Government has begun unilaterally expropriating farms against which land claims have been lodged and where price negotiations with owners have stalled.
Two game farms in Limpopo appear to be the first properties that will be expropriated without following a court process. The owners, who dispute the validity of the land claims lodged against their property, want R200m for the land, while government has offered them R20m.
A letter written to Akkerland Boerdery, owners of a luxury hunting farm in Makhado in Limpopo, read in part: “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.”
Mashile Mokono, head of the land reform office in the ministry of rural development and land reform, told City Press’ sister newspaper, Rapport, that the minister was committed to speeding up land reform.
Mokono said that just this past week, Land Reform Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane signed another two final orders for expropriation in terms of section 42E of the Restitution of Land Rights Act, where negotiations have become deadlocked.
While government is willing to pay for the land, the Akkerland case comes as the ANC’s top structures have decided over the past weeks that government must urgently proceed with test cases in order to test the concept of expropriation without compensation.
Mokona emphasised that there was no talk of expropriation without compensation, but that the courts would have to give clarity on what constitutes “just and equitable” compensation.
A 2006 Government Gazette shows that the Musekwa tribe lodged a claim against the Akkerland Boerdery as far back as 1996.
Various legal experts are of the opinion that in certain circumstances, not paying any compensation may be justified and that it is therefore unnecessary to amend the Constitution, but the courts have not yet ruled on this point.
Akkerland has obtained an urgent interdict in the Land Claims Court to prevent its owners’ eviction from the farms. The interdict is valid until a court has ruled on the matter. The department is opposing the court application.
Annelize Crosby, legal adviser of agricultural body AgriSA, expressed concern about the Akkerland case, saying that the organisation was only aware of one other case where a land claim dispute had resulted in expropriation, and that was after the Land Claims Court had ordered it in 1997.
“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,” she said.
Linda Page, spokesperson for the department of land reform, said section 42E of the law makes provision for the minister to intervene to purchase, acquire or expropriate property for the purpose of land reform.
A total of 23 such cases have been finalised since 2007: one in KwaZulu-Natal, seven in Limpopo, 14 in Mpumalanga and one in the Northern Cape. It is unclear how many of these cases ended up with farmers eventually agreeing to take the compensation offered.
According to court papers in the Akkerland case, a “notice of intention to expropriate” was sent to the owners in October last year. The owners made representations in which they disputed the validity of the claim and the proposed amount of compensation.
In multiple cases the South African Government has offered merely 10% in compensation of the actual value of the land.