote Report and recommendations to the Minister. For the 2021/22 financial year, the Budget Vote Report had been adopted by National Assembly in May 2021, and thereafter the Minister was expected to submit responses to the recommendations within three months. The Committee had yet to receive such responses to the recommendations made to the Minister. One of the recommendations had been to ensure quarterly monitoring of provincial allocations and transfers to the Land Bank, other entities, or implementing agents. The Department was also expected to report on the functionality of its monitoring and evaluation measures and activities during the quarterly briefing, not the same issues regarding performance and poor expenditure.
Ms Tlhape said there had been extreme underperformance. A 57% performance at the end of the year meant no service was being provided on the ground. She noted the challenges caused by the July unrest, Covid-19, the floods in KZN and the Eastern Cape (EC), and the burning of sugar cane and vandalised infrastructure. She added that small rural agricultural towns had been affected and needed to be reported on, as they were the mainstay of the agriculture and rural development programme, but there had been no spending on the Department’s part.
The poor performance had bearing on the Committee’s oversight, and she did not know what it would take for the Department to realise that if performance was low for the first quarter, the rest of the year would be a challenge. The Department had tended to relax, thinking there was more time and had then ended the year with 57% for performance. She asked if their targets were realistic, and said poor planning was at the core of poor performance.
The Department had ended the previous year with a 57% performance, and could not reach 80% in the first quarter of the current year, which was due to two programmes. The Committee had engaged with the Department on the PESI and the criteria used to assist farmers when communities complained about issues they faced with intermediaries, but they were still sitting and discussing non-performance.
She asked what kind of service providers the Department appointed, and said it could not come to the Committee in the aftermath of delays caused by the service providers' challenges. Covid-19 was gone, and the Department still had the same problems. The CFO’s executive summary detailed that these programmes were the Department’s core mandates, but they had all failed. Mr Montwedi had been correct about the Mafisa loans -- had the Department been informing people, because the Department tended to abandon old concepts for new ones, leaving the others behind? She said there was no longer blended finance or a one-year district model, and the Department was not serious about assisting farmers if they would not promote Mafisa.
She wanted to know who was responsible for provinces where there was under-expenditure, as this was where service delivery needed to happen. How was this being monitored? In a country plagued by unemployment and people trying to establish businesses, the Department could not delay payment to its suppliers.
The Department was responsible for killing SMMEs, as there was little support for new enterprises in the whole country. She referred to a target to assist black farmers in up-scaling that had been abandoned, leaving the Department with the mess of under-expenditure.
Last week, the Department had spoken with the Presidential Advisory Council (PAC), and legislative gaps concerning farm tenants had been identified. If the Committee did not deal quickly with the issue of farm tenants, it should close up shop. This was a vulnerable sector of society, and it was as if they belonged nowhere.
Ms Tlhape noted that Mr Capa had spoken about legislation that would enable improved performance, but she did not think the legislation would improve performance. CPAs technically did not have legislation, as there had been no movement with the bill and compliance. Obsession over compliance with legislation that did not exist was a problem.
Mr Tlhape said she had no words for the DALRRD's performance, and the Committee would still need a session because accepting targets due to the reasons provided would be a tall order. She asked about the bilateral agreements being dumped and what was happening because even the African continental free trade agreement was being challenged.
Having a Department that did not meet its core mandates was a challenge. Performance should not be an issue for the Department. She was waiting on the AG’s report and what it said concerning its leadership challenges and asked the Committee to go more deeply with its response to this challenge. She asked if the issue was due to the lack of monitoring, and noted the Department had presented technology used by the Department to improve monitoring, but no improvements had happened. She asked what they could tell the public about this.
The Committee was almost at the end of its term, and she wondered what its legacy concerning the Department would be. The issues that should be discussed were court interdicts concerning land, but this could not happen because the Department was not performing its general functions.
Ms Mahlo said in the fourth quarter of 2021/22, 10 015 hectares had been acquired for farm dwellers and labour tenants as opposed to the targeted 600 hectares. She asked if the hectares were allocated as part of labour tenant application settlements and if so, how many applications had been settled. She requested the submission of a list of the claims and the number of households and hectares allocated.
The allocation of land for women and youth in the fourth quarter of 2021/22 had been 3 429 hectares, as opposed to the targeted 258 hectares. However, in the first quarter of 2022/23, there was no target for land allocation for women, youth and people with disabilities. She asked why the Department had dropped these beneficiaries, and who the beneficiaries were that were now being targeted. She requested the submission of a detailed account of the beneficiaries by province, district, gender, age, and the number of hectares allocated.
She noted that transfers in the Transkei area were not achieved due to difficulty in attaining municipal consent or approval from the Spatial Planning and Land Use Management Act (SPLUMA). There was no indication of the reason for this difficulty. She asked why the Transkei had been dropped in the first quarter of 2022/23.
In KZN, 30 of the targeted 550 labour tenant applications had been settled. It was also reported that land owners had rejected the offer made by the Office of the Value-General (OVG), and this had delayed approval for advisors and protected negotiations, so the core due process had not been achieved. The 'special master' was not a new process, and the suggestion that a strategy to address this issue would be deployed whilst the special master developed a full plan, left much to be desired. Was the appointment of the special master assisting or frustrating the settlement of the labour tenant application and if so, what were the reasons? She supported asking the special master to make a presentation to the Committee on what was happening. She asked the Department to show the Committee the budget for the settlement of labour tenant applications, the expenditure, and the unspent funds.
Concerning land development support (LDS) for farmers, six of the 17 targeted had been supported. During recent Committee oversight visits to a North West farm, the farm was not being used, as officials were waiting for approval from the head office in Pretoria. She asked why this process was taking so long. She suggested the Department use ISO 13 when sending letters, and follow up on them to see what the hold-up was. How many letters were sent and follow-ups made? She said the provision of settlement support conditions for business plans had to take into consideration that some farmers needed assistance with land, and the business plans could be followed up on so that assistance was timely. Communities were facing poverty and unemployment, and the land was lying around unused due to this.
In the second quarter, the EC was the only province that had met its targets. Why was this case? She asked the Department to speak about the community organisations they were working with, and the process for land that was sitting unused. The officials waiting for approval would not wait so long for a response from the Department if the ISO template was implemented, as the Department needed to ensure its allocated funds were used for their offices.
Mr Kruger provided an example of the incompetence of the DALRRD. He said it had been reported by the Department during the fifth Parliament that a fresh produce market in rural Mpumalanga would be put in place. However, oversight on how it was operating had been conducted a week ago, and there were just a few walls. He asked when this market would be operational, as small-scale farmers had no market for their produce.
Mr Ramasodi addressed the issue around leadership and said the Department was very transparent about the gaps in leadership and what was being done to fill these gaps. It had only one area where there was a gap, and it needed to be finalised. However, in other areas, there was stability at the highest levels because that was where the issues around performance needed to be driven.
He commented on how the Department was structured in the new format, and where there were other areas with provincial departments in the Provincial Shared Services Centre (PSSC), and how they duplicated the work done by other departments. He would touch on critical strategic areas, leadership and structuring, and the impact they had on the performance of the Department. He took full responsibility as the accounting officer for the issues he was working on to ensure the Department performed. If these challenges were not dealt with, it would become a consequence management issue, as most areas with challenges needed firm executive oversight from the Department.
Mr Nasele Mehlomakulu, Deputy Director-General (DDG): Food Security and Agrarian Reform, DALRRD, said the Department and its leadership shared the Committee’s concerns. It was working hard to reverse its current position. The blended funding scheme was still running and was starting to show a positive impact, and a report could be presented on the scheme. He agreed with the Committee on the condition of the colleges and their infrastructure. He noted a conditional grant had been provided over the years, where a portion of the grant was for maintenance and the revitalisation of college infrastructure. A developed infrastructure master plan was being finalised for a 2023-2028 implementation plan, to ensure these colleges were state-of-the-art. The cost estimate was R2.2 billion, and once the plan was finalised, the Department would take the plan to National Treasury to determine the sourcing of funds and the reprioritisation of the funds the Department already had. This work was being done jointly with the move of agriculture colleges to the Department of Higher Education. The DALRRD would take ownership of the colleges and run operations on behalf of the Department of Higher Education through a service level agreement (SLA).
On whether the Department had a supplier database for the PESI, he said the Committee would recall there had been issues with intermediaries brought to the Department’s attention, and the programme had been suspended to address this issue -- the Department had terminated the services of those intermediaries. Bona fide Agri dealers had been appointed to supply farmers with the required production input, and there were 445 service points across the country. It had been reported that the Department had a system that would expedite the process, but for reasons including supply shortages and verification challenges, the Department could not conclude the allocation of the PESI last year. Verification was being carried out because applications could be done on a cellphone using a Vodafone used code, which meant anyone could claim to be a farmer. Therefore, to clean up the process, verification was needed before vouchers could be distributed. The Department had received an excess of 50 000 applications in the last quarter. The self-verification process had challenges due to the issue of network connectivity in rural areas, so the Department had to make physical visits to make verifications. This was time-consuming and was the reason the Department could not implement the programme as requested.
The pronouncement of the appointment of 10 000 extension officers had not been followed by a budget allocation. The Department had to look for additional resources to cater to this. 10 000 was a huge number, and because the government had decided to restrict employee compensation, finding additional resources was a challenge. The Department had looked internally for additional resources, but because the appointments would be permanent, they had to approach National Treasury. This was an ongoing process, and R2.1 billion was needed for implementation. The Department had managed, through virements internally from under-spending programmes, to find R229 million. This would start the process of recruiting 4400 officers in the current financial year. The appointment target was 5 000 in the current year, and 5 000 in the next. However, the current budget indicated a shortfall of 600. The appointments would bring the ratio to one officer to every 250 farmers.
The commodity organisations working with the Department on the LDS had been appointed, and it was all systems go. The organisations included Potatoes South Africa (PSA), the National Emergent Red Meat Producers Organisation (Nerpo), Brand SA, the Citrus Growers’ Association (CGA), and the South Africa Poultry Association (SAPA), among others, but no projects had been given to SAPA at this point. There were challenges with some organisations because of ineffectiveness in implementing the programme, with legal action being taken, and there was a movement to terminate the contract of one service provider. This service provider had a large farm portfolio but had not put the capacity in place to do what was needed, and there had been non-compliance. The service provider was being done away with so that people who could do the job could come in.
The Department would be happy to submit a report on the funds transferred to the Land Bank, the AgriFund, and the IDC.
Mr Dipepeneneng Serage, Acting Deputy Director-General: Agricultural Production, Biosecurity and Disaster Management, DALRRD, said Programme 2 had 12 indicators until the fourth quarter, and 11 were achieved. The indicator not achieved was not due to poor performance, but rather at the time of implementation, it was discovered that the ARC was reporting on the same indicator. The removal of this indicator from the APP did not mean oversight was not performed on it, and it was reflected in the annual operational plan. The ARC performed the indicator on behalf of the DALRRD, and the Department supervised this performance.
The Department was concerned about FMD, and was doing everything to contain and counter the disease. Capital and human resources had been deployed in the Free State to assist the province. In KZN, the Department wanted to ensure the province remained in control. With the resources deployed in the Free State, they could hopefully contain it. The Department had yesterday fed and vaccinated a herd of 200 animals in the Free State. These animals were in quarantine. Scientific data was being consulted to determine when the Minister could lift the movement ban, to avoid risking efforts to contain and control the disease. The Department may register the main progress in Limpopo, as this was where the outbreak that spread to the North West had started. He said vaccination was not a magic pill that would resolve all issues. He added that a farmers' information day would be held on Friday, and the Minister, the Member of the Executive Council (MEC), and traditional leaders in Limpopo would preside over this. A comprehensive approach would be taken which included vaccination, educating farmers, and providing them with assistance, which included assistance with market participation. Farmers were still allowed to sell vaccinated FMD products.
He welcomed Mr Montwedi’s concerns and had no reservations about the Committee’s impressions concerning the Department’s reporting. He apologised about how the indicator transferred to the ARC had been reported and would make improvements in the 2022/23 financial year. He said Programme 2 was the lifeblood of the industry, and they would make sure not to drop the ball.
Mr Serage said that there was available verifiable information on what the ARC was doing as an implementation agency.
The cannabis masterplan was led by the DALRRD, but some matters needed to be managed jointly with other departments, committees and entities. Part of the work the Department had to do was dependent on the actions of other departments. The DALRRD had granted permits to more than 400 applicants, who were meant to be assisted by the development wing of the DALRRD or the provincial Departments. The DALRRD’s job was to assess applications and, upon satisfaction, issue permits. These permits had to do with hemp. When it came to cannabis, there was hemp and marijuana, and the latter was not this Department’s responsibility. Collaboration between departments was happening, and the Presidency had stepped in to ensure this took place. There was a meeting taking place tomorrow, and the Gauteng Province and North West would be joining. He said the Department would assist these provinces with the licensing of hemp production and development grants, and financial assistance.
Mr Terries Ndove, DDG: Land Redistribution and Tenure Reform, DALRRD,said the Department was aware from experience that the CPAs were a challenge. The CPA Act allowed the DALRRD to perform oversight and ensure the CPAs were compliant. Although the Act provided steps to ensure compliance, it could not solve issues if people were not working together. There were 1 700 CPAs, which were registered once when they were established, so the number of CPAs was accumulative.
Information on the functionality of the CPAs was detailed in the annual report the Department had to present to the Committee. More CPAs were non-compliant than compliant, and information on this was also available to the Committee. In terms of trading interventions, the focus was on governance, as this was a challenge for the CPAs. They struggled with the annual financial statements that were audited, accounting for membership, verification of members constantly, having annual general meetings (AGM) and holding elections that were in line with the Constitution. The Department was trying to resolve these challenges.
The changed indicator was not a change, but an improvement. The indicator in the fourth quarter of 2021/22 read the number of CPAs supported to be compliant with legislation. The training referred to now was training that assisted CPAs to be compliant with legislation. The indicator simply emphasised the word 'training,' but the indicator’s essence remained the same. It focused on areas that would make CPAs compliant with legislation, and where they were failing. However, the Department expected that more training would improve the situation.
Regarding the land acquired in the North West in the fourth quarter, he said a community in the North West had lodged a land claim through the Commission of Land Restitution Rights, and after the assessment and evaluation were concluded, there had been a dispute amongst members of the community. This was because the land referred to was not the original land they had been dispossessed of, but alternate land. Some members favoured the alternate land, but others did not. The alternate land’s farmer was ready to let go of the land through restitution. What had been indicated in the presentation was that the alternate land was ready for acquisition and acquired by the Department, but due to the community's dispute it had been acquired through the redistribution programme. The restitution approach to acquire the land had failed, but the land redistribution programme had assessed and determined the land should be acquired through their programme. He said the indicators needed to speak about what the Department wanted to achieve and be improved from time to time.
Concerning the acquisition of land, it was an indicator of the number of hectares of strategically located land acquired through the PLAS. The indicator had not changed but was merely a question of wording. If one looked at the technical indicators, it still spoke to the same thing and was just rephrased for clarity purposes.
The Department was struggling with CPAs in terms of governance and compliance. These issues had resulted in the Minister visiting CPAs across the country to determine what the root cause of the issues was. This process was ongoing and had been accompanied by an audit on all CPAs that would provide empirical evidence of what changes and recommendations needed to be made, and if the CPAs were the right vehicle for land reform.
In the fourth quarter, the Department had not met its allocation targets for women, youth and the disabled. The target was 50%, but only 38% was achieved for women and 9% for the youth. The performance was abysmal. He said this was not an excuse, but the Department was trying not to expose these targeted groups to harsh environments where there were no chances for success. The Department considered the nature of the farms, and targeted the better-located farms with infrastructure, accessibility and a level of security. This was to ensure that groups involved in disputes could focus on farming, and not on matters that would hamper their success.
In the last quarter, the reason acquisition targets were met, but not allocation targets, was due to the allocation process being slower than acquisition. The allocations would spill into the first quarter.
The report on the CPAs with the information requested by the Committee would be submitted by the Department. The issue of communities needing fencing to stop neighbouring communities from moving their livestock onto their land had been noted by the Department.
The issues involving farm dwellers had been ventilated and were grouped with labour tenant issues to an extent. The special master needed to come and explain what was being done to assist the Department in resolving labour tenant issues. These issues were that land meant to be settled belonged to farmers, so engagement with farmers was needed for legitimate claims. However, farmers in most cases rejected these claims, which meant legal processes needed to be started using the appropriate legislation. When farmers accepted the claims, an agreement was needed on the value and price of the land. If farmers rejected a proposed price, this led to legal disputes which affected the settlement of claims.
Mr Ndove said issues of sub-division of land needed to be resolved using the SPLUMA and available legislation, and get them passed through the involved municipality. However, this could delay the process. The speed of settlements was affected by various factors, but efforts were being made with a special master to resolve this. There had also been discussions on what could be done, even if farmers rejected the proposed prices, and communication with municipalities to expedite the process of approving SPLUMA plans for sub-division to ensure faster settlements of claims.
The current legislation and bill on labour tenants had not been finalised, but this issue was being attended to. There were discussions about the bill being reviewed and ensuring the proper legislation was in place within a reasonable amount of time to address the legislative issues.
The requested list of labour tenant applications would include the total number of applications, settled applications, and the land that had been allocated. Information on the allocation to women, youth and the disabled would also be detailed.
The Transformation of Certain Rural Areas Act (TRANCRAA) had not been dropped, and appeared in the annual operational plan. This was because the indicator was also affected by issues involving approval by SPLUMA and the municipalities. Since the issue had been dragging on for some time, the Department had decided to redefine this indicator but not drop it. It appeared on the APP.
Ms Kwena Komape as DDG: Economic Development, Trade and Marketing, DALRRD, said the AgriFund was amongst the funds transferred to the Land Bank, and she aligned herself with a proposal to submit a report to the Committee on the utilisation of these funds. The Fund had been reviewed and was being implemented, but details on this would follow.
It was important to note that Mafisa was a loan fund, and this meant it competed with grants, as Covid-19 and high production input prices had placed constraints on farmers' ability to make repayments on loans. Farmers preferred to take advantage of the grants available like the Presidential stimulus package. She had noted the concerns raised by the Committee and admitted that the Fund was not at the desired standard. There had been engagements with the executive of the Department to review the fund and determine how it could be ensured that farmers benefited from it.
With the Farmer Production Support Units, the Department was looking to revamp how support was given, and when implementing their business plans, the FPSUs were requested to see the requirements, who was being supported and if they could break even and be on their own. This process was slow and ongoing. Delivery at the same time would be impacted because, each FPSU required specific business plans, as the Department did not fund generic proposals.
Regarding bilaterals, the indicator in the APP was badly crafted. With the bilaterals, the Department did not even look at what was in their control or not, because they would have to depend on the other party’s availability. The other party also would be impacted by different variables that could prevent the Department from having these discussions. The Department was not abandoning bilaterals but was rather crafting them differently so the variables in its control could be reported to the Committee.
On the African free trade area, the Department was engaged in a process where the country was addressing it in regional groups and economical groups. South Africa was a part of the Southern African Customs Union (SACU), and negotiated as part of the Union. South Africa had just completed its services offer, which would be sent to the SACU.
In response to the 30-day payment issue, she said the value of the invoices received was R430 million, and R411 million had been paid within the 30 days, which equated to 4 846 invoices. 138 invoices were outstanding, amounting to R9.7 million.
There was no correlation between the non-financial performance report and the expenditure, which was reported to be 56% and 93% respectively. However, if one was to sift through the overhead expenditure, one would not be far off because although most targets were not achieved on the non-financial side, everything on the financial side had to be reported. This meant there was an expenditure that would have been expended even when targets were not met, yet those that were not at 100% could not be reported. However, there would be some financial implications.
Mr Mokutule Kgobokoe, Deputy Director-General: Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation, said slide 13 of the presentation focused on a year-to-year performance comparison of the Department. It was important when dealing with the performance that one compared the quarters over the years, not just the final performance percentage. For instance, if one looked at the first quarter of 2020/21, the Department had achieved 39%, but in 2021/22 it had achieved 69%. This comparison was important because one asked what was happening in 2020/2021, this was during Covid-19 and the Department was pretty new. In 2021/22 it could be seen the Department was beginning to stabilise, as indicated by the environment at the time.
It was important to look at the food security and agrarian reform programme, where the performance for the first to the fourth quarter showed a trend, with the needed analysis to determine why this was the trend. The same could be observed in rural development. This was simply to indicate the performance trend per branch for the financial year.
On consequence management and performance incentives, he said there was a system called the Employee Management and Development System, which had been introduced by the Department of Public Service and Administration (DPSA) and applied to national departments. It was used quarterly, and made provision for those who performed well, and had punitive measures for those who did not perform well. There were certain measures, such as employees being put under performance improvement plans, or having disciplinary measures actions taken against them.
If one looked at the first quarter in slide 12, one would see that improvement was beginning to show in the performance of the Department. The first quarter performance generally speaking had been low, but there was upward movement from the second quarter. They hoped that by the end of the second quarter, it would remain as high or get better.
On the Department not meeting targets they had set, it was that true some of the difficulties in achieving targets were linked to bad planning. It had not ensured the targets were SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound) and related properly to the technical indicator descriptions. It had since come up with a planning tool that had been approved by the executive committee (Exco) and shared with all branches to use the plan effectively. This tool was probably the reason that the quarter one performance had been better.
Mr Ramasodi said all the issues had been covered. He would touch on the basic commitments made by the Department. Improving performance would be a tough task and something to constantly work on, but it was doable. It would reflect on the economic value of land and how to ensure the land was productive through the various engagements on blended finance, Mafisa and extension support. It was important to address these issues, otherwise, things would be difficult. He acknowledged that if the report did not have the issues of following the money and where the money was, it would be difficult to continue with the conversation, knowing the needs on the ground. This needed to be admitted -- this report was still outstanding, and the Department had to come back when it was available and just to be honest regarding the funding instruments in the DALRRD.
With the FPSU, it was important to admit what was working and what was not, because trade was needed as a result of the work being done. If this was not a good model to follow, it must be reviewed. The agri-park was the highest level the FPSU was building towards.
There was an issue around commodity groups and how the Department worked with them. Commitments around commodity groups had been made in 2018, and this system was being reviewed so that there was accountability for every cent spent. The Department needed to respond to this.
The dispute with the EU was due to new measures put in place, which indicated that South Africa would not be able to trade with the EU unless it complied with the measures for the cold treatment of food. South Africa had not agreed with this, but the two parties were in technical discussions. Mr Serage had been present in these engagements. There were also engagements through the WTO’s dispute resolution mechanisms. The Department was hopeful that the issue would be resolved. South Africa had a law firm assisting, led by the Department of Trade and Industry, but internal notes were still being exchanged. He said there would be consultations between both parties, and he thought that South Africa had a strong case.
Concerning legislation, the Department needed assistance from the Committee on the amendment of the Marketing of Products Act, to deal with issues of transformation in the country. He also noted it was important to engage with a certain process to resolve issues faced in the industry which were in the agricultural reform master plan.
The Department accepted that changing the situation would be a challenge. Challenges that had led to under-performance of more than 50% were due to vacant posts, PESI, planning and integration. What was needed was a systematic look at the budget and expenditure.
In terms of alien species, the Department was ready to address the challenges, and the Committee was correct about land care programmes and the assistance they could provide in terms of job creation and food security. He noted the importance of valuable pieces of land and land reclamation.
He had noted the concerns raised concerning the Land Bank and the Presidential Advisory Panel on sector engagements on labour tenants and farm dwellers. The Department could submit a report on its financial instruments and their performance over the years, as well as a report on the CPAs that included the issues raised by the Committee. The Department was committed to an engagement with the special master to ensure a presentation would be given to the Committee. The special master had introduced a few changes that needed the Department to deal with issues around efficiencies and the effectiveness of the system reflected in the annual performance report. The Department would provide a list concerning land allocation, with an emphasis on women, youth and people with disabilities. The audit action plan would be submitted too. The Department met quarterly with its audit committee to go through the plan to see if progress was being made with the forensic investigation reports.
Ms Tlhape thanked the DG, and requested he add to the reports to be submitted, a report on the Mafisa Loan Fund and the issues concerning CPAs, raised by Ms Mahlo. She also asked for clarity on the issues concerning the cannabis master plan raised by the Chairperson. She requested the Committee move to the Commission of Land Restitution Rights presentation.
Commission on Restitution of Land Rights 2021/22 Q4 and 2022/23 Q1 reports
Mr Tele Maphoto, Acting Commissioner, Commission on Restitution of Land Rights, said that in the fourth quarter of 2021/22, the total number of land claims settled was 116, representing a performance of 109%. The number of land claims finalised was 193, representing a performance 140%. Actual expenditure had been R3 246 143, which was 93.9% of the final appropriation.
In the first quarter of 2022/23, the total number of land claims settled achieved was 35, representing a performance of 10%. The number of land claims finalised was 80, representing a performance of 22%. The number of claims lodged by 1998 to be researched was 51, which was a performance of 5%. The restitution financial performance budget was R3.679 billion, and the expenditure was R338.4 million. The households’ expenditure performance budget was R3.152 billion, and expenditure was
R197.8 million. The total value of the expenditure plan, focusing on 13 big projects, was R1.803 billion.
(See attached document for details)
Ms Tshwete asked what the plan had been to improve provinces that reflected 0% for food expenditure as of 30 June 2020. Concerning the transition of the Commission to an autonomous entity that was estimated to take 18 months, and that the Commission was a specialised service delivery unit, she requested a report on the roadmap to autonomy, the status, the achievements to date, what was under review, the impact of the strategy, and if it was yielding any results.
Section 4(3) of the Restitution of Land Act stated that the Commission shall consist of a Chief Land Claims Commissioner appointed by the Minister, after inviting nominations from the general public, a Deputy Land Claims Commissioner, similarly appointed, and as many regional land claims commissioners as may be appointed by the Minister. She was raising this as she wanted to know how far along the process of filling the vacancy of the Deputy Land Commissioner was, or if the vacancy had been filled.
Mr Sanjay Singh, Chief Director: Service Delivery Coordination, Commission on Restitution of Land Rights, said the Department was meeting on a fortnightly basis to focus primarily on the expenditure patterns of the Commission in provinces so that the provinces sitting at 0% could be moved out of this area. An important factor was that last year the Commission’s spending was 93% instead of 100% due to two projects that involved claims in KZN and Limpopo. The two projects had been settled in favour of the Commission, but there had been issues with the institutions, as they had taken time to sign the sale agreements. This was the reason for the underspending in the previous year. These two claims amounted to about R200 million.
The last slide of the presentation had spoken about the Commission's plans. The Commission had looked at the big projects targeted for the year. There were huge amounts involving projects in KZN and the EC. The KZN had one project which amounted to R404 million. The total for all big projects was R1.8 billion. He said some of the projects had gone through the qualification processes and were waiting for approval.
On the issue of autonomy, a lot of work had gone into interim structure. The structure had been sent to the Department of Public Service and Administration (DPSA), which had indicated a few changes that needed to be made. The Commission also joined the Department on the Ernst and Young project.
The Commission's functioning as a special delivery unit was for further discussion between the DG and Minister. Regarding the roadmap to autonomy, the business process that needed to be done by the Commission had been completed and mapped out. It was crucial in terms of decision-making that it had to be been done. It may be a Cabinet decision, but the Minister and the DG could speak to this better.
The Deputy Commissioner vacancy had been advertised, and recommendations were sought from the public. The short-listing process was underway and should be resolved in the second quarter, or early in the third.
Mr Maphoto said Mr Singh had covered the issue of the process regarding the autonomy of the Commission. There was an outstanding meeting with the Commission and the Minister based on issues the Minister had asked for clarity on, and also sharing the next steps for autonomy, but this had been addressed by the Deputy Minister and progress was approved.
Concerning the outstanding posts, the DG said he had signed off on the advertisement for additional posts. The Commission wanted to advertise additional posts following a process where money was allotted for this purpose. He added that there was stability in the Commission, as the reappointment of the Commissioner had been made by the Minister.
Ms Tshwete said she trusted the DG had the necessary information to make the requested submissions. He needed to rectify the problem areas. Achievement of 100% needed to be considered, rather than the 10% in the first quarter, which was not a good indication.
The Chairperson said he had been defeated by connectivity issues, and apologised for this. He thanked Ms Tlhape and Ms Tshwete for assisting in steering the meeting.
The meeting was adjourned.
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