Having considered its sister department and Ingonyama Trust Board’s (ITB’s) 2016/2017 Annual Performance Reports and having conducted their own analysis of their respective budgets and estimates of their expenditures over the medium term, the Portfolio Committee on Rural Development and Land Reform came up with a Draft Budgetary Review and Recommendations Report (BRRR) aimed at improving the service delivery imperatives of these respective state organs.

To streamline various funding demands that the department is faced with, the report suggests a need for an integrated funding model that encapsulates land reform beneficiaries, smallholder and emerging black farmers to minimise the duplication of either settlement, recapitalisation or support funding.

The report also calls for the survey of the socio-economic impact and sustainability of farms acquired through the land reform programme since 1994. “The department must conduct a national survey of farms acquired through all land reform programmes since 1994 to date. This survey must assess sustainability of land reform farms and their socio-economic impact.”

Tied to this is a need for the department to acquire adequate capacity to adhere to policy and legislation that govern its mandate, the report recommends. “This will ensure that the department addresses the non-compliance with its own legislation and its revised legislative programmes contain in its pieces of legislation to be tabled before the Committee.”

To leverage and to minimise the economic impact of land reform, the report recommends the need for the strengthening of the coordination of Agri-Parks and the utilisation of requisite expertise from other state organs and private sector that can help to enhance their economic outlook. “The department must strengthen the coordination of Agri-Parks through the intervention of relevant government departments to maximise the use of limited resources, avoid duplication of government services and to enhance the capacity to coordinate expertise from elsewhere in government and non-government entities. Such coordination would strengthen the department interventions in Agri-Parks both at policy and implementation levels as well as their economic outlook.” 

With regard to the Commission on Restitution of Land Rights, the Committee report recommends that this entity should ensure that it prioritises and finalises both land settlements and claims as swiftly as possible and must submit a report to the committee to that effect.

“The Commission must submit a report that analyses all outstanding claims on state land, detailing them by province and district. Furthermore, must detail the extent of the land in question, ownership of such land, the current use, financial implications.”

To give effect to its mandate, the Committee report recommends that the Commission be transformed into an autonomous entity. But to, ultimately, be converted into a Chapter 9 Institution. But much needs to be considered before that can come to effect, the report states. “This should consider the constitutional imperatives of the commission, its legislative mandate and how will interface with other land commissions proposed in the Agricultural Land Holdings Bill.”

Given the resources needed to undertake land reform in this country efficiently and effectively in times of cost containment, the Committee report emphasises the need for the commission to have optimal expertise and extensive research capacity that is requisite to the task at hand. “This requires an improvement in the research capacity of the commission and the capacity to monitor consultants conducting work on behalf of it. Furthermore, to be able to monitor the service level agreements with service providers for effective service delivery and to ensure that there is value for money.”

One of the Committee’s urgent concerns is a need to align the Ingonyama Trust Board (ITB) with its Act, says the Committee report. But of its greatest concern is a need to facilitate engagement between the ITB and the Auditor-General to address the perennial ono-compliance of ITB with generally Recognised Accounting Practice Standards in relation to valuation of land and other concerns often raised in the Auditor-General’s report.

The Committee report also states the need for ITB programmes to be part of the local municipalities Integrated Development Plans. This to ensure that there is a synergy between the rural development functions of municipalities and those implemented by the ITB.

In its conclusion, the report states that the Committee has resolved that the Minister of Rural Development and Land Reform should report to Parliament about these recommendations within three months of the adoption of its report by the National Assembly.

By Abel Mputing
18 October 2017