The Portfolio Committee met virtually with the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and Environment, the South African Police Service and the Department of Public Works and Infrastructure to receive a briefing on the land invasions at the Knoflokskraal site in Grabouw.
The Department of Public Works and Infrastructure (DPWI) said it had obtained an interim court interdict for farms 335 and 336 in 2020 and 2021 to prevent further land invasions in Knoflokskraal. To date, about 478 hectares of land remained occupied by 2 380 people. The total estimated cost incurred by the Department in dealing with the matter amounted to R3 million, including the legal fees and Sheriff of the court's services.
The Committee asked about the purpose of applying for a containment order beyond the lockdown. What provisions had been made to ensure that the people of Knoflokskraal would stop being harassed by "counter-revolutionary forces"? How could it be ensured that there was adequate service delivery, such as electricity, water and sanitation, for these people? An EFF Member asked everyone to stop calling those occupying the site "land invaders" in the land of their ancestors. Other Members said that criminality should be punished and illegal means could not be used to invade the land. What about the job opportunities the locals had lost in the forestry sector of Grabouw? How would the Department be able to provide services for people living at Knoflokskraal? What were the alternative options for providing accommodation?
The Department was asked if they held anyone who had instigated the land invasions accountable. What steps would the Minister take to protect the occupants and the people staying around the property from fire risks, considering the massive fire that took place this year around the area? Has anyone looked at the impact of the land invasions on the biosphere, environment, local economy, tourism and potential investment that should be coming into the area? Members asked about clarifying the role of the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and Environments (DFFE) in these land invasions and to come back to deliver a more comprehensive presentation.
The South African Police Service (SAPS) said the total cost of its interventions at Knoflokskraal had amounted to R703 691. Eight cases had been reported and investigated -- five involving trespassing, and the rest related to theft, fraud and housebreaking. The Members appreciated the investigations being conducted by the SAPS, and asked what they had done to implement the containment order. Who from the DPWI had prevented the Sheriff from removing the unoccupied structures? Did the SAPS have a deployed team daily in Grabouw? Why were there additional costs for SAPS members, who were merely doing their jobs?
The Minister of the DFFE said that the Department was releasing the invaded land back to the DPWI in terms of the Government Immovable Assets Management Act and the National Forests Act. She said that her Department would no longer participate in any decisions relating to land invasions at Knoflokskraal, except in an observers' role. The Portfolio Committee said it regretted the loss of jobs for local people and forestry production due to the land invasion.
The acting Chairperson welcomed everyone to the meeting and said today was a follow-up engagement on the organised land invasion at “ Knoflokskraal” in Grabouw.
Presentation from DPWI
Ms Patricia de Lille, Minister of Public Works and Infrastructure, said she appreciated the invitation to report to the Portfolio Committee on the Knoflokskraal land invasion. She added that the DPWI was dealing with over 20 land invasions across the Western Cape Province.
Ms Nyeleti Makhubele, Deputy Director General (DDG): Real Estate Management Services, DPWI, said the purpose of the presentation was to brief the Portfolio Committee on the organised land invasions at the Knoflokskraal site in the Grabouw plantation. The estimated number of occupations was 2 380 distributed at Farms 335 and 336, covering 311 and 167 hectares respectively. This invasion began in late 2020 during the COVID-19 national lockdown.
The DPWI obtained an interim court interdict for farm 335 on 31 December 2020 and 21 April 2021 for farm 336 to prevent further invasion. During the lockdown, the DPWI could opt only for a containment order. The total estimated costs incurred, including the counsel fees and sheriff services, amounted to R3 million.
Progress made thus far was that the Minister had attended a Joint District and Metro Approach (JDMA) meeting on 17 August in the Overberg District. The JDMA had proposed that all stakeholders should serve on the Grabouw land invasion steering committee. The first meeting was held on 3 October, and the next meeting would be held in November.
Minister De Lille met with Mr Anton Bredell, the Western Cape Minister of Local Government, Environmental Affairs and Development Planning, on Tuesday, 18 October. It was agreed that Premier Alan Winde would convene a meeting with the principals of the affected departments within the next two weeks.
Ms C Phillips (DA) asked what the purpose of applying for a containment order had been. Was the application for this containment order successful? Had they applied for an eviction order since the lockdown was lifted? She asked why the security companies were not mentioned in the presentation. The first court order was obtained on 31 December 2021, but the DPWI and the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and Environment (DFFE) had not appointed any security company until 26 April 2021. She asked for an explanation. How many security companies have since been employed by the DPWI and the DFFE? How much had they cost? Why was there no mention of the portion/farms 334 and 445 in the presentation? One of the portions was connected to one of the court orders. Were any efforts made to recover any of the costs by the taxpayers for these land invasions?
Mr N Paulsen (EFF) said the Ms Grootboom case was a landmark and gave guidance on the Constitutional Court's view of land invasion cases, such as at Knoflokskraal. The Grootboom case cited an obligation by government in terms of Section 26 and 28 of the Constitution. He said: "We come from an unequal society in terms of wealth and land. Some people were denied an opportunity to access and acquire wealth and land which translated to homelessness, especially in the Western Cape. We have a commitment to transform society in terms of the Constitution to have a dignified place to live”. The question of what they were going to do to remove the people from Knoflokskraal was unconstitutional, considering that the high court had made a ruling that prevented anyone from being removed from Knoflokskraal. It was very unconstitutional and illegal for Members of the Portfolio Committee to challenge a ruling made by a high court. If government could not give them proper housing, one had to make sure that the people of Knoflokskraal were given an opportunity to lead and create a dignified life. Their responsibility as a government was to ensure service delivery for the people of Knoflokskraal to lead a dignified lifestyle.
He asked what provisions had been made to ensure that the people of Knoflokskraal would stop being harassed by counter-revolutionary forces to alienate the people of the country. The people of Knoflokskraal belonged there, and therefore deserved to be given an opportunity to live a dignified lifestyle. He acknowledged that there were opportunists among the people in Knoflokskraal who had taken additional land, in addition to the land they had elsewhere, but most people at Knoflokskraal have nowhere else to go. They were living in backyards, which was a common trend across the Western Cape.
What was being done to ensure that land was allocated equally amongst the Knoflokskraal inhabitants? How would they ensure adequate service delivery, such as electricity, water and sanitation for these people? They should be applying pressure for services to be delivered, rather than applying for a reversal of a court order. That was not going to happen. They had to oppose it legally and physically. "If we must stand between the people and the police, so be it.”
He said that the question should be around how many people could be accommodated at Knoflokskraal within the 500 hectares. It should be an example of how the government could or could not accommodate and take care of the people of this country.
Ms S Graham (DA), a Member of the DPWI Portfolio Committee, said there had been an assurance by the DPWI around August 2020 of strategies to prevent land invasions at Knoflokskraal. They had been advised in June 2021 that there were only 250 structures on the property. By July 2021, there were already 1 000 structures on it. The presentation indicated that there were 253 households on the Knoflokskraal property. There were now 5 599 structures on that property and around 177 half-built structures. The court orders were there to prevent further invasions and incitement to invade. There was evidence that this process was politically motivated. She had written to the Minister last year, but had never received a response. She had posed the same question to the Minister verbally, but the answer had been unsatisfactory.
She said that job opportunities had been lost due to the land invasions. The property had been earmarked for other projects that would have otherwise provided job opportunities for the people at Knoflokskraal, as opposed to providing a piece of land. The municipality was bankrupt, and would be unable to provide adequate services. Also, taking things by force was illegal, and people must not be guaranteed to be provided services. These things must be done lawfully and in line with the Constitution'.
She said that the Minister had visited the place several times, but despite this and the involvement of the Sheriff, security companies and court orders, the land invasions had not stopped. Why were the Minister and the DPWI absolving themselves from responsibility? She believed that the DPWI had failed dismally, and had allowed this ongoing slaughter of property. R3 million had been spent on the matter, and no land invasions had been curbed as of today. What plan did the DPWI have for this piece of land? There would never be services on it -- it was situated far away from services. How would the DPWI deal with providing services for people living at Knoflokskraal? If it failed, what were the alternatives to provide accommodation?
Mr D Bryant (DA) said that DPWI and DFFE had been put in a very difficult position. Human beings living on the site had rights. The DPWI, as the owner of the property, had to address this matter sensitively with correct laws and legal practices to ensure that no one living there was put into a more dire position.
He said that organised land invasions were problematic. Had the DPWI taken any action against those who had instigated these land invasions? An article from News24 on 30 October 2021 had quoted one of the people who had orchestrated this activity as saying, “The land is for free. We have numerous meetings with the people. We are reclaiming the land!”
Mr Bryant said that the Member of the Executive Council (MEC) for Human Settlements in the Western Cape had raised concerns about the minimal security put in place. However, the Minister of DPWI responded that security had been prioritised on the site to prevent further land occupation. Would the Minister accept that the security put in place had certainly not been able to deal with the subsequent increase in the occupation of that site? He totally understood the challenges imposed by COVID-19 regarding evictions, but they were talking about the security on site to prevent the occupations from taking place. It seemed that the security had been improperly placed.
At their last meeting, they had been told that the DFFE could not deal with forestry-related projects at the site, which would affect the employment of many people surrounding the area who could have benefited equally. The DFFE had tried to meet with the local municipality but had not been assisted. Did the Minister have a working relationship with that local municipality? Did she think she was doing a good job, if there was a relationship? What steps would she take to protect the occupants and the people staying around the property from fire risks, considering the massive fire that took place this year around the area? He said a surrounding property owner, a Mr Du Toit, had laid charges of negligence against the Minister -- could she confirm this charge? Would the DPWI oppose this charge?
Ms S Mbatha (ANC) asked how the real estate division within the DPWI managed all state properties to avoid land invasions. Was there a strategy, considering that there had been a total of 20 land invasions in the Western Cape? What were the plans for alternative accommodation to house all of those 2 380 occupants? Did they have a strategy on how they were going to evict and provide accommodation for them? She agreed with Mr Paulsen that the DPWI must protect and offer services to the occupants to curb environmental pollution, which would affect the DFFE. How were they going to protect the environment and the ecosystem?
She said that R3 million was a lot of money that could be used fruitfully by the DPWI if there was a plan and strategy to prevent land invasions. She said there are vacant buildings in Gauteng and Pretoria belonging to the DPWI which attract criminals. A lot of state houses had been invaded by the communities, and they were not paying for any services, which impacted the DPWI. What other departments had the DPWI involved to stop such land invasions? The Department's officials were not doing their jobs. There should be serious monitoring and evaluation. The DPWI owned many state properties but failed to address only one land invasion. What about the cases in the other provinces?
Mr Paulsen interrupted, and said it was an insult to call the people of this country land invaders. Some people came here in ships and took the land. One could not call people who were natives in this country "land invaders."
The Chairperson asked Mr Paulsen not to be emotional about the land invasion issue, as it required discussions that would lead to long-lasting solutions.
Ms N Gantsho (ANC) said that it was unfortunate that there was no other word that could be used besides "land invaders." She asked what role the DPWI expected the DFFE to play, considering that there was no forest left.
Mr F Jacobs (ANC), a Member of the Portfolio Committee on Small Business Development, thanked the acting Chairperson for allowing him to participate. He said this was an important debate. When people took matters into their own hands, it showed that the state had failed to deliver on its promises. They were not happy with the intergovernmental cooperative arrangements with all the governmental levels in the Western Cape, because they had failed to provide a meaningful approach to a very complex problem. One could not adopt an "ostrich head in the sand" solution.
He said an Expropriation Bill had just been passed, which would test how government would deal with the land issue. Land was a historical issue, and he shared Mr Paulsen's sentiments, but he thought one must resolve it through a constitutional framework, and move away from the criminality of land invasions. Poor and homeless people could not be criminalised. However, there must be a governmental department that specifically deals with issues of this nature. He said that the ruling party in the Western Cape, both at the provincial and municipal level, criminalised the poor without offering alternative solutions. It was not surprising that many DA Members were talking about security. They must realise that the times of having "islands of prosperity in a sea of misery and poverty" were over. If one was not going to deal with the challenges faced by the people, then it was "a ticking time bomb."
He appealed to all political parties on this platform not to pretend there was no problem, especially the DA. There was a vast amount of land owned by individuals, and an audit of all the land was needed. They asked the national government to use political will and a decisive approach. They needed to identify those lands and list of land that would be released for affordable housing. If there was no plan, the people on the ground would continue to take the land illegally because land provided security, opportunity and dignity. The government needed a long-term plan to identify land accommodating meaningful housing and human settlements in these areas. It was not in Grabouw only -- this was a national problem. There was also a need to look at "maximising opportunities for our people." He said, "we are not representing a small or elite class of our community. We need to compromise, make provisions, and deal with the legacies of apartheid.”
Mr Paulsen appreciated the inputs from Mr Jacobs. He advised him to speak to his ANC colleagues about using a worse vocabulary to describe the natives of the land. “Those people were born here; they have no other ancestry than being born African. I would not have anyone continue to use the term 'land invaders' without being checked. I do not care if you were in the ANC or the DA, but you do not call my people land invaders. This was the land of their ancestors. This was the land of their birth. It was disgusting. I would hang my head in shame.”
The Chairperson asked Mr Paulsen to propose a suitable vocabulary that could be used to discuss the emotive matter that belonged to the DPWI
Mr Paulsen suggested that the people should be called "land occupants" because they were going to occupy all vacant land.
Ms A Weber (DA) said the matter was very sensitive, but stressed that every Member had a democratic right to raise their own opinions. They were all fighting for the same cause. They wanted people to have land. Unfortunately, when a person took land that did not belong to them, it was termed "land invasion.” She reminded Mr Jacobs that the provincial government of the Western Cape had already distributed 62 % of its land to previously disadvantaged people who were pioneering successful businesses and farming. She added that this was not a platform to discuss party politics.
Ms Mbatha asked for a report in writing from the Western Cape government regarding this matter.
The acting Chairperson asked Members not to be caught up in debates about who occupied what, but rather to focus on the agenda for today's meeting. He had expected a more comprehensive presentation from the DPWI on how the DFFE could provide jobs, because there was no a longer forest at Knoflokskraal. Could the Department give the Committee a holistic picture of what it expects DFFE to do? What was currently happening there?
Minister De Lille said the purpose of the presentation today was to brief the Committee on the work that the DPWI had conducted at Knoflokskraal, including the legal cases. If they could return to the Committee and give a full presentation on all the land invasions, they would certainly do so.
The purpose of the containment order was allowed only due to COVID-19-related lockdown. The DPWI was working together with the municipalities across the Western Cape on alternative accommodation/ land after issuing the eviction orders. She stressed that the DPWI was a custodian of the national state-owned land. The immovable estate register of land was under the custodianship of the provincial and municipal government.
She said that the reference to the Grootboom case by Mr Paulsen indicated that one needed to find a balance of approaches when dealing with these matters. One had to act within a constitutional framework.
She said a five-year service agreement between the DPWI and the DFFE expired in 2021. Before it expired, she had a meeting with DFFE Minister Barbara Creecy and Deputy Minister Maggie Sotyu. She had told them that the history of the Knoflokskraal land went back many years. In 2016, there was an agreement to establish a trust so that the local community could benefit from job creation in the forestry sector, which had never materialised. She had asked Minister Creecy about the future of the land, and had been referred to a new forestry policy that Cabinet adopted in November 2020. The community had adopted another initiative called the Mediation Forum, which had brought everyone together. A proposal for land use had been made, and Premier Alan Winde would convene the meeting. She added that the matter had also been discussed at a district level. She asked for one month to put things together, so that the DPWI could present a complete plan to this Portfolio Committee that must be agreed upon across all governmental levels.
She said the DPWI was also looking at the other properties that had been invaded. Its legal team was drafting proposals on how to deal with land invasions. This issue had to be addressed sensibly, and she wanted to appeal to any member of the public or Member of Parliament who had evidence of instigation by people who were driving these invasions, to submit it to the South African Police Service (SAPS).
She said that if the DFFE wanted to use the land for forestry purposes, they had to submit a business plan.
She said DPWI dealt daily with land invasions across the country which were probed through establishing an inter-ministerial committee to deal with land restitution, tenure and redistribution. She could provide a total of all the land that the DPWI had transferred to the human settlement agency for the purpose of human settlement. There was also a responsibility on the provincial governments to also release municipal-owned land for human settlements.
She was not aware of any charges made against her or the DPWI. If such a charge existed, she would have been contacted by the SAPS, and she would certainly give them her full cooperation.
The plan to protect the environment without providing service delivery was a very important question that should be discussed between the two departments. Minister De Lille confirmed that numerous empty buildings belonged to the DPWI across the country. The Department had devised a new policy called the "Refurbish, Operate and Transfer" programme, in partnership with the private sector, which would assist the DPWI in refurbishing and renovating the old buildings. The DPWI would provide leases of 20 - 25 years and ensure that it provided rental space to governmental departments.
Premier Alan Winde had been asked to convene the meeting next week to give officials directions and plans regarding the land, housing plans and the number of people on the waiting list. She could guarantee that the meeting would come up with a sensible approach that was governed by the Constitution.
Ms Penny Penxa, DPWI Regional Manager: Western Cape, said when the Knoflokskraal property was invaded in late 2020, they had not deployed security immediately because the invasions were manageable. They had been working very closely with the police in the area. It became evident at the beginning of 2021 that the situation was getting out of hand, and security was deployed in April'. The security costs incurred to date were R8.4 million. She stressed that the properties were massive, so it was very difficult to attend to each entry point.
The DPWI was establishing land forums across the Western Cape's districts, because land invasions happened within municipalities. The idea was to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) so that the municipalities could assist the DPWI at the local level. They would start with the municipalities prone to land invasions.
Mr Christopher Makgoba, Legal Advisor, DPWI, said the purpose of the containment order was to prevent further occupation of the land, and to document, survey and provide reports to the DPWI. Due to the vastness of the area, it was difficult to manage and prevent further land occupations. The Sheriff of the Court assisted the DPWI by providing reports through on-site monitoring. He confirmed that the containment order had not been successful, but it had minimised the land invasions. Evictions could not be considered during the hard lockdown. The new committee would investigate an integrated, holistic measure, where evictions could be among the list of recommendations. He added that the state attorney was trying to recover the costs associated with the cases.
Mr Paulsen said the number of land invasions in Knofloskraal had to increase, because it was a reflection of the reality on the ground. People were homeless, landless and required a place to stay. Unless one spoke about expropriation of land without compensation, this problem would not be solved. They would continue the programme of land occupation. There was nothing that could stop them. They could not afford to see their people living in backyards and squatter camps in the land of their ancestors.
Ms Phillips said criminality could not be justified for the injustices of the past. They also could not change part of the Constitution. Were there any legal land claims at Knoflokskraal? How many of these land invaders had houses in other places? Has anyone looked at the impact of the land invasions on the biosphere, the environment, the local economy, tourism and potential investments that should be coming into the area? She said history showed that the land invasions at Knoflokskraal were not manageable, and the containment order had not played any role in preventing the land invasions. What had happened to the "chopped assets" (wood) that belonged to the taxpayers of South Africa? Had they been sold? She had seen a video circulating of five men doing nothing when a whole house was being moved into the area. What was the point of getting a containment order if the Minister and her Department were either unable or unwilling to enforce the order? Was the DPWI unable to protect public assets?
Mr Bryant asked if the DPWI had a working relationship with the Theewaterskloof municipality.
Mr Paulsen asked what was being done to ensure that the people of Knoflokskraal were being given services. He said DPWI's excuse of the remoteness of the area did not make sense. Across the country, services were provided to privileged white people and every effort was made to get them services, no matter where they were.
Ms Mbatha asked if the DPWI had investigated who was leading the land invasions. What steps was it taking to deal with those people? Section 24 of the Constitution states that all the citizens of South Africa have a right to a clean environment, water and air. The DPWI had to provide those services to the Knoflokskraal people while looking for other alternatives. This was a long overdue issue, and next time the Department should come up with a detailed report so that the Committee could debate and come up with proper recommendations. The DPWI's officials should have presented a strategy on all land invasions across the country to the Minister before she even took office. She said the DPWI's officials were not doing their work, and should be monitored and evaluated. When officials remained in a position for a long time, they became corrupt. They had to be moved across units within the DPWI.
Minister De Lille said she could not speak for the DFFE, and Minister Creecy would present on the role of the DFFE in the next presentation. The DPWI would engage with the affected communities and all governmental spheres to find an amicable solution to the land invasions across the country. She had not been present during the meeting with municipalities and Minister Creecy, and had not received feedback on such a meeting. She said the role of providing services lay with the municipalities, but only after there was agreement on the proper usage of the properties.
She agreed with Ms Mbatha and said that this discussion was long overdue. They were making good progress and would return and report to the Portfolio Committee in one month. There were strategies to deal with the land invasions within the DPWI. Furthermore, the strategy ensured that any land under the custodianship of the DPWI meant for human settlement purposes would be transferred to the Department of Human Settlements. They had given power of attorney to the Housing Development Agency to avoid further illegal land invasions.
The acting Chairperson emphasised the importance of inter-ministerial and governmental relations, but said they were never going to find themselves as a Portfolio Committee responsible for forestry, fisheries and environment, discussing cross-cutting matters. They would end up being everywhere, which would impact their responsibility. They might also need to have an oversight visit to Knoflokskraal, Grabouw.
Presentation by South African Police Service
Major General Albert Maqashalala said the first person to set up an informal structure in Knoflokskraal was Richard Isaacs from Genadendal. At the time, he claimed the area originally belonged to the Khoisan and he was a direct descendant of the Khoisan by birth, as his mother’s maiden surname was ‘Haas’ which was unique to the Khoisan clan. He thereafter encouraged and recruited people from the Cape Flats to erect illegal structures upon Knoflokskraal, in accordance with his claim.
The SAPS attended and investigated all the reported crimes associated with unlawful occupation in Knoflokskraal. The Sheriff of the Court and security personnel had been appointed to demolish half-erected structures and/or unoccupied dwellings on the land. Subsequently, a high court order was granted directing that no evictions could be executed and no further persons, other than the current occupants at the time, be allowed to erect further structures.
The total cost of interventions by the SAPS amounted to R703 691.
Eight cases were reported and investigated by the SAPS. Five were for trespassing, and the rest were for theft, fraud and housebreaking.
(Please consult the attached presentation for more information on the SAPS intervention and a summary of the reported cases).
Ms Phillips asked why SAPS intervention had not resulted in the containment order being upheld. What had the SAPS done to uphold that containment order? On how many occasions did the SAPS provide backup to the Sheriff? Why was there no video footage of the public violence and intimidation? She said slide 9 had a list of plots with names and contact details, but the SAPS said there was no way to identify the culprits. How long did the SAPS take to find out about proof of ownership on slide 10? She said it was not the public’s duty to find the proof -- they were not the investigating officers. Was the driver of the truck who stole the wood arrested? Did they not have this driver’s details? Had any effort been made to trace his cellphone? She said the erection of signs had been mandated in the court order in December 2020. They were now in 2022 and those signs had not yet been put up. Surely this was gross negligence from both the SAPS and the DPWI.
Mr Bryant said he was glad that the investigations had been initiated by the SAPS. He had asked the SAPS if some people would not mind submitting the evidence. Did they have their contact details, names and address? He had heard that some people felt intimidated not to share that information. Was there an anonymous address to which people could submit information? Who from the DPWI had prevented the Sheriff from removing the unoccupied structures? What were the reasons given? Was it in line with the COVID-19 protocols?
Ms Gantsho appreciated the report from the SAPS. Were there any reasons given why the unoccupied structures should not be demolished?
The acting Chairperson said that the Portfolio Committee met with the people in Grabouw when they were conducting public consultations. Some had raised a concern regarding a case of negligence they had opened against the DPWI, but the Minister had said she was unaware of such a case. Could the SAPS confirm if there was such a case or not?
Did the SAPS have a deployed team in Grabouw daily? He was not suggesting that there should be police there every day, but the number of unauthorised invasions was growing daily. Were they monitoring the situation on a full time basis? How had the driver been missed in the first place? When would they arrest him? Were they certain from a prosecutorial point of view that they wanted to arrest a man in Lesotho, only for him to be acquitted because he had not committed such an offence?
Maj Gen Maqashalala said when a case was being opened, sometimes it had a number of charges, which might include intimidation. However, if there was an independent case related to intimidation, it would be opened. He would confirm if there was video footage from the police officers at the site when the incident occurred. He said that the SAPS required a statement that would speak to the survey of the property before and after 26 April. The containment order had said the people could not be removed. It was very difficult for the police if they did not have that statement. They needed to know who was there before to confirm that the people who came after were in contempt of the court order. They were still awaiting a response from the court regarding the legal ownership. Some people who took the matter to court had claimed that it was the land of their forefathers, so it would be indicated in that order who owned the land.
SAPS was experiencing challenges in finding who had incited the occupation, because people were reluctant to provide information to the police. The warrant for the arrest of the truck driver had been issued, and SAPS continued to trace this person with all the information provided on his profile.
He said that SAPS could not respond to issues relating to the erection of signs, as this was the responsibility of the landlord.
It had a hotline number 0800 31 44 44, for anyone hesitant to be identified, but had information.
He was unaware of any negligence case against the Minister, but he would confirm this. He would also follow up on the Sheriff who was stopped by the DPWI in May 2021, because he had not been in the province then.
The SAPS was not deployed to the site on a full-time basis, but there were patrol services in the area, and they had police officers ready to act if any illegal actions were reported. He said that the driver and a person who had been arrested by security officers were two separate cases. Three people had been arrested in the driver's case, and two had been withdrawn. The wrong information displayed on the car was a different case unrelated to the driver.
He said it was difficult to answer the question relating to tracing a suspect and wasting resources, because the matter was still in court. There would be one of two verdicts, either guilty or not guilty. The mere fact that a person had been charged, with an agreement between the SAPS and the National Prosecuting Authority, suggests a prima facie case, so they believed their case was winnable.
The acting Chairperson provided a negligence case number 84/2/2022 which had been opened in Grabouw.
Mr Bryant said it was quite strange that the DPWI stopped the SAPS and the Sheriff from preventing the land occupations. Was there anyone who could provide information on this now?
Mr Paulsen asked about the experience of SAPS in the Knoflokskraal area. What were the issues they had dealt with, considering they had to prevent people from occupying the land? Were there other incidents that SAPS had been mandated to cover? Why were there additional costs for SAPS members who were doing their work? When they did not work at Knoflokskraal, what did they do? Was a temporary facility stationed at Knoflokskraal for the SAPS, or was it just vans? He agreed with the suggestion by the acting Chairperson of an oversight visit to Knoflokskraal to get a feel of what was going on, rather than being reported to.
Maj Gen Maqashalala said the additional costs were related to SAPS officials working overtime. He confirmed that there was no satellite station at Grabouw, but there was police visibility through van patrols.
Lt Gen (Adv) Thembisile Patekile, Provincial Commissioner, Western Cape, requested to be allowed to submit the answers to the remaining questions on who had prevented the SAPS from stopping the invasions, in writing. He stressed that the function of the SAPS in that space was to support the Sheriff of the court. He committed to a two-week timeline, together with the 84/2/2022 case.
Maj Gen Maqashalala said the case number 84/2/2022 related to malicious damage to property and fire, which did not relate to negligence involving the Minister.
The acting Chairperson said the people at the public meeting had said they were holding the Minister of DPWI accountable for the fire damage. Could they please investigate the entire case and come back to the Committee?
Mr Bryant asked if it was standard practice that a department could intervene in SAPS and Sheriff's affairs. Who had that power in the Department?
Lt Gen Patekile said the SAPS did not deal with one-size-fits-all incidents. Their job was to assist the Sheriff in executing duties required by the court orders. When the Sheriff decided to withdraw, then they would also withdraw.
Presentation by DFFE
Minister Creecy said that her Department had provided input on this matter at previous committee meetings. The DFFE had indicated that it was returning the land to the DPWI, because it had been given to the DFFE solely for forestry purposes. The land was no longer suitable for forestry cultivation, so it had been returned to its rightful owner. She said whatever decision was made in the future regarding the land in Grabouw, the DFFE would not take part in it. They were not responsible for land restitution, human settlements, and those kinds of matters. They did not mind being an observer, but the decision on the future of the land was beyond the DFFE’s mandate.
Ms Pumeza Nodada, Deputy Director General: Forestry Management, said the DFFE was in the process of releasing the land back to the DPWI based on the Government Immovable Assets Management Act, No. 19 of 2007 and Section 50 of the National Forests Act, No. 84 of 1998.
The Joint Steering Committee meeting convened on 3 October had noted the DFFE’s decision to release all five properties affected by land invasions in Grabouw. Its decision had been noted and the committee had requested the DFFE to remain a member, as its participation would assist the joint steering committee on how to deal with other forestry properties which were likely to be affected by land invasions in the Western Cape.
Mr Bryant regretted the loss of jobs due to the land occupations at Knoflokskraal. He said jobs were so important to South Africans at the moment. People were struggling to feed their families. Any opportunity to create jobs should be pursued and embraced as much as possible. It was really tragic to hear that the jobs for local people were no longer available.
Ms Weber agreed with Mr Bryant, and added that there was a fantastic opportunity for everyone to get involved with forestry activities through job creation. Had the DFFE lost any money from the whole process?
Ms Gantsho thanked the DFFE for their clear and frank report. She respected their decision, seeing that it had lost a case to preserve the forest. There was nothing that the DFFE could do but release the land.
Ms Nodada said it was a pity that there were jobs that were going to be lost in the forestry area. The costs incurred were related to deforestation, as the trees were nearing maturity and could have been used by saw millers in the area for secondary processing. The money would not have directly impacted the DFFE, but would have impacted the economy. The land had been scheduled to go into forestry production under the DFFE’s master plan by entering into lease agreements with the industry. The industries would have managed the area, put it back into production and contributed to the DFFE’s revenue through rentals.
Minister Creecy said she was disappointed that this land would not be appropriate for future forestry cultivation. There was tremendous international demand for South African forestry fibre. The DFFE would therefore not implement the master plan at Knoflokskraal that would have benefited the community, industry and the Department. However, the DFFE intended to continue implementing the master plan in other areas.
The acting Chairperson thanked everyone for attending the meeting.
The meeting was adjourned.
Download as PDF
You can download this page as a PDF using your browser's print functionality. Click on the "Print" button below and select the "PDF" option under destinations/printers.
See detailed instructions for your browser here.