A summary of this committee meeting is not yet available.
AGRICULTURE AND LAND AFFAIRS PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
11 October 2006
DEPARTMENT ANNUAL REPORT 2005/06: BRIEFING
Chairperson: Ms D Hlengethwa(ANC)
Documents handed out:
Department of Land Affairs Annual Report 2005-2006: available later at http://land.pwv.gov.za
Analysis of the Department of Land Affairs Annual Report (2006/2006)
Department of Land Affairs Presentation to the Portfolio Committee
Minutes of 12 September 2006.
The Department of Land Affairs briefed the Committee on its 2005/06 Annual Report. It highlighted objectives, plans, achievements, challenges and future interventions. Members’ concerns included the slow pace of land reform, rising land prices, racial classification of deeds registration and poor post settlement support for land claim beneficiaries. Some Members felt that underspending in the Department would lead to slow delivery on land restitution.
Adoption of 12 September 2006 Minutes
Mr S Abraham (ANC) suggested minor technical changes and moved for adoption. Mr B Radebe (ANC) seconded and the minutes were adopted.
19 September 2006 Minutes
Mr Abraham suggested minor technical changes.
Mr D Dlali (ANC) said that the minutes were not a true reflection of what had transpired in the meeting. He suggested that the Committee Secretary should redraft the minutes. The Committee agreed unanimously.
Department of Land Affairs briefing
Ms S Choane (Chief Financial Officer (CFO)) informed the Committee that the Department’s annual report deal with the strategic framework that was adopted in 2006, contained the strategic context and their core objectives. She mentioned the operational performance per programme. The programmes were administration, surveys and mapping, cadastral surveys, restitution and land reform. She said that the Department had only managed to redistribute about 3% of the 30% target that was set for 2014. She added that it was possible to reach the target.
The challenges facing land restitution included high staff turnover and development took much longer than the settlement process. The protracted negotiations with landowners and communities and incoherent land use were some of the challenges. The land reform process faced challenges that included escalating land prices and dire shortages of specialised skills. The “willing buyer/willing seller” process meant that the state had little bargaining power. There had been a poor level of alignment in agrarian reform.
The Department had come up with interventions such as proactive land acquisition and the biofuels strategy for post settlement development and a decentralised framework for fast-tracking state land administration. The Department had completed a business re-engineering process to fast-track delivery.
Mr Abraham enquired about the state of the Deeds Office. He cited press reports that said land reform beneficiaries were dissatisfied with the land reform process. He asked whether the Department had taken into consideration the President’s State of the Nation Address in their objectives. He queried the role of the departmental officials who served on the board of the Land Bank, and their remuneration. He felt that the officials did not reply to correspondence sent by beneficiaries.
Ms Choane replied she was one of the officials who sat on the board of the Land Bank as appointed by the Minister. Board members were remunerated as stipulated in the King Commission Report on Corporate Governance, and they were expected to account for all decisions taken.
Mr M Tshabane, Deputy Director-General, added that the Department was aware of problems on the ground. The incident referred to in the press occurred in Limpopo province. That particular province was privileged in that it had dedicated people working on post settlement support. The Department had always incorporated the State of the Nation Address in their plans.
Mr A Nel (DA) asked for the definition of “massification”. He wanted to know whether the Department was documenting the redistribution of land done by entities outside the Department. Sustainability could not be attained without the proper support of land beneficiaries. Mr Nel cautioned the Department on race-based registration at the Deeds Office. He added that as Africans, Afrikaners had been living in South Africa for three centuries. He could not understand why the Department had not planned for the increase in land prices.
Mr Tshabane replied that “massification” referred to the changing nature of land claims. The Department had moved from individual claims to those that involved large communities and hundreds of hectares. The Department had been looking at various models of land reform but tackling the land reform process was not working as planned. Various organisations, such as agricultural unions, commodity organisations and other stakeholders were working with the Department. There was a need for a special purpose vehicle to develop agriculture and post settlement support. The race-based deeds registration was meant to track private land exchanges.
Mr Radebe said that he was disappointed at the pace of deeds registration, adding that foreigners owned large chunks of land. He asked about the Department’s plans to meet the 2014 30% land transfer deadline, in light of the fact that some existing land beneficiaries were placed in liquidation. The provincial departments were only given six months to help beneficiaries before liquidation. He suggested that the Department should employ foreign experts such as agricultural economists and land surveyors to fill the skills gap. The Minister could use expropriation powers to deal with farmers who evicted labour tenants.
Ms Choane replied that the Land Bank was driven by a developmental mandate while it was expected to perform as a commercial entity. She suggested that a special fund should be dedicated to fast-track the land reform process. The Department had identified the University of Venda to develop scarce skills such as surveyors. They were looking at recruiting talent from neighbouring countries for agricultural economics because South African economists were not willing to work for public service salaries.
Mr Tshabane added that the Outreach Programme would focus on both labour tenants and organised agriculture to try and solve the problem. The Department had been working with Rand Merchant Bank to come up with solutions for post settlement support.
Mr Dlali asked for clarity on litigation cited in the report. He asked for the list of Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) companies working with the Department. The Sector Education and Training Authorities (SETAs) were supposed to work closely with the Department in training people. He reiterated Mr Radebe’s position on meeting the 2014 target of 30% land redistribution. He enquired about the problems with the Human Resources Strategic plan and how it would affect the land reform process.
Ms Choane replied that the Department did not anticipate problems with change management or the Human Resources Strategic plan. The Department of Public Service and Administration (DPSA) had been assisting the Department on issues around change management. Litigation referred to ongoing legal cases. Negotiations between the Department and the Legal Aid Board and the Department of Justice were ongoing to solve the matter. The biggest challenge to the land reform process was the escalating land price, more money was buying less land. There were some problems with the SETA but the Director General had been working with the SETA Chief Executive Officer.
Mr E Lucas (IFP) said that land was a valuable tool when used judiciously.
Mr Dlali asked what cluster was responsible for post-settlement support.
Adv P Holomisa (ANC) asked what the Department’s responsibilities for post settlement support regarding building of schools, clinics and other necessities were.
Mr Tshabane replied that post settlement support entailed a number of things hence the involvement of the Social and Economic clusters.
Mr Radebe asked why the Department had been underspending while the financial year was almost over.
Mr Tshabane replied that the budgeted expenditure was affected by the mass claims that amounted to billions of Rands. ABSA Bank and the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) had been working with the Department to help with due diligence studies and to avoid wasting money.
Ms V Nxasana, Chief Director: Land Reform, said that the 30% target was a small percentage viewed against the overall challenge. The fact that the Department had managed to distribute only 3% in the last eleven years meant that there was a need for all South Africans to help in seeking a solution.
The meeting was adjourned.