October 23, 2018

Land Committee angered by ongoing Ingonyama Trust lease scheme

Parliament’s Rural Development and Land Reform Committee is fast losing patience with the Ingonyama Trust, with a Committee member declaring at its most recent meeting that in terms of actual delivery the Trust had scored zero.

The Trust presented its performance reports, for the 2017/18 third and fourth quarters, at a Committee meeting at the end of May. The reports submitted by the Ingonyama Trust Board (ITB) reveal alarming columns recording nil delivery in actual performance measured against the targets identified in its Annual Performance Plan.

The chief reason for non-performance appears to be an incomplete organogram, which is part of a restructuring programme that has been in progress for years. The Committee said it wondered where the Trust’s money had gone because its report had little to show for its expenditure. Only salary payments came close to reaching the 100% targeted spend.

Ingonyama Trust could render Rural Development and Land Reform Committee useless.

But what most infuriated the Committee was the Trust’s apparent disregarding of its instructions, issued at a previous meeting, to halt the process of issuing lease agreements, which effectively wiped out existing land rights and turned citizens into rent-paying tenants.

The Ingonyama Trust administers at least three million hectares of land that has been traditionally occupied by the people of KwaZulu-Natal and which was given to the traditional leadership under the king in what was one of apartheid’s final moves to implement racial land segregation before the majority government took power.

The mandate of the trust was to “benefit the material welfare and social well-being of the members of the tribes and communities” of the Zulu people who lived on this land, though very few of them have yet to enjoy any such benefits, according to civil rights organisations and the findings of the High-Level Panel on the Assessment of Key Legislation and Acceleration of Fundamental Change chaired by former president Kgalema Motlanthe.

The Trust is known to have accrued millions from mining royalties, rentals and lease agreements with large corporations. The ITB has long been under pressure from civil society and even Parliament to declare its mining royalties and pay the tax earned to the national fiscus.

The trust is administered by nine board members, led by Zulu monarch King Goodwill Zwelithini, who is the sole trustee. In other words, the king holds all the land on which his subjects live, work and farm. The ANC’s land restitution programme is based on permanent occupation of land through the granting of title deeds, which would put paid to the ITB and all it stand for. The king has come out fighting, warning of civil war if this land was taken out of his hands for redistribution.

The High-Level Panel has incurred the wrath of Zwelithini and the Board of the Ingonyama Trust because it has recommended that the Trust be phased out and that the land it controls be transferred to the state and then to individual residents to improve security of land tenure.

In an ironic twist to his efforts to allegedly preserve Zulu ownership of this land, Zwelithini is encouraging his subjects to convert their current Permission To Occupy (PTO) land agreements into long-term leases, which would require rent be paid to the Trust. An advertisement was published in local media and on the Trust website motivating citizens to “upgrade” their current PTO status, which secures their rights to the land on which they live, into long-term leases which would turn them into rent-paying tenants who have effectively relinquished their claims to their land.

Not surprisingly, the Board confirmed at the Committee meeting that citizens have shown little interest in applying to “upgrade” from PTOs. The only exceptions were those who needed documentation to apply for bonds as commercial banks do not recognise PTOs. No figures for applications were reported.

The Committee demanded again that the “upgrades” be stopped immediately, and reported at the meeting that the advert had not been removed and the lease system was still in place. While Committee members raised strong objections to the ITB ignoring the Committee decision on the lease system, the ITB Chairperson, Judge Jerome Ngwenya, responded that there is no ruling that says the ITB should not issue leases.

His response to Committee concerns about non-performance was to raise his own objections about lack of government funding, saying the Ingonyama Trust could not be expected to deliver on its mandate with its current state allocation when it had a budget five times that size. He complained that the Committee did not appreciate the structural challenges faced by the Trust.

The ITB’s response to the Committee was that it (the ITB) was being unfairly criticised; it had been given insufficient funds to do its work, was in the process of restructuring which unavoidably delayed delivery and certain tasks had to be outsourced because they require specialised skills.

The Committee questioned whether the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform had reviewed the ITB reports that were presented to the Committee. It resolved to study the Trust’s Annual Performance Plans and its reports on delivery and finances over the past two years to track compliance with the Committee’s requests and recommendations.

While the Board is ultimately accountable to the Minister of Rural Development and Land Reform, the Committee’s oversight role requires that, as Parliament, it holds the government department to account. This Committee is an example of Parliament performing its oversight role, and the Committee’s concerns about the non-delivery reflected in the Trust’s quarterly reports flag the consequences of state entities disregarding Parliament in its oversight capacity.

Committee member Pumzile Mnguni from the ANC expressed concern that the ITB entrusted all authority to the king as the sole trustee of the Board. He wanted to know why the ITB had disregarded the call of the Committee to halt the conversions of the PTOs to leases, saying this “rendered the Committee useless”.

Mnguni also asked if the Acting CEO of the Board was related to the king, which he said would be a conflict of interests. In reply, Acting CEO Thembeka Ndlovu denied being related to the king. She said she was only related to the king’s wife, Queen Thandi Ndlovu, who is her mother’s sister.

Her only interest, she said, was to develop land tenure management skills. She was a qualified teacher and appealed to the Committee to give her an opportunity as “a professional person” who “knows people’s land rights” and has worked for the department of land in the past. Ndlovu said she would send her CV to the Committee.

Mamagase Nchabeleng (ANC) said he also had wanted to ask about the credentials of the Acting CEO and her relationship to the king. Nchabeleng remarked that the Committee needed to find legal help to rescue the IBT because it was sliding downhill and interventions were needed.

The Committee raised further questions about unfilled senior posts, reports of staff suspensions, and whether expensive vehicles had been purchased for the use of the king. Members also wanted to know why R5 was being collected from each KZN household, allegedly for a fund to pay for possible future legal action in defence of the Trust, which was confirmed by Judge Ngwenya.

Acting Board CEO Ndlovu went through a comprehensive list of the Trust’s performance indicators at the meeting, and in so doing confirmed alarmingly poor performance. It also declared that no agreements had been reached for partnership with the private sector for developments on land of high commercial value, at least during the period under review, this despite extensive existing partnerships with mining companies, large commercial companies and even privately owned tourist destinations.

The following summary of the ITB’s performance was compiled by the Parliamentary Monitoring Group. The full quarterly reports can be accessed at http://bit.ly/2J6qefL

  • Staff training on the monitoring and evaluation framework has been deferred until the new organogram has been finalised and the skills audit has been undertaken.
    • 50% of the Customer Service Charter plan has been implemented. The process was delayed due to the review of the draft organogram.
    • Communication reports were completed, but were not submitted to the Board.
    • No workshops had been conducted with amakhosi at the time of writing, but they had reported plans to hold them in January 2018.
    • Due to the specialised nature of the policies to be reviewed, the Board decided to outsource the function.
    • No posts have been filled in the HR provisioning plan.
    • 69% of performance agreements had been completed in time.
    • Only one training programme had been conducted. The HR Committee resolved that training be done once the organogram is finalised and managers are appointed.
    • No Memoranda of Agreement with traditional councils have been approved by the Board as this was suspended pending the finalisation of the new organogram.
    • No Land Tenure Policy has been developed and approved.
    • No research has been conducted on the land allotment practices adopted by the various traditional councils. This would be done in the next financial year because it requires specialised skills.
    • No valuation has been done on land parcels for commercial use.
    • No Spatial Development Plans for strategically located land had been prepared. A discussion with the municipality has to take place but this has been placed on hold.
    • A report to identify prime land and its approval by the Board has not been done.
    • There are no approved plans for agriculture production on trust land.
    • No agriculture projects have been approved by the Board.
    • No potential projects of high commercial value for partnership with the private sector have been identified and implemented.
    • No plan has been developed and implemented on land with development rights.
    • No monitoring has been done on compliance and adherence to the ITB BBBEE scorecard for commercial developments.
    • There are no development rights applications submitted and obtained in line with the findings of the land audit.
    • No traditional councils have been trained and no training plan has been approved by the Board.

Moira Levy

Additional information sourced from the Parliamentary Monitoring Group.

Additional Info

  • Author: Moira Levy
Last modified on Friday, 01 June 2018 13:55

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