SA set for farm take-overs

A government land commission said the government had sent notices of expropriation on four pieces of land in the country’s Limpopo province two weeks ago, threatening the seizure of the land if the owners did not accept a government offer of cash.

The notices followed two earlier expropriation notices that were issued on two other farms earlier this month, one of which is owned by the Evangelical Lutheran Church of South Africa.

The government’s chief land claims officer, Thozi Gwanya said the owners of the farms had a month to respond to the expropriation notices, after which the properties will be taken over by the state.

“The minister (of agriculture and land affairs) has signed notices of expropriation and they have been sent.

“The owners have 30 days to respond, following which we will begin the expropriation procedures,” Gwanya said.

He said one of the initial two farms was located close to the mining town of Cullinan , the site where the world’s largest diamond was found, while the other was in the Northern Cape Province.

The government is understood to have offered R520 000 in compensation for the 106ha Cullinan farm while the owner was demanding close to R1-million.

The Evangelical Lutheran Church wanted R70-million for its 25 200ha property, while the state offered R35,5-million, an amount its said “was higher than the market rate when the negotiations began three years ago”.

The other four expropriation notices have been issued on four portions of the Turffontein 499 KR farm in the Waterberg district.

Gwanya said the government had offered R435 000 for a portion of 21 4133 hectares, R525 000 for another of 21 4133 hectares, R300 000 for one of 23 3219 hectares, and R750 000 for a fourth portion of 22 2357 hectares.

However he accused some of the white farmers for delaying negotiations in a bid to push up the prices of their properties.

“The more they delay, the more the land prices go up,” the land commissioner said.

The government’s moves towards land seizure have raised eyebrows among the South African public, some of whom fear the government’s approach could have adverse consequences on the country’s economy and social coherence.

In a statement issued two weeks ago the opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) warned that the government faced severe adverse consequences if it persisted with the expropriation of farms.

Like many opposition parties in southern Africa the DA rejects appropriation even where there are not enough willing sellers of land.

“Abandoning the willing-buyer, willing-seller principle in favour of a model that sounds uncomfortably close to the pre-land invasion model in Zimbabwe will have far-reaching negative consequences for South Africa,” the party’s Land Affairs spokesperson Maans Nel said.

While the DA believes in the principle of expropriation, the party believes government has abused the procedure and is taking advantage of it to cover its back on a lagging commitment to redistribute 30 percent of agricultural land to blacks by 2014.

“Expropriation is a recognised tool for land redistribution, but must only be embarked upon in exceptional circumstances.

“At the moment, there is still much that can be achieved using the current land policy,” Nel said.

The government has taken pains to assure the country’s public and international investors that its expropriation procedures are limited and will only be used in necessary circumstances in the restitution process.

Dirk du Toit, South Africa ‘s deputy minister of Agriculture and Land Affairs said the restitution programme, designed to correct racial imbalances in land ownership in the country, was on course despite some concerns that the programme was failing.

“There’s this wrong perception that most of these (land reform) projects, especially restitution, are failing. That is not true, they are working”, Du Toit said.

In August, Gwanya said white farmers had responded “positively” to government moves to takeover their land, after the state threatened to seize their farms by force if they failed to cooperate in the country’s land redistribution exercise.

Gwanya said since the government had threatened expropriation, a growing number of white farmers were now “willing” to come to the table to negotiate terms for giving up their land.

The statements were in spite of complaints by the farmers that the state was arm-twisting them into selling their land against their will.

October 2006
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