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LAND AND ENVIRONMENTAL AFFAIRS SELECT COMMITTEE
4 April 2000
BUDGET BRIEFINGS BY THE DEPARTMENT OF LAND AFFAIRS, THE DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE, AND THE DEPARTMENT OF WATER AND FORESTRY
Department of Land Affairs
The Department is still grappling with the issue of tenure reform in the former homelands. There is a draft bill, the Land Affairs General Amendment Bill1999, now under review, that will provide a consolidated and rationalised land administration system.
Members expressed dissatisfaction with the performance of the Commissioner in the Northern Province in the matter of settling restitution claims.
The Minister acknowledged that there had been problems, but pointed out that the term of office was drawing to a close and there would soon be a new Commissioner. There are some structural problems that need to be addressed, however:
- The location of the Commissioners' offices in Northern Province and Mpumalanga will be reviewed in terms of possibly relocating them closer to the rural areas.
- The administrative process for evaluating the performance of Commissioners will be reviewed.
- In some cases, two commissioners rather than one might be necessary.
- In the rural areas, data is lacking that is necessary in order to validate claims. There is a discussion going on with the communities in terms of approaches for how to handle this, for example, procedures for obtaining oral testimonies.
- Another problem is that many people have since relocated from the rural areas and this further prolongs the process.
The Minister affirmed her commitment to add services that would speed up the validation process and to focus more on rural than on urban claims.
Department of Agriculture
There have been no major shifts in the budget, since most of the expenditure takes place on the provincial level. The national role focuses mostly on policy and trade. However, the rollovers for services not yet delivered is down from 350% to 4%.
Current projects include developing a regulatory framework for GMO's, stimulating marketing environments in the former homelands, and research on capacity to support EU and SADC agreements. One area where more resources are needed is in the drive to get farmers to make agricultural statistical information more public, since this data is critical for planning.
In the discussion, the Minister was questioned about the rumour resulting from the Broadening Access Document. There is a feeling that the government is reluctant to assist emerging farmers in obtaining finance. The Minister explained that the problem has been in establishing credit worthiness, but that a programme is now in place that will help emerging farmers to gradually build up their credit so that they may eventually meet the collateral requirements of the banks.
Department of Water and Forestry
The presentation was divided into 3 parts: water resources, water services, and forestry.
There has been an increase in the budget around the implementation of the National Water Act. Supply in a given catchment area needs to be weighed against demand, and there may be a need for large expenditures on infrastructure in order to increase supply, e.g. by building dams. Policy continues to be developed for strategies for managing resources on a catchment basis rather than according to the old political boundaries.
At this point, there is considerable infrastructure but little operationality.
According to the Constitution, water services are supposed to be supplied by local governments, but the Department is dissatisfied with their performance of particularly in terms of sanitation. Water services are supposed to become self-financing, but there is very little revenue coming in. However, the Water Boards cannot be funded by anything except their own revenues. Mr. Muller, the Director General, feels that the old culture of local governments looking to the national government for financial support has not yet been broken. At this rate, the national budget for expenditures will soon become inappropriate, as there is no point in spending money on new schemes if they cannot become operational.
The goal is that the Water Boards become the servants of the local governments within 3-5 years.
The Department is divesting itself of the 160,000 ha of commercial plantations which it inherited in 1997. The land is about to be transferred to new investors, and there are negotiations around the labor that will not be absorbed. Because of this divestiture, the overall spending is going down, although there are increases in other directorates in the Department, such as Conservation.
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