Commission on Restitution of Land Rights Annual Report: discussion

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Meeting Summary

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Meeting report

7 June 2005


: Ms E Ngaleka (ANC)

Documents handed out
Commission on Restitution of Land Rights Annual Report 2005 (available shortly @
Commission on Restitution on Land Rights Powerpoint presentation
Chief Land Claims Commissioner’s response to report of Centre for Development Enterprise

Members were briefed about the Commission on Restitution of Land Rights’ Annual Report for the year ending 31 March 2005. The report highlighted achievements, challenges, and human resources problems facing the land reform process. The challenges included among others the fact that landowners were demanding more money and inflating the prices. Rural claims had been taking longer to resolve than urban claims.

Members’ concerns included that some traditional leaders had been selling land that belonged to the community, because the land was registered in the name of the respective traditional leaders. Claimants wanted the re-opening of the claims process. Members also wanted more details on the property valuators who had been inflating prices on behalf of landowners. ‘Organised agriculture’ had been reluctant to mentor emerging farmers, and the credit finance facilities had been behaving like commercial banks instead of playing a more developmental role.


Commission on Restitution of Land Rights briefing
The Commission on Restitution of Land Rights briefed the Committee on its Annual Report for the year ended 31 March 2005. The President, in his State of the Nation Address of 11 February 2005, had extended the finalisation of outstanding land claims by three years, and announced an increase of R6 billion. Belgian donors had allocated R40 million for validation, fast-tracking of claims, and post-settlement support.

Critical issues included the fact that poor people were attracted to financial compensation rather than resettlement, and that often led to family disputes and fraud. To date, 887 093 hectares had been delivered and 172 769 households had benefited. Re-skilling of resettled families had posed a challenge in that it needed the co-operation of more established farmers. The processing of rural claims took longer, and the Commission had managed to shorten the cycle for claims from three to one years. Landowners were continuing to demand high prices for land.

The Commission had participated in the implementation of the Internal Audit Charter in the Department of Land Affairs. As a relatively new organisation, the Commission had learned valuable lessons, which included among others, high staff turnover, and a need to ‘buy in house skills’ such as property valuators. The Land Claims Court had been playing a valuable role in resolving disputes.

Mr B Radebe (ANC) asked for clarity on settled claims, and why the compensation was not the same in different areas. The standard settlement offer was around R25 000. At Kwanobuhle, the settlement was R36 000, while in Somerset East the settlement was R49 000. He then asked how the Commission arrived at that settlement amount. The claimants were complaining that the landowners could claim huge amounts, while they never got the same amount and he asked for the reason for the difference.

Mr T Gwanya, Chief Land Claims Commissioner, replied that the standard settlement offer was related to the municipal value, and they varied from area to area. The Commission had to consider the municipal value in each area and link it to the value of the land rights that were lost. The value of the land in the Western Cape differed from the value of the land in Limpopo. The Commission had decided to value the labour tenancy rights and had equated them to the housing subsidy.

Dr Schoeman (ANC) asked how the development grants differed from the Department of Agriculture’s post-settlement assistance programme. The problems of the mentorship programme were a result of a poor communication strategy from the side of the Commission. Farmers at the district level were quite willing to mentor their emerging counterparts. He then asked about the nature of collusion between the property valuators and the landowners, because the Department officials could be involved.

Mr T Gwanya replied that the Restitution Discretionary Grant (RSG) and the Settlement Planning Grant (SPG) were used for helping the claimants to relocate back to the land. These grants were based on a household, rather than those who opted for financial compensation. The Commission had observed that these grants were not useful for development, because they were very small. These grants amounted to R4 440 per household. The lower the number of households involved in that project, the lower the amount available to those claimants. The Commission had requested the Department of Agriculture and National Treasury to help the land reform beneficiaries with the Comprehensive Agricultural Support Programme (CASP). Both departments had agreed in principle to help beneficiaries. On mentorship he admitted that the Commission and the Department needed to improve their communication strategy at local and provincial level. Criminal investigations had been initiated to probe the allegations of collusion between landowners and property valuators.

Mr Dlali (ANC) asked for clarity on the compensation of employees. The Department had spent huge sums on financial compensation rather than land redistribution. He asked the reason the Department had said it was a just and an equitable distribution of land while most claims were settled with financial compensation. How did the Department deal with challenges such as settlement support, and the role of local and provincial government in assisting with the challenges? He asked for more clarity on fraud, and the meaning of employee compensation.

Mr T Gwanya replied that a disciplinary process had been initiated in Mpumalanga to deal with officials who were involved in fraud. Compensation of employees referred to salaries that were paid to employees. The Commission had said that they would need about R1 billion to settle the urban claims, the bulk of the Budget covered rural claims. About 80% of claims were urban claims and most of them had been settled. He added that the picture would change significantly in the next two years.

Mr B Mphela, Land Claims Commissioner of Gauteng, replied that they had enlisted the help of the SAPS to investigate fraud.

Mr Bici (UDM) complained about the fact that they were not getting the reports on time, so that Members could study them beforehand. He then asked what were the problems with traditional leaders concerning the registration of land. He also asked the number of outstanding claims in rural and urban areas. He enquired about the reasons some claims were settled in court.

Mr T Gwanya replied that the reports were tabled in Parliament on 31 May 2005, but the Commission wanted to circulate the report in time. Since the inception of the Commission, it had been a learning curve to find ways and means to speed up the claims resolution process. The Commission had been trying to replicate the strategy used in the urban claims. That strategy was to batch similar claims together because their circumstances were similar. It was arranged for those communities to discuss and agree on an approach to tackle those claims. The legislation provided for two instruments to settle their claims. These were the Land Claims Court; that approach was used until 1999 when the Commission realised that things were not moving fast enough, because of the nature of the court processes. Then the Commission opted for the administrative approach, which was a negotiated settlement and claims were referred to the Minister for settlement. The court was used when there were disagreements and it would adjudicate and make a determination. On outstanding claims, Mr Gwanya referred the Member to the presentation.

Mr P Nefolovhodwe (AZAPO) asked about the type of grants given to land claimants. He wanted to know the problems caused by traditional leaders in registering land. Why did the Commission not reopen the land claims process?

Mr T Gwanya replied that the registration of land occurred in the name of a legal entity which had to be registered with the Master, and if it was a trust or a Community Property Association (CPA), the Department of Land Affairs. The Commission then verified claimants, i.e. household names with their Identity Numbers and all the details of the Members of that community. All that information would be submitted to the Master. The land would then be registered in the name of the Legal Entity and the rest of the people in those communities were owners of that land, as it was the standard with traditional practice. Some of the traditional leaders were taking the land over as custodians of the land. There were cases where some Traditional Leaders were selling the land for R2 500 per site to members of the community. The Commission felt that the matter needed to be addressed in order to reaffirm the fact that traditional land belonged to all the people in the community. Re-opening of the land claims process was a national issue, and the Commission was waiting for a directive from the Committee as decision-makers on legislation.

Mr Rhadebe asked for clarity on the fact that the housing subsidy was increased to R31 000 and whether the Commission was prepared to revise their financial compensation accordingly. Mr Gwanya replied positively.

Mr M Mokono, Regional Land Claims Commissioner of Mpumalanga, replied that the people who had been dispossessed of their land had also been systematically disempowered. One of the aims of the Commission was to teach people to financial skills and/or management skills. The difficulty was that the Restitution Act did not provide powers to the Commission to deal with post-settlement issues. There was a general lack of co-ordinated support by the various government departments to deal with the issue and the Commission had to come up with the post-settlement support unit so as to mobilise support from stakeholders. That was done by entering into a Memorandum of Understanding with different groups such as municipalities for the provision of houses.

For agricultural land, the Commission would then solicit support from the Department of Agriculture to provide support services. The Minister had agreed at MinMEC on the amount of post-settlement support that was to be provided to land reform beneficiaries. The idea was to strategize on how to focus the funding for beneficiaries of restitution. The Commission had entered into an agreement with the National Development Agency and the Land Bank. Some of these agreements looked very noble on paper but in practice they were totally different. It was the same thing with the mentorship programme for emerging farmers.

Dr A Van Niekerk (DA) asked which donor countries had been funding the Commission and what were the funds used for. He asked the number of cases of valuators inflating prices.

Mr Gwanya replied that the Commission was not aware of the extent of the collusion between the landowners and the property valuators. For instance, one landowner had demanded R5 million for his property on the basis that a dam would be built on his property. The property valuator in question supported the claim that a dam would be built armed with a letter from the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry. However, DWAF later disputed the claim as being unsubstantiated.

Mr Ngema asked whether the Commission discussed the problems with the House of Traditional Leaders. He then asked what communication strategies were in place so that Members could be aware of the handing-over ceremony. He enquired about the type of problems faced by the Commission in implementing the mentorship programme. He also asked about the problems that lead to high staff turnover.

Mr Gwanya replied that the Commission had attempted to discuss matters with traditional leaders at the local level. They had not held any discussions with Contralesa, but had enlisted the help of the Department of Provincial and Local Government in that regard. Some of the challenges were concerned with acquiring additional land because when the claimants had lost their land they were about 300 households, but had since multiplied exponentially and as a result the land would not be enough. On mentorship, the Commission had discussed the issue with AgriSA, but organised agriculture expected to be paid for the mentoring process. Other challenges were the fact that financing schemes such as those offered by the Land Bank had worked well for the emerging Agricultural Sector, but the problem was that these facilities were operating like commercial banks. Mr Gwanya felt that the credit facilities of the Land Bank were supposed to work along developmental lines. Emerging farmers needed nurturing. The problem of high staff turnover was because of the nature of short contracts and local government was also poaching staff because they identified talent. The Department of Provincial and Local Government (DPLG) paid far better salaries than the Land Commission.

Mr P Holomisa (ANC) asked about the percentage of the country’s land that would ‘satisfy the land issue’ and the extent to which that land that had been redistributed. What was the difference between the urban four roomed houses and the rural four-roomed houses? He asked why the Commission did not apply for more funds to finance infrastructure like water provision because the people would blame the Department of Land Affairs that gave them their land back. He wanted to know the causes for people not applying in time and the type of steps that were taken to help people who did not meet the land claims criteria. He also enquired about the role of the churches in helping the land reform process; especially those that owned large tracts of land.

Mr Gwanya replied that Belgian and Dutch donors were interested in funding the Commission but the Dutch donors were not prepared to fund the post-settlement period. The National Treasury was responsible for co-ordinating donor funding. The Belgian donors were willing to fund post-settlement after 2002 while the Dutch had stopped funding the Commission. The British donors was gradually moving away from funding land reform and they only promised that they would fund the land reform process in three years’ time. The Budget of the Treasury did not provide for post-settlement support. The Commission's target was 30% of South Africa’s landmass. Urban and rural four-roomed houses were not different in any way, but in rural areas houses were built in places where people resided and there was no bureaucratic red tape. In urban areas there had to be town ship planning, sewerage provision, etc.

Mr Rhadebe asked what legislation was used by the Commission to access funds for the post-settlement period from donors. He asked the reason that the churches were not helping government in land reform.

Mr Gwanya said Section 42 (c) of the Restitution Act provided for post-settlement support. The Minister had addressed the church leadership in 2000. Some of the churches had responded positively; for instance the Methodist Church in the Western Cape and the Presbyterian Church in Tsitsikama. Some churches were not so co-operative; for instance in Barkly in the Eastern Cape one Church leader demanded more money than the actual value of the land. Instead of R31 million, they demanded R71 million.

Mr Abrahams (ANC) believed "that the land shall be shared among those who work it."

Committee Clerk’s minutes
Mr Rhadebe proposed the acceptance of the Committee Clerk’s minutes covering the budget vote discussions.

Mr Nel (DA) objected that the first report ‘vilified organised agriculture, and the second report had to be technically sorted out’. Mr Rhadebe responded that the reports reflected the actual proceedings.

Mr Nefholovhodwe then suggested that those who had been in the meeting could confirm the minutes sentence by sentence. He asked the reason for the objection by Mr Nel.

Professor Schoeman said that the Committee did not have to agree, but they could note that there were objections from the side of the DA. The Committee agreed that the reports reflected the proceedings, with certain objections from the DA.

The Chairperson informed Members that the Abattoir Bill would be postponed until Tuesday 14 June, the same date as the former Committee Chairperson’s farewell.

The meeting was adjourned.



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