Defence Land And Facility Maintenance: Department briefings

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Defence and Military Veterans

05 April 2005
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Meeting Summary

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Meeting report

5 April 2005


Chairperson: Professor K Asmal (ANC)

Documents handed out:

Department of Defence briefing: Land Reform Programme
Department of Defence briefing: Maintenance of state facilities
Department of Land Affairs PowerPoint presentation: Use of SANDF land
Department of Defence: Funds required in order to address deteriorating condition of facilities
Department of Defence: Photographic report on maintenance of facilities
Department of Public Works: Report on the funding of maintenance of infrastructure
[email for these documents]

The Department of Defence briefed the Committee on its land management policy, particularly as it pertained to disposal. The Department of Land Affairs then presented on ownership of state land and the need for closer co-operation between the Departments of Defence, Land Affairs and Public Works so that redundant military land could be made available for land reform. The Committee also heard a submission on the maintenance backlog of defence facilities.


Department of Defence briefing

Mr M Dladla (Director: Material Resource Policy) explained that the Department’s land management policy reflected the Department’s intention to reduce its ‘footprint’ of environmental impact, and demonstrate commitment to land reform. Land excess to requirements was disposed of through co-use strategies with other departments or companies; base conversion, where land was returned to the Department of Public Works for non-military use, or land restitution in acknowledgement that some Department land was acquired through dispossession. Land claims against the Department amounted to 311 270 hectares (ha), 104 094 ha of which had been restored. A further 41 678 ha had been identified for restoration. The Department did not assess the merit of claims on their land, but there had been instances where the Department had advocated retention of the land because it was indispensable to their core business.

Professor Asmal asked how many claims had been lodged, and how many were outstanding. Mr Dladla explained that 12 claims had been lodged against Department land. He referred the Committee to Appendix C of the submission for the status of each claim.

Dr G Koornhof (ANC) asked about co-use strategies for the Waterkloof and Bloemspruit facilities. General Moerane clarified that the plan for Bloemspruit had not yet been finalised. It would cost R200 million to upgrade the Waterkloof facility; the airport would be available as an alternative to Johannesburg International Airport, should the need arise.

Mr S Ntuli (ANC) asked about the status of a land claim in Walmansdal. General Moerane confirmed that the claim was still pending, despite assumptions to the contrary. Mr C Schalkwyk (Department of Land Affairs) added that the Wallmansthal case was dependent on the outcome of feasibility studies on best use of the land, but advised that land transfer was imminent.

Mr B Mopela, Regional Land Claims Commissioner of Gauteng said that transfer of approximately 4 000 ha had been agreed and signed by the Minister, who had intervened to ensure that disputed land would be released by the Department. Final settlement was pending resolution of a claim on an additional pocket of land. He cited lack of trust by the claimants in the motives of the Department, which was reluctant to hand over land that was not for core military use. The claimants had made representations to President Mbeki. Professor Asmal suggested that the Committee recommend in writing that this case should be settled by the end of May 2005.

Professor Asmal asked the delegation to brief the Committee on the Smitsdrift claim. Smitsdrift had been restored some time ago, with small pockets outstanding, which had since been handed over. Professor Asmal noted that the school had been in good condition when the claim was made, but had collapsed by the time the land was restored.

Department of Land Affairs briefing
Mr C Schalkwyk (Department Director: Land Support and Services) informed the Committee that ownership of state land was divided between the Departments of Public Works, Land Affairs, and all nine provinces, but that registration of ownership of 80% of state land was still outstanding. Treasury had allocated additional funds to complete the registration process over the next five years. All Department land was national and totalled 422 145 ha, representing 1.7% of the total state land portfolio. Mr Schalkwyk emphasised that Department should return redundant land because it was responsible for identifying land that could be used in the land reform process. Poor inter-departmental co-ordination had resulted in disused facilities falling into disrepair, and in the Department of Public Works allocating land for commercial development when there was an outstanding claim on the land.

General Moerane stated that Department was not responsible for deciding where disposed land was allocated. It was responsible for transferring the land back to the Department of Public Works.

Mr S Ntuli (ANC) asked about why registered ownership of 80% of state land was unconfirmed. Mr Schalkwyk explained that, according to the SA Constitution, a competent authority should confirm ownership of each portion of state land. This outstanding process had delayed disposal of vandalised land, communication between the Department of Land Affairs and Department on land.

Mr O Monareng (ANC) asked whether a land audit had been completed when the Land Act was dismantled. Mr Schalkwyk stated that there was no complete audit. Approximately 24 million ha of state land had been registered. In Eastern Cape, there was about 5 million ha of un-surveyed and un-registered land, and about 1 million ha in Limpopo. Confusion about land ownership had at times resulted in erroneous disposal. Legislation had been amended so that both the Departments of Public Works and Land Affairs approved land disposal.

Mr A Visser (Department Chief Director: Strategic Management) asked why the Department of Land Affairs referred to military hospitals as ‘non-core military facilities’. Professor Asmal stated that differences in opinion about core and non-core land between the Departments could not be resolved at Committee level. He advised both departments to write a letter to their Ministers

Mr M Sayedali-Shah (DA) asked about instances of corruption in land administration. Corruption had been picked up in some provincial governments, such as collusion with private developers, sale of land at less than market value, and transfer of land by unauthorised officials.

Mr P Groenewald (FF+) asked about co-ordination of timeframes for land reform between the three departments. He enquired about co-ordination between users, owners and administrators of land, especially in terms of responsibility for costs of maintenance. Mr G Thomas (Department Director-General) explained that land restitution had to be concluded within the next three years. Redistribution of 30% of white agricultural land was due to be concluded by 2014. He concurred that the three departments should develop joint action plans to achieve both targets. Mr Thomas confirmed that a commission had been appointed to investigate land ownership, including ownership of land by foreigners. Their report was due before the end of the current financial year.

General Moerane explained that the user department paid for maintenance, except where land had been contaminated by missiles, or land mines remained and it could not be satisfactorily swept clean. Professor Asmal contested whether contaminated land could be fenced off. It remained a danger to children and others, regardless of whether contamination dated back to the apartheid era. This issue would remain on the Committee’s agenda.

Ms B Ntuli (ANC, seconded from Portfolio Committee on Agriculture) asked about the extent of redundant land, whether there was a forum for the various departments to discuss land issues. She requested clarification of the plans for a vacant military base in KwaNdebele that had been vandalised.

Mr Dladla, Department, stated that there was no forum, but agreed that there was need for one. He explained that the Department did not have accurate figures on the extent of redundant SANDF land. General Moerane explained that the Department planned to downsize to 60 000 hectares, but expressed concern that this strategy would leave Department with a shortfall in terms of longer-term needs.

Professor Asmal requested an explanation for the discrepancy in the respective department’s calculations of hectares of land transferred in the context of land reform. It transpired that the two departments had utilised different timeframes. Professor Asmal proposed that the Committee write to the respective Ministers to advocate a structural arrangement between the Departments of Land Affairs and Defence so that they could report against the same criteria, and thus enable the Committee to fulfil its oversight function. He concluded the session with a proposal for joint planning on land use between the departments.

Department briefing on infrastructure maintenance
General Navratil (Department Director: Facilities Management) explained that the Department had a Constitutional obligation to look after its facilities. The key problem was insufficient funds. National Treasury had allocated R143 million, but approximately R500 million was required. Implications of poor maintenance included unsafe working conditions and deterioration of facilities to the extent that they would be unable to meet the future needs of the Department. The budget to resolve maintenance backlogs and manage ongoing maintenance needs was R7.8 billion. General Navratil concluded with a request that the Committee support the Department’s bid for increased allocation of funds for maintenance of facilities.

Dr G Koornhof (ANC) requested clarification on the Department of Public Works’s allocation to maintenance costs and an outline of Department’s maintenance priorities. What had that department done to develop maintenance skills among its staff? He expressed concern about an annual 12% - 18% escalation of maintenance budgets.

Mr T Camane, Deputy Director-General of Public Works (Operations), reiterated that the core problem with maintenance of all state facilities was an inadequate budget. In 2004, the the Department of Public Works had conducted a study on the maintenance backlog of all state facilities and calculated that R12.5 billion would be needed to rehabilitate all state facilities to a usable level, and about R2.5 billion per year to maintain them. The current trend meant that the Department of Public Works would never catch up. It had to prioritise on the basis of life-threatening situations. Alternative funding options explored with National Treasury included the disposal of assets and private public partnership. However, the Department would not be able to ringfence funds derived from these two strategies for its own use.

Professor Asmal requested the submission of a plan within six months with a detailed maintenance budget. The Committee would consider supporting the budget on perusal of this plan. General Moerane responded that the Department already had a plan and budget that met these criteria, based on a report on maintenance priorities at 56 SANDF bases. Professor Asmal proposed that two or three Members visit 25 selected SANDF bases to assess the needs, address issues of respect for public property by users, and publicise their findings. The Committee accepted this proposal.

The meeting was adjourned.


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