Parliament, Tuesday, 13 September 2022 – The Department of Forestry, Fisheries and Environment and the South African Police Service (SAPS) today appeared before the Portfolio Committee on Environment, Forestry and Fisheries to brief it on progress in the investigation into organised land invasions at the Knoflokskraal site in Grabouw plantation.

The Chairperson of the committee, Ms Faith Muthambi, said the committee understands the issue of land hunger and landlessness in South Africa, but the nation is governed by rule of law. “This is where SAPS comes in; to enforce law and keep order,” emphasised Ms Muthambi.

She said the Western Cape has a Boland package of about 7 000 hectares, including the Grabouw plantation, which has been invaded by about 4 000 households. The Kluitjieskraal plantation has also been invaded, with about 24 households occupying the land. These are areas where forestry land is being changed to agricultural use.

The committee heard in a previous meeting that the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and Environment would investigate if there were other community members interested in Community Forestry Agreement beyond those currently occupying the land. The committee heard about the challenges facing the department’s Forestry Branch, particularly with respect to an ageing and ailing workforce, timber theft and land invasions.

The committee also heard that the private commercial company’s lease agreement ended in 2019, and that the department plans to retain these areas under forestry production in line with the Commercial Forestry Masterplan, which promotes growth and investment in the sector. However, the department is unable to implement the master plan because people have built shacks in the area.

From the SAPS side, the committee heard that the police are monitoring the area on a daily basis. The committee said that land invasions are an ongoing matter that demands broader collaboration. For this reason, it resolved to convene a joint meeting in the next quarter with the Portfolio Committee on Public Works and Infrastructure, where Minister Patricia de Lille will also be invited.

ISSUED BY THE PARLIAMENTARY COMMUNICATION SERVICES ON BEHALF OF THE CHAIRPERSON OF THE PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE ON ENVIRONMENT, FORESTRY AND FISHERIES, MS FAITH MUTHAMBI. 

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