ATC140204: Report of the Portfolio Committee on Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries on the Oversight Visit to Ncera Farms (Pty) Ltd in the Eastern Cape Province on 15 November 2013

Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries

REPORT OF THE PORTFOLIO COMMIITTEE ON AGRICULTURE, FORESTRY AND FISHERIES ON THE OVERSIGHT VISIT TO NCERA FARMS (PTY) LTD IN THE EASTERN CAPE PROVINCE ON 15 NOVEMBER 2013

The Portfolio Committee on Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, having undertaken an oversight visit to Ncera Farms (Pty) Ltd in the Eastern Cape Province on 15 November 2013 reports as follows:

1.       Background

Ncera Farms (Pty) Ltd is a public company listed under Schedule 3B of the Public Finance Management Act (Act No 29 of 1999), with the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (hereinafter referred to as the Department) as its sole shareholder. The primary function of the entity is to assist developing farmers and rural communities by providing a variety of services such as advice and training, agricultural extension services, the mechanisation of agricultural production, animal improvement schemes and marketing of agricultural products. The aim of Ncera Farms (Pty) Ltd is to contribute to the industry focused farm management training, farmer support services and the design of franchise-type agricultural business models for farmers and beneficiaries of land reform in the surrounding areas.

1.1. Objective of the visit

In response to the resolution taken by the Portfolio Committee on Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries to dissolve Ncera Farms (Pty) Ltd (hereinafter referred to as Ncera) as an entity, the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) was given a mandate to develop an operational plan on how the process will be effected and future plans on the use of the entity’s operational centre and its facilities. The Department was asked to report back to the Portfolio Committee within three months.  On 9 October 2013, the Department presented the plan and after deliberations, the Committee took a resolution to revisit Ncera on 15 November 2013, to report on the proposed operational plan. The purpose of the follow-up visit to Ncera that took place on 15 November 2013 was to meet with the communities and other affected stakeholders to report back on the outcomes of the Committee engagement with the Department and the proposed future plans for Ncera Farms (Pty) Ltd.

1.2. Delegation

The delegation of the Committee composed of Mr M Johnson, ANC (Chairperson and Leader of the delegation); Ms NM Twala, ANC; Mr M Cele, ANC and Mr N Bhanga, COPE. The delegation was supported by Ms A Kakaza, Committee Secretary and Ms N Mgxashe, Content Advisor.

It must be noted that the Provincial Portfolio Committee on Agriculture and Agrarian Reform was unable to be part of the visit due to provincial consideration of annual reports.

2. Engagement during oversight visit

2.1     Report back and presentation of the Operational Plan by the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) on the future of Ncera Farms (Pty) Ltd

The following officials from the National Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries were in attendance: Mr KCM Mannya, Deputy Director General (DDG) for Agricultural Production, Health and Food Safety; Mr MS Masemola, Deputy Director (DD): Small Holder Development in Food Security and Agrarian Reform Branch; Mr BD Msomi, Chief Director (CD) for National Extension Support Services (NESS), Ms N Mafani, Parliamentary Coordinator and Mr T Mokoloane, Office Assistant from the Office of the Director-General. Management of Ncera Farms (Pty) Ltd: Mr Mziwamadoda Titimani, Chief Executive Officer (CEO); Ms K Gwazela, Chief Financial Officer (CFO); Mr V Booi, Finance Officer; Ms Z Gana, Personal Assistance and Ms A Malisi, Receptionist. The resettled farmers, farm dwellers and other surrounding community members were also in attendance (Attendance register attached).

The Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee gave a brief background and the purpose of the meeting. He then requested DAFF to give a brief background of how the state farms surrounding Ncera were allocated to the farmers and the progress report on the operational plan for Ncera.

The Deputy-Director for Small Holder Development in Food Security and Agrarian Reform, Mr MS Masemola reported that an advertisement went out in 2005 for interested people to apply for the 10 state farms that were available around Ncera. Out of 150 applications received, 10 farmers were selected and allocated to 10 farms with provisional three-year lease contracts, with an option to buy. The farmers were later given permissions to occupy (PTOs), which have since expired in September 2012.

The DDG for Agricultural Production, Health and Food Safety, Mr KC Mannya reported that in response to the recommendation made by the Portfolio Committee on Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries to dissolve Ncera Farms as an entity, a Task Team has been established consisting of DAFF, the Provincial Department of Rural Development and Agrarian Reform, Department of Public Works and Department of Rural Development and Land Reform to look into the matter. He reported that proposals were submitted to the Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries. The proposals include deregistration of the Centre (Ncera), transfer of staff, transfer of movable and non-movable assets and the relocation of the 10 farmers that were settled in some of the Ncera farms, which have since been invaded.

2.2     Progress report by DAFF on the proposed Operational Plan and the future of Ncera Farms (Pty) Ltd

The progress to date on the proposed operational plan as reported by Mr Mannya was as follows:

Deregistration of Ncera Farms (Pty) Ltd

The process of deregistration of Ncera, the entity, has been initiated and the intention is to align deregistration with the transfer of the centre to the Agricultural Research Council (ARC). The plan is for the ARC to use the centre for animal breeding, research and training, which will benefit local farmers and the surrounding communities.

Transfer of staff

Part of the proposal to the Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries is to approve the transfer of staff from Ncera to DAFF as a first option, or to Fort Cox Agricultural College as another option depending on the deliberations and agreement with the College.

Transfer of movable and non-movable assets

DAFF has two proposals, the first being to hand over the assets to Dohne Agricultural Research Station, the second being to hand over the assets to the ARC. This is work in progress and the ARC has been engaged on the possible hand over of the operational area of the centre to them.

Farms and farmers settled on the Ncera state farms

The Department of Rural Development and Land Reform (DRDLR) that is also in the Task Team, has been approached for the relocation of the 10 settled farmers and to place them under their administration. The ownership status of the 10 resettled Ncera farms has been assessed by the Department of Public Works and a report presented to the Task Team.  The 10 farms are registered under the Ministry of Public Works and the South African Development Trust. DAFF is also in discussions with the Provincial Department of Rural Development and Agrarian Reform to look at their possible involvement in taking the matter forward. DAFF is also in discussions with the DRDLR to find alternative land for the resettled farmers, for whom conditions at Ncera are not conducive for farming.

3.       Committee observations

The Committee observed that there was no consultation by the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries with all the affected stakeholders, particularly in resolving the conflict between some of the resettled farmers and the farm dwellers as it was decided by the Portfolio Committee in May 2013.  The Committee also observed that the surrounding communities and farm dwellers were receptive to the proposed operational plan as presented by DAFF however, there was a need for further consultation between DAFF and the resettled farmers.

4.       Recommendations

·       The Committee recommends that the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) and the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform should hold consultation meetings or workshops with all the affected stakeholders at Ncera such as the Management of Ncera Farms (Pty) Ltd, settled farmers, surrounding communities and farm dwellers to further explain the proposed operational plan for the future of Ncera and report back to the Portfolio Committee on the progress made before end of the current financial year.

Report to be considered.

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