Hon Chair, Their Excellencies, are not here, so I am not going to salute them. Otherwise I have a list of salutations, including my colleagues, who are here. Hon MECs, hon Ministers and Deputy Ministers, hon mayors, who are our guests, esteemed traditional leaders present, organised agricultural organisations, private sector partners, who are working with us, senior government officials, and ladies and gentlemen, I greet you all.
Hon Chair, I would also like to welcome a number of important guests present in the gallery today. They are members of the department's National Reference Group on land reform; community representatives from all the comprehensive rural development areas where we are working; emerging farmers; restitution claimants from the provinces of the Free State, Mpumalanga, North West and the Western Cape; youths from the National Rural Youth Service Corps, Narysec; members of the Goedgedacht Trust; community leaders from Masia, Mvezo and Ludondolo; representatives from Sappi; members of the department's audit committee; and representatives of our international development partners.
It is important for us to acknowledge these various stakeholders and partners, since they have been with us from the beginning of May 2009, when we were still trying to find our feet. Some of them are here as witnesses to the progress we have made, and they have come to better understand and appreciate the challenges we face. Welcome, and thank you for gracing us with your presence on this occasion. [Applause.]
The resolution of the 52nd national conference of the ANC in Polokwane in 2007, on agrarian change, land reform and rural development led directly to the establishment of the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform. Why did this happen? Why did the ANC take that decision? Let us examine why.
None of those who have lived their whole lives in an urban environment can truly appreciate what life is like for poor people locked in a deep rural community. The vast majority have no work and no hope of getting any work, since they have a low skills base and no chance of acquiring any skills. No work means a complete loss of dignity, little or no food, dependence on others - a life of misery with nothing to look forward to other than more misery.
The ANC decided that this was a state of affairs that could not be allowed to continue, that something significant had to be done about it. We promised a better life - not only for the people in our cities and not just for the folks in our towns and villages. We promised a better life for all, irrespective of their area of birth and residence.
That is why, when we opened our doors for business in 2009, we introduced the Comprehensive Rural Development Programme, CRDP. It is my pleasure and privilege today to reveal to you how we are progressing with the development of that programme, and what our plans are for unlocking the vast potential that the people who reside in our rural areas represent for this great nation.
I can tell you that we are now active in every part of our country. We have a footprint in every province. However, with 20 million South Africans living under stress and in distress in rural areas, we have a long way to go before we can claim even modest successes.
On the list of national priorities, my department was assigned the responsibility of co-ordinating one of the 12 outcomes, that is Outcome 7 - creating "vibrant, equitable and sustainable rural communities and food security for all". I regret to inform you that we are not yet there, but we are getting there. The monster called poverty is a very stubborn animal. It feeds off inequality and unemployment. It thrives on a lack of skills. To defeat it, we have to be both clever and resilient.
Today, to coincide with this address, we present the Mid-Term Review Report on the CRDP. It is a sincere attempt to reflect on what we have achieved in two and a half years of effort; what ground has been covered; what successes and failures have been recorded; and what we think needs to be done going forward.
Make no mistake, we have made progress and we are proud of that progress. However, we are under no illusions. We are fully aware that to achieve meaningful progress we will require a strong resolve and the collective will of the people. This applies to both those who continue to be trapped in poverty and the people whose duty it is to free them from poverty, people like you, me, all the hon members gathered here today and all of their constituencies.
We have taken the liberty of distributing the Mid-Term Review Report in the form of a booklet. I have a copy here that I can show you if you do not have a copy, hon Chair, together with a pictorial review of the projects we have implemented on the ground. We need evidence, and it is there. When my talk is over, I hope this will remind us of the important work around which the futures of so many of our fellow South Africans revolve.
As many gathered here will recall, when we took office in 2009, we did so having absorbed the previous Department of Land Affairs. The focus of that department was on affairs to do with land, whereas our brief is to deal with land reform, access to land, its use and management, and transformation of land relations. It includes all other matters related to the hopes and lifestyles of those who live on the land and off the land and, in fact, every person in our country.
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.
The Auditor-General raised and continues to raise issues, including structures that are not aligned, to ensure that financial and operational objectives are met. We have responded to these audit concerns. The strategic planning and monitoring unit and the chief audit executive are now at an appropriate level to improve accountability. The audit committee continues to play its role of oversight over controls. A separate risk management committee has been established. These efforts are starting to bear fruit. In the 2011 financial year the Auditor-General produced only one qualification.
I am pleased to announce that all but one of the posts of deputy director- general have been filled. [Applause.] These include the appointment of the first black woman as Chief Land Claims Commissioner. The post of chief financial officer became vacant when the former incumbent resigned at the end of last year.
The department has implemented an organisational renewal strategy, which has created a more focused and aligned corporate support service, thus ensuring that line function programmes have the requisite strategic support.
The department's expenditure during the first three years was R21 billion or 96,3% of the final appropriation of R21,8 billion for the period. The Mid-Term Review Report, which is being released today, will further elaborate on the progress and achievements of the past two and a half years.
I want to report to you on our progress with rural development, which is, when all is said and done, what my department is all about. Progress has been made, particularly in the implementation of the first phase of the CRDP, that is, meeting basic human needs. However, the challenges are great, 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 socioeconomic data from no less than 190 700 households.
Frighteningly, household food security remains one of the main challenges facing vulnerable rural communities. That is partially why our department, as part of Phase 1, has placed emphasis on improving food productivity. We have, for example - as part of a pilot project, and in collaboration with the Agricultural Research Council - trained 800 agri paraprofessionals in vegetable production. We hope that those who have been trained will assist the communities they come from to improve their ability to grow more and better food. As will be observed in the Mid-Term Review Report, the good news is that we have achieved remarkable results where food security interventions have been made. For example, in Mhlongamvula in Mpumalanga, 200 ha of soya and 200 ha of maize have been harvested. In addition, eight other provinces are currently harvesting at least 400 ha of different commercial crops each, which will contribute to better livelihoods. I am not saying that this is the answer to all problems, but these successes give us hope that we can prevail when we all have the will and the means.
Yet successes are invariably tempered with further challenges. In Diyatalawa in the Free State, for example, a community of 50 households grew a brilliant 100 ha lucerne crop and harvested 314 tons of wheat. Despite this success, certain challenges persist, including timing of planting and harvesting of crops, which may result in lower yields. One other challenge facing this community is the absence of silos in which to store their crops, which would enable it to sell at strategic times.
The Diyatalawa community was nonetheless happy to have generated an income of R12 000 for each of the participating households and, yes, the community went further and used some of their income to plant new crops. This indicates a level of maturity in that community, and suggests that they are ready for a move to Phases 2 and 3 of the CRDP, which deal with enterprise development, agro-industrial hubs and credit finance institutions. This is confirmed by Mr Mokete Radebe of Diyatalawa, who said:
We have become a big family that continually strives to develop and sustain the area, which results in a better life for all. We are now working as a team.
That is music to our ears.
The CRDP proposes an institutional system that ensures that communities drive and monitor their own development. It is all about partnerships - partnerships between those who have the need, and those who have the will, the skills and the means.
The key institution we are using to bring together communities and 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 codirect and comanage, and thus own their development.
With the best will in the world, the plain fact is that we are not in complete control of our own destiny, and in our case 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. Progress has been made, notably through the co-ordination of Outcome 7 with other sector departments and provinces, in improving access to basic services. For example, 780 households have been connected to energy in Msinga in KwaZulu-Natal, and 3 000 households have benefited from the construction of reservoirs in Disake in the North West, and Msinga in KwaZulu-Natal. 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.
They say God helps those who help themselves, but the underlying truth is that some people have to be taught how to help themselves, which is why education continues to be such a key priority for government.
On education, our department is collaborating closely with national and provincial departments. So far, 28 schools have been built or renovated as a direct result of this collaboration. Rural children are no less deserving of quality education than their urban counterparts.
Again, we have examples of success. In Mpumalanga we worked closely with the provincial government, and they have facilitated the delivery of a state-of-the art boarding and educational facility at the Mkhondo CRDP site. Now the children from surrounding farms need no longer travel long distances to get to and from school. I am certain we will soon see greatly improved results in this area.
To further contribute to education and access to information technology, we have also rolled out the iSchoolAfrica programme, which provides learners and teachers with access to iPods, computers and digital cameras, linking them to a training programme that has already provided access to learners and teachers in 13 schools in some CRDP sites.
When I spoke here a year ago, I announced our plan for the construction of the Nelson Mandela Legacy Bridge, across the Mbashe River in the Eastern Cape. Now we are pleased to report that the construction of that bridge, and a 10 km access road, are well under way, and the bridge is scheduled to be completed by January 2013. [Applause.]
Also last year, I highlighted the development of the Nkandla Mlalazi Smart Growth Centre, which His Excellency the President describes as potentially the first rural town to be developed post-1994. Feasibility studies and design work have been completed and the model of the intended rural town, based on green principles, was showcased at Cop 17. We anticipate that site clearance will commence by the end of July 2012. Similar initiatives are soon to commence in Mayflower in Mpumalanga, and Jane Furse in Limpopo.
Let me turn now to the important issue of land reform.
Following a series of consultations with land reform beneficiaries countrywide, including on restitution, farm equity schemes, settlement production and the land acquisition grant, the department decided to discontinue the use of these grants and to shift the focus to the acquisition of strategically located agricultural land through the Proactive Land Acquisition Strategy.
In terms of this strategy, acquired land will be made available to beneficiaries who include farm workers and farm dwellers, the National Rural Youth Services Corps participants, women, and unemployed agricultural graduates, through lease agreements.
With regard to Land Redistribution for Agricultural Development, LRAD, we decided to discontinue that as well, but we are finalising 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 ha, of which 10 000 ha constitutes the core estate of the recently announced Cradock biofuel project. It is worth noting that overall a total of 4 428 females and 3 756 young people have benefited from the land. Once again the department has prioritised the vulnerable groups.
I wish to take this opportunity to clarify the issue of the government's commitment to distributing 30% of the country's agricultural land by 2014. In 1994, South Africa had approximately 82 million ha of white-owned agricultural land. That is when the government set itself the target of redistributing 30% of this land to the previously disadvantaged by 2014. This constitutes approximately 24,5 million ha of the said agricultural land.
Up to the end of the third term of this democratic state, the government had acquired 6,7 million ha of that land, which equals approximately 26% of that 24,5 million ha target. This figure does not include the hectares of land for which the government paid financial compensation, either because people chose that or because land could not be restored.
Roughly, therefore, land which was restored from 1994-95 to May 2009 amounts to 6,7 million ha plus 882 238 ha of land redistributed from the year 2000 to date, and 368 483 ha of redistributed land from 2009 to date. This brings the total to 7 950 721 million ha. That is about 30% of the 24,5 million hectares targeted for redistribution by 2014. The department is working on translating the amounts paid for financial compensation into hectares, so that we can meet the requirement.
As hon members of this House raised this question, we responded by going back to check. We thank the hon members of the opposition for having raised this question, particularly the FF Plus.
With the introduction of the Recapitalisation and Development Programme the department targeted 1 807 projects. To date we have succeeded in assisting 595 projects. I am happy to report that of these projects 11 have been successfully ushered in the red meat industry and each has real equity in the red meat value chain. [Applause.]
Once again, however, there are challenges facing both the land acquisition grant and the Recapitalisation and Development Programme. In addressing these challenges we are working closely with representatives of organised agriculture, the Agribusiness Chamber and land reform beneficiaries, who have been organised into a national reference group.
During 2012-13, the land reform programme will aim to provide access to over 320 000 ha of agricultural land at a cost of R2,7 billion. Strategic support will be provided to 416 new emerging farmers through the Recapitalisation and Development Programme, in addition to the existing 595 farms currently being supported at a cost of R1,2 billion.
Work will commence on revitalising eight irrigation schemes in the former homelands. These are Ncora and Keiskammahoek in the Eastern Cape; Taung in the North West; Vaalharts in the Northern Cape; Nkomazi in Mpumalanga; and Tugela Ferry, Nsuze and Bululwane in KwaZulu-Natal.
This financial year we will also revive the Butterworth abattoir and tannery. This will propel the local communal livestock farmers into the red meat value chain. [Applause.]
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, both external to and internal in the department. Externally, we have to deal with community and family disputes; escalating land prices; and boundary and other disputes amongst communities, traditional leaders, and office-bearers of communal property institutions. Internally, the scarcity of resources, both financial and human, has become 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, 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 associations.
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 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 chief land claims commissioner. Land Restitution Support chief directors have taken charge of these delegated responsibilities, and report directly to the chief land claims commissioner.
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 in court orders resulting in emergency settlements of claims, which had a negative effect on the budget. [Applause.] 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.
I am pleased to announce that I have approved the claims of five churches around the Western Cape, which were dispossessed of their land. [Applause.] These are the Wynberg Seventh Day Adventist Church, the United Church of SA, the Independent Lutheran Mission, the Dutch Reformed Mission Church and the Christian Evangelical Church. Representatives of the respective churches have honoured us with their presence in the Chamber today. [Applause.]
The department has received a number of legitimate complaints about its failure to communicate with claimants and affected landowners, about the status of the outstanding land claims, for which we apologise profusely. The commission will, from now on, be communicating with all land claimants, landowners and other affected parties to inform them of the status of their claims on a regular basis. Let me now address the issue of the so-called disengaged youth, and the department's initiative in this regard. The department is making progress with the National Rural Youth Service Corps, Narysec.
Narysec's main goal is to recruit and develop rural youth to be paraprofessionals, by training them to render much needed community services where they live. Out there they are demonstrating their skills in construction, painting and other skills that have to do with construction.
This corps was launched in 2011 with an initial 7 900 participants, of whom 4 500 have either completed or are in the process of completing their training in various disciplines, mainly in the construction sector. Chair, 855 of them have been trained in records management and are currently scanning and counting land claims files in all provinces. About 80 of them, with maths and geography, have been trained in disaster management for placement, later on, in municipalities. Thank you. [Time expired.] [Applause.]