When Zimbabwe violently confiscated land from whites under President Robert Mugabe, the nation’s currency and economy were also destroyed. It’s was a perfect combination of institutionalized theft coupled with the worst in socialist economic policies. Now South Africa seems determined to follow in those footsteps, regardless of the fact that they lead off a cliff.
The South African government has begun the process of seizing land from white farmers.
Local newspaper City Press reports two game farms in the northern province of Limpopo are the first to be targeted for unilateral seizure after negotiations with the owners to purchase the properties stalled.
While the government says it intends to pay, owners Akkerland Boerdery wanted 200 million rand ($18.7 million) for the land — they’re being offered just 20 million rand ($1.87 million).
“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,” a letter sent to the owners earlier this year said.
Akkerland Boerdery obtained an urgent injunction to prevent eviction until a court had ruled on the issue, but the Department of Rural Development and Land Affairs is opposing the application.
“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.
It comes as the South African government pushes ahead with plans to amend the country’s constitution to allow for the expropriation of land without compensation.
The seizures are intended to test the ability of the government to take land under existing laws, which the ruling African National Congress has previously stated is allowable if “in the public interest”.
Earlier this month, City Press reported the government had drawn up a list of 139 farms it planned to seize “to test out” section 25 of the constitution.
The newspaper said employees at the department had been ordered to press ahead with the process at the Land Claims Court.
If the seizures go ahead, it would be the first time the state refuses to pay market value for land. Since the end of apartheid in 1994, the ANC has followed a “willing seller, willing buyer” process to redistribute white-owned farms to blacks.
These farms are on the goverment's #farmlist that @afriforum exposed. And yet government still denies that the list exists… but it is now clear that government is lying to the public. https://t.co/U40G0U1GIv
— Kallie Kriel (@kalliekriel) August 19, 2018
White farmers are desperately trying to sell their lands ahead of planned government seizures.
Omri van Zyl, head of the Agri SA union, which represents mainly white farmers, said: “The mood among our members is very solemn. They are confused about the lack of any apparent strategy from the government and many are panicking. So many farms are up for sale, more than we’ve ever had, but no one is buying.”
Investors in South Africa are worried that the economy would contract the way it did in Zimbabwe under President Robert Mugabe, who also seized land from whites. The country’s economy hasn’t recovered since then, with inflation reaching 89.7 sextillion percent during the peak of the crisis, according to some estimates.
“Markets are sensitive to anything perceived to be ‘Zimbabwe-fication’ on the land-reform front,” Henrik Gullberg, executive director of emerging-market strategy at Nomura, told Bloomberg.
Last week, South Africa’s governing party ANC chairman Gwede Mantashe fueled the farmers’ panic by announcing upcoming seizures. “You shouldn’t own more than 12,000 hectares of land and therefore if you own more, it should be taken without compensation,” Mantashe told News24. Minority rights group AfriForum has warned the move would be “catastrophic.”
The South African government says it wants to settle the land issue, a major point of contention in the predominantly black country, where 72 percent of private land is owned by the minority white population. It wants to redistribute the land to the black population of the country after taking it away from several thousand white commercial farmers.