When we took office in 2009 we did so having absorbed the previous Department of Land Affairs. Unsurprisingly, the focus of that department was on affairs to do with land, whereas our brief is to deal with land reform, access to land; use, management and transformation of land relations, and all other matters related to the hopes and life styles of those who live on the land, and off the land. I can reveal to you that this transformation – the refocusing of priorities from a terrestrial perspective to one concerned with humanity required a lot of determination and resolve. A lot has been done, and many challenges were overcome during the process.
Gugile Nkwinti, Minister of Rural Development and Land Reform
Progress has been made, particularly on the implementation of the first phase of the Comprehensive Rural Development Programme (CRDP), namely, “Meeting Basic Human Needs”. But, the challenges are obstinate – particularly in the areas of sustainable job creation and enterprise development. We felt we needed a better understanding of the needs of rural households – so as to inform better planning and development initiatives. In this regard we commissioned, and have now completed, a spatial analysis of CRDP wards, as well as the 23 prioritised districts. In fact we gathered socio-economic data from no less than 190 700 households.
The CRDP proposes an institutional system that ensures that communities drive and monitor their own development. It’s all about partnerships – partnerships between those who have the need, and those who have the will, the skills and the means. And the key institution we are using to bring together communities, public and private sector partners is what we call the Council of Stakeholders. We have now mobilised rural people into 52 Councils of Stakeholders throughout the nine provinces. These are organs of people’s power which are meant to enable communities to co-direct and co-manage, and thus, own their development.
We find that many rural areas are still experiencing backlogs in service delivery and infrastructure development. For this reason, over the past two years, as part of the CRDP, emphasis has been placed on providing new infrastructure, and revitalising old infrastructure in our rural areas. What is especially needed is infrastructure to facilitate access to services. And progress has been made, notably through coordination of Outcome 7 with other sector departments and provinces, to improve access to basic services. For example, 780 households have been connected to energy in Msinga, KwaZulu-Natal; 3000 households have benefitted from the construction of reservoirs in Disake, North West and Msinga, KwaZulu-Natal; and, in a major achievement, in the dry region of Riemvasmaak in the Northern Cape, a 70 km water pipeline now links the villages with the Orange River.
Following a series of consultations with land reform beneficiaries countrywide, including Restitution, Farm Equity Schemes, Settlement Production and Land Acquisition Grants, the department decided to discontinue the use of these grants, and to shift the focus towards the acquisition of strategically located agricultural land through the Pro-active Land Acquisition Strategy – PLAS. In terms of this strategy, acquired land would be made available to beneficiaries which include farm workers/dwellers, the National Rural Youth Services Corps participants, women, and unemployed agricultural graduates, through lease agreements. With regard to the Land Redistribution for Agricultural Development (LRAD) scheme, we decided to discontinue it as well, but finalise those applications which were already in the pipeline.
As a result, under the land acquisition programme we have acquired, during the period under review, some 848 farms totalling 882 238 hectares, of which 10 000 hectares constitutes the core estate of the recently announced Cradock biofuels project. It is worth noting that overall, a total of 4428 females and 3756 youth benefitted from the land.
I wish to take this opportunity to clarify this issue of the government’s commitment to distribute 30% of the country’s agricultural land by 2014. In 1994 South Africa had approximately 82-million hectares of white owned agricultural land. That is when the government set itself the target to redistribute 30% of this land to the previously disadvantaged by 2014. This constitutes approximately 24,5-million hectares of the said agricultural land.
Up to the end of the third term of this democratic state, the government had acquired 6,7-million hectares of that land, which equals approximately 26% of that 24,5-million ha target. This figure does not include hectares of land for which the government paid financial compensation, either because people so chose, or because land could not be restored. Roughly, therefore, land which has been restored, from 1994/95 to May 2009, amounts to 6,7-million ha plus 882 238 ha (land redistribution: 2009 to-date) plus 368 483 ha (restitution: 2009to-date), totalling 7,950 721-million ha. That is about 30% of the 24,5-million ha targeted by 2014. The department is working on translating the amounts paid for financial compensation into hectares.
During 2012-13, the Land Reform Programme aims to provide access to over 320 000 hectares of agricultural land at a cost of R2,7-billion. Strategic support will be provided to 416 new emerging farmers through Recap, in addition to the existing 595 farms currently being supported at a cost of R1,2-billion; and, work will commence in revitalising eight irrigation schemes in the former homelands. These being Ncora and Keiskamma Hoek, Eastern Cape; Taung, North West; Vaalharts, Northern Cape; Nkomazi, Mpumalanga; and, Tugela Ferry, Nsuze and Bululwane in KwaZulu-Natal. We will, also, this financial year, revive the Butterworth Abattoir and Tannery. This will propel the local communal livestock farmers into the red meat value-chain.
I want to go back briefly to the subject of restitution, and the Commission on Restitution of Land Rights. Here too we are confronting many complex issues, which are both external and internal to the department. Externally, we have to deal with community and family disputes; escalating land prices; boundary and other disputes amongst communities, traditional leaders, and office bearers of communal property institutions. Internally, the scarcity of resources, both financial and human, became a major barrier. The service delivery model was, perhaps, the biggest obstacle to rapid progress in settling claims. This has since been partially corrected, at least in so far as it relates to the structure of the commission.
I don’t want to paint too dark a picture here, but the result was insufficient capacity to administer functions mandated by the constitution, such as proper research and verification of land claims and deal making; information and records management; communication with claimants regarding their claims; and, constantly monitoring the state and functionality of the communal property institutions.
The good news is that the commission has now been rationalised to create better synergy with, and clearer lines of accountability to the department, in its day-to-day operations. The core of the commission, being the Chief Land Claims Commissioner (the CLCC); the Deputy Land Claims Commissioner; and, the Regional Land Claims Commissioner remain within the ambit of the founding legislation. In the provinces, however, restitution support personnel have been placed under the Public Service Act. Responsibility for restitution support services has been formally delegated to them by the CLCC. Restitution Support Chief Directors have taken charge of these delegated responsibilities, and report directly to the CLCC.
This realignment is starting to produce benefits:
We are seeing reduced timelines in the finalisation of land claims.
We have strengthened the capacity of the legal division, and are beginning to see a reduction of court orders resulting in emergency settlement of claims which had a negative effect on the budget.
We have now introduced an electronic data system to capture and process all the land claims – and we have now completed 95% of the process.
Since 2009, the commission has spent R4,8-billion to acquire
368 483 hectares of land for restoration.
South Africa is making a serious investment to ensure that all land claims are resolved timeously. The department has received a number of legitimate complaints about its failure to communicate with claimants and affected land owners, about the status of the outstanding land claims, for which we apologise. The commission will, from now onwards, be communicating with all land claimants, land owners and other affected parties to inform them on the status of their claim, on a regular basis.
With respect to policy research and legislation development, eleven pieces of legislation will be submitted to parliament by November/December this year; and, ten policy instruments will be developed, including policy on Communal Land Tenure and a review of the land management and administrative system. We will also start work on a restitution performance review. All this is aimed at sharpening our service delivery capacity.
The publication of the Green Paper in September 2011 found a robust platform for structured deliberations, in the form of the National Reference Group. Six thematic work streams, constituted of representatives from the reference group and academics, have been established to deliberate on the key elements of the Green Paper, as well as related legislative instruments. Over the last six months these work-streams have been considering policy, principles and strategic issues informing their work areas. We aim to present this work to Cabinet soon, and to this House during the course of this year.
Work has already been started with regard to the Green Paper on Rural Development and should be finalised during this year. The final proposals will include a policy on a Rural Development Agency, technically premised on a proposed Rural Cooperatives Bank. In addition, various rural enterprise models will be developed to further facilitate the implementation of Phases 1 and 2 of the CRDP. Finally, I refer you to our ongoing work to establish a rural norms and standards framework, which should be completed in the current financial year. This instrument is essential, if equity is to be ensured in funding rural development across the country.
Having learnt from the pilot projects, we are introducing two programmes in rural development: (a) Animal and Veld Management, with six pegs, focusing on fencing and animal handling facilities; stock water dams and boreholes; mechanisation; dip tanks; soil rehabilitation; and, fire breaks. The aim of this programme is to increase production in communal areas and state land. This year 60 rural communities across the country will benefit from this programme. (b) The River Valley Catalytic Programme, which has been started along the Tugela River in KZN and is about to start along the Mbashe River, as part of the Nelson Mandela Legacy Bridge in the Eastern Cape. This project aims to develop agricultural land along river banks in South Africa, and is linked to agro-logistics infrastructure, including roads and processing plants. Along the Tugela, we will be partnering with the Provincial Department of Agriculture to bring into production approximately 1500 hectares of land. In addition to this we will continue to support the excellent work of the Masibambisane Rural Development Initiative.
Next year is the centenary anniversary of the notorious and infamous 1913 Natives Land Act. This law was part of the repertoire of instruments of oppression used by colonialists in the 19th Century to usurp land from indigenous populations. The Act dumped Africans, in particular, on to 13% of the land, with dire social consequences, which are still with us today. Ordinarily, there could be no appropriate, civilised, manner in which this Act could be marked, for, it cannot be celebrated. But, it cannot be ignored either, because its dire social consequences are a constant reminder that radical action is required to arrest those consequences.
Our people complain that the period for the lodgement of land claims was too short, with the result that research and verification were very poor; and, that the 1913 cut-off date is too close. The department interacted with more than three thousand people from August, 2010 to March, 2011. They call on the government to consider re-opening the lodgement date and extending the cut-off date.
In one of the work-streams on the Green Paper on Land Reform we are confronted with a question from the Khoi and San descendants. They are asking the question: “What is in this for us, the original people of this land?” Their land in what is now the Western and Eastern Cape was forcefully taken from them way before the 1913 Act. And, whatever land that is returned to them is non-productive, urban land. We are persuaded to consider asking Cabinet to, while retaining the current cut-off date, consider exceptions to the law. With regard to the lodgement date, Cabinet has established an inter-ministerial committee to study the proposals by our people. A preliminary report from the consultations has already been submitted to Cabinet.
I am happy to report that the work we report on here is informed by, and speaks directly to, the National Development Plan, the New Growth Path, and the recently announced Presidential Infrastructure Build Programme, as well as the Medium Term Expenditure Framework, the 12 government outcomes and other imperatives.
Rural development and land reform is one of five key priorities for creating a better life for all – the others being education, health, decent work and sustainable livelihoods and the fight against crime and corruption. We continue committing ourselves to sharpening our capacity to implement this crucial programme, to ensure that all South Africa’s people are able to share in the prosperity that this wonderful country has to offer.