Commission on Restitution of Land Rights Annual Report 2006/07: Briefing

NCOP Land Reform, Environment, Mineral Resources and Energy

31 July 2007
Chairperson: Rev P Moatshe (ANC North West)
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Meeting Summary

The Land Claims Commissioners presented the 2006/7 Annual Report of the Commission on the Restitution of Land Rights, stating that 2 772 land claims had been finalised. The adoption of the mechanism provided for in the Expropriation Act had introduced a sense of reality and was assisting in expediting claims. Policies and mechanisms had been introduced to reduce and eliminate false and fraudulent claims. The Commission had spent 103% of its budget, R2.3 billion, mostly on land purchase as opposed to administration costs. The claims were detailed, with figures provided of the number of beneficiaries and amount of land. The Commission believed it was delivering well on the legislation. The land awards were benefiting a wide range of farming and tourism activities, and some claims had been finalised by financial awards rather than land awards. There were 5 279 claims outstanding, across all provinces.  In cases where recipients could not be finally determined, the land was transferred to the State in trust, pending the entity being recognised or registered. During the past year the initial investigation and the post-restitution support processes were refined. Credible land valuation methods were adopted. It was hoped that Section 25 of the Constitution would be incorporated into the new Expropriation legislation. The Settlement and Implementation Support Strategy was attempting to secure property rights, and give access to adequate resources, so that beneficiaries could optimise the land use. Challenges still remained, and were identified as the need to attract and keep skilled staff, who worked odd hours and in stressful conditions. Furthermore the process was hampered by the difficulty in establishing the correct claimants, often aggravated by polygamous relationships, family disputes and unregistered claims over land. Many of the outstanding matters would be very complex. Lack of co-operation by other Departments of State and municipalities further hampered the process.

Questions by Members addressed whether there was a register of state-owned land, disputes regarding community land and Traditional Leaders, the position of the Amakhosi, clarification of the Popela judgment, labour tenant rights and individual as opposed to tribe or clan claims. There was a perception that the Commission was not impartial. The identity investigations under the ID Buddy System were clarified. Members were concerned about the level and extent of post-settlement support, the assessment of claimants and the criteria used.

Meeting report

Commission on the Restitution of Land Rights (CRLR) Annual Report 2006: Briefing by Land Claims Commissioners (LCC)
Ms Tumi Seboko, Acting Chief Land Claims Commissioner, CRLR, tabled the Annual Report of the Commission on the Restitution of Land Rights, and highlighted certain aspects. She reported that the Commission enjoyed political support from the Presidency, the Ministers of Lands and Finance, and the Portfolio Committee. This ensured that there was sufficient finance and political will to support the restitution process, which emphasised the delivery of restored land to women, or women headed households, or others regarded as being marginalised, or vulnerable groups.

The expenditure for 2006/2007 was R2.3 billion. The cost of restitution awards was R4.6 billion, of which R2.8 billion was for land acquisition, for 33 051 households covering 579 000 hectares, R1.1 for financial compensation and R649.7 million for development grants. The Belgian Government had assisted with a contribution of R10 million which had been spent on the consultative and training processes, the development of land reform settlement and the implementation of settlement and implementation support strategy (SIS).

In the year under review 2 772 claims, being 2 066 urban and 706 rural claims had been finalized, with 52 000 households benefiting at a cost of R4.6 billion. The communities that had benefited were specifically listed in the Report, and it was noted that the beneficiaries were farming a diverse range including livestock, vegetable production, game farming, granite production, citrus for export to Japan, beef and poultry farming. Eco tourism, the concept of “people and parks” was also being addressed through some claims. Some households were assisted to use their land for profitable farming projects. In Paarl, Goodwood, Parow, Kensington, Rondebosch and Bellville (Western Cape) financial compensation rather than land, amounting to R33 million, had been given. In Pniel the Community Land Claim was still under consideration and 25 200 hectares was being held in trust pending finalisation. In Hlomendini 267 hectares had been awarded to 250 claimants as alternative land to their claim. The projects listed could be regarded as completed although certain sections of the areas were still subject to finalisation by the Land Claims or other Courts

For the period under review there were 5 279 claims outstanding, and these were fully detailed in the Annual Report, and comprised of claims in all the provinces.

During this year the number of finalised land claims had accelerated. The adoption of the mechanism allowed in terms of the Expropriation Act had introduced a sense of reality among the parties to land claims and was assisting and expediting the finalisation of claims. A policy and mechanisms had been introduced to reduce and obviate false and fraudulent claims.

The Commission had achieved a 103% spend of its budget, resulting in the Commission having to approach associated bodies and State Departments for appropriate contributions. By far the most money had been expended upon land purchase as opposed to administration costs. It was felt that although there was no reason for complacency the Commission was delivering as the legislation intended.

Ms Seboko noted that there were still challenges in implementing the legislation. The Land Restitution Act (LRA) required that the direct beneficiaries of land-deprived persons be identified and compensated. The practices of tribal living, illegitimate and adopted children and polygamous marriages, whether formally registered or informal in nature, presented the Commission with well nigh insurmountable problems in correctly identifying the direct beneficiaries of those who had been dispossessed of land. In addition the valuation of properties, the current high property prices, the lack of proper surveying of properties and the unregistered nature of many land ownership arrangements and rights, together with family disputes regarding land, all delayed restitution of land rights. She was of the opinion that the “easy” claims had been settled and that increasingly problematic cases were still to be determined.

In those cases where the recipient community of individuals had not been properly identified, the land was transferred to the State in trust, pending the entity being recognised or registered.

Ms Seboko reminded Members that the process allowed for redress in the form of land restoration, alternative land, financial compensation, or a combination. Taking the claimants through this process was tedious and demanded patience, social facilitation skills, development planning experience and  business process mapping expertise, conflict resolution skills and experience and advanced communication skills. In addition the conveyancing process, either for privately-owned or State-owned disposals, was lengthy.

At the Commission, the skills required of staff members were high, and in “reserved” areas, so that the Commission and associated Departments were competing in the same pool of skills, and often poached from or attracted staff from each other. Increased levels of stress from the workload, and the confrontational and aggressive attitude of many claimants, led to staff resignations. In addition, staff needed to work at hours suitable to claimants, either weekends or public holidays. The majority of the Commission staff was on fixed contracts terminating 31 March 2008. With the assistance of the department of Land Affairs there was ongoing work in this area in order to retain scarce skills.

Often lack of co-operation by Departments of State, for instance in providing identity and associated documents, and the indolence of the Municipality staff, hampered land restitution.
Ms Seboko said that during the year, in order to shorten and accelerate the land claims, both the initial process and the post restitution support process had been refined. Credible and accepted land valuation methods had been adopted, to arrive at a recommended market value that required compliance with Section 25 of the Constitution. A new Expropriation Bill would prove of assistance and it was hoped that the requirements of Section 25 of the Constitution would be incorporated in the new legislation.

Ms Seboko summarized that the Commission had met all the requirements for Corporate Governance in terms of the relevant legislation. Following the Minister’s proposals, there had been an acceleration of learning and growth perspectives through using Section 42D of the Restitution Act.

The Commission’s Settlement and Implementation Support Strategy (SIS) included securing property rights, and giving access to adequate resources, so that beneficiaries could optimise the land use. There was technical assistance given and improved public and private utilities services inclusive of sanitation, electricity, health, education, transport, storage processing, irrigation and other infra-structural requirements. The strategy also provided skills for entrepreneurship and other skill developments, facilitation for macro-policies on tax implications, price trade and investment policies and the full and equitable integration of women and other vulnerable and marginalised groups.

Discussion
Mr M Mzizi (IFP, Gauteng) complimented the Commissioner on a highly impressive report, but wished to know whether this was an unqualified report.

Mr Mzizi required clarification on what exactly unsurveyed and unregistered land rights were; and queried whether there was a register of State-owned land.

Commissioner Beverly Jansen said that there was a State Land Assets register but this must be regarded as a work in progress.

Mr Mzizi required information on disputes regarding Community Land and/or Traditional Leaders and clarification on the position of the Amakhosi, especially with regard to communal and commercial land and what was meant by the partnerships referred to on page 3 of the report. He also asked for specifics on what land was suitable for farming in Gauteng Province. He enquired what was happening with Hluhluwe/ Umfolosi, and also generally what was happening with the people of Kwa Zulu Natal and more especially the labour tenants throughout the country.

Mr Mashile Makono,  Limpopo Regional Commissioner, stated that as a result of the judgment by the Constitutional Court in the Popela case, which was regarded as a landmark case on labour tenants, there had been a ruling that labour tenant rights could form the basis for a claim for restitution. Any labour tenant rights must be closely examined to ascertain whether they were existing or prescribed, and if existing, then they were capable of restitution.

He also addressed the situation if people were deprived of land and then became subject to a certain traditional Leader, or were declared to be subject to a different traditional Leader. When the restitution process was announced such people claimed their rights to the land which they had been deprived of in their own right. The Traditional Leaders objected to such claims, on the basis that if the claimants were now subject to a Traditional Leader, then the claim should properly be made either by the first or second Traditional Leader. If the land was awarded, it should not be registered in the names of the individuals who had forfeited their land, but either in the name of the relevant Traditional Leader or in the name of the tribe or clan concerned. This led to the extinction of individual rights and was of great concern to all involved. It was felt that, especially in KwaZulu Natal the letter of the law could not be implemented, but that there should be a large degree of sensitivity to local forces such as the Amakhosi.

Commissioner Jansen added that a high degree of investigation of claims was required to elicit hard evidence from everyone concerned, because ultimately all claims were adjudicated by the High Court in terms of the legislation.

Mayo Sosibo, Regional  Commissioner, Kwazulu Natal, pointed out that in the case of the Hluluwhe claim, the people were the ultimate owners of the land, but it had been “leased “out to the Managers of the Game Parks for eco tourism purposes. The people retained certain rights such as the right to visit the graves of their ancestors for religious reasons, and the right to gather flora and fauna for traditional medicine purposes. With regard to Traditional Leaders, she confirmed that there was an overlapping of authorities and claimants, but ultimately the land was owned by the Usutu or King, whose right to the land was regarded as unchallengeable.

Ms Seboko added that the ID Buddy System was not a new version of the I D certificate but an attempt to ascertain all the claimants to a right, who could be a group or family, and to identify correctly the right claimant or the members who correctly belonged to a claimant.

The Chairperson indicated that he thought this had been a good report, but he wished the Commission to indicate how it would appraise its own performance, and what was being done regarding the costs of land and what staff retention policies had been developed.

Commissioner Mokono then stated that the Commissioners were pleased with what they had accomplished but tempered this with a viewpoint that there could always be an improvement in any sphere of activity and they were in fact appreciative of the support from the NCOP.

The Chairperson also asked upon what basis the service providers, and even the staff, were vetted to ensure that the State’s resources were being properly apportioned and used. He said in this regard that he had been embarrassed by the highly publicized handing of land over to recipients, followed very shortly by the fact that those viable and profitable lands were seen to have been raped of all resources and were lying moribund. He enquired particularly what steps were being taken to ensure that the recipients of land could continue with a viable and profitable enterprise on the land awarded. He wanted greater scrutiny or vetting of the claimants so that there were no “chancers” benefiting at the expense of other claimants and South Africa in the broad context In this regard he included the question of a multiplicity of wives and children claimants.

Mr F Adams (ANC, W. Cape) was also concerned about the criteria upon which potential recipients were adjudicated and raised the question of the restitutionary discretionary grants and settlement planning grants criteria.

Mr Mokono hoped that it was appreciated that even with expropriation there were settlement offers made, which then needed to be considered by the other parties, and all parties had to review their standpoints. Often several counter-offers might be made and new valuations were required. He pointed out that the claims had to be supported by evidence-based facts and figures. He noted that efforts to establish mentoring policies on a long term basis for claimants were being implemented.

Commissioner Ms Jansen added that there had been an attempt to assert tribal leadership over the whole Cape, Western Eastern and Northern sections, which had come to naught.

Mr A Watson (DA) expressed the view that the Commission was one sided or biased in the approach to the question of claims.

Commissioner Mokono replied that the Commissioners felt that they were approaching the claims in the spirit required by the Act, which enjoined upon the Commissioners to assist the claimants.

Commissioner Sosibo stated that the Ingonyama Trust was dealing with all the relevant land in Kwa Zulu Natal that belonged to the King.

Mr Adams asked about inflation upon the quantum of R1 million, which had remained static over seven years, and whether the Commission would complete its tasks before it was due to terminate in 2008. This question was not specifically answered.

The meeting was adjourned.

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