A summary of this committee meeting is not yet available.
LAND AND ENVIRONMENTAL AFFAIRS SELECT COMMITTEE
4 April 2005
DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE AND DEPARTMENT OF LAND AFFAIRS STRATEGIC PLAN AND BUDGET
Documents handed out:
Department of Agriculture presentation
Department of Land Affairs presentation
Commission on Restitution of Land Rights: National Implementation Plan: Restitution High Drive 2008
Commission on Restitution of Land Rights: National Implementation Plan: Executive Summary
Cumulative Statistics on Settled Restitution Claims 1995 - 28 February 2005
Commission on Restitution of Land Rights Powerpoint presentation (not presented)
2005 Strategic Plan for the Department of Land Affairs
2005 Strategic Plan for the Department of Agriculture
The Committee was briefed by the Departments of Agriculture and Land Affairs on their budgets and strategic plans. Focus areas were on Black Economic Empowerment, the Micro Loan Agriculture Financing Scheme and the Livestock Development Programme. Challenges facing the Department included the need to fill the vacant posts in the Department. Members asked questions about fast-tracking the development of aquaculture, the number of vacant posts in the Department and the development of co-operatives.
The Department of Land Affairs had its focus on land redistribution and accelerating land restitution. The Department had been working with municipalities on Sustainable Rural Development and the Urban Renewal Programme. Members concerns included skills development for land reform beneficiaries, the slow pace of land reform and the high price of land which had hindered the restitution process.
Department of Agriculture Briefing
Dr S Moephuli, Assistant Director-General, Department of Agriculture, noted the challenges of eradicating inequity within the agricultural sector and ensuring food security for the whole country. He outlined the key performance areas for 2005/6 within its nine programmes and what targets had been set with reference to Agri-Black Economic Empowerment (Agri-BEE), the Micro Agriculture Financing System Loan (MAFISA), the Livestock Development Programme and its agricultural advisory services. The Department was faced with staff shortages. Out of a staff component of 3000 posts, 25% of the posts were yet to be filled, especially the disabled component. Candidates had been interviewed for some of the vacant posts but the right candidates had not been found. Sometimes the candidates would decline the posts because they were not satisfied with the salaries. Some statistics that were quoted in the presentation noted that according to Statistics South Africa, the agricultural contribution to the GDP was 3,1% and its share of the labour force had declined from 1,4 million to 940 000 people in the formal employment sector (see document).
Ms B Dlulane (ANC) asked why the Department had too many people who were "acting instead of filling" the vacant posts. She asked for clarification on Mafisa - what was it all about and how did the department monitor allocation to provinces? She enquired what was aquaculture and whose responsibility was it and what were the department's plans on utilising bore holes.
Dr Moephuli replied that the Department had allocated funds to provinces but the provinces had to spend their allocations according to the guidelines stipulated by the national Department. On vacant posts, he said that the department had lost two Directors who had passed away. The Department had also advertised for posts but some candidates had declined, because the private sector would usually offer better salary packages than the public service. Other skilled personnel had been offered better positions by other departments. Some vacancies came as a result of restructuring within the Department.
Ms Malatjie Acting Assistant Director General: Farmer Support, replied that Mafisa was a financial loan scheme that was administered by the department, in conjunction with financial institutions such as the Land Bank, which was intended for emerging farmers.
On the issue of bore holes, Dr S Mkhize, Director: Resource Planning and Use, replied that the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry allocated water to various sectors and developed infrastructure for bulk water services outside the farms. The Department Agriculture would then develop infrastructure inside the farms particularly for small-scale farmers. Bore holes were drilled by the Department of Agriculture for poor communities to ensure food security rather than for domestic consumption.
Mr N Mack (ANC) enquired about the assistance that the Department had given to emerging farmers. He asked about its working relationship with other departments such as Water affairs and Forestry and Land Affairs. He also enquired about what had been done to monitor the development of land reform beneficiaries to ensure that they survived and prospered. America, Japan and European Union had been subsidising their farmers to the detriment of farmers from developing countries. What was the Department doing to help South African farmers?
Ms G Van Dyk, Senior Manager: International Trade, Research and Strategy, said that the Department was aware of the problems caused by subsidies. South Africa was engaged in multilateral negotiations at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) urging developed countries to reduce the subsidies in order to make trade more equal. South Africa was also involved in bilateral negotiations for substantial reduction in the subsidies on agricultural products.
Mr S Malatjie, Acting Assistant Director General: Farmer Support, replied that the department had a database of land reform beneficiaries, which was compiled with the help of the Department of Land Affairs. The Department of Land Affairs would provide funding for the acquisition of land and the Department would provide infrastructure support for beneficiaries.
Ms Shokane, Senior Manager, Programme Planning, replied that the Department was part of an inter governmental fiscal review process with its provincial departments. The Department would usually plan together with the provincial departments of Agriculture and public entities such as the Land Bank and Land Claims Commission. The purpose would be to identify cost drivers and spending pressures that affected all the role players. They would then identify who needed what before submitting figures to National Treasury. Working relations with other departments was done through clusters such as the International Relations, Peace and Security cluster of which the Department was a member. Then there was the Economic cluster and the Social cluster where the Department was also a member. The permanent Trade Forum involved directorates from the different government departments for interdepartmental planning at national level
The Department was asked what it had done to ensure that emerging farmers would not fritter the money it received on buying recreational 4x4 vehicles. Further, what had been done to promote the development of co-operatives?
Ms Malatjie replied that the Department had guidelines and policy which stipulated that money allocated to emerging farmers could only be spent on what it was intended for. The Registry of Co-operatives, situated in the Department of Trade and Industry, was responsible for the registration of co-operatives. The Department would still be responsible for the development and capacity-building of farmers who were part of the co-operatives.
Mr Tau (ANC) enquired about the role of the Department in Agri-BEE
Ms Malatjie noted that the Department had been involved in drawing up an Agri-Bee Charter and a score card for monitoring purposes. The document had been made available to players for comment and would be forwarded to the Minister at a later stage. R50 million had been set aside to facilitate BEE within the sector.
The Chairperson enquired about the involvement of the Department in aquaculture. If there was policy regarding the matter why had the Committee not been informed about it? Members had seen the role played by aquaculture on their provincial visits and the role it could play in poverty eradication. He suggested that the Department should submit quarterly reports to facilitate timely information flow rather than just before the budget vote. He enquired about causes of the rollovers.
Dr Moephuli replied that the Department had appointed an individual to co-ordinate aquaculture development and revival, in places where it existed before. Inland fisheries had existed before and some of them were successful while some were not, for a number of reasons. The Department would find means of reviving those that had collapsed. A study had been done by the Departments of Water Affairs, Environment and Agriculture on aquaculture and the policy document would be made available to the Committee soon.
Mr Geldenhuys, Chief Financial Officer, replied that rollovers had resulted from the vacancies and resignations.
Mr Tau commented that the country could not leave capacity-building of emerging farmers and co-operatives to legislation alone.
Department of Land Affairs Briefing
Mr G Thomas, Acting Director General, Department of Land Affairs, noted that their strategic plan focused on redistribution, restitution, tenure reform, deeds registration, surveying, spatial planning and information. He provided the strategic context for this plan, noting that it was guided by the Millennium Development Goals, NEPAD, the Southern African Development Community and the national Vision 2014. He provided figures on land reform and restitution that had taken place since 1994 and on the total amount of land that had to be delivered as well as the status of state land management. Targets were provided for each of its programmes. He then outlined the challenges faced in meeting these targets (see document). In addition Mr Thomas said South Africa was working with Rwanda and Sudan in a post conflict land restituion process.
The Department was asked what it had done for land reform beneficiaries in developing their skills and how much was allocated for that task. Which functions did the Department devolve to local government?
Mr Thomas replied that the Department of Agriculture through the Comprehensive Agricultural Support Programme (CASP) would help beneficiaries with Skills Development. The Department had been providing capacity and human resources to local government and Department officials at that level for the past ten years. Municipalities were also assisted on land planning. Other functions that would be devolved to local government would depend on the capacity of municipalities to carry out those functions. The budget for those functions would depend on the discussions around local development programmes.
Ms S Choane, Chief Financial Officer, added that the Department was looking at finalising the skills audit to see which skills were needed and how much would be allocated.
Mr J Le Roux (DA) asked about the benchmarks for the Land Redistribution for Agricultural Development (LRAD). He enquired about state land that was not registered and what had been done about this. He also asked what the department had done to address the slow pace of land reform.
Mr Thomas replied that the Department of Agriculture would set the benchmarks relevant to LRAD because they would be implementing the programme. The Department of Land Affairs' responsibility was to transfer land to provincial Departments of Agriculture who in turn would support the beneficiaries. Provincial Departments were part of the planning committees that had to decide how much money would be allocated to CASP and other support services. He said that the question of state land was a very cumbersome issue, because that land belonged to the three tiers of government. State land cannot be registered if it had not been vested. Vesting meant the issuing of certificates that confirm the ownership. All provincial departments had to identify land that belonged to them and get certificates to confirm ownership of that land. That was the reason that some state land did not appear in the deeds registry. In order to solve the problem, the Department had asked Treasury for funds to address the issue. Most of the state land belonged to the Department of Public Works. On benchmarks for the land restitution process, the Department was in a process of finalising the monitoring and evaluation processes. The Department had used land reform indicators before and after agricultural land had been transferred.
Mr T Gwanya, Chief Land Claims Commissioner, replied that restitution was seen as a "ticking time bomb", but the department had now been allocated more resources. The Budget for restitution had been increased from R1.5 billion to R2.7 billion to accelerate the programme. Farmers were agitating to be paid higher prices while beneficiaries were in a hurry to get their land back. Problems in processing rural claims had also delayed the process. The Commissioner felt that the Department was doing its work and they were on target.
Mr Tau (ANC) asked for clarification on how much land would be redistributed from the 82 million hectares owned by white people.
Mr Thomas replied that 30% of the 82 million hectares was the targeted by the Department.
The Chairperson felt that the time bomb was ticking because land prices were going up and the landowners wanted to keep prices up. He asked how would the Department address the situation, would the government have enough money to buy the expensive land from commercial farms? He suggested the use of expropriation as a constitutionally viable alternative.
Mr Thomas said that landowners continued with farm evictions unabated. Land Affairs officials were sent to police colleges to train police on land reform and magistrates on land rights. Landowners did not care about the law of the land. He said some commercial farmers would raise the prices when they were selling to the Department. They saw an opportunity to be exploited and organised Agriculture instead were challenging the validity of the land claims. He felt that the only alternative left for the state was to move aggressively on Section 25 (property clause) in the Constitution. He said land reform was a public interest, the government had a right to expropriate property whether the buyer was willing or not. That right was not exercised because the Government was banking on the notion of nation building. The Department facilitated the transference of land to restitution beneficiaries and was not buying land for the benefit of the government. He felt that Agri-SA had to show consideration for the restitution process.
The Chairperson agreed that Government was banking on the notion of nation building. However those who owned land had realised they had the government in a tight corner. Some landowners were not co-operating deliberately because they wanted the prices to go higher and higher. South Africa had an expropriation clause but it had never been used before. Landowners who were not cooperating were pushing the Government to be aggressive on the land issue and use the "law muscle". The government had been patient enough in reconciling the need for land restitution with the needs of the commercial farmers. He compared the government to Christians who were willing to forgive over and over.
Mr Gwanya commented that some people might express impatience but what informed the Department's operations was the existing legislative and policy framework. The Department was merely outlining its challenges but he felt that remedies for these could be found. The high land prices were mostly to be found around Mpumalanga and Limpopo game parks and in the Western Cape winelands and along its coastline.
He was not a pessimist but an optimist and felt that solutions could be found in reconciling the government priority for equitable land ownership with economic growth and investment interests.
Mr J Le Roux (DA) said that the Free State Agricultural Union had a plan for land reform and he asked if the Department had seen it.
Mr Thomas replied that the Department had not seen the restitution plan.
The meeting was adjourned.
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