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LAND AND ENVIROMENTAL AFFAIRS SELECT COMMITTEE
20 SEPTEMBER 2006
COMMISSION ON RESTITUTION OF LAND RIGHTS ANNUAL REPORT AND FINANCIAL STATEMENT 2005/06: BRIEFING BY LAND CLAIMS COMMISSION
Documents handed out:
Commission on Restitution of Land Rights Annual report for the year ended 31 March 2006
The Land Claims Commission reported that the year under review had attempted to meet the clear mandate to prioritize sustainable settlement of all outstanding claims. Expenditure had increased from R1.18 billion in the previous year to R1.8 billion in the period 2005/6. There had been some under spending but a project had been approved to speed up the processes and work on post-settlement support. The total number of claims settled by March 2006 was 71 645. A budget of R2.2 billion had been allocated to settle claims in the coming financial year. Performance was summarised from various angles, and statistics were tabled on the cases referred to the Land Claims Court in the provinces. Challenges included quality of valuations, unsurveyed land and unregistered land right and family disputes, high staff turnover, lack of capacity from municipalities and lack of accountability. High land prices, abuse by traditional leaders and problems with service providers were also problems. The Commission also highlighted achievements in each province.
Questions were asked by Members on the deadline of 2008 for meeting claims, post-settlement support, expropriation figures in the provinces, the capacity problems of the communal property associations, and the working relationship with them. Specific questions were asked about two claims. The lodgement and investigation processes were explained.
Mr Tozi Gwanya, National Land Claims Commissioner, gave members a brief summary of the Land Commission Annual Report for 2005/6. He reported that the activities centred around a clear mandate to prioritise sustainable settlement of all outstanding claims. This aim was highlighted in the Land Summit held in July 2005. Expenditure had increased from R1.18 billion in the previous year to R1.8 billion in the period 2005/6. The budget was R2.7 billion and therefore there had been under expenditure of almost R900 million. This was accounted for in part by commitments approved but not yet shown. The Belgian government had approved an amount of R50 million to speed up the restitution process. This would involve fast-tracking of claimant verification and work on post-settlement support.
Mr Gwanya reported that the total number of claims settled by March 2006 was 71 645. The total number of claims lodged up to 1998 was 79 696. A budget of R2.2 billion had been allocated to settle claims in the coming financial year. Mr Gwanya summarised performance from the point of view of the business processes, corporate governance, learning and growth, and international interest Expropriation remained an option. The public had been informed of developments in the restitution process. The Commission was engaging with stakeholders and had participated in an international land summit.
Mr Gwanya tabled statistics on cases referred to the Land Claims Court in the provinces. He isolated challenges as quality of valuations, unsurveyed land and unregistered land right and family disputes in rural areas. High staff turnover, lack of capacity from municipalities and lack of accountability remained problems in urban areas. High land prices, abuse by traditional leaders and problems with service providers had been problematic in Gauteng and north West, and in Kwazulu Natal specific problems related to the number of farms that were converted to private game reserves that inflated land prices. Western Cape faced specific problems in untraceable claimants, lack of documentation and negotiations to try to make state land available. Each province however also had significant achievements.
Mr G Krumbock (DA, Kwazulu Natal) asked if the deadline that was given would be reviewed.
Mr A Watson (DA Mpumulanga) commented that it appeared as if the Minister would be extending the deadline.
Mr Gwanya stated that the commission was determined to settle all claims by 2008.
Mr L Van Rooyen (ANC, Free State) enquired about the relationship was between the various funds that were established for post settlement support. He also queried the role of local government in post settlement support.
Mr Gwanya replied that there was cooperation from the Department of Land Affairs and Agriculture. He noted that the Belgian government had given funds to the commission, which were used to conceptualize the structures that were needed. This money was not intended for a specialist to be employed.
Mr van Rooyen asked if there was any improvement in trying to shorten the project cycle and asked if the Land Claims Commission would be able to meet the 2008 deadline.
Mr Gwanya stated that that all attempts were made to meet the deadline.
Mr van Rooyen asked about the latest expropriation figures in the provinces. He asked how sincere the Transvaal Agriculture Union was with regard to land transformation.
The Land Claims Commission was currently working with the Transvaal Agriculture Union, which was an important role player in the entire process. A letter of expropriation had been sent to the Union already and most of the farmers in the area had since come on board. In Kwazulu-Natal there were about 70 cases where letters of expropriation would be sent. It did sometimes happen that after the cases were investigated it was found that the claims needed to be reevaluated. This process had been completed and should no response be received, letters of expropriation would be sent out. The Commission had won 51% of its court cases. 90% of the claims had been settled.
Mr R Tau (ANC, Northern Cape) asked what brought together the different role players in the process of land restitution, and whether the specialist that was employed by the Commission had been effective. It did not appear that this question was specifically addressed. .
Mr Tau enquired about the effectiveness of the Mr Tau asked what had been done to address the capacity problem of the communal property associations (CPAs). He wanted to know if the Commission consulted regularly with the communities.
Mr Sugar Ramakarane, Regional land claims commissioner, Northern Cape and Free State, replied that in the ideal world the Director General would manage the CPAs. It was a fact that the Department of Land Affairs was not providing support to the Commission. In some instances members of the CPA put the land up as collateral and the Commission then needed to step in when the land is about to be auctioned off to cover the debt. There had been numerous meetings between the commissioners and the CPAs.
Mr Tau wanted to know if the Pniel claim had been signed.
Mr Ramakarane replied that this claim had not been settled. He would try as best he could to explain the situation but noted that some of the matters in the case were still sub judice. The Deed of Sale only had been signed and not the Deed of Settlement. The land needed to be purchased from the Lutheran Church. However the Church’s own evaluators had valued the land at much higher price. Eventually a price of R35 million was decided upon. The Church asked that interest be paid to them until the Minister had signed the Deed of Settlement, whereas the Commission felt that the interest accrued on the amount must be paid back to National Treasury. Notice had been given to the landowner that the land would be expropriated.
Mr R Tau (ANC, Northern Cape) requested that the response be put in writing.
Mr Adams (ANC, Western Cape) commented that people often complained that they had lodged a claim but had not received any feedback on it. There was a process in place to speed things up but it appeared that this was not assisting.
Ms Beverly Jansen, Western Cape Regional Land Claims Commissioner, replied that every claimant believed that his case was paramount. In the Western Cape a call centre and visitor's centre had been established. Community newspapers and radio stations were used to communicate with the community. Letters were answered personally, but it was a long process. In some cases there were family disputes that made it difficult to settle a claim. The Commission also needed to be mindful of fraudulent claims that might be lodged.
In answer to a further query from Mr Adams that some claimants complained that they have not received any letters, Ms Jansen stated that some of the work was outsourced.
Mr T Setona (ANC, Free State) asked whether it was automatic that after claims support be given, and what was its success rate. He also enquired about progress after March 2006.
Mr T Gwanya replied that the March to August 2006 report was an addendum to the annual report and the figures should be read together.
Mr Peter Mhangwani, Regional Land Claims Commissioner for Mpumalanga, replied that the challenge that the Commission faced was that there is a pre- and post-settlement process which made the work of the Commission particularly difficult.
Mr Mzizi (IFP, Gauteng) requested a written response on the progress of the Hammanskraal land claim.
The meeting was adjourned.
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