ATC110808: Report Oversight visit to the Free State from 17 to 18 August 2011
Report of the Select Committee on Public Services on an oversight visit to the Free State from 17 to 18 August 2011.
The Select Committee on Public Services visited Dihlabeng Municipality in Bethlehem and Maluthi-A-Phofung Municipality in Phuthaditjhaba in the Free State on the 17th and 18th August 2011. The delegation consisted of the following members:
Mr MP Sibande, MP, ANC, Leader of the delegation
Ms P Themba, MP, ANC
Mr H Groenewald, MP, DA
Mr B Kali, Committee Secretary
Mr S Denyssen, Content Advisor
Mr T Makhanye, Researcher
Ms O Siebritz, Committee Assistant
Mr RJ Tau, MP, ANC
Mr MP Jacobs, MP, ANC
Ms L Mabija, MP, ANC
Mr Z Mlenzana, MP, Cope
Mr DB Feldman, MP, Cope
Mr O de Beer, MP, Cope
The Constitution (1996) gives Parliament the power to conduct oversight over all organs of state, including those at provincial and local government level. In line with its vision to be a Parliament that is accessible to all people, Parliament designed the “Taking Parliament to the People Programme” (TPTTP). This ensures that no matter in which remote location our people are situated, the institution of Parliament is taken to the doorstep of those people, and their voices are listened to by the national, provincial and local government executive and officials. As part of its ethos of an activist Parliament, the programme highlights issues and challenges that slow down service delivery to the people.
From 15 to 19 November 2010 the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) conducted the TPTTP in the Moluti-A-Phofung Local Municipality located in the Thabo Mofutsanyana District Municipality (TMDM).
Several challenges with regard to service delivery were raised by communities. These included:
- inadequate public infrastructure and facilities (clinics and hospitals),
- inadequate road infrastructure which prevented access to clinics and schools,
- challenges with regard to community participation in road maintenance projects, and
- challenges with cross-border traffic, including those experienced by the taxi industry.
Except for the TPTTP, Parliament’s committees are the appropriate mechanisms to exercise oversight over all organs of state, including the provincial and local government spheres.
It is within this context that the Select Committee on Public Services has identified the Moluti-A-Phofung Local Municipality located in the Thabo Mofutsanyana District Municipality to conduct its oversight during the week 17-18 August 2011.
3. Terms of reference and objectives of the oversight visit
The Select Committee on Public Services exercises oversight over the Departments of Human Settlements, Public Works and Transport. As a committee of the National Council of Provinces that represents provincial matters in Parliament, the committee extends its oversight function to the provincial and local government spheres to ensure that it gathers information about possible challenges with the implementation of national policy.
The committee maintains a strategic oversight focus on infrastructure that is required to improve access to service delivery in health, education, transport related issues that prevail in areas in the Free State on its border withLesotho, including human settlement issues that present themselves in the related sector of agriculture and farming.
3.1. Terms of reference:
The terms of reference were to gather information regarding the service delivery issues in the Maluthi-A-Phofung Municipality in Phuthaditjhaba in the Free State. The report focuses solely on challenges and issues that emerged from the Taking Parliament to the People Programme that was held in 2010. The following form the main parts of the Terms of reference:
- the construction of access roads and road improvement projects that is crucial to ensure access to quality service delivery, specifically the Route Four and the Puthaditjhaba Road Connection in the Eastern part of the Free State;
- the provision of human settlement services to people who suffered due to farm evictions in the area; and
- cross-border transport issues involving the taxi industry.
The committee visited rural communities in the Moluti-A-Phofung Local Municipality:
1. to gather information regarding:
- the state of projects to improve roads in parts of the Moluti-A-Phofung Local Municipality;
- challenges that arose in road construction projects through which employment opportunities are to be created in this area; and
- the provision of human settlement services to people who suffered due to farm evictions in the area;
2. to interact with the agricultural and farming sector in order to investigate possible farm evictions as this relates to delivery of human settlement;
3. to make recommendations to further strengthen service delivery in these sectors in the Maluti-A-Phofung Local Municipality.
4.1. The construction of access roads and road improvement projects that is crucial to ensure access to quality service delivery, specifically the Route Four and the Puthaditjhaba Road Connection in the Eastern part of the Free State.
The road improvement in the eastern part of the Free State in Maluthi-A-Phofung falls under the Contractor Development Programme of the National Department of Public Works (NDPW).
Findings specific to the issues that emerged from the NCOP Taking Parliament to the People programme 2010:
4.1.1. Regarding the cancellation of contracts with brick makers to manufacture bricks for the continuously reinforced concrete pavement (CRCP) the committee found as follows:
The NDPW reported to the committee that contracts were not cancelled but put on hold due to a change in the project design from paved road to Cape Seal after discovering that the paved road option would be too costly and that the terrain between Lesotho and the Free State prevented the use of paved brick as a road-building option;
The change in design impacted negatively on the quantity of bricks needed - a strategic decision was made to continue using bricks wherever sidewalks were to be constructed;
The provincial Department of Police, Roads and Transport (FS DPRT) confirmed that the change in design was not going to impact negatively on the initially projected work opportunities to be created;
The FS DPRT further confirmed that initial Contractors accepted a proposal from the department to accede to the request to keep their contracts on hold;
The initial four contractors are still part of the NDPW’s Contractor Development Programme and are expected like all contractors to compete for tenders allocated for contractor development. This includes the 26 learnerships that form part of the programme;
Eight tenders were advertised and all contractors in the programme were provided with opportunities to submit tender documents;
Two contractors responsible for layer works have since completed their part of the project;
The department further reported that two contractors responsible for culverts were working on site.
4.1.2. Regarding the issue of the retrenchment of fifty-eight (58) workers the committee found as follows:
The FS DPRT indicated that 58 workers were retrenched due to challenges that arose after the change in design mentioned above;
The FS DPRT referred to the Ministerial Determination 4: related to Expanded Public Works Programmes dated October 2011, section 14.10 that states: “If a worker’s employment is terminated, the employer must pay all monies owing to that worker within one month of the termination of employment.”
4.1.3. Regarding the alleged deduction of R100 000 from the accounts of managers involved in the project, and administrative issues related to learnerships, the committee found as follows:
The NDPW could not verify this as it falls within the ambit of the Free State Department of Police, Roads and Transport. The FS DPRT undertook to address this issue in their report as per programme.
The FS DPRT stated that matters related to learnerships in these projects are conducted in terms of the policy guidelines of the EPWP as directed by the NDPW. Training and mentorship is therefore provided by a company that is registered for that purpose with the NDPW. The FS DPRT cannot change companies for learnerships as it could result in the exclusion of the contractor from the project.
General findings related to the construction of access roads and road improvement projects that is crucial to ensure access to quality service delivery, specifically the Route Four and the Puthaditjhaba Road Connection in the Eastern part of the Free State:
- The project is funded and implemented by the Free State Department of Police, Roads and Transport.
- The National Department of Public Works (NDPW) monitors the number of employment opportunities created in each of the projects and reports on these to Parliament and the national executive.
- Employment opportunities counted by the NDPW are for those created for local labourers and not for contractors and/or learnerships.
- The committee noted the assertion on the part of Free State Department of Police, Roads and Transport that they are the custodians of all provincial roads, responsible for the development of the provincial roads infrastructure plan, project priorities, development and maintenance of roads as well as procurement and project management of all provincial roads projects.
- It further noted that the national DPW provides national policy leadership and direction on the design, framework and implementation of the EPWP, sets targets for the creation of work opportunities and monitors this and reports on it to the national executive and Parliament.
- The committee noted a disjuncture in reporting on detail regarding road infrastructure and maintenance projects between the national Department of Public Works and the Free State Department of Police, Roads and Public Transport.
- This meant that the national DPW could not spell out the expenditure pertaining to this venture since the Department of Police & Transport is responsible for compiling expenditure reports. Some projects are co-owned by several departments, and that could make it difficult to get a clear understanding of who is responsible for what.
- The committee noted that much of this relates to the Constitution, Schedule 4, which describes Public Works as a concurrent function with provincial and national departments being responsible for different but important interlinking aspects of service delivery that affects the lives of ordinary people.
- The committee therefore asserted that interactions with various role-players brought to light an unfortunate slippage in reporting on important matters of the projects to construct, maintain and create employment opportunities. The committee met with officials of the national Department of Public Works in the Free State to relay the importance of addressing this slippage with urgency. In a subsequent follow-up meeting, the committee further met officials and the MEC of the Free State Department of Police, Roads and Public Transport and shared this insight so that from the side of the province, attention is given so that improvements are made to the implementation of the concurrent function of public works.
4.2. The provision of human settlement services to people who suffered due to farm evictions in the Maluthi-A-Phofung area:
The presentation of the Free State Department of Agriculture and Rural Development was divided into three sub-sections namely Bethlehem (six farms), Phumelela Farm and Tshepo-E-Ncha Trust (Wingevonden Farm).
4.2.1. Bethlehem - The committee gathered the following information from the department on the eviction status at each farm:
The Free State Department of Agriculture & Rural Development reported on the status of people who needed human settlement services after farm evictions that took place in Bethlehem.
Farm evictions are considered a serious matter as they adversely affect children who may have to keep relocating to different schools. Transport to and from social, education and health services and alternative employment (as most evicted families have lost their jobs) is also a matter of serious concern.
The department reported that there were known cases of victimisation where farmers lock families out of their premises while awaiting the legal course to be completed. Farmers further disconnect water and electricity from housing units.
1. Andrus Farm
A family consisting of ten (10) people were evicted – at the time of the oversight visit the family was still living on the farm as the case was before the court.
2. Erfenis Farm
Nine families live here. The owner was advised to follow legal procedures when evicting the families. He has not yet complied with necessary requirements. They were however without work as their contracts were terminated.
3. Liewensburg Vlei
Ten families live on the farm. Evictions are still pending. The owner of the farm has to follow the correct procedures.
They were also left without work as their contracts were terminated.
The case is being appealed. One family consisting of five members is affected. The Department has lodged an appeal on their behalf.
Workers were retrenched in 2003. In order to ensure that they moved from the farm, their electricity services were cut. The three evicted families remain on the farm. A law firm called Matsepe represents them in court.
6. Spes Bona – Daniels Rest
The farmer did not submit the document stating his first intent to evict families, thus he did not follow the correct eviction procedure. The four evicted families remain on the farm pending a court ruling.
4.2.2. Phumelela farm in Vrede:
The provincial Department of Land Reform and Rural Development has been working on the matter. Evicted families are still staying on the sports grounds. Very basic sanitation, sewerage and waste removal services are available to evictees. The matter has been referred to the provincial member of the Executive Council (MEC). The Department of Human Settlements is arranging houses for these families. A comprehensive report will be forwarded to the committee.
4.2.3. Tshepo-E-Ncha Trust (Wingevonden Farm):
The evicted families consist of 13 households, of which 13 were women and 12 were men. Part of the group had since moved to the nearby Mashaeng township close to Fouriesburg. Some of these were allocated RDP housing units which continued to fuel tension between the two groups.
The Wingevonden farm was bought in 1996 by the former Department of Land and Agriculture (the present Department of Land Reform and Rural Development (DLRRD). It consisted of 532 hectares. The trust was formed as part of the department’s project to ensure sustainability to resettlement on the farms and to create employment.
Due to disputes between the evictees, the crop lands were lying fallow. Four members who stayed on the farm accessed R1,7 million from the Department of Social Development with which they started a poultry project (the Slabbert’s Poultry Project). This has caused further tension between the farm and township group.
The township group sought political intervention without consulting the farm group. The department found it very difficult to get the evictees together as one group so that disputes can be resolved and solutions can be found. The departments reported on the involvement of a departmental official in the funded agricultural project; this continued to add to the friction in the midst of the evictees.
The committee noted that conflict resolution efforts were unsuccessful because all role-players were not working as a unit. This includes the two groups of evictees as well as the municipal council committee responsible for human settlement, the provincial department responsible for human settlement and agriculture and the national and provincial departments of land reform and rural development.
4.2.4. General findings regarding farm evictions and the need to ensure proper human settlement facilities for evictees:
The committee noted that at the initial stage, the settlement of evictees on these farms had nothing to do with creating employment for people in the agricultural sector. It was an attempt at ensuring that there was land on which large numbers of people who were evicted could settle. So the placing of evictees on farms was for the purpose of human settlement rather than for commercial farming or the creation of employment.
Members questioned how it was possible that land was identified on farms without ensuring that there was adequate water, sanitation and electricity for people.
The committee noted that the standard response from representatives of the municipal council was that the provincial department responsible for housing was in a better position to respond. The response from the human settlement department regarding the availability of land for people to resettle them was that they could not access title deeds. The issue of different departments, at different levels of government being more responsible than others, continued to raise its head. The committee thus faced a frustrating situation where it could not get appropriate responses to their questions.
4.3. Taxi and cross-border issues:
4.3.1. There was an outcry by representatives of several taxi associations that they were disempowered because the Department of Transport has given more powers to Lesotho taxi owners who commute passengers freely between Bloemfontein and Johannesburg.
4.3.2. According to the agreement reached in the previous discussions between the Department of Police, Roads and Transport and Free State taxi associations with Lesotho operators, 42 taxis from Free State should be allowed to operate in Lesotho and 42 from Lesotho should be allowed to operate from Free State.
4.3.3. Free State taxi owners maintained that they were victimised and harassed by Lesotho police and traffic officers who do not want them in Lesotho, and were denied business by Lesotho taxi owners who did not want them to pick up passengers from their turf. There had been reported incidents of fighting and shooting in the taxi industry, as well as vandalising of the Free State taxis by their Lesotho counterparts.
4.3.4. Taxi owners claimed that a number of meetings were held with authorities from the provincial government, but most of the time some officials were unavailable to assist. They were asked to write statements outlining their plight but in spite of doing so and sending these to the relevant officials, nothing was resolved.
4.3.5. The representatives appealed to the parliamentary delegation to give them hope that something would be done to address their situation. They asked that the law be changed so as not to be unfavourable to them. They had vehicles for which they owed banks. When their work was sabotaged by the tactics of the Lesotho taxi owners, the police and the traffic officers, they lost business and their vehicles were repossessed. They further reported that some taxi owners had dual membership of association and therefore benefitted the most from the arrangement to transport passengers from both Lesotho and South Africa.
5.1.1. The committee recommends that the national Department of Public Works and Free State provincial Department of Police, Roads and Transport address the obvious disjointed manner in which they communicate and report on matters related to the appointment of contractors for the construction and maintenance of roads in the Maluthi-A-Phofung region.
5.1.2. The committee expressed its concern regarding the manner in which the provincial department implemented the Contractor Development Programme, learnerships and employment creating efforts involved in the Qwa-Qwa Route Four Phases 1 (S1502), 2 (S1535), 3 (S1542 and 4 (S1535). It is also greatly concerned with the disjuncture between implementation of the stated objective to create employment and the appropriate and correct reporting that needs to go with it. The committee thus recommends that the relevant directorates in the National Department of Public Works (Intergovernmental Relations and EPWP) meet with their provincial counterparts in the Free State Department of Police, Roads and Transport and deal specifically with the slippages that occurred in the mentioned phases of the project.
5.1.3. The committee noted the unresolved issues related to the contractors and managers and whilst it was explained as administrative matters, it remains important that the provincial department follow national policy and regulation so that contractor-appointments take place within the framework set by the grading of the Construction Industry Development Board (CIDB). The committee urges that the provincial department, in cooperation with the regional office of the NDPW, identify the challenges that characterised the Route Four Project and use it to develop easy to implement guidelines for provincial and local government officials to follow.
5.1.4. Regarding the urgency to resolve human settlement needs of evictees in the Maluthi-A-Phofung region, the committee noted the challenge of decentralisation where different departments, at different levels of government claim to be less responsible than others for challenges. The committee thus faced a frustrating situation where it could not get appropriate responses to their questions. The committee recommends that the relevant officials from the Departments of Human Settlement, Rural Development and Land Reform with the Department of Agriculture at national and provincial level be briefed about the complexities involved in especially Wingevonden Farm. Conflict resolution experts should be appointed and political leadership should be exercised and bring the two feuding groups together so that appropriate sustainable resolutions are developed.
5.1.5. Regarding the taxi and cross-border issues, the committee recommends that all role players, the taxi associations, Free State Department of Police, Roads and Transport including the national taxi association and the cross-border agency be invited to attend a meeting in Parliament where the matters are presented and discussed so that possible resolutions can be worked out.
Report to be considered.
 Report on Taking Parliament to the People – Free State 15-19 November 2010, as compiled by Dr Farieda Khan, Mr Tshepo Makhanye, Mr Lwazi Mahlangu and Mr Sean Whiting
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