The controversial issue of land expropriation has reared up dramatically, with a report in City Press that states the government has begun unilaterally expropriating farms.
The farms in question are ones against which land claims have been made but where the negotiations have broken down between the state and the owners over the value of the land.
The report states that two game farms in Limpopo will be the first properties the state will seek to expropriate without following any process through the courts.
A claim against the land that was lodged by the Musekwa tribe as far back as 1996 is cited in the 2006 Government Gazette.
The state does intend to provide compensation, however a dispute arose regarding both the validity of the land claims lodged against the the property and the true value of the land.
The government has offered the owners R20 million for property, which they believe is worth R200 million.
City Press reports that Akkerland Boerdery, the owners of a game farm in Makhado, Limpopo, receive a note earlier in the year that laid out the process going forward.
“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,” the letter reads.
Akkerland Boerdery has reportedly obtained an interdict in the Land Claims Court to halt their eviction from the farms.
Legal adviser of agricultural body AgriSA, Annelize Crosby, told City Press she was concerned about the case, because AgriSA was only aware of one other case where a land claim dispute had resulted in expropriation. That particular case had been signed off on by the Land Claims Court 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 was quoted as saying.
According to department of land reform spokesperson Linda Page, though, section 42E of the law makes provision for certain ministers to intervene to purchase, acquire or expropriate property for the purpose of land reform.
Cyril Ramaphosa recently made a late night announcement on the ANC’s decision to support changing the constitution to make land expropriation without compensation easier and “more explicit.”
Some feel that this calls in to question the authenticity of the land hearings held around the country recently, and whether the state intended to listen to those who had their say and apply the hearing’s findings.
It was reported in July that at the ANC Western Cape land summit in Stellenbosch, keynote speaker and ANC NEC member Ronald Lamola said there was no reason to wait for public hearings to end before expropriation without compensation could take place.
The ANC’s youngest NEC member said the outcome of the party’s national summit, held in May, was that President Cyril Ramaphosa would appoint a task team to assist with the land reform project.
Instances of expropriation would then need to be tested on a case-by-case basis in the Constitutional Court, Lamola added.
According to the politician, government departments and entities already had the means to test the Constitution by expropriating land within existing law.
Lamola, a lawyer by trade, sits on the party’s subcommittee on economic transformation.
Clarifying his belief that expropriation of land could be carried out constitutionally, he said: “We don’t believe the Constitution is a sellout document. What is needed is that the issue of land expropriation needs to be properly spelled out. We need to provide clarity.”
“All those [state] institutions already have powers to expropriate, so they don’t need to wait for the public hearings [to end].