Following the announcement by the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (DALRRD) that 700,000 hectares of under-utilised or vacant State land will be released and made available for agricultural use, many productive farmers and land owners have expressed distress and stated that the announcement is being used by departmental officials to intimidate them into vacating their farms.
The announcement clearly states that the land to be released is “under-utilised or vacant State land”. It is unclear how or why these farms have been targeted. The DA is taking action to fight this intimidation, and has stated that it remains committed to fighting all land expropriation legislation.
Incidentally, the Expropriation Bill that is currently before Parliament has many unclear and concerning statements within it, which DA Shadow Minister of Public Works and Infrastructure, Samantha Graham-Maré MP, states will severely impact the rights of property owners.
The public has until before 28 February 2021 to make submissions in the public participation process. It is almost two months into the public participation process, and the government has not yet finalised or announced a media plan. Submissions can be emailed to Ms Nola Matinise at firstname.lastname@example.org, it can be sent on WhatsApp to 060 550 9848 and submitted via this Submission Page.
DA Shadow Minister of Agriculture, Land Reform & Rural Development, Annette Steyn MP, made the following statement
“Following the announcement by the Minister of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (DALRRD), Thoko Didiza, that 700 000 hectares of State land will be released for agricultural purposes, the Democratic Alliance (DA) has received distress calls from productive farmers complaining that this announcement was now being used by departmental officials to intimidate them into vacating their farms.
On reviewing some of the reported cases, the DA was surprised to see that farms of some of the farmers being victimized by DALRRD officials are not even listed for redistribution under the 700 000 hectare scheme.
To stop this intimidation, the DA will write to the Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development, Mandla Mandela, and request that the agenda item on ‘the release of State land’, that is to deliberated on next week, be expanded to include all land that is currently listed for land reform purposes. The DA has enough evidence that intimidation and corruption is taking place on currently occupied land that falls outside the 700 000 hectares announced by the Minister.
In addition, the DA letter to Chairperson Mandela will call on him to issue a directive that all Provinces furnish the Committee with the status of all land that falls under the ambit of the Department’s land reform programme. We need to know:
- Which occupants or farmers have received letters or verbal instructions to vacate their land?
- What were the reasons given for these eviction orders and who authorised these instructions?
A recent victim of this intimidation campaign is Mr Ivan Cloete, a productive pig farmer who conducts his farming activities at Colenso farm. This week, a rapid intervention from the DA stopped the eviction of Mr Cloete from his farm after DALRRD officials visited him to ask that he hands over the keys and leaves immediately. It is not clear who gave the order for this eviction and why, especially considering the fact that Colenso farm is not listed under the 700 000 hectares land redistribution programme.
There are many farmers out there who are in Mr Cloete’s predicament. Their harassment is a potential indicator of what is to happen to farmers should the disastrous Section 25 Amendment Bill get passed. South Africa could be headed towards a dangerous era where farmers are targeted for eviction with due legal recourse. The DA remains committed to fighting all land expropriation legislation and protect our farmers from undue State interference.”