ATC091104: Report 2008/09 Annual Report of the Department of Land Affairs

Rural Development and Land Reform



The Portfolio Committee on Rural Development and Land Reform, having considered the 2008/09 Annual Report of the Department of Land Affairs, reports as follows:


1.              Introduction


The briefing on the 2008/09 annual report of the Department of Land Affairs (DLA) took place on 21st of October 2009. The new Department of Rural Development and Land Reform briefed the Portfolio Committee on this annual report.


The following members of the top management of the Department appeared before the Portfolio Committee for the briefing Mr. Thozi Gwanya - Director General (DG), Mr. Vusi Mahlangu - Acting Chief Financial Officer (CFO), Mr. Mdu’ Shabane - Deputy Director General (DDG) - Land Tenure Reform, Mr. A van Staden - Acting DDG Corporate Services, Dr N.  Makgalemele - Deputy Director General - Land Planning and Information, Mr. Andrew Mphela - Chief Land Claims Commissioner (CLCC).


The Mission of the DLA was “to provide enhanced land rights to all South Africans, with particular emphasis on black people, that would result in increased income levels and job opportunities, productive land use and well planned human settlement.”  In order to achieve its mandate, the Department was organized into six different but complementary programmes, namely Administration, Mapping and Surveys, Cadastral Surveys, Restitution, Land Tenure Reform, Spatial Planning Information (SPI) and Deeds Registry.


This report is presented within a context of commitment to the programme for land and agrarian reform and the target of redistributing 30% of white owned agricultural land by 2014. The committee engaged with the report with an understanding of the challenges facing the land reform programme and the demands of the poor and landless people for prompt delivery of land and support services to ensure that beneficiaries realize the development benefits of the programme.


The committee notes the enormity of the challenge of resolving the land question, particularly with consideration to the legacy of racially-based land dispossessions of the past, budgetary constraints to deliver land at scale, existing capacity problems and the effects of the current global economic meltdown. The committee regards the programme of land redistribution as a significant and necessary project in order to enhance political stability, transformation and redressing the inequalities in land ownership.


The committee’s engagement with the annual report focussed on the administrative, operational and financial components of the annual report. While other programmes of the Department are equally important, there was an emphasis on the restitution and land tenure reform during deliberations about the Annual Report. Due to time constraints, the committee prioritised critical issues for discussion whilst other important matters that emanated from the report would be dealt with during the usual weekly program of the committee.


This report provides a brief summary of the presentation made by the DG - Rural Development and Land Reform, an overview of the committee’s findings on the Annual Report and then concludes by offering the Portfolio Committee’s recommendations.



2.              Presentation of the 2008/09 Annual Report of the Department of Land Affairs by the DG, Mr. Thozi Gwanya


2.1.        Overview of the strategic context 


The strategic objective of the DLA encompassed ‘ensuring that land is utilized to facilitate the investment potential for both rural and urban areas, thereby empowering beneficiaries to participate in socio-economic growth; contribution to poverty alleviation and economic development, and enhanced access to and ownership of land’.


The DLA set for itself the following key strategic objectives:

           To redistribute 30% of white owned agricultural land by 2014 for sustainable agricultural development.

           To provide tenure security that creates socio-economic opportunities for the people living and working on farms.

           To provide land for sustainable human settlements and industrial and economic development.

           To provide efficient land use and land administration services.

           To provide efficient state land management that supports development.

           To provide a skills development framework for land and agrarian reform to all relevant stakeholders.

           To develop programmes for the empowerment of women, children and older persons within the context of the Department’s mandate.


The programme of land reform, if properly implemented, has a potential to affect many of the rural poor people, particularly those whose means of livelihoods is dependant on land. Secure access to land can facilitate investment potential by empowering beneficiaries to participate in socio-economic growth. A successful programme of land reform can be determined by a range of factors, for example complementing land access with support services such as extension services, access to low cost inputs, capital, sound institutional mechanisms for development and development of infrastructure to support producers, including subsistence producers.


The program of land redistribution in South Africa has been slower than anticipated and has been characterised by insufficient post settlement support. The Department established strategic partnerships to enhance its capacity building programmes for land reform beneficiaries; with a focus on project and farm management training. It was envisaged that strategic partnerships would assist in the establishment of quality and sustainable land reform projects.


Greater challenge for the Department lies in its mechanisms to acquire land at scale in order to achieve the target to redistribute the 30% white-owned agricultural land to black people. By the 31st March 2008, the Department had transferred 4, 7 million hectares against the 30% target, with a shortfall of 3.2 million hectares to be redistributed by 2014. To achieve these numbers of hectares, the Department would require an average of R15 billion per annum for land acquisition. 


The Department also developed a new approach to land and agrarian reform with a focus on addressing aims of land and agrarian reform. With the new approach the Department identified different target groups for land redistribution. The new approach addresses household-level food security and provides the landless people with an opportunity to access productive land. Simultaneously, the approach also addresses transformation of agriculture by providing opportunities to commercial-ready black farmers and existing black commercial farmers.


During the year under review, the department amended the Provision of Land and Assistance Act, 1993 (Act No 126 of 1993) to provide a sufficient legislative framework for continued implementation of the Pro-active Land Acquisition Strategy (PLAS).  PLAS has significantly contributed to the number of hectares redistributed during the period under review. Through amendments of the PLAS Implementation Framework, the Department was able to put in place necessary procedures for acquisition, management and disposal of assets acquired in terms of Act 126.



2.2.        Programme performance of the Department of Land Affairs 


2.2.1.        Programme 1: Administration


The programme comprises the Office of the DG and Corporate Services. The Office of the DG encompasses the chief operations officer, communications services, executive services, internal audit, gender unit, Monitoring and Evaluation, Policy and Legislation Development, Risk and Compliance Management, and Security Management Services. The Corporate Services branch of the department comprises Business Information Management, Human Capital and Organizational Development, and Financial Management.


Some of the major achievements under this programme are the completion of the Gender Responsive Framework and the Older Persons Rights Framework. The Department produced an improved Monitoring and Evaluation framework, the Programme Performance Monitoring, and Statistics and Information Management guidelines to ensure improved performance, accountability and informed decision making.


On the policy development front, the Department reported the following achievements:

           A draft policy framework and a bill in relation to the regulation of ownership of land by foreigners have been developed.

           A third draft of the willing buyer willing seller review was completed. The Department is further developing a compensation formula linked to the expropriation model.

           The Provision of Land and Assistance Bill was finalized and approved by Parliament, promulgated as the Provision of Land and Assistance Amendment Act, 2008 (Act No.58 of 2008).

           The Department completed the interrogation and evaluation of submissions on the Draft Regulations under the Communal Land Rights Act (CLaRA), 2004 (Act No.11 of 2004). The judgement of the court case on CLaRA was still awaited as at the end of the financial year.


The target to redistribute 30% of white owned agricultural land by 2014 presented the Department with a daunting challenge to recruit additional staff. As at 31 March 2009, the vacancy rate of the department stood at 16.5%. Significant number of posts were filled internally by means of promotions, hence failure to achieve a decrease of vacancy rate to 10% as planned. However, the Department recruited 246 interns during the year 2008/09 in order to increase its human resource capacity. As at 31 March 2009, the Department also had 214 bursary holders studying in the fields of BSc Geomatics, Town and Regional Planning and Land Surveying and cartography, and a further 41 new bursaries were awarded. It also implemented a Graduate Development Programme which hosts 128 graduates (contractually bound) as at the end of the financial year. Many of these graduates and interns are empowered in that when vacancies arise they often get employed on a full-time basis. The Department is also committed to mainstreaming and the institutionalization of Batho Pele. For example, it trained 440 employees on customer care and 153 on complaints handling.


Personnel establishment and vacancy ratios as at 31st March 2009


No. of Posts

No. of Posts filled

Vacancy Rate %





Surveys and Mapping




Cadastral Survey Management








Land and Tenure Reform




Spatial Planning













Lack of capacity within land reform projects is regarded as one of the threats to sustainability of projects. The Department has entered into an agreement with the University of Fort Hare to develop a dedicated training programme on project and farm management for land reform beneficiaries as a pilot in the Eastern Cape districts of Tshatshu, Chatha and Dwesa Cweba. By the end of the financial year 2008/09, a sum of 203 beneficiaries had received training, 90 beneficiaries completed certificate programmes in project and farm management.


2.2.2.        Programme 2: Mapping and Surveys


The purpose of this programme is to provide national mapping, earth imagery, integrated spatial reference framework and other geo-spatial information to support national infrastructure and sustainable development. The Department has attained the following key achievements under this programme:

           The National Control Survey System is made available to clients 99% of the time, an improvement from the 2007/08’s 98% time availability.

           52 base Trignet stations were installed; in addition the department also replaced the aging equipment and software. As a result they have been able to ensure network availability on 97.5% of the time.

           159 375 km2 of geo-spatial data was updated, exceeding the target of 150 000. In addition, the national mapping programme was on track and produced 2146 maps.

           Mapping Africa for Africa and African Geodetic Reference Frame (AFREF) projects were developed in support to the development of projects for New Economic Plan for Africa’s Development (NEPAD).


2.2.3.        Programme 3: Cadastral Survey Management


The programme’s (chief directorate) main aim is to ensure that cadastral surveys are carried out accurately and cadastral survey information is provided to support land delivery and orderly development. At the end of the reporting year, the Department had six offices of Surveyors-General operating across the country. Those offices (Bloemfontein, Pretoria, Cape Town, Pietermaritzburg, Polokwane and Nelspruit) processed approximately 328869 property units. Other key achievements include:

           The use of Auto E-mailer to enhance the delivery time for electronic images

           A centralized training unit comprising four lecturers was established to train survey officers. During the reporting year, 67 pupil survey officers were trained.


The Department could not establish the North-West Surveyor-General Office because of insufficient funding.


2.2.4.        Programme 4: Restitution


This programme takes full responsibility for settlement of land restitution claims submitted to the Commission on Restitution of Land Rights (CRLR) in accordance with the Restitution of Land Rights Act, 1994 (Act No. 22 of 1994). During the year 2008/09, the CRLR settled a total of 653 land claims, including a sum of 108 dismissed claims. The Restitution component contributed 2, 47 million hectares towards the total 5.5 hectares (ha) transferred to the black communities and individuals under the land reform program. The CRLR was yet to settle 4 296 complex rural claims in the next four years. Four regional offices of the CRLR aim to complete land claims in their respective regions/provinces by the end of 2009/10 financial year. Those provinces are Gauteng, Free State, Northern Cape, and Western Cape. Budgetary constraints remain a significant challenge for the CRLR, particularly in the view of ever increasing land prices.


Sustainable land reform relies on provision of post settlement support by a collective of public and private sectors complementing each other’s development initiatives. The area of post settlement support for restitution beneficiaries is a critical matter. A review of all projects where land was restored to claimants found that there are approximately 200 struggling projects and have since been identified for recapitalization with the support of the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry. Lack of skills on the part of land beneficiaries is a critical challenge. The Department has entered into partnerships with AgriSETA to ensure provision of necessary training to enable beneficiaries to make optimal use of land restored to them.


2.2.5.        Programme 5: Land Tenure Reform


The purpose of this programme is to provide sustainable land reform programmes in South Africa in order to ensure that benefits of economic growth accrue to previously disadvantaged communities, groups and individuals.  The programme comprises two sub-programmes, namely Redistribution and Tenure Reform.




By the end of 2008/09, 501 projects had been transferred to 14 457 beneficiaries. In total, the programme redistributed 443, 600 ha of land. The number of ha fell short of the revised target of 608 060[1] by 164, 549. The target was revised from 1 500 000 to 608 060 in order to ensure that it is aligned to the actual budget allocation when the Department realized that the baseline budget allocation was not to be increased.  Failure to meet the target is partly associated with the general escalation of land prices and the nature of land to be purchased.


Through the Proactive Land Acquisition Strategy (PLAS), the Department provided potential beneficiaries with access to land by means of lease or caretakership agreements for a period of time. The Department was finalizing plans transfer such properties to those with potential to farm. The land would then be transferred to beneficiaries in terms of the three principal funding models, namely; Land Redistribution for Agricultural Development (LRAD), Settlement and Production Land Acquisition Grant (SPLAG) and/or the Commonage Grant (COMG). 


The Department has also submitted 3137 parcels of state land for confirmation of vesting.


Tenure Reform


The Department Legal Services Project under the Land Rights Management Facility (LRMF) continued to provide legal advice and representation to rural dwellers living under insecure tenure conditions, especially farm dwellers. The LRMF operates through a toll free number (0800 007 095) which the victims can call for assistance. A number of people were assisted through court representation and mediation of disputes. The LRMF has managed to restore rights of some of the victims of evictions through court processes and successful mediation of tenure disputes.

On tenure security for people living in the communal areas, particularly the former homelands, an application was brought before the Pretoria High Court by communities who sought the court to declare the Communal Land Rights Act, 2004 (Act 11 of 2004) as invalid and unconstitutional. The Department awaited the ruling of the court. However, the Department has, in the meantime, engaged in extensive consultation workshops on regulations and implementation of the Act. 


2.2.6.        Programme 6: Spatial Planning and Information


The Spatial Planning and Information (SPI) programme provides an effective and efficient system of spatial planning, land use management and spatial information framework to support national development and land reform. SPI comprises two sub-programmes, namely Management Support Services and Spatial Planning Information.  Key achievements for the Department under this programme are:

           By the end of the year 2008/09 there were SPI offices across the nine provinces in order to improve accessibility of this service to the clients.

           SPI continued to provide technical support to South African Council for Planners.

           The Department conducted public hearings on the Land Use Management Bill (LUMB). The amended version was presented to and supported by the Portfolio Committee on Agriculture and Land Affairs.  Unfortunately, the LUMB could not be debated in the National Assembly until the end of the term of the third Parliament.


2.2.7.        Programme 7: Deeds Registration 


The objective of the programme is to provide a high quality deeds registration system whereby secure titles are registered and speedy and accurate information is provided. Deeds registration also provides support to other two Southern African Development Community (SADC) countries, namely Botswana and Malawi. Comparatively, there has been an increase in registered land parcels from 7961 636 in 2007/08 to 8149 699 in 2008/09. During the year under review, the programme experienced an increase of 6.7% demand for registration, amounting to 17 384 105 electronic requests. The programme has also improved its system to expedite land reform properties registration; currently the registration process for land reform is not more than 5 days.


2.3.       Financial Performance of the Department and Audit outcomes


The Department has achieved a record of spending 99.9% of the adjusted budget allocation of R6.659 billion for the year under review. The actual expenditure for the year amounts to R6, 654 billion. An amount of R4, 76 million was unspent (0, 1% of the total budget allocation). The two major operational programmes, namely; restitution and land tenure reform were able to spend 99.9% of their budget allocation. However, even if they spent almost 100% of their budget allocation, the department is still far behind reaching the targets for land redistribution. The kinds of properties to be acquired and the monetary value attached make the programme expensive. Over the years, a trend around escalation of land prices was emerging. At the moment the Department spends large sums of money on less number of hectares.


For that reason it is critical to seek alternative ways of acquisition of land at a much affordable rate. The Department is further concerned that at times they pay for land at a price that is three times higher than the market value.


The findings of the Auditor-General


For the third consecutive year the DLA has received a qualified audit opinion for the 2008/09 Annual Report. The AG based the qualified audit opinion on the following factors:


(a)                 Rental revenue receivable from leased land


The AG could not obtain sufficient and appropriate audit evidence for the receivables for departmental revenue as disclosed in the annual financial statements. The audit therefore revealed significant shortcomings in the management and control of lease revenue. The Auditors could not satisfy themselves on the completeness and accuracy of information due to lack of financial systems.


(b)                 Tangible capital assets


The AG could not obtain sufficient and appropriate audit evidence to determine the completeness and rights regarding immovable properties disclosed. Also the department did not have a complete audit register of all immovable properties belonging to the national government under the custodianship of the department.


The Department has begun addressing some of the findings by the Auditor General with concerted efforts to ensure that they clear all the queries before the end of the financial year. The following are steps taken by the Department:


           The Department introduced a new debtors system (SLLDS) to provide a comprehensive, complete and accurate data base of leased land. The department is also enhancing management of revenue and debtors. Simultaneously, the Department is in the process of implementing a PLAS trading entity due to the amendment of Act 126 of 1993.


           The Department could not produce a complete asset register of all immovable properties belonging to the Department of Land Affairs. The Department is in the process of cleaning up the asset register as well as verification of title deeds owned by the Department.


3.              The findings of the Portfolio Committee on the 2008/09 Annual Report of the DLA are detailed below:


The Portfolio Committee acknowledged the complexity of resolving the land question under the current terms of the market-based land reform. Given the budgetary constraints and land acquisition based on the willing buyer willing seller approach, the unlikelihood of achieving the targets for redistribution by 2014 has become perceptible. The 15 years of implementation of the South African land policy has proven that delivery of land at scale and realization of benefits is a daunting task. A sustainable land reform program can not be achieved by an ordinary de-racialization of land ownership but a program of agrarian transformation that addresses all aspects of the rural space and livelihoods by providing access to land and other productive resources, complemented by appropriate support services and infrastructure. The committee also acknowledged the efforts put by the Department to ensure that the set targets for land and agrarian reform are achieved.


The committee raised the following concerns:


           The Department failed to fill senior and strategic vacancies such the post of the Chief Financial Officer. Such vacancies have adverse consequences like the recurring qualified audit opinion which the Department receives. The committee was also concerned with the 16.5% vacancy rate of the Department.


           The pace of land redistribution is still moving at an extremely slow pace to achieve the set target. For example, the Department has only redistributed 5,5 million ha (5.5%) of the 24,6 million ha (30%) of agricultural land to black communities. If the Department is to achieve the target to redistribute 30% of white-owned agricultural land by 2014, a further 19, 1 million hectares is still to be redistributed. With the current pace of land redistribution and the budget allocations for land acquisition, it is unlikely that the Department will meet the target. The Committee further raised concerns around the fact that at times the Department purchases land at prices three times higher than the market value.


           The Department has readjusted the dates for settlement of all land claims. The various Regional Land Claims Commissioners’ offices will settle land claims in staggered phases until 2014. Whilst the Committee welcomes the commitment of the Department to finalize all the land claims, it is concerned that the budget allocation for land acquisition under land restitution does not correspond with the projected total cost for land restitution (R60.5 billion). In similar vein, the committee is also concerned insufficient budget allocations for land redistribution.


           The Kruger National Park land claims pose a critical challenge to the CRLR because of the decision taken by the previous cabinet. The decision taken states that the land can not be restored its original owners however alternative relief should be sought. The committee found that the Department and the Commission on Restitution of Land Rights are negotiating settlement options with the land claimants so that the claim can be brought to finality.


           Post settlement support is a critical element of a successful and sustainable land reform. The committee noted lack of detail in the annual report with regards to the 200 struggling projects. The committee was also concerned about the number of dysfunctional and collapsing projects as well as collapse of strategic partnerships in land reform projects.


           The committee welcomes categorization of land reform beneficiaries to ensure that relevant product and resources are channelled to the right people. For example landless households who need access to meet household food needs.


           The Committee commends the Department for setting up the Land Rights Management Facility to provide legal services to the poor people living with tenure insecurities. It is however concerned at the number of eviction cases taken up by the project, almost 80% of all cases handled were eviction cases, signifying the vulnerability of farm dwellers. The review of Extension of Tenure Security Act, 1997 (Act No. 62 of 1997) and the Land Reform (Labour Tenants) Act, 1996 (Act 3 of 1996) need to be expedited. The committee requested further briefing by the Department on this matter because of lack of detail about the project in this Annual Report


           Administration of state land is a great area of concern for the committee, particularly with the qualified audit opinion based on the fact that the Department did not have a complete audit register of all immovable properties belonging to the national government under the custodianship of the Department. The Committee was further concerned that the Minister’s response to the question in the National Assembly stated that all state land was audited. However, during the briefing it transpired that the Department has not completed audit of all land belonging to national government but only those owned by the Department. The Department told the committee that the question was understood to refer to all land under the custodianship of the Department. 


           Three years consecutively, the Department received a qualified audit opinion from the Auditor General of South Africa (AGSA). The Department has also been found to be characterized by some wasteful and fruitless expenditure. The committee is especially keen to see significant progress in addressing matters raised by the AGSA.


5.         Recommendations


Having received a briefing from the DG-Rural Development and Land Reform, further having engaged with the DRDLR on the contents of the DLA 2008/09 Annual Report, the Portfolio Committee on Rural Development and Land Reform hereby makes the following recommendations:


(i)                   The Department to find alternative and affordable mechanisms of land acquisition for land reform purposes so that the state is able to achieve the target for land redistribution to previously disadvantaged communities and individuals and accelerate the pace of land redistribution.


(ii)                 The Department should identify and fill strategic vacant positions such as those of the CFO and DDGs in order to enhance its capacity to deliver on its mandate, especially noting that rural development and land reform is one of the key priorities of government.  The Department should report to Parliament on its plans for enhancing human capacity by the end of November 2009.


(iii)                The Department to report to Parliament within two weeks on the implementation of the Legal Services Project and the Land Rights Management Facility in provision of legal advice and mediation services to farm dwellers living under insecure tenure arrangements.


(iv)                To report to Parliament by the end of November 2009 on performance of the Communal Property Associations (CPAs) and Trusts set up to take up ownership of land given under both land redistribution and restitution programmes.


(v)                  To speed up the review of key policies such as the review of the Willing Buyer Willing Seller approach to acquisition of land, policy on ownership of land by foreigners, and review of legislation to protect the tenure rights of farm dwellers.


(vi)                The Department to submit by the end of November 2009 evidence that support the view that government is acquiring land for land reform purposes at prices that are three times higher than the market value. 


(vii)               The Department to report to Parliament on its plans for finalization of audit of all public land belonging to the national government, including support to the Ingonyama Trust on valuation of trust land so that it also complies with International Accounting Standards (IAS).


(viii)             The Department to conduct an assessment of all land transferred to communities as going concerns and strategic partnerships in land reform projects.


(ix)               The Department and the National Treasury to secure sufficient financial resources for land reform in order to achieve on the targets for land redistribution. The Department to report by the end of November 2009 on how they intend to achieve on the targets for land restitution and land redistribution.


Report to be considered.


[1] The target as per the 2008-2011 Strategic Plan of the Department was 1 500 000 ha


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