Owning a farm is a privilege, not a right
Every morning at 5am before starting work on his fruit farm just outside Tzaneen in Limpopo, Theuns Botha (56) reads the Bible and kneels down for a prayer to “thank the Lord for the privilege” of owning the land.
“It is not a right that I have so it is a privilege to have a farm like this and run it,” says Botha, who is closely monitoring the ongoing parliamentary hearings on land expropriation without compensation.
At least one portion of his farm has been claimed by a community that was forcefully dispossessed under the former apartheid government.
Botha inherited a 36 hectare plot of land “with debt” from his grandfather, who bought the property “many years ago”.
He rented neighbouring sections of land to farm, and eventually bought the properties to grow his land ownership portfolio to just about 200ha.
The farm, Lapland, produced 12 000 tons of mangoes, 6 000 tonnes of avocados, 300 tons of guavas and 10 tonnes of litchis over the past year, says Botha, adding that his production costs run up to R1 million every year.
He cites Woolworths and a local juice-making factory among his top clients. The leftovers go to the export market.
Botha says that he employs 36 people on his farm. They are like family and he even knows their children.
“Some have been here for more than 20 years and I have a good relationship with them. They are my most valuable assets. I need them to spray for me and pick for me.
“I have a mean team this side,” he says.
Botha mentions George Makhubela, one of his drivers and a handyman, who is a pastor in his community and works from Tuesday to Sunday so that he can do his church work on Mondays.
Botha’s congregation supports Makhubela’s church by covering expenses such as electricity.
If the land expropriation policy is implemented, Botha says he is worried about “what is going to happen to my people who work for me”.
“Most farms in this area went out of business soon after the land was given back because the people had no training,” he says.
He has a masters in plant pathology from the University of Pretoria.
His second concern is about the threat to appropriate the land for free.
“We have also put millions of our money into these farms and all of a sudden [they will be] taken without compensation. That does not make sense.”
He says that he is not opposed to people getting their land back, but “the truth is that if you get something for free you do not appreciate it”.
“We started from scratch here with nothing and a lot of debt and that is how we began to appreciate it.”