Department of Land Affairs Quarterly Report

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Meeting report

AGRICULTURE AND LAND AFFAIRS PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
22 August 2007
DEPARTMENT QUARTERLY REPORT

Chairperson:
Ms D Hlengethwa (ANC)

Documents handed out:
Presentation of Land Affairs’ performance

Audio recording of meeting

SUMMARY
The Committee convened to hear the quarterly progress report from the Department of Agriculture. The presentation focussed on a brief overview of the 4th quarter of 2006-2007 financial year (January-March) and a more detailed focus on the 1st quarter of 2007-2008 financial year, with special reference to strategic targets. Full details are contained in the attached presentation. The Department outlined the progress made in specific areas, and described that the strategic plan informed the operational plan, and that quarterly meetings would be held to track progress, with other reporting mechanisms ensuring that any need for adjustment was picked up at an early stage. The Department had done an analysis on the targets for land reform and programmes were being developed. Empowerment targets for women were set. The target for the new policy on land ownership was set for March 2010. The review report on the willing buyer/ willing seller issue had been completed and was with Cabinet. The Land Use Management Bill and the Quantity Surveying Profession Bill were approved by March 2007 and extensive consultation with the relevant stakeholders took place during the period under review. A needs-based skills development framework had been set up and there were various partnerships and memorandums of understanding. Graduates were being identified through a bursary programme. The restitution programme had been reported on fully to the Commission on Land Reform. An underspending was anticipated.

Questions by Members were directed to the staff retention strategies, the outstanding land claims, the setting up of new Surveyor General offices, the disorder in the Deeds Offices, the underspending, the funds carried over from the previous year, and the Department’s response to the challenges, especially in relation to land reform. The Memorandums of Understanding, their focus and extent, integration of municipal and provincial plans, the policies on foreign ownership of land, the restitution beneficiaries and the role of traditional leaders, and evictions were also raised.

MINUTES
The Chairperson referred to the previous week’s meetings and noted that the Department of Land Affairs and the Department were still in the first stages of the reporting process.

Second Quarterly Report for 2007: Department of Land Affairs (DLA) Department’s Presentation
Mr Eddie R Mohoebi, Chief Director: Communication Services, DLA, noted that the departmental framework was based on the strategic plan. He stated that this in turn dictated the operational plan. The DLA would track performance by having quarterly meetings to review, to assess, and to analyse the performance of the Department. If targets were not met the reasons must be ascertained and understood, and adjustments needed to be made in the new quarter. Chief Directors must, seven days into the new quarter, stipulate in their quarterly reports to the Deputy Director Generals what adjustments and corrections needed to made to get back on track. The DDG’s then had seven days to interact with the Chief Directors to check what was amiss or incorrectly reported. The amendments to the quarterly reports then would go to Office of the Chief Operations Officer (COOO who would analyse performance. As a final step the quarterly reports were discussed at the full quarterly meeting. This would take place from 30 August to 1 September. He emphasised that what was being reported to the Committee here had not yet been interrogated by the whole Department.

Mr Glen Thomas, Director General, DLA, said that the quarterly report covering January to March 2007 formed the last quarter report for the 2006/07 financial year and would thus also be in the Annual Report.

Mr Mohoebi said that the operational plan was based on but was longer and more detailed than the strategic plan. He tabled a comprehensive list of challenges facing the Department, but would focus only a few in his presentation. He would touch on the overview of the fourth quarter for 2006/07, because this would be dealt with in more detail during the discussions on the Annual Report. He would focus more on the first quarter 2007/08, with reference to strategic targets.

The presentation was in line with the strategic plan. He then went on to discuss the programmes (see attached document for more detail). Programme 1 concerned the administrative office of the DG. Specific objectives were targeted for the empowerment of woman, children and gender objectives. Analysis had been done on the targets for land reform, to ensure that objectives had been included in the operational plan. He added that the Department wanted guidelines and programmes developed, and seven had to date been developed and were available. In relation to the empowerment of women, monitoring was set for 31 March, and the information was updated on a quarterly basis. 

The target for the new policy on land ownership had been set for March 2010. The final report had been submitted to Cabinet and everything in that report had been discussed with the various clusters. The review report on the willing buyer/ willing seller issue had to be completed by the end of March 2007. The Department had to date consolidated and developed regulatory measures relating to intervention in the open land market. The Land Use Management Bill and the Quantity Surveying Profession Bill were approved by March 2007 and extensive consultation with the relevant stakeholders took place during the period under review.

Mr Mohoebi then discussed the organisational structure and establishment that supported the achievement of departmental strategic objectives.  The focus was on the performance indicators, capacity building plans to address short, medium and long-term needs and checking that actual performance had been achieved. He also referred to the Batho Pele Revitalisation Strategy and said that performance as outlined in the written report had been achieved. He furthermore briefed the Committee on the needs–based skills development framework for all identified stakeholders and gave the reasons for a failure to perform to targets. He mentioned the partnerships with identified land and agrarian reform tertiary institutions, non government organisations (NGOs) and the draft memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the University of Fort Hare as well as bursaries for scarce skills like geometric and land information management that formed part of a needs-based skills development framework.

In regard to Programme 2, Mr Mohoebi noted that the DLA had set up access to geospatial information through outlets in districts and municipal areas. It was also linking with the pool of graduates that the Department hoped to employ as part of the bursary programme.

In respect of Programme 3, Cadastral Survey Management, Mr Mohoebi informed the Committee that performance measures and service indicator targets were met. He noted that the vacancies within the Limpopo office were in the process of being filled. There was time left for the Land Survey Act to be amended by 31 March 2008 to transform the surveying profession and to improve the efficiency of cadastral surveys.

Programme 4 dealt with restitution, and the content of this written report was repeated in a report to the Commission on Land Reform.

Because of shortage of time, Mr Mohoebi tabled, but did not discuss the remaining programmes. He briefly tabled the financial report. He indicated that there was anticipated to be a shortfall in terms of expenditure.

Discussion

Adv S Holomisa (ANC) asked about the Department’s staff retention strategy and how the staff turnover problem would be addressed.

Ms Sarah Choane, Chief Financial Officer, DLA,  informed the Committee that staff retention required new strategies. The high staff turnover could be attributed to a lack of job security for the temporary staff. The bursary scheme was introduced to acquire the necessary skills for the Department and to assist in employing permanent personnel who would be contracted to the Department. Internal development programmes would be instituted as well.

Mr Thomas added that bursary holders would be tied in to employment for a particular period of time. He said that the new organisational structure had been submitted for preliminary comments, was resubmitted for further discussion, and the proposed new structure had now been finalised by the Department and submitted to the Minister.

Mr Holomisa required about the outstanding land claims, which numbered 6 271, to be finalised in 2006/2007. According to the plans, white-owned land was to be provided to 6 000 individual black South Africans by 2014. He asked how many whites owned land.

Mr Thomas responded that whites owned approx 60 000 hectares of land and that the target was between 40 000 and 45 000 white farmers in 2014.

Mr Tozi Gwanya, Chief Land Claims Commissioner, said that there were 5 279 claims outstanding in the first quarter, and the Department would be looking at a strategy to resolve this figure during this financial year.

Mr Holomisa enquired if race and gender was now stipulated in the Deeds Registry Act.

Dr Nozizwe Makgalemele, Deputy Director General: Land Planning, DLA replied that this was not the case. However, the regulations were under review to reflect such statistics, as also to reflect nationality.

Dr Makgalemele referred to land planning in general and noted the Committee that the previous Government had Surveyors General in the four provinces. The present government was planning to open offices in all 9 provinces. Mpumalanga was opened last year and Eastern Cape would be the next office.

Mr D Dlali (ANC) commented on the total disorder in the Deeds Offices and recommended that a full report on Ongeluksnek, the Mandela White River issue and the Makwati Corporation by 31 August 2007.

Mr Mduduzi Shabane, Deputy Director General, DLA said that this could be done.

Mr Holomisa requested why there had been underspending of  R5 million.

Ms Choane noted that this was due to claims not settled during this period, as the Department did not want to overspend. The HR plan also had particular financial demands that had arisen from the adjustments to put the new structure in place. A skills audit analysis was also part of the corporate restructuring from the previous financial year that was carried over.

Mr Holomisa asked the Department how it was dealing with the challenges.

Mr Thomas said that some of the solutions were already contained in the strategy plan, and he referred especially to the intervention land market strategy. The market-related price challenge was stalling land reform.

Mr Shabane added that market related land prices was an ongoing challenge, and the issue was made more complicated by the diversity of views from potential land buyers and land owners. 

Mr D Dlali referred to amounts that had been described as savings in the last financial year, and asked how these had been spent.

Mr Shabane replied that it was explained to National Treasury that these funds were earmarked for land development which was delayed during that particular financial year, and that the funds should be re-scheduled for spending in the current financial year for land restitution. The amount was still available.

Mr Dlali requested information on the willing buyer / willing seller principle, and asked when would this issue be reviewed and when would it be finalised.

Mr Thomas said that the review had been completed and that a presentation would be submitted to the Minister in the next weeks. A final draft had been compiled.

Mr Dlali raised the question of partnerships with institutions, specifically referring to the MOU’s and the coordination between institutions and the Department.

Mr Shabane replied that the focus would be on the agreements with Land Affairs and other government departments involved with state land reform challenges. He added that some of the initiatives set up under MOUs were working with some municipalities and others were not functioning. He cited leadership problems in this regard. An interdepartmental committee was structured to making state land available for land reform. He furthermore mentioned the Western Cape, where there was a challenge in obtaining state land. In Mpumalanga, the White River state land was earmarked for housing development. He furthermore briefed the Committee on the complicated challenges arising in the Ongeluksnek issue.

Mr Thomas added that in addition to these, other MOUs were already in operation. These were at Kwa Zulu Natal University, and in Limpopo. There were also MOUs with other entities involved in the implementation of the Communal Land Rights Act

Mr Shabane said the focus of the MOUs had significantly expanded to involve the private sector. He informed the Committee that he recently received a national framework from the agricultural sector, which would be expanded to commodity-specific sectors. The Department was looking into further agreements with Agri-SA to see what role they could play across the board. He added that there were also MOUs in place around the sugar industry in Mpumalanga and Kwa-Zulu Natal.

Mr Shabane informed the Committee that insofar as integration with municipalities was concerned, the Department had rolled out the land reform area-based plans across the country and had made R20 million available to municipalities to hire suitably experienced people to coordinate these plans. Area-based plans would have legal status and municipalities would have five years to effect these land reform plans.

Mr C Greyling (ANC) asked about the new policy regulating foreign ownership of land.

Mr Thomas referred to the report of the Panel of Experts that as being finalised, and said that once finalised it would be presented to Cabinet. The Department would then develop policy-legislation to be submitted to the Committee. The Department would formulate a submission to the Committee in due course.

Ms B Ntuli (ANC) raised the issue of restitution beneficiaries and the role of traditional leaders.

Mr Shabane said that the traditional leaders were included in the legal procedures, whether they were part of the Community Property Associations (CPAs) or trusts, and he stressed that the land belonged to the people individually, and could not be held in the name of the traditional leaders. He added that leaders were advised that it would be preferable to become Members of the legal entities, and not to be elected in or out of the CPA leadership. In regard to restitution beneficiaries, he informed the Committee that there would be questions asked around whether the entity was a going concern and what skills were available to run it as such. Arrangements would be made to accommodate long-term production and to introduce a skills transfer programme.

Mr Thomas then referred to the integration of tiers of government, and said that lack of integration was a national problem.  He said the need for much more alignment and integration would be addressed at Cabinet level. A Committee would be formed to facilitate the alignment. He briefed the Committee also on the formation of a national programme aimed at coordination. He further said that the Ministry had made significant progress since 2005 on the alignment of the two Departments, to a point where a Presidential Priority Project had been instituted, involving the Departments of Agriculture, Land Affairs, Housing, Education and Transport.

Mr Thomas also commented on municipalities not applying for support for land settlement for housing purposes. He said that the Department was taking a pro-active approach to involve municipalities in land reform. The area-based planning tool was devised so that the municipalities and other tiers of government would participate in the land reform programme, and have the programmes reflected both in the in provincial government development strategy and the integrated development plans of municipalities.

Mr Thomas said that the Department had experienced fewer disputed labour tenant claims in the past financial year, which was a positive development.

Finally Mr Thomas briefed the Committee on the major constitutional problems facing the Department in regard to evictions. Landowners had rights, which were protected by the Constitution, and these had to be balanced against the rights and claims of those being evicted. A possible solution would be to buy land and offer sustainable living to the dwellers.

The Chairperson requested that a list of MOUs be provided to the Committee.

The meting was adjourned.

 

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