Didiza to Force Sale of Farm As Talks On Price Deadlock

Stephan Hofstätter, Business Day (Johannesburg), June 7

Land Affairs and Agriculture Minister Thoko Didiza is set to approve SA’s first expropriation order using a new restitution law, Gauteng and North West land claims chief Blessing Mphela said yesterday.

The expropriation order, which is expected to be signed by the minister by the end of the week or early next week, may spark fears that it could become the norm instead of the exception, as occurred in neighbouring Zimbabwe.

The department’s financial directorate would this week finalise the amount of compensation to be paid to the farmer before Didiza signed the order, Mphela said.

An amendment to the Restitution of Land Rights Act passed last year allows the minister to expropriate land under claim without a court order. This is the first time that the amendment has been applied.

Farmers’ unions expressed disappointment yesterday at the minister’s decision, but land activists welcomed it.

“All other avenues should be exhausted before this extreme measure is taken,” said Laurie Bosman, president of farmers’ union AgriSA. “It sends the wrong message to the outside world for investment and property rights in SA.”

Chris Jordaan, president of the Transvaal Agricultural Union, said the move signalled the start of state-sanctioned land grabs. “The only difference between SA and Zimbabwe is that the minister does it here through legislation.”

Mphela said he had been forced to recommend expropriation after price negotiations deadlocked for eight months.

“There are still farmers who feel they can resist restitution, but they are not in the majority,” he said.

He denied the move would scare off investors. “Expropriation is not the main vehicle for land delivery,” he said. “It is only done in extreme cases and having due regard for the rights of the owner.”

The farmer, F Visser in the Delareyville district of North West, had initially wanted R6m before lowering his price to R3m. A government-appointed valuer pegged its ceiling value at R1,7m, but the farmer refused to budge.

He was among five farmers in Gauteng, Limpopo, Mpumalanga and North West province who faced expropriation last year when price negotiations deadlocked.

They agreed to resume talks after being served with letters of intent, prompting provincial land claims commissioners to withdraw their recommendation to expropriate.

The restitution law applies only to land from which blacks were forcibly removed through apartheid policies after 1913.

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