SPLUMA implementation and challenges: DALRRD & SALGA briefing

Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development

05 March 2024
Chairperson: Mr Nkosi Z Mandela (ANC)
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Meeting Summary


The Committee met virtually to be briefed by the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (DALRRD) on the framework and implementation of the Spatial Planning and Land Use Management Act (SPLUMA), SPLUMA implementation challenges and pathways to a better spatial planning and land use management in South Africa. The Department gave a brief chronology of events from pre-1994 until February 2024. It indicated that some of the focuses on the implementation of the SPLUMA were on the development, customisation, and gazetting of SPLUMA-compliant municipal bylaws, the establishment of Municipal Planning Tribunals, and the development of the National Spatial Development Framework. Regarding the National Spatial Development Framework, 87% of municipalities were found to be compliant with Land Use Schemes, 51% were compliant with Spatial Development Frameworks and 96% of municipalities had established Municipal Planning Tribunals. Some shortcomings in the Act were identified, and the Department commenced reviewing the Act and the Regulations. Several mentioned challenges to the implementation of SPLUMA were the lack of capacity at the local government level, and the lack of urgency to prioritise spatial planning and land use management issues. The funding of Land Use Schemes, Spatial Development Frameworks, and human resources for implementation was still a challenge as was the instability in Land Use Regulator formation and the funding of sittings. Other challenges were the amalgamation of some municipalities, the resistance by traditional institutions to implement SPLUMA, and legal challenges.

South African Local Government Association (SALGA) spoke to the need to empower municipalities to promote spatial inclusion and related economic transformation. The entity shared the key highlights of the findings of the SALGA Spatial Transformation Barometer Report. It reflected on spatial planning, land use management actions and outcomes, how SPLUMA impacted progress in spatial transformation and improved land use management in the municipal domain, and the challenges it faced and how these had been addressed. It reflected on intergovernmental cooperation and coordination towards improving spatial planning and land use management and proposed solutions to the existing challenges and recommendations to attain the desired spatial transformation.

Meeting report

Opening remarks

The Chairperson indicated that the Spatial Planning and Land Use Management Act (SPLUMA) contained the mandate to compile a National Spatial Development Framework (NSDF). He spoke to what SPLUMA called for and to the three challenges which are poverty, unemployment, and inequality which were firmly rooted in apartheid-era practices, policies, and legislation that discriminated against blacks in general. As such, there was, therefore, a need to create spatially inclusive societies which could make a difference. He stated that land use planning was the subject of much debate and controversy, with the constitutional court declaring that planning was an exclusive municipal function. Thus, SPLUMA was made law to address the legacy of spatial injustice. He mentioned that the presentations by the Department and the SA Local Government Association (SALGA) would allow Members to assess progress made by the government on breaking the apartheid legacy of spatial inequality.

Department Briefing

Mr Rajesh Makan, Chief Director: Spatial Planning and Information, DALRRD, gave a brief chronology of events from pre-1994 until February 2024 and said that SPLUMA came into operation in July 2015. Some of the focuses on the implementation of the SPLUMA were on developing, customising, and gazetting SPLUMA-compliant municipal bylaws, establishing Municipal Planning Tribunals, and developing the National Spatial Development Framework.

He then spoke about the changes introduced by SPLUMA and gave an overview of the powers and functions framework. He mentioned that all municipalities adopted and gazetted Spatial Planning and Land Use Management bylaws. In terms of the National Spatial Development Framework, 87% of municipalities were compliant with Land Use Schemes, 51% were compliant with Spatial Development Frameworks and 96% of municipalities had established Municipal Planning Tribunals.

He spoke on how the Department was addressing non-compliance. Some ‘shortcomings/uncertainties’ were identified in both the Act and the Regulations and the Department had commenced the review and/or amendments of both the Act and the Regulations to amend several things. These are:

  • Definitions
  • To provide clarity on constitutional matters.
  • To ensure practical application of the sections, provisions, and clauses.
  • To improve the involvement and participation of traditional and Khoi-San leaders in spatial planning and land use management aspects and align with other related acts having an impact on spatial planning, land use, and land development.

He spoke to the NSDF, its mandate, and to the SPLUMA implementation support provided by the Department. The challenges to the implementation of SPLUMA were the lack of capacity at the local government level and, in some cases, the lack of urgency to prioritise spatial planning and land use management issues. The funding of Land Use Schemes, Spatial Development Frameworks, and human resources to implement it was still a challenge, as was the instability in land use regulator formation and funding of sittings. Other challenges were the amalgamation of some municipalities, the resistance by traditional institutions to implement SPLUMA, and legal challenges.

See attached for full presentation

SALGA Briefing

Mr Zanoxolo Futwa, Provincial Executive Officer (Free State Province), SALGA, gave a background and spoke to SALGA, identifying the need to enable municipalities to promote spatial inclusion and related economic transformation. He mentioned that SALGA recognised South Africa's history of social and economic disruptions underpinned by systematic spatial planning policies and programmes. These undesirable patterns of spatial development continued to produce inequitable access to services, economic opportunities, and development. These also contributed to the expanded growth of the inefficient development sprawl that discriminated against and taxed the poor in cities and towns, prevented the optimal use of available and limited land and economic development resources, and reproduced patterns of segregated spatial development that entrenched spatial inequality and divisions in society.

He stated that SALGA wanted to share with the Committee the key highlights of the Spatial Transformation Barometer Report findings and to reflect on spatial planning, land use management actions and outcomes, and how SPLUMA had impacted progress in spatial transformation and improved land use management in the municipal domain. In addition, the presentation touched on spatial planning and land use management challenges in municipalities and how these have been addressed. It also reflected on intergovernmental cooperation and coordination towards improving spatial planning and land use management, as well as proposed solutions to the existing challenges and recommendations to attain the desired spatial transformation. He then spoke to SALGA’s Spatial Transformation Barometer Report’s findings, which were:

  • Hunger for land, responses, and consequences.
  • Persistence of colonial/apartheid settlement patterns and forms.
  • Limited improvement in the quality of township and informal settlement life.
  • Limited positive economic transition/change in townships.
  • High levels of vulnerability to crime, and environmental and economic shocks.
  • Persisting challenges with access and mobility for townships and informal area residents.
  • Inadequate focus on spatial transformation as a priority area.
  • Lack of knowledge as to the meaning/definition of ‘Spatial Transformation’ and how it is to be accomplished in practice.
  • The status and shortages of professional planners and Geographic Information System (GIS) professionals, huge workloads, and a lack of ‘complete’ GIS systems.
  • Lack of funds, coupled with dire economic times for people and places.

He also spoke about the interventions SALGA had implemented in response to the key findings and the conditions necessary to effect spatial transformation schemes.

See attached for full presentation

The Chairperson noted that the Minister had left at 10.45 am to attend a Cabinet meeting.


Dr M Tlhape (ANC) asked whether the Department thought it was winning concerning the implementation of SPLUMA, as Inter-Governmental Relations (IGR) was the backbone of implementation and 36 municipalities were still having challenges. She asked what the concerns of traditional and Khoisan leaders on SPLUMA were and how much the Department spent on implementing SPLUMA.

She asked SALGA for their perspective on whether the objectives of SPLUMA had been achieved.

She inquired whether the local government was best placed to implement SPLUMA, and what the key issues were that SALGA wanted to be reviewed. She asked whether SALGA set targets to improve outcome indicators, and what steps needed to be taken to ensure municipalities implement SPLUMA.

Mr N Masipa (DA) asked how much funds were allocated to rural areas such as the former homelands and inquired why there were still bottlenecks caused by resistance from traditional leaders.

He asked which municipalities had signed Service Level Agreements (SLAs) with traditional leaders and whether the customary system of land allocation was still taken into account.

He asked what funding the Department allocated and how much money was being spent, as there was non-compliance on Land Use Schemes. In addition, he inquired about the support provided for compliance and what the Department had done to enable municipalities to implement their tasks.

Mr N Capa (ANC) sought clarity on the role of provincial governments and the linkages between provincial, national, and municipal governments on SPLUMA. He asked why only the Western Cape had been fully compliant regarding SPLUMA and what the trends in non-compliance were by the rest of the provinces.

He expressed concern that the Department could spend 20-30 years working on the Act and asked about the impact made by the Act as it appeared delinked from land reform. He added that his concern was that there were talks about legislation and not implementation.

He mentioned that SALGA had raised eight or nine issues, and highlighted that he would like to see proposed solutions to these challenges being offered.

Ms M Letlape (EFF) asked what the monitoring plan was and how were municipalities' implementation of the plan being monitored.

She inquired with the Department the extent to which it included traditional leaders, as one could not speak of land without including traditional leaders, as some of the land belonged to them.

She mentioned that there was the issue of municipalities not wanting to use traditional lands that belonged to traditional leaders and the issue of services not being made accessible for this type of land. She said the spatial transformation plan should have a monitoring aspect, not after five years, but continuous tracking to see whether municipalities were making improvements, and if not, there should be immediate interventions to ensure municipalities implemented SPLUMA.

She stated that SALGA indicators were interdependent and that the reason for many informal settlements moving to towns was because the government was unable to take transformation to where they stayed. She added that the influxes to towns were because there were no services in rural areas.

She asked the reasons why municipalities were not being supported. She stated that the Department needed to give a clear plan on how it would monitor municipalities and what immediate interventions would be in place to ensure the Act was implemented.

The Chairperson said SPLUMA was intended to ensure the efficient use of resources to facilitate development, prioritise previously excluded areas, and ensure improved IGR. He said SALGA’s Barometer Report suggested that apartheid settlement patterns persisted despite SPLUMA and spatial transformation was not a priority. He said that it appeared that compliance with the legislation was not yielding the anticipated results.

Regarding the support and monitoring of municipalities, he said SPLUMA allowed for the differentiation of municipalities. He asked if there was any categorisation of the 257 municipalities and inquired about the criteria used and how they helped achieve the required outcomes.

Concerning Section 36 of SPLUMA, he mentioned that municipal councillors were not allowed to be part of the Municipal Planning Tribunals (MPT). He indicated that planning showed increased intertwining between politicians and planners and that politicians' influence had increased over the past decade. He then asked how MPTs operated.

He said he wanted to better understand ‘informality’ and the inclusion of rural areas in the Land Use Management processes.

He highlighted that on the challenge of traditional leadership, there was a perception that SPLUMA was taking over what was their responsibilities. He asked how SALGA and the Department intervened to address the concerns of traditional leaders.

He noted that SPLUMA provided for Land Use Schemes to develop and manage all areas. For the period between 2015 and 2023, he inquired about the changes the Department and SALGA had seen regarding spatial plans and land use in rural areas under traditional leadership.

He said norms and standards signed by the Minister provided for SLAs between the Minister and traditional authorities to facilitate partnerships. He asked if traditional councils could be granted land planning and land use powers in terms of the SLA, contrary to the Act and the constitution.

He mentioned that SPLUMA specifically stated that traditional councils would not have decision-making powers regarding land planning and land use, but gave space for traditional leaders to get some powers and functions under an SLA.

He spoke to the Department noting that the National Assembly had passed the Preservation and Development of Agricultural Land Bill. In discussions on the Bill, it was clear that SPLUMA had to be taken into account in its deliberations. He asked if there were any engagements with the branch dealing with this Bill and what were the implications of the Bill for SPLUMA and the Department’s work.


On the issues relating to IGR, Mr Clinton Heimann, Deputy Director-General: Spatial Planning and Land Use Management (SPLUM), DALRRD, said the Department did provide national and provincial support to bring up issues related to planning in municipalities and to help resolve these issues.

Whether the Department was winning in the implementation of SPLUMA, he said SPLUMA was being implemented to an acceptable level in 80 percent of municipalities. The key was the Spatial Development Frameworks and Land Use Management which were compulsory to develop and municipalities had to refer to the principles in the Act.

Regarding whether the Department had a top-down approach, Mr Heiman said the DALRRD had always taken a bottom-up approach for SPLUMA and provincial SPLUMA officers would get requests to support municipalities financially. He mentioned that the Department did not do the work itself, it would appoint consultants to do Spatial Development Frameworks or Land Use Schemes.

Addressing the question of what funding the Department allocated and how much money was being spent, he said that Spatial Development Frameworks and Land Use Schemes were done through open bids. Recently, due to greater competition, the prices of bids have come down.

Mr Heimann, on whether a review had been done, said that there had not been a review done by the Department of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation (DPME). He said the framework had been adopted and the challenge was on implementation. He commended SALGA’s work on the barometer which indicated how well SPLUMA had been implemented over the past ten years.

On the roles of provincial governments, he said that provinces could get involved in matters of provincial interest such as remedial measures, due to a failure of municipalities to comply with obligations related to SPLUMA. He mentioned that a provincial development framework could assist municipalities in Land Use Schemes and management by offering facilitation and coordination services.

With regards to the plans in place to work with traditional leaders, he said municipalities had Spatial Development Frameworks within which were the traditional areas where some outer boundaries were not known. The Department was working with the National House of Traditional and Khoisan Leaders (NHTL) to come up with a methodology to deal with land use planning and management in the traditional areas which looked at skills development, rights, flooding areas, climate-related issues, and environmental issues. He added that the plan needed to take into account everybody’s views.

Responding to whether the Department was winning, Mr Makan said the Department was winning. He stated that the DALRRD had worked through the IGR mechanisms and had struggled in the first two years, but the system was starting to mature and there were still a few challenges at the municipality level. The Department, together with SALGA, was trying to get the message across to municipalities on the importance of SPLUMA and the value it brings to the business of the municipalities, such as attracting investment and generating rates and revenue for the municipalities.

Regarding the issue of traditional leaders, he said the real concern was that traditional leaders felt excluded from the spatial planning land use management processes of municipalities. He added that the problem was complex and that one solution was to ensure that traditional leaders had opportunities to provide input into decision-making of municipalities.

On issues raised by the Chairperson, Mr Makan said the DALRRD was navigating through the constitutional court’s decision on the restriction of powers of traditional leaders and national government in terms of municipal planning. In some parts of the country, traditional leaders had an input.

Addressing the question on estimates and spending, he said that the Department did not only support municipalities but also provinces, where it assisted in the development of draft provincial legislation.

Regarding the question on comprehensive reviews on the implementation of SPLUMA, he said the DALRRD had done a five-year review and was planning to do a comprehensive ten-year review in the new financial year. The review would include quantitative aspects to see if transformation was taking place.

Highlighting Mr Capa’s question, Mr Makan mentioned that the provincial government had a role to play in developing a provincial development framework and monitoring and support functions. He stated that five provinces had bills and that the Eastern Cape and the KwaZulu-Natal were still in the process of getting provincial legislation, while Gauteng felt they did not need provincial legislation as they had three big metro areas.

Addressing the concerns around land use management, he said that was where the Department’s hands were tied and it remained a municipal competency.

On questions raised by Ms Letlape, he said the Department was monitoring the implementation of SPLUMA on a quarterly basis and that the issue of traditional leaders was an area the DALRRD was focusing on.

In answering the question of ensuring planning, he said that when municipalities passed the Spatial Development Framework, in essence, they developed longer-term plans of 20-30 years. The Department now wanted to assess the impact of the planning on spatial transformation.

Regarding spatial transformation, Mr Makan said there had not been a recently passed National Spatial Transformation Framework and added that the National Science and Technology Forum (NSTF) identified 13 spaces in the country that required interventions. To deal with spatial transformation issues, SALGA was having important discussions with the Department of Human Settlements on the role of housing provision in spatial transformation.

Addressing the question on Section 11 and municipalities differentiation, he said that the municipalities the Department was supporting were those that were in need and Section 11 allowed this support.

In Section 36, Mr Makan mentioned that there had been two legal matters in the clause and that the intent was to leave the decision-making to technical people in the municipal planning tribunal. He added that this was working well across the country.

Mr Makan said that on restrictions around the constitutional framework and the powers of traditional leaders, the SLA was to ensure that traditional leaders were included.

Concerning the relationship between the Preservation and Development of Agricultural Land Framework (PDALF) and SPLUMA, he said the Department was working closely and engaging with colleagues on the development of the PDALF. He said PDALF was legislation on a national competency, so the Minister had powers while the SPLUMA and decision making on the Land Development Act was with municipalities. If municipalities wanted to subdivide agricultural land, then municipalities would need approval from the Minister. Municipalities would consider the outcome of the application as it processed the subdivision application.

Mr George Masegela, Chairperson: Development Planning and Rural Development Working Group, SALGA, said SALGA was happy that SPLUMs strengthened local government powers for direct planning and that some municipalities were pushing SPLUMA’s implementation agenda under very difficult circumstances.

Regarding the enforcement capacity in direct development, he said development was currently dictated by businesses and by people locating to places where they should not. He added that capacity and skills needed to be strengthened.

Regarding the misalignment of instruments such as municipal plans with those of other spheres of government, he said it needed to be addressed.

Addressing the concerns on the confusion regarding the position of traditional leaders, he hoped that the memorandum of understanding (MOU) signed would help clarify concerns.

Answering the question of whether the entity was winning, Mr Seana Nkhahle, Director: Knowledge Management and Stakeholder Relations (Infrastructure Delivery, Spatial Transformation and Sustainability), SALGA, said it was a slow and complex win. He mentioned that one of the most stubborn legacies was separate development enforced by intentional and fragmented laws and that currently, there was one system to regulate development. He highlighted that dismantling separate development was a significant milestone and that after the law was passed, systems and mechanisms were put in place to enable the driving of SPLUMA. Currently, the bulk of municipalities meet the minimum requirements.

On the question of whether the objectives have been met, he said the objectives of spatial justice, integration, and transformation would take a while to be achieved. He mentioned that this would be a long process that needs to be monitored.

In supporting municipalities, he said that SALGA’s enforcement capacity needed to be looked at when people transgressed by building on flood plains where they should not be. Mr Nkhahle addressed the question on the alignment of instruments and said people built on flood plains and afterward, municipalities were forced to remove them and other legislation then required municipalities to fund the relocation of these people while the municipalities did not have funds for such. He added that all the different instruments needed to be aligned.

Mr Nkhahle, while addressing the role of DPME in monitoring SPLUMA, said that this was an issue that could continue to be reflected on. In SALGA’s monitoring, specific issues that individual municipalities were grappling with were identified, allowing SALGA to target specific municipalities with their specific concerns. He indicated that others had been assisted by the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA) or the Department.

On whether SPLUMA’s objectives had been met, Mr Futwa said this had not yet happened as indicated in the barometer report and suggestions had been made that there needed to be a reorientation of the municipal spatial development framework to take into account these issues in the next cycle. This was also to strengthen the management of spatial transformation at the municipal institutional level. He added that SPLUMA is an instrument and a helpful guide to achieving this.

He indicated that there was improved coherence in how municipal support on SPLUMA was being implemented because of changes by SALGA and that the Department was sitting in on municipal planning sessions.

Regarding IGR, he said there was a concern around operational difficulties, which meant that sittings on land reform were not to the level SALGA would have wanted it to be, as several land reforms were not processed and meetings were missed.

He highlighted that the involvement of traditional leaders was not at an optimal level and that this was an area identified as needing intervention to strengthen it by including clear clauses that support deliberate IGR inputs in decision-making on land development matters as part of the SPLUMA amendment processes.

Regarding traditional leaders' concerns, he said certain clauses in the regulations amplified their concerns over being excluded or not being able to participate and make a contribution. He said one of the revisions of the SPLUMA regulations was the revision of the strengthening of land use schemes to ensure that there was intentional spatial transformation. The second one was the development of support tools that were put together and extended to municipalities. Both were to address informal developments that did not abide by SPLUMA’s planned land use schemes directives. The third one was the inclusion of spatial transformation indicators in municipal planning and budget processes to ensure clear intent on service delivery, especially in rural areas. Lastly, a framework must be implemented to implement effective contracting.

Regarding the impact of the decision on the approval of the amendments to the Agricultural Act of 1970, he said he had noted the Chairperson’s advice and that SALGA had already started operational processes to deal with it. There needed to be a clear alignment between the authorisation and management of the interface between the provisions created under the Amended Act and SPLUMA, as it related to land use management because there was a potential risk of the roles created in the two legislations if it was not managed.

The Chairperson thanked the Ministry, Department and SALGA for sharing their input and appearing before the Committee. He thanked Members for robustly participating in the session. He thanked the staff for supporting the Committee in the background.

[The meeting was adjourned.]

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