Parliament’s portfolio committee on agriculture, land reform and rural development, heard on first account challenges gripping the Commission on Restitution of Land Rights (CRLR).
“The constraints on the fiscus had led to budget reduction of R403 million in 2020/21 and various moratoriums placed on the filling of vacant posts mean CRLR is operating with only 45% of the approved structure,” said Nomfundo Ntloko-Gobodo, Chief Land Claims Commissioner.
This has impacted on the work of the CRLR with over 6000 land claims cases still to be resolved.
Ntloko-Gobodo further said the commission was carrying workload outside its mandate with project officers spending roughly 40% of their work on post-settlement which had nothing to do with the restitution or the work of the commission Parliament heard.
The Commission, broke down this anomaly in sequentially;
- CRLC was doing the work of three different units – to receive, investigate and recommend for settlement much like the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
- The Minister of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development was mandated to do the restitution following the CRLR claim recommendations based on its research verifying it was a valid claim.
- The Departments Restitution Branch was responsible to effect the settlement by transferring and ensuring every last cent is paid to the beneficiaries.
- CRLC was assigned to do the work of Communal Property Association (CPA’s) added with that of the Office of the Valuer-General (OVG), which overloaded its resources and it is work not supposed to be done by the Commission Parliament heard.
MP’s also grilled the Commission on the work it has done with the OVG and why since the statutory office introduction in 2012, the process of land claims seemed to have dragged?
“From the beginning of OVG, the Commission expressed its frustration that OVG is an independent entity so the Commission has no mandate to tell them what, how and when to process their work despite having the service level agreement (SLA) that gives terms of reference and time frames” Ntloko-Gobodo claimed.
Before OVG’s enactment, Ntloko-Gobodo said at the height of the Commission’s performance, with an annual budget of R2.4 billion it was able to settle 800-1000 claims annually, but with the now current budget cuts it was near impossible to achieve targets sets.
Lebjane Maphutha, Regional Land Claims Commissioner, assured the committee that the Commission had a standing SLA with OVG. However, the improvements of issuing valuation certificates were minimal as OVG was also gripped with challenges of responding to queries about its valuations.
The Portfolio Committee also was assured that DALRRD issued a circular allowing the Commission to now conduct valuations while the OVG will continue to ensure quality assurance on valuations done.
To fast track land claims, the CRLR had introduced Prokect Kuyasa which altogether aimed at overhauling the processes, systems and models used by CRLR for land claims to ensure better service delivery to its clients.
Currently, it took an average of 248 weeks to apparently settle a claim, but with the new model of Project Kuyasa the Commission was looking to reduce it to 81 weeks. This model is similar to the one used by Home Affairs in settling the turnaround times of applying and issuing identity cards.
“There are five outcomes from Kuyasa project; a) Backlog reduction strategy and process improvement; b) Change and people management; c) Appropriate organisational form with the Commission becoming an autonomous entity; d) Review of the finance and settlement model and e) Project management,” added Ntloko-Gobodo.
Additional source: Parliamentary Monitoring Group. 2020. CRLR Project Kuyasa progress; Agriculture BRRR.