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Meeting reportLAND AND ENVIRONMENTAL AFFAIRS SELECT COMMITTEE
6 November 2007
DEPARTMENT OF LAND AFFAIRS ANNUAL REPORT 2006/07 BRIEFING
Chairperson: Rev P Moatshe (ANC, North West)
Document handed out:
Department of Land Affairs Annual Report 2006/07 Presentation
Department of Land Affairs Annual Report 2006/07
Audio recording of meeting
The Department of Land Affairs briefed the Committee on the Annual Report 2006/07. Achievements included settlement of 74 417 claims out of the 79 696 claims. The Department stated however that a third of the remaining 5 122 claims would not be settled by the target date of 2008, due to the complexity of the claims. In the current financial year 2 772 claims had been settled. The total size of land delivered since 1994 was about 4.196million hectares towards the 30% target. The Department had spent 99.9 % of the money allocated in the budget. The Department had issued bursaries to prospective employees who were studying surveys, Geometrics, and land information management. The Department had filled 3 228 vacancies, but around 1 200 remained to be filled. Some of the challenges faced by the Department included conflicts with claimant communities, high cost of land, conflicts with traditional leaders, issues with land owners and the nature of the process of transfer of land to beneficiaries.
Members of the Committee were concerned with the fact that there was a slow pace in the delivery of land. They questioned the plans to advance the issue, whether the willing buyer/willing seller principle was working, the determination of market price, and the inadequate funding for restitution. Further questions related to frivolous restitution claims, the template used for the audit report, the slow pace of delivery, spending on the budget, problems around the Gijima project, assistance being given by the Portfolio Committee, training on management skills, the vacancies, the Deeds Registry offices, and the problems around identifying State land. Members also asked about the drop in the budget, the supply lead approach, the progress on the communal land rights issues, the travelling allowances, consultancy fees and the possibility of expropriation.
Briefing of the Department of Land Affairs (DLA) Annual Report 2006/07
Mr Thozi Gwanya, Acting Director General, Department of Land Affairs, briefed the Committee on the Annual Report 2006/07. He stated that the strategic context for the Department included contribution to poverty alleviation and economic development through land reform and administration, interventions and participation of the State in the land market to accelerate land redistribution, enhanced access to and/or ownership of land by people living on farms to improve their livelihoods, and economic opportunities and development of the capacity of the Department.
Mr Gwanya stated that the some of the core objectives of the Department included redistribution of 30% of white-owned agricultural land by 2014 for sustainable agricultural development. It aimed to provide land for sustainable human settlements, industrial and economic development, provide efficient land use and land administration services, provide also an efficient state land management that supported development. It would furthermore be creating skills development frameworks for land, and bringing agrarian reform to all relevant stakeholders.
Mr Gwanya noted that the Department had finalised the organisational structure. He noted that a memorandum of understanding (MOU) was signed with Fort Hare University for provision of a skills development framework for land and agrarian reform, and that training programmes for land reform beneficiaries in the Eastern Cape had been developed. He stated that 90 of the 250 bursaries to prospective employees in surveys, geometrics and land information management had been issued. The Department had filled 3 228 vacancies out of the 4 447. He noted that the recruitment drive was interesting in that most of the senior posts were being filled by upward promotions from the Department’s own staff, thus creating vacant posts lower down. There was also attrition by other Departments poaching employees.
The Department had come up with initiatives to capacitate itself, such as internship programmes, bursary schemes and graduate trainee programmes. He stated that in the financial year the Department was targeting 450 graduates for the programme.
Mr Gwanya stated that some of the policies and bills that were planned for finalisation had not been achieved. Some reports had been finalised -for instance, the foreign ownership of land report, land tax report, and review of the willing buyer-willing seller principle. Substantive comments on the new Expropriation Bill were submitted to the Department of Public Works.
Under the surveys and mapping programme, the Department had made progress in carrying out surveys and mapping of land in South Africa to assist in its redistribution drive. It was to produce maps for visually impaired citizens. He stated that there were serious concerns that the spatial planning was in line with the previous apartheid policies. Mr Gwanya confirmed that the spatial planning had been re-engineered to reflect the position of the present day South Africa.
Mr Gwanya stated that some of challenges faced by the Department included inability to recruit and retain skilled staff in compliance with the Employment Equity plan. He stated that the Department had intervened by accelerating training provided by the Chief Directorate. Another challenge raised was lack of enough state funding for the acquisition of earth imagery.
Under the Deeds Registration programme the Department was in the process of establishing a Deeds registry in every province, and a Registrar of Deeds in the Nelspruit area was appointed. Mr Gwanya noted that the Land Commission had settled 74 417 claims out of the 79 696 claims. He stated that a third of the remaining 5 122 claims would not be settled by the target date of 2008 due to the complexity of the claims. In the current financial year 2 772 claims had been settled.
Mr Gwanya stated that the delays were caused by the long processes involved in the transfer of state land. He noted that 40% of the population targeted was female headed households. 324 projects resulting from the restoration of land were evaluated and information made available to key strategic partners. Challenges included conflicts with claimant communities, the high cost of land, conflicts with traditional leaders, issues with land owners and the nature of the process. The Department had come up with strategies to tackle these challenges, which included consulting traditional authorities, batching claims, release of state land by other state Departments for purposes of restitution and media campaigns. The total size of land delivered since 1994 was about 4 196million hectares towards the 30% target. Out of the 2,5million hectare target 258 485 was delivered in the year under review.
Mr Gwanya stated that the framework for the decentralisation of land administration and management functions to Provincial Land Reform Offices had been finalised in April 2006. He stated that there was an on-going nation-wide state land audit to identify more properties that were not part of the asset register. The Department had spent 99.9 % of the money allocated in the budget. The Restitution and Land reform programmes represented 85% of the Departmental adjusted appropriation.
The Auditor General’s report had been qualified in two areas - asset management and rental revenue receivable from leased land. Mr Gwanya stated some of the assets could not be located for physical verification as a result of which the asset register did not comply with the minimum requirements of the asset management guidelines. The Department would continue with the robust identification of non-verified assets. In regard to the rental revenue he stated that the Department had incomplete information on all the land available for leasing, lack of approved policies to govern relationships regarding revenue collected through the power of attorney agreements, and an incomplete database of leased land. The Department would develop lease contracts and a debtor’s application system and set up a system for integrating revenue collection from provincial Departments of agriculture.
In conclusion Mr Gwanya noted that the Department had achieved some of its objectives, that there was a slow pace in land delivery, there was need for resources to meet the apex priorities especially in relation to increase in the number of hectares.
Mr M Mzizi (IFP, Gauteng) commented that the Department should come up with a strategic plan to enhance access and ownership of land for people living on farms. He stated that current farm owners were moving fast to make sure that they got rid of the farm workers.
Mr Mzizi stated that the willing buyer willing seller principle was not working as most of the buyers would not benefit from the land, since it had already been overexploited. He stated that by the time these farmers could pay the price of the land they would have used up all the resources and therefore would not be able to benefit from the land.
Mr Mzizi asked whether the Administration Programme in the Office of the Director General was working, and what it had achieved.
Mr Gwanya noted that the policy unit under the Office of the Director General had made commendable achievements, despite the fact that it did not finalise some policies and bills.
Mr Mzizi noted that much had been done on the settlement of claims by the Department. He stated however that some people did not support the government’s initiative to resettle disadvantaged people. Instead they were thinking only of making money out of the government by selling land at high prices.
Mr G Krumbock (DA, Kwazulu Natal) asked how the market price was determined. He wanted to know whether the Department dictated the price or whether the sellers had discretion to determine the prices of their land. He noted that it was the concern of the Department that prices of land were very high, and asked what influence the Department had on these prices.
Mr Gwanya agreed that the Department faced the challenge of escalating prices in land. He stated that the market price was determined by the prevailing trends at the time of purchase of the land. He stated that the price of private land had increased over time and therefore the Department had to acquire more funds to be able to buy the land at market price. He noted that the Department was negotiating with landowners and stakeholders to find a middle ground on the acquisition of land at prices that were favourable to everyone.
Mr Krumbock noted that the Department had mentioned that there were inadequate funds for restitution. He stated that 5% of agricultural land was made available each year for purposes of restitution. He noted that the Department’s complaint was that land was expensive and therefore was the reason behind not meeting the targets set out for redistribution and settlement of disadvantaged people. He asked why the Department, instead of expropriation of land, would not ask for more funding to buy land. He stated that because the process of expropriation was so long eventually the Department would end up paying the same price.
Mr Gwanya noted that the challenges faced with respect to the allocation of land arose because some of the land had not been surveyed and registered. He stated that the Department had requested more funding to enable it to buy land at market price.
Mr Krumbock noted that various landowners in KZN were frustrated by frivolous claims logged after the cut-off date. These owners had on previous occasions been informed that there were no claims against them, only to find new claims emerging against them.
Ms Tumi Seboka, Land Claims Commissioner, stated that it was not easy to confirm the status of claims, as some of the claims were being investigated. These claims would not be gazetted without having been authenticated. She stated that claims were not accepted past the cut-off date of 31 December 1998.
Mr L Van Rooyen (ANC, Free State) noted that the report was quite complex and that he had difficulties linking the actual strategic objectives and the achievements. He asked the Department about the work of the Commission.
Ms Tumi Seboka stated that entities such as the Land Commission reported to the Department on activities undertaken during the financial year. She stated that the restitution report presented earlier to the Committee gave more detail on the work of the Commission.
Mr Van Rooyen stated that the report had made no mention of the strategies outlined by the Minister for Land Affairs.
Mr Van Rooyen noted that the template of the audit report seemed to be the same every year and requested that in future that more substance should be added to the report.
Ms Cathy Motsisi, Acting Chief Financial Officer, DLA, noted that the reports presented were complex in nature and that the Department in future would ensure that it provided simplified reports.
Mr Van Rooyen stated that the supply lead approach that had been adopted by the Department was not working, given the slow pace of land delivery.
Mr Gwanya stated that the delivery of land was affected by various considerations. Challenges included long land processing processes, high costs in the land, untraceable claimants, disputes within claimant communities and deadlocks with land owners.
Mr Van Rooyen stated that the Department’s claim to have spent 99.9% of their budget was contradictory to what was noted in the Annual Report. That indicated that R2,25 billion had been unspent with regard to restitution for a period of two years, which meant that the Department was not meeting its obligations.
Ms Motsisi noted that the appropriation budgets were different from the annual reports. She stated that the Department had spent 99.9% of its budget. The Department had reimbursed some of the money allocated to it, for the reason that some of the money allocated was meant for settlement of claims, and claims that were taking long to settle.
Mr Van Rooyen noted that the Gijima project was not working. He stated that it should not be expected that farmers must wait for two years for the Department to make a decision on the buying of land.
Mr Gwanya noted that the Gijima project was still in its infancy and that it was early to tell the results of the project.
Ms M Oliphant (ANC, Kwazulu-Natal) noted that the Department had stated that the Portfolio Committee on Land Affairs Committee would assist the Department on its recruitment drive, and asked exactly what assistance was expected from this Committee.
Mr Gwanya noted that the Portfolio Committee had proposed that it could identify people from the constituencies who would be recruited by the Department to assist in the implementation of land reform policies in the regions.
Ms Oliphant noted that farm workers who benefited in acquisition of land through the Land Reform Project lacked land management skills. She asked whether the Department provided training to these farmers.
Mr Anton Van Staden, Director: Human Resources, DLA, noted that the Department had developed training programmes that would benefit the youth. Training programmes for land reform beneficiaries in the Eastern Cape had been developed. However it was hard to find people willing to apply for training.
Ms Oliphant asked whether the Department had its own internal audit body and whether senior members of the Department were present during the audit by the Auditor General.
Mr Mduduzi Shabane, Deputy Director General, DLA, stated that the Department had in place an internal audit unit that identified the areas that the Department needed to remedy. This report would be used by the Auditor General for purposes of his audit report.
Ms B Dlulane (ANC, Eastern Cape) asked whether the Department was able to carry out its activities effectively, given the number of unfilled vacancies. She was of the opinion that the Department should change its strategy and include more incentives to be able to retain staff.
Mr Van Staden stated that the recruitment process was daunting, and he noted that most of the jobs advertised were taken up by internal employees. He stated however that the recruitment process had been re-engineered. In previous years recruitment took an average of 6 months as compared to the new process that took 43 days. He stated that the Department was looking to improve its vacancy rate to 10%.
Ms Dlulane asked to be informed when the Land Summit took place. She stated that the report on the Land Summit was supposed to be brought before the Committee.
Mr Gwanya noted that the Land Summit took place in June 2005. The Department was in the process of implementation of resolutions passed in the summit. Some of the proposals made were the decentralisation of land reforms to the local municipalities.
Ms Dlulane requested the Department to provide more information on the provinces where Deeds registration offices had been opened.
Mr Gwanya noted that Deeds Registration offices had been opened in the Nelspruit and Limpopo and there was a plan to open more offices in other provinces.
Ms Dlulane noted that the issue of distribution of State land as opposed to that privately owned land should not be a challenge to the Department. She noted that it was understandable that the acquisition of privately owned land would create problems but State land should not.
Mr Gwanya noted that the State was the biggest owner of land, but was not the best land administrator. Some land remained unsurveyed and unregistered. This was the main reason behind the challenges faced with respect to State land.
A Member asked whether the Department had a relationship with the Department of Housing to assist in building homes for the beneficiaries of land. He stated that some beneficiaries had to wait for over ten years to benefit from the land granted to them, and asked whether the Department had a strategy to remedy this.
Mr Gwanya noted that the Department had a relationship with most of the Departments as they required that other departments make available some of their land for restitution purposes. He stated that there was a need to create a relationship with the Department of Housing, so that the less disadvantaged members of society would have houses built on the newly acquired lands.
Mr Van Rooyen asked for an explanation on the reduction of the budget for allocation of funds with respect to settlement of claims and implementation of development initiatives. He noted that this had dropped from R4, 85billion to R3, 73billion. He stated that the explanation given on reduction of the money for the settlement of claims was acceptable but that an explanation on the drop in the development initiatives was also needed.
Ms Motsisi noted that there were valid reasons why the Department reduced the money allocated in the budget as provided under the Annual Report.
Mr Van Rooyen re-emphasised issue of the supply lead approach, noting that the Department should probably adopt a demand driven approach instead of the supply lead approach, as the supply lead approach was not working.
Mr Gwanya stated that the demand approach had caused much delay with respect to allocation of land. The Department would have to wait on people to apply for allocation of land and grants to buy land. He noted that the supply lead approach worked better for the Department.
Mr Van Rooyen asked what the progress of the Expropriation Bill was.
Mr Gwanya stated that the Department was meeting with stakeholders to discuss the revised Expropriation Bill.
Mr Van Rooyen asked what the progress of the Communal Land rights case was.
Mr Gwanya noted that the Communal Land Rights case was progressing well and that the Department had not faced any problems. He stated that the Department still implemented communal land regulations, despite the case pending in court.
Mr Van Rooyen noted that there had been a reduction from R4 million to R2 million for performance awards money, and asked why this was so. He asked why the entertainment fund was increased from R2 million to R3 million.
Mr Gwanya stated that the standards used to gauge the performance of workers were very rigorous. The Department’s staff had not met the standards, as most employees were not exceptional. He stated that the staff had performed well but not exceptionally well.
Ms Motsisi noted that the Department had to raise the money allocated for entertainment to ensure their staff was able to act according to the mandate. This represented money used for accommodation, travelling and subsistence for staff who travelled around the country providing services.
Mr Van Rooyen noted that R98 million for consultancy fees was high.
Ms Motsisi stated that the amount provided for consultancy was raised taking into consideration inflation rates.
Mr Van Rooyen sought an explanation on what the Department meant by the operating leases.
Ms Motsisi noted that operation leases included amounts paid on machines and buildings leased by the Department.
Mr Krumbock was of the view that the Department was not answering the questions put to them appropriately. He stated that with respect to the market mechanism of acquiring of land the Department, the media and the Deputy Minister had contradicting views on how the Department would acquire land, and there were still arguments around whether this should be paying the market price or by expropriation of land.
Mr Shabane noted that there was a need to set the record straight in regard to the media’s reports that the government was planning to grab land from people. He stated that the rights of the citizens of South Africa were protected under Section 25 of the Constitution. Market price was just one of the considerations. He noted that where expropriation might happen, the Department would not simply be doing a land-grab, but would buy land from rightful owners through the proper channels.
Mr Krumbock asked whether the 79 693 claims was the final figure that had been lodged. He noted that the Department should provide a list of these claims.
Mr Gwanya noted that there were no backdated claims; the Department was keen to ensure that there were no fraudulent claims. He gave an example of fraudulent claims that were brought by people from Limpopo constituency; these claims were rejected on grounds that the offices where the respective claimants claimed they logged their claims were non-existent.
The Chairperson noted that some of the questions would be responded to in writing as the reporting of Departmental activities was an on-going process and that the Department would furnish better details in writing.
The meeting was adjourned