Land Management in practice!

The mandate of Ingonyama Trust is management of land falling within its jurisdiction. Such a process is not simple as it involves various role players amongst whom there is Amakhosi and Izinduna. The latter constitutes Traditional Council structures which administer the same land in terms of customary law exclusively.

This system of law may be too percular to an outsider. This therefore by its very nature is quite complex and has implications in terms of immovable asset management, which is a challenge across most departments with such a mandate.

The year under review brought about new developments. Of these is the introduction of reporting requirements to the Portfolio Committee on Rural Development and Land Reform which is a departure from the past. ITB is still on a learning curve to satisfy some of these requirements and will work closely with the Portfolio Committee to enable it to understand its oversight role while at the same time creating an environment for synergy in understanding the role of ITB.

Management of land comes with a variety of challenges including administration of leases and collection of revenue from various clients. These impose even greater responsibility on the Board which has for many years operated with minimum personnel. The situation is not made better by individuals and entities which include other organs of state which take advantage at hand and irregularly acquire Trust land and some revenue due to the Board.

This in a nutshell demonstrates the need for an integrated approach in managing land and other national resources as there are various stakeholders and interest groups. We are indeed working towards achieving this and we will the coming year sketch our efforts even further with a view of concluding memoranda of agreements with various actors in trying to address this issue.

It is encouraging that other departments like the Department of Forestry and Fisheries have started entering into leases with the Board in respect of the few forests which are on Trust land. Likewise the provincial Department of Transport which has hereto evaded taking responsibility for the plundering of the Trust land quarry over the years has at last agreed to co-operate and enter into leases with the Board in respect of burrow pits.

It should be quite obvious from what I said above that as a Board we need to take bold decisions and implement them in order to make a meaningful and urgent contribution in the country’s economic and social transformation. To this extent we need to engage the financial institutions, especially banks to adapt their mind set in so far as rural people and communal resources especially land are concerned.

The National Credit Act and internal bank prescripts and lending criteria in particular are important and critical instruments in assessing individual’s ability to be granted loans,however, it is an open secret that people living in rural areas are discriminated against by these institutions. In this regard we are hopeful that various ministries in governments as well as engaging the banking sector as a collective will yield positive results. Therefore it would be expected that moving forward radical policy shift would be expected from the Board.

From the past many years I have pleaded for political leadership and guidance in the matter of Municipal Property rates. This I have done because in my view the issues of property rates is second only to land ownerships in issues of sensitivity. That the Board and eThekwini Metro had to go as far as Constitutional Court on this matter and still remain deadlocked to date is a matter of grave concern.

One is justified to think that the glaring silence on this point on the part of local authorities is deliberate. We do note that the strategy is conveniently to issue out summonses against the Board to recover allegedly owing rates.

The strategy is premised on the assumption that in this way there will be disruptions as the true payers targeted are not directly confronted. The idea is that if the ITB loses the case and it’s unable to pay and settle the debt, the local authority will have a free hand to attach in execution any land it chooses registered in the name of the Trust.

This attitude is regrettable because in trust the land which the Board administers belongs to the people. I can only hope for a better cooperation between the Board and the local authorities moving forward. We are indeed looking at options to deal with this matter even if it means charging market related rentals on its leases in respect of state domestic properties to raise revenue if necessary in order to meet the obligation thus created, should the final decision be that the Board must pay.

This approach will have serious implications for the state including municipalities as they also have structures on the land administered by the Board.

It would be noted that the fundamental issues raised by the Auditor General perennially are two. The first and complex one is land valuation. My views on this have not shifted over the years. The Trust came into existence on the 25 April 1994 and has been the owner of the land which is subject matter of this audit finding since.

There was no Public Finance Management Act (PFMA) then. The Board which is being audited came into being on 2nd October 1998. It could not change the cause of history. The PFMA came into operation in 2000 and it would appear that the Auditor General is of the view that the provisions of the PFMA apply retrospectively.

The second audit finding where we come from different perspectives with the Auditor General for some time is that of royalties. My view on this remains what they were in the last financial year.

It will be noted from the audit findings that the Board does everything within its power to meet every legal prescript. Matters where there are adverse findings are legal prescripts which relate to matters which are beyond the Board’s competency.

The technical issues raised are either by audit or Portfolio Committee tends to take the focus away from the great value the Board serves in providing stability in the administration of communal land. We must accept that the system is not perfect and there is room for improvement.

In my view with all the constraints and challenges alluded to in this report the Board has succeeded in discharging its mandate, taking into account that in the year under review it has cost the South African Tax Payer only R17 294m to subsidise the activities of the Board. Clearly the returns far outweigh the costs. No doubt these costs will increase before they go down.

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