The South African government has begun the process of seizing white-owned farmland, reportedly filing legal papers seeking to expropriate two farms for one-tenth of their estimated value.
The filings, involving two game farms in the northern province of Limpopo, come as the African National Congress government is seeking to amend the country’s constitution to allow outright seizures of land with no compensation. The ANC’s leader also has recently argued that pure expropriation is allowed anyway now “in the public interest.”
According to the local City Press in South Africa, the Akkerland Boerdery wants 200 million Rand for the two pieces of land (about $13.8 million), as it had been assessed in 2011.
But the government wants to take it for 20 million, without the benefit of a court’s judgment of the land’s value — something supposedly legally guaranteed.
“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,” AgriSA union spokeswoman Annelize Crosby told the paper.
The seizures are part of a broad program of land redistribution that the post-Apartheid government has committed to speeding up, saying the country’s current wealth distribution reflects theft from black tribes under the whites-only governments of the early- and mid-20th century.
A 2017 government audit found that whites, who are 9 percent of South Africa’s population, own 72 percent of the country’s private farmland.
Section 25 of South Africa’s current Constitution allows for land seizures with compensation, but the City Press reported that the ANC-dominated government had drawn up a list of 139 farms it planned to seize “to test out” that provision.The Akkerland Boerdery was on that list, which the government denied was authentic.
But if the ANC gets its way on another front, Akkerland might not even get the 20 million Rand.
President Cyril Ramaphosa said three weeks ago, after a two-day ANC meeting, that the country’s dominant party will push ahead to amend the constitution to allow for pure expropriation of land, according to a report in News Corp Australia.
“It has become patently clear that our people want the constitution to be more explicit about expropriation of land without compensation, as demonstrated in public hearings,” Mr. Ramaphosa said in a video message to “fellow South Africans, comrades, friends.”
The South African parliament voted in February to send its Constitutional Review Committee a motion to work on such a measure introduced by the Marxist Economic Freedom Fighters party with ANC support.
Mr. Ramaphosa said the ANC would make sure the amendment “outlines more clearly the conditions under which expropriation of land without compensation can be effected.”
But in another warning shot to white farmers and a possible foreshadowing of Seizures even beyond Akkerland Boerdery, the president hinted that the government might not even see itself as needing that amendment.
A “proper reading” of the constitution and its current property clause, he said, “enables the state to effect expropriation of land with just and equitable compensation, and also expropriation without compensation in the public interest.”
Mr. Rampahosa, defending that position, said that the state having the power to seize property for no compensation will encourage economic growth.
“The ANC reaffirmed its position that a comprehensive land reform program that enables equitable access to land will unlock economic growth by bringing more land in South Africa to full use and enable the productive participation of millions more South Africans in the economy,” he said.