Follow-up engagement on land invasions at “Knoflokskraal” site in the Grabouw plantation; with Ministry
Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment
07 March 2023
Chairperson: Mr P Modise (ANC)
The Committee was briefed on the unlawful occupation of land at Knoflokskraal by the South African Human Rights Commission, the Department of Public Works and Infrastructure (DPWI), the South African Police Services (SAPS), the Department of Forestry Fisheries and the Environment (DFFE), the Theewaterskloof Municipality and the Knoflokskraal Royal Authority.
Members were told that the land was owned by the DPWI. It was being used by the DFFE for a forestry project until it was occupied in December 2020. The total number of occupants was between 3 000 and 4 000 people and no services were provided.
The right to basic services was acknowledged, but the unlawful occupation of land could not be condoned. A number of meetings involving all stakeholders had been held and processes to assist the community were being discussed.
The DFFE was in the process of returning the land to the DPWI. Attempts were made to contain the number of people occupying the land and the outcome of a court application was awaited to make a final determination of the way forward.
The Theewaterskloof Municipality said it was reluctant to take over the land as they did not have the financial means to provide services or even maintain services in future.
The Committee decided to forward a report on the matter to the portfolio committees which provided oversight over local government and the DPWI.
SAHRC briefing: KnoflokskraalKhoi and San community in Grabouw
Mr Jonas Sibanyoni, Commissioner, SA Human Rights Commission (SAHRC), outlined the background and history of the situation at Knoflokskraal.
Mr Chris Nissen, SAHRC Commissioner, told the Committee that the SAHRC did not condone illegal land occupation. However, they acknowledged the right to access to land. He said the community of Knoflokskraal had endured a lot.
Ms A Weber (DA) asked what the SAHRC’s decision about the situation was.
Ms S Mbatha (ANC) asked if the SAHRC condoned the occupation of this land. If that was the case she agreed. After the finalisation of the court case, the community must receive services.
Mr N Paulsen (EFF) asked why Commissioner Nissen was against the land occupation. He also asked why services were not provided as government was in contravention of the Constitution. He said that the current Land Act was against human rights.
Mr D Bryant (DA) asked if there had been a response to a letter to Minister Patricia de Lille and the DPWI that was alluded to in the presentation.
Mr M Dlamini (ANC) asked if the SAHRC had any statistics on flooding of illegally occupied land.
Ms H Winkler (DA) said land restitution was important, but people must stick to the law to avoid chaos. She wanted to know the progress of the process embarked on by the SAHRC.
Ms S Graham-Mare (DA) asked what the cost of the Knoflokskraal project was and whether it was affordable. She asked if the DPWI would support the Theewaterskloof Municipality if it could not afford to supply the community with services, or how they foresaw resourcing the community.
Commissioner Nissen said numerous issues affected the community, including access to schools and transport for children. He said that many municipalities did not have pro-poor infrastructure development programmes. He said that processes had to be followed. There was a need to look at the rights of all people and land rights and needs must be respected. The government should provide services at a legal level.
Mr Matthew du Plessis, Acting Provincial Manager, SAHRC, told the Committee that the correct legal terminology for this land occupation was unlawful and not illegal. A specific outcome was required and services could be provided to people that occupied land unlawfully. He was of the opinion that all parties were seeking the same outcome, but there was no plan on the table about how to achieve that outcome. A formal mediation process was necessary and the SAHRC was awaiting a response from the Minister and department on their proposal. The SAHRC was prepared to mediate the situation.
Mr Bryant again asked if the DPWI had responded to the correspondence from the SAHRC.
The Chairperson asked the SAHRC to explain the difference between the Indigenous First Nation of South Africa and the Aborigines of South Africa.
Commissioner Nissen emphasised that the Commission could not condone any unlawful action as their role was to ensure peace and stability. He indicated the province was not equipped to make determinations as they had not been to the area.
The Chairperson said he was disappointed with the SAHRC presentation which he said was incoherent and had numerous contradictions. He requested the commission to coordinate and return with a comprehensive presentation.
DPWI briefing: Grabouw land invasion
Ms Penny Penxa, Western Cape Regional Manager, DPWI, provided an update on work done since October 2022. The Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment (DFFE) was in the process of relinquishing the land to the DPWI. The DPWI was continuously engaging all stakeholders in trying to find lasting solutions.
On 17 August 2022, a meeting was held in terms of the Joint District and Metropolitan Approach (JDMA) development model. The JDMA comprised national, provincial and local governments. The JDMA resolved to form the Grabouw Land Invasion Steering Committee. The steering committee held its first meeting on 3 October 2022 and it was followed by meetings in November and December 2022. The steering committee received proposals from the United Knoflokskraal Khoi Council (UKKC) and Knoflokskraal Royal Authority (KRA).
An oversight visit by the Portfolio Committee along with the DPWI, the provincial SA Police Service (SAPS) and community leadership, took place on 25 November. The DPWI received assistance from Infrastructure South Africa (ISA) to drive social facilitation among stakeholders and conceptualise a site development plan. Social facilitators were briefed and an in-loco inspection was conducted on 27 January 2023. On 6 February 2023, the Social Development Facilitation Team had a series of one-on-one meetings with the DFFE, the Theewaterskloof (TWK) Municipality, the KRA, neighbouring farmers, the Grabouw Development Authority and the UKKC.
In the first half of March, there would be another round of one-on-one meetings with TWK political leadership, the SAPS, rate payers, the roads agency -SANRAL- and the Department of Education. The engagement with the SAPS would seek to establish a functional community policing forum (CPF). The CPF would work closely with the appointed security providers to design an access control system. A broader meeting was scheduled for mid-March to elect community representatives to the Grabouw Land Invasion Steering Committee. The social facilitation process was to be concluded by the end of April 2023. A final report would be submitted to the three spheres of government by the end of May 2023.
An all-inclusive site development plan would then be developed. It would be presented to the relevant spheres of government for approval and to ascertain the possibility of funding and partnerships. The regional DPWI would provide waste management services by appointing 30 people from the community under the Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP). The TWK municipality should provide water and portable toilets.
Ms Weber raised her concern about the amount of money used to “legalise” the unlawful occupation of land while the court case was still ongoing. What would the departments do if the court outcome was that people may not stay there? She requested a breakdown of money already spent. She also asked, as it was mentioned that a meeting was held with ratepayers, if it had been determined how many of the occupants would pay rates and taxes.
Ms Graham-Mare said that in response to parliamentary questions, Minister de Lille had indicated that there were around 3 000 people at Knoflokskraal and that security was provided to stop new structures from being erected. This number had now increased to around 4 000. It was a concern, as a lot of money was spent on access control and it seemed to be unsuccessful. She asked if the department had looked at an all-inclusive development plan with housing development. She asked who was responsible for waste management in the area.
Ms Mbathha commended the Department for its efforts to resolve the matter. She asked what it would cost to render services to the area and what the loss of income was due to the destruction of the forest.
Ms Penxa said she would provide a financial breakdown with cost drivers to the Committee. She said it was very difficult to pre-empt the outcome of the development plan. They consulted with several stakeholders, including the Grabouw Development Agency, to establish an all-inclusive plan.
She requested that the DFFE respond on the future plans for the plantation as the people were currently harvesting the forests.
SAPS Briefing: Organised Land Invasion at “Knoflokskraal”
The Committee heard that the SAPS received the first report about the unlawful occupation of land in 2020. The Sheriff of the Court and security personnel were appointed to demolish half-erected structures. A containment order was granted directing that no evictions could be executed, nor were persons other than the current occupants allowed to erect structures.
The SAPS deployed daily visible policing in the area. Public order policing was deployed in the event of public violence and service delivery protests. Multidisciplinary stakeholder meetings were held, involving the SAPS, the DFFE and the DPWI. Public engagement with community leaders and the Human Rights Commissioner took place and weekly provincial meetings were held to address spontaneous and planned service delivery protests, including land invasion. Assistance was provided to the Sheriff to implement court orders. The cost to date to the SAPS was R703 691
The area from where complaints emanated was Knoflokskraal which was identified as Erf 335. The High Court order related to Erf 336 and Erf 445 only, and therefore enforcement of the order excluded Knoflokskraal.
A list of persons and plots occupied on Erf 336 and Erf 445 as surveyed by the Sheriff of the Court was provided. The erection of appropriate fencing and signage prohibiting the entrance to the property should be implemented as it was a factor in the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) decision to prosecute offenders for trespassing. It needed to be noted that in May 2021, when the Sheriff, supported by SAPS, attempted to demolish and remove uncompleted structures, they were stopped by the DPWI.
Ms Graham-Mare asked if additional fencing and signage were needed to ensure the clear demarcation of the area or whether the current demarcation was sufficient.
Ms Penxa indicated that signage was originally erected and they had considered fencing the areas, but it was economically not viable to put up fencing as it would be removed.
Ms Barbara Creecy, Minister of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment, briefed the committee on the progress of handing the land back to the DPWI.
Ms Pumeza Nodada, Deputy Director-General: Forestry Management, said the DFFE was responsible for the direct management of about 24 000 ha in the Western Cape. The plan was to retain these areas for forestry production in line with the Commercial Forestry Masterplan. The masterplan was negatively affected when people occupied Knoflokskraal for residential purposes.
The DFFE, as the user department, reported the matter to the DPWI which was the owner of the property. The DFFE also reported the matter to the Committee, recommending the release of the estimated 2 000 ha of occupied land back to the DPWI.
The DFFE initiated the process to release the land back to the DPWI. This process was anticipated to be completed by the end of March 2023.
Ms Weber asked how much money was lost by the department not being able to continue with forestry. How much forestry land was lost and had the department found other land to continue with their forestry project?
Ms Nodada said that the intention of this project was to enter into owner-grower relationships and for workers to make a long term living. The department would not acquire new land and the project would be terminated. She undertook to provide the Committee with details in writing of the financial implications.
TWK Municipality briefing
Mr Derick Appel, Speaker of Theewaterskloof Municipality, told the Committee that the Deputy Mayor made promises to the community about service delivery when he had no authority to do so as the matter was never discussed and decided on by the council.
The municipality had had numerous meetings with service providers, but the municipality could not take over the land without money to provide the services. They did understand that basic services for all were needed but the council did not have the money to provide this. They would enter into a discussion with the new Minister of Public Works.
It was difficult to provide even provisional services, portable toilets and water tankers, due to the budget constraints within the municipality.
Ms Weber asked for clarity about the provision of potable water and sanitation as the DPWI had indicated that this was provided. She agreed that the local government could not provide services if it was not their land. That should be the responsibility of the national department.
Ms Mbatha asked what the solution was if the municipality did not have the money to provide services.
The Chairperson said he was concerned about contradictions in the presentations by the different entities involved. The matter should be addressed urgently.
Cllr Appel emphasised that they wanted to be part of the solution to the problem but the municipality did have the money currently or in their budget to provide any services.
Knoflokskraal Royal Authority briefing
Traditional leader Queen Fazlin van der Schyff, presenting on behalf of the KRA, said that the community was tired as this process had taken a very long time. She said it was known that Knoflokskraal had been reclaimed as ancestral land. On 14 September 2022, all leaders were called to a unity meeting on a sacred piece of land called a kraal. A unity council was established which consisted of all formations, royal houses and organisations.
The intent of the unity council was to serve as an interim body for six months to create cohesion and eventually formalise a traditional authority. All formations were invited to a bosberaad, which lasted a month, to continue unity talks and organise themselves to govern Knoflokskraal. The KRA consisted of royal houses, the bloodlines of various tribes and reclaimers of the land who were serving as respondents in the High Court case. All other groups were acknowledged by the KRA.
The aim of the KRA was to focus on multi-sectoral programmes in the area. The main aim was to empower indigent communities to fight the scourge of poverty. They wanted to provide training and development specifically to promote the Khoi and San cultures and to support projects developed and implemented by indigenous women and youth organisations.
They aimed to provide nutrition to school children by teaching them about the soil and the value of a changed lifestyle. This would create a greater income for growers and bring some poverty alleviation. It would pass on indigenous knowledge and provide food and nutrition security. They wanted to work towards the economic and social wellbeing of the community which would lead to environmental sustainability.
She requested that future delegations to meetings should include brown people who would understand their needs and culture.
Ms Weber asked what legal processes were followed prior to the occupation of the land in December 2020.
Ms van der Schyff indicated that no legal processes were followed and they only took guidance from legislation.
The Chairperson said that the role of the Committee was to provide oversight over the DFFE. He proposed that the Committee compile a report on the matter and refer the matter to the portfolio committees that provided oversight over local government and the DPWI. The Committee supported the proposal.
All other matters were deferred to future meetings.
The meeting was adjourned.
Modise, Mr PMP
Bryant, Mr D W
Creecy, Ms B
Dlamini, Mr M
Gantsho, Ms N
Graham, Ms SJ
Mbatha, Ms SGN
Paulsen, Mr N M
Singh, Mr N
Sotyu, Ms MM
Weber, Ms AMM
Winkler, Ms HS
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