Commission on Restitution of Land Rights: Budget and Strategic Plan 2007/08

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Meeting report

AGRICULTURE AND LAND AFFAIRS PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
14 March 2007
COMMISSION ON RESTITUTION OF LAND RIGHTS: BUDGET AND STRATEGIC PLAN 2007/08

Chairperson:
Ms D Nhlengethwa (ANC)

Documents handed out:
Commission on Restitution of Land Rights Strategic Plan 2007/2008

Audio recording of the meeting

SUMMARY
The Commission on Restitution of Land Rights briefed the Committee about its strategic plan and budget for 2007/2008. The Commission’s focus was to settle all outstanding claims by 2008 as mandated by the President. It was aiming to finalise 3590 of the total 5128 outstanding claims in the 2007/08 financial year. He gave a breakdown of the outstanding claims in each province and the projected amounts to be spent on settling them in the 2007/2008 financial year. He also outlined the various challenges and difficulties the Commission was facing in carrying out its settlement programme and the strategies they had formulated to deal with the challenges.

The Committee asked questions about the R6 billion for outstanding claims, the meaning of "exorbitant prices", the expropriation process causing delays, meeting the 2008 deadline, the Commission's capacity and the MAFISA credit scheme.

Committee urged the Commission to expedite action on the settlement process and while doing this, to ensure that the allocated funds were judiciously spent.

MINUTES
Mr Tozi Gwanya, Chief Land Claims Commissioner, briefed the Committee on the Commission’s strategic plan for 2007/2008. He said that the Commission was intensifying efforts to conclude the land restitution programme as directed by the President and guided by the mandate to settle all outstanding claims by 2008. He said that they had been given adequate resources and had they identified strategies to deal with the challenges facing them in the process.

He said that the majority of urban claims had been settled. There were 5128 outstanding rural claims, of which the Commission aimed at settling about 3590 in the 2007/08 financial year. There would be a small residue of claims due to reasons such as exorbitant land prices, boundary disputes, untraceable claimants and family disputes.

The Chief Commissioner outlined some of the challenges they were facing in finalizing rural claims and the strategies they had adopted to deal with the challenges. One such challenge was the lack of adequate infrastructure and communications which made it difficult to access claimants and to hold meetings. Another was that most of the claimed lands were ex-"homeland" areas which were unregistered and un-surveyed thus making archival research difficult. Another challenge, he said was the resistance from the current land owners and the exorbitant prices they wanted for the land. Other challenges were illiteracy of the claimants, communal and boundary disputes and lack of proper identification documents.

One of the strategies to address these rural claims was to beef up the capacity of the Commission. To this end, more staff was being employed and new directors for quality control had been appointed in certain provinces. A revised structure for the Commission had been approved. A task team had been set up to deal with the legal challenges involved in the land transfers. Also, the project cycle for the rural claims had been shortened and the Commission had resorted to expropriation where negotiations had failed.

He added that a settlement support strategy had been introduced and this was being pursued vigorously by the Commission. In this regard, Canada had agreed to support a sustainable implementation programme at the University of Pretoria.


Discussion
Mr A Nel (DA) asked how the Commission came about the amount of R6 billion available to cater for the outstanding claims. What did the Commissioner mean by "exorbitant prices"? He also asked if the expropriation process was not causing greater delays than negotiations.

Mr D Dlali (ANC) asked whether the Commission would meet the deadline of 2008 and what it meant by "difficulties with accessing the land". What bank controlled the Micro-Agricultural Finance Institutions of South Africa (MAFISA) credit scheme? He also asked for an update on the capacitation that the Commission had done and how many had so far been capacitated.

In his response, the Chief Commissioner said that they had so far settled about 1.5 million hectares of land and that most of it was rural land. He would furnish the Committee on how much the settlement had cost so far. He added that the Commission had been given R10 billion even though they had asked for R13 billion and that they would need R3 billion more. The R6 billion was out of the R10 billion allocated to them.

He continued that they had done the validation of claims and found most of them to be compliant. However about 500 claims had to be dismissed for not meeting the criteria. They had been able to do this with the help of the Belgians. They still had to do the gazetting of the claims.

On expropriation, the Chief Commissioner said that they had outlined the steps to be taken. For an expropriation to be done, twelve steps had to be followed. This was the reason behind the delays encountered because it was a long process.

On exorbitant prices, he said that this was any price that was outside the market price. The Commission was only prepared to pay the price that the banks were prepared to pay.

On the deadline before the Commission, the Chief Commissioner said that their focus was to resolve all the challenges before them in their bid to settle all outstanding claims.

On capacitation, the Chief Commissioner said that it was an ongoing process that would be dealt with by the Commission in the long term.

On difficult access to land, he clarified that it was the process of negotiation with the land owners that took a long time.

On MAFISA, he said that it was controlled by the Land Bank and administered by the Department of Agriculture through the Land Bank.

The Chair thanked the Chief Commissioner and his delegation for the presentation.

The meeting was adjourned.

 

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