MPs concerned about late tabling of rural development and land reform dept's annual report

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Thoko Didiza, Minister of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development. Photo: GCIS
Thoko Didiza, Minister of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development. Photo: GCIS
  • Opposition MPs are concerned about the late tabling of the former Department of Rural Development and Land Reform's annual report for 2019-2020.
  • Agriculture Minister Thoko Didiza said the AG is still working with the Agriculture Land Holdings Account to finalise its report.
  • Didiza got an extension to table the report by 31 January.

Opposition MPs are concerned about the late tabling of the annual report for the 2019-2020 financial year of the former Department of Rural Development and Land Reform, which should shed light on R900 million which was moved from the Agricultural Land Holdings Account to a Covid disaster fund.

The Portfolio Committee on Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development met on Tuesday.

Even before the meeting, the matter of the late submission of the report had been raised.

The EFF issued a statement on Monday, saying it was "outraged and deeply concerned" by Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development Minister Thoko Didiza's failure to table the report, even after the initial deadline had been extended. The party has called for her dismissal.

Didiza then released a statement in response.

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She said the annual reports for 2019-2020 for the erstwhile Departments of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries and Rural Development and Land Reform – which were merged into the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development – were to be reported separately.

"The report of the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries and its four entities (Vote 24), namely Agricultural Research Council, National Agricultural Marketing Council, Onderstepoort Biological Products and Perishable Products Export Control Board were submitted within the stipulated timeframes," reads Didiza's statement.

Didiza said she informed the Speaker of the National Assembly, Thandi Modise, of the "challenges faced in concluding" the annual reports of the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform and its five entities – the Agricultural Land Holdings Account (ALHA), Ingonyama Trust Board, Commission on Restitution of Land Rights (CRLR), Deeds Registration (Deeds) and Office of the Valuer-General.

"The minister further requested to table the reports on 31 January 2021. This request was granted by the Speaker," reads the statement.

She said the reports for all the entities, except for ALHA, have been audited by the Auditor-General of South Africa (AGSA).

"Relating to ALHA, there are areas that the AGSA is finalising and this is impacting on the reporting of the DRDLR as ALHA, CRLR and Deeds are reported on the budget structure of the Department."

She said, once AGSA has concluded ALHA's audit report, the Annual Report will be concluded.

Problems 

On Tuesday morning, Didiza also related this to the committee. She said AGSA and National Treasury are still working with ALHA.

At Tuesday's meeting, DA MP Annette Steyn said R900 million had been shifted from ALHA to the Covid agriculture disaster fund.

"We all know there are problems with that," Steyn said.

EFF MP Matiase said Didiza was "disingenuous" and "mischievous" by being vague about the reason for the delay.

He asked why AGSA is involved.

"It is unacceptable for the minister and department to hold members in the dark," said Matiase.

"This is a public matter."

Steyn said her concern was that R900 million was "lying around" and not being used to buy land for land reform beneficiaries.

Didiza said she didn't believe she needed to bring the matter to the committee, and that there was no failure on their part in not bringing it to the committee.

Matiase said he holds Didiza in high regard, but the "glaring weaknesses in her department is of great concern".

"It makes the minister looks like an ordinary minister in this Cabinet," he said.

"She will have our support if she acts decisively against those in her department, who are hellbent on making her look like an ordinary minister."

Usually, the national departments' and entities' annual reports have to be tabled at Parliament by the end of September.

Due to Covid-19, on 31 March, Finance Minister Tito Mboweni extended the deadline by a further two months.

National Treasury are also yet to table its annual report.


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