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We’ve made a significant breakthrough in North-West Province, where we have been able to secure the release of four properties (nearly 6 000 hectares) to the Rustenburg and Madibeng municipalities.

For 10 years, the province struggled to get the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform (DRDLR) land released to the municipalities for human settlement purposes. The release, facilitated by the HDA, has taken less than two years.

Some of the reasons for the delay were that although town-planning processes were initiated by the municipalities, they couldn’t be concluded because of land ownership issues. The properties are partly occupied and the residents have informal land rights. The municipalities approached the HDA to facilitate release of the properties to enable conclusion of the township establishment processes, and to facilitate housing development on site.

The transfer of the land to the municipalities was important in order to ensure security of tenure for the current occupiers of the properties.

We kick-started the release process by undertaking pre-acquisition feasibilities, followed by the facilitation of community resolutions. Community consultation processes are time-consuming, and the North West land release process was no exception. In recognising the occupiers’ right, the community had to agree to the release of the land to the municipalities. Consent of the communities was required because the community enjoyed informal land rights in terms of the Interim Protection of Informal Land Right Act, Act 31 of 1996, which protects insecure informal land rights of communities occupying land.

The next step in the release process was to secure a recommendation from the Provincial State Land Disposal and Vesting Committee (PSLDVC) to release the land, which is also a requirement in terms of the state land release process.

The PSLDVC exists in all the provinces to objectively consider release, disposal and vesting of state land prior to Ministerial consideration, and comprises representatives from DRDLR, Public Works and the Provincial Cooperative Governance, Human Settlements and Traditional Affairs (CoGHSTA) and Agriculture Departments.

We then commissioned valuations of the land to advise the Minister of the current market value of the land and the state contribution towards human settlements development. The provincial office of RDLR prepared the submission for the Minister’s approval, with the HDA’s assistance. The submission included background, property description, motivation (in this instance the land is occupied with informal land rights and therefore it is clear there is a need for human settlements in the area), and of course the valuation of the land.

Getting the submission to the Minister’s desk is a lengthy process but the submission was eventually approved on condition the land is used primarily for human settlements.

According to our Enhanced Framework for the Release of State Land, the approval process should take six months. i.e. From recommendation by the provincial committee and formal submission to ministerial approval. In this instance it did, in fact, take six months because the enhanced framework is an annexure to the Minister’s Outcome 8 delivery agreement so it’s binding.

In simple terms, the Agency’s role is to assist in cutting red tape and in the case of the North West land the process was much shorter than has been the case previously, and this is due to observance of the framework.

The framework was prepared with input from Public Works and DRDLR, so there is buy-in from key departments. The framework details the activities and timelines with regard to the release process. The steps remain the same as they always have been, but the difference between now and then is that the release process now has some sense of predictability – we have to get this thing sorted out and finalised within six months – the enhanced framework is binding, and therefore timelines have to be observed.

After the Minister had approved the submissions, they were referred to National Treasury for approval of the land donation to the municipalities in terms of the Public Finance Management Act. National Treasury approved the gratis transfer of the land, and the conveyancing process started with the Deeds of Donation being prepared and signed by the municipalities and the Department.

We facilitate the process and we make sure the Deed of Donation is prepared, and the conveyancer is appointed to attend to the transfer and registration of land into the names of the municipalities.

This process should take about three months – as long as there isn’t a hold-up with rates clearance. The Agency also renders a land monitoring role over released state land, to ensure that released state land is utilised primarily for the purpose for which it was released.