SOUTH AFRICA’s government has begun seizing land from white farmers, targeting two game farms in the northern province of Limpopo after talks with the owners to buy the properties collapsed.
By – Paul Withers
Johannesburg-based newspaper City Press reported owners Akkerland Boerdery wanted 200 million rand (£16.7m) for the land, but that the country’s government were willing to offer them just a tenth of that at 20 million rand (£1.67m).
A letter sent to the owners earlier this year had said: “Notice is hereby given that a terrain inspection will be held on the farms on April 5, 2018 at 10am in order to conduct an audit of the assets and a handover of the farm’s keys to the state.”
Akkerland Boerdery immediately took out an urgent injunction to prevent eviction until a court had ruled on the issue, but the Department of Rural Development and Land Affairs has refused the application.
Annelie Crosby, spokeswoman for the agricultural industry association AgriSA, told City Press: “What makes the Akkerland case unique is that they apparently were not given the opportunity to first dispute the claim in court, as the law requires.”
ANC spokesman ZiZi Kodwa refused to reveal details of the farms being targeted and has attempted to cal investor fears, adding the proposed seizures were “tied to addressing the injustices of the past”.
He told City Press: “Over time I think the markets as well as investors will appreciate that what we are doing is creating policy certainty and creating the conditions for future investment.”
Tensions among South Africa’s white farming community has been escalating since the election of Cyril Ramaphosa as President earlier the year, who committed his African National Congress (ANC) to land expropriation.
Last week, ANC chairman Gwede Mantashe sparked panic among the farming community when he said: “You shouldn’t own more than 25,000 acres of land.
“Therefore if you own more it should be taken without compensation.
“People who are privileged never give away privilege as a matter of a gift.
“And that is why we say, to give you the tools, revisit the constitution so that you have a legal tool to do it.”
A record number of white South African farmers have put their land up for sale amid fears the ruling party is considering confiscating properties bigger than 25,000 acres.
The government was accused of drawing up a list of almost 200 farms it allegedly wants to seize from white farmers, with AfriForum, a civil rights group representing the white Afrikaner minority, adding the document was being circulated by ministers as the ruling powers prepare to implement the policy.
It invited farmers to check if they were on it and urged them to make contact “so we can prepare a joint legal strategy”.
But the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform denied the list was real with spokeswoman Linda Page telling News24: “We don’t know where they got this from. There is no truth in this document.”
On Sunday, Afriforum CEO Ernest Roets confirmed that the two farms – Salaitna and Lukin – were the first two to be targeted.
He said: “So the debate about the authenticity of the list is settled then?
“We hope that the gravity of the state’s plans for expropriation is understood and that people will see through the dishonesty of the Department of Land Reform and Rural Development.
“We hope that the attempts to discredit the legitimacy of the list has now been proven to be malicious for good. We shouldn’t be misled by those who sing Kumbaya while the state is planning to expropriate property.”
AgriSA has labelled Afriforum’s decision to release the list as “irresponsible” and inflammatory” dying “cursory background research” showed several inaccuracies, including that a number of farmers were joint ventures co-owend by black people.
Earlier this month, cattle farmer Jo-an Engelbrecht told ABC that his farm just outside Johannesburg was now “worth zero”.
He said: “We had several auctions in the last two or three weeks cancelled because there was no people interested in buying the land.
“Why would you buy a farm to know the government’s going to take it?”
Read more: From 2018/07/10