Business Day

Land re­form farms al­ready oc­cu­pied

• Farm­ers and com­mu­ni­ties fear forced re­movals • Min­is­ter ad­ver­tised land in lo­cal me­dia

- Carol Pa­ton Ed­i­tor at Large South Africa Politics · South Africa News · Society · Agriculture · African Politics · Politics · Industries · Kgalema Motlanthe · Democratic Alliance (South Africa) · Thoko Didiza · Gugile Nkwinti · Amersfoort

About a third of the 700,000ha the gov­ern­ment said ear­lier in Oc­to­ber it would make avail­able for land re­form is al­ready oc­cu­pied by com­mu­ni­ties and black farm­ers, some of whom now fear they will be forced to va­cate the land.

Agri­cul­ture, land re­form & ru­ral de­vel­op­ment min­is­ter Thoko Didiza an­nounced at the be­gin­ning of Oc­to­ber that 896 state-owned farms would be re­leased on 30-year lease­holds to ad­vance land re­form.

The farms are mostly in the North West, Lim­popo and Mpumalanga and their al­lo­ca­tion would make a sig­nif­i­cant step change to the pace of land re­dis­tri­bu­tion, which has slowed to less than 100,000ha a year.

In re­sponse to ques­tions, the min­is­ter’s of­fice said last week that about 205,579ha was in use by neigh­bour­ing com­mu­ni­ties and 31,886ha was il­le­gally oc­cu­pied. In both cases the “state of occupation is be­ing at­tended to with a view to get these farms prop­erly ad­ver­tised and lo­cated”.

The land in ques­tion was bought by the state be­fore 1994 for the con­sol­i­da­tion of home­lands. Most of the farms are lo­cated along the edges of for­mer home­land bound­aries. They have re­mained in state hands since, de­spite at­tempts by oc­cu­pants to get land rights in many in­stances.

The gov­ern­ment is far be­hind its tar­get to re­dis­tribute 30% of agri­cul­tural farm­land to black farm­ers by 2014. So far, about 10% of farm­land has been re­dis­tributed. Both the high-level panel on the as­sess­ment of key leg­is­la­tion, car­ried out by for­mer pres­i­dent Kgalema Mot­lanthe in 2017, and the 2019 pres­i­den­tial ex­pert ad­vi­sory panel on land re­form and agri­cul­ture have urged the gov­ern­ment to re­lease state-owned land to black farm­ers.

Last week, Didiza ad­ver­tised the farms in lo­cal me­dia, call­ing on ap­pli­cants to ap­ply for lease­hold rights. But some of the farms on the list are oc­cu­pied by farm­ers and com­mu­ni­ties who have been fight­ing for rights for many years.

Them­bakazi Mat­sheke, who lives in the Gwatyu block of farms in the for­mer Transkei along with 88 other house­holds, says the com­mu­nity was con­cerned to see that some of the farms had been ad­ver­tised.

Mat­sheke was born on the land, as was her fa­ther, who died re­cently at the age of 90. The com­mu­nity has fought long and hard to get land rights, in­clud­ing march­ing on par­lia­ment in 2016,

af­ter which for­mer min­is­ter of ru­ral de­vel­op­ment & land re­form Gugile Nk­winti un­der­took to as­sist them.

“We are not leas­ing the land; we are just sur­prised to see that some of the farms are on the list. We made ap­pli­ca­tions in 2013 to the di­rec­tor-gen­eral of the depart­ment to be reg­is­tered as a com­mu­nal prop­erty as­so­ci­a­tion, but we have never heard from them,” she said.

Since 2016, there have been at least three land rights au­dits by de­part­men­tal of­fi­cials, but no progress with land al­lo­ca­tion.

Lim­popo farmer David Rak­gase, who in 2019 won a land­mark court or­der in­struct­ing the state to sell him the land he has farmed for 27 years, is an­other con­cerned farmer. His son, Mmofa, said in an e-mail to DA MP An­nette Steyn last week that the farm they had fought for is be­ing ad­ver­tised for a 30-year lease­hold. Steyn says she has re­quested de­tailed in­for­ma­tion from Didiza on how the list of 896 farms was com­piled.

Land al­lo­ca­tion, which takes place at district level, has been fraught with cor­rup­tion. Stud­ies show a trend of al­lo­ca­tion to wealthy business peo­ple rather than to ru­ral dwellers wish­ing to farm. Land ac­tivists say there is lit­tle con­fi­dence that the process will not be cor­rupt this time too.

David Nx­u­malo, who farms at Amers­foort in Mpumalanga, is anx­ious to see whether he will keep the farm he is on and is un­sure if it has been ad­ver­tised. Last year, he was or­dered to va­cate the farm he is leas­ing for fail­ure to pay rent.

“Oth­ers who are not pay­ing have kept their farms. If you don ’ t pay the bribe, you don’t get the agree­ment,” he said.

When an­nounc­ing the re­lease of the land, Didiza said a land-in­quiry process would de­ter­mine how in­di­vid­u­als and com­mu­ni­ties oc­cu­py­ing land got ac­cess to it and de­ter­mine the fu­ture of their occupation.

“The in­quiry will also look at how the land is be­ing utilised and whether such use is in ac­cor­dance with the agri­cul­tural prac­tices for the area. Where such land has been used for set­tle­ment, as­sess­ments will be done, to­gether with the de­part­ments of hu­man set­tle­ments; water and san­i­ta­tion; en­vi­ron­ment, forestry and fish­eries,” Didiza said.

Re­search con­sul­tant Rosalie King­well, who has re­searched land rights in the Gwatyu area since 2000, wrote in the Daily Maverick on Fri­day that most of the house­holds on the land had le­gal rights in terms of the In­terim Pro­tec­tion of In­for­mal Land Rights Act, which pro­tects oc­cu­piers who are not ad­e­quately served by the law. Ad­ver­tis­ing these farms would “amount to a form of il­le­gal dis­pos­ses­sion by the state, as, in terms of [the act], these rights can­not be in­fringed upon short of ex­pro­pri­a­tion [with com­pen­sa­tion]”, she said.

OTH­ERS WHO ARE NOT PAY­ING HAVE KEPT THEIR FARMS. IF YOU DON T PAY ’ THE BRIBE, YOU DON T GET THE ’ AGREE­MENT

 ?? Joe Port­lock/Getty Images ?? Track tri­umph: Race win­ner Lewis Hamil­ton of Great Bri­tain and Mercedes GP cel­e­brates his record-break­ing 92nd race win dur­ing the F1 Grand Prix of Por­tu­gal at Au­to­dromo In­ter­na­cional do Al­garve on Sunday in Por­ti­mao, Por­tu­gal. (See re­port on Page 16) /
Joe Port­lock/Getty Images Track tri­umph: Race win­ner Lewis Hamil­ton of Great Bri­tain and Mercedes GP cel­e­brates his record-break­ing 92nd race win dur­ing the F1 Grand Prix of Por­tu­gal at Au­to­dromo In­ter­na­cional do Al­garve on Sunday in Por­ti­mao, Por­tu­gal. (See re­port on Page 16) /

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