The Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (DALRRD) was supposed to have conducted an investigation by end February 2021, into the circumstances that led to the issuance of an eviction order against Mr Ivan Cloete, a productive farmer, on his Colenso farm in Darling. The department’s Minister Thoko Didiza undertook to release the report on this. It has not been done. The Democratic Alliance (DA) is reporting the case to the South Africa Human Rights Commission (SAHRC).

The intimidation and eviction threats

In an alarming turn of events during the first week February, Mr Cloete had DALRRD officials visit his property and demand that he hands over the keys and leaves immediately.

Besides the fact that Colenso farm is not listed under the 700 000 hectares land redistribution programme announced by the department’s Minister Didiza in October last year, the land to be redistributed is supposed to be land which under-utilised or vacant State land. Of course, farmers are not supposed to have people show up on their doorstep demanding keys, especially not department officials.

Mr Cloete is not the only person who experienced this intimidation and harassment. Many productive farmers and land-owners reported such incidences to the DA. Were it not for the DA intervening, Mr Cloete may well have been forced off of his farm.

Warning bells

Whether it’s department officials, random citizens, political parties or aliens from outer space, there are no circumstances under which anyone should come knocking at your door, suddenly demanding the keys to your property.

It does not matter that these officials will be found to be “not following the correct process”, and it definitely does not matter if they get a “slap on the wrist”. The fact that intimidations such as these are happening at all, and the brazen nature of “give us your keys now”, should shock everyone far more than it appears to be.

It does not matter if this is stated publicly to be against the law. The setup, promises and language used by the ANC government and supporters of land expropriation thus far is such that many of the landless and disenfranchised people of this country believe land is simply going to be taken from others and given to them. This is not the case.

According to AfriForum, in 2018 the State owned just over 24% of land in the country. By the government’s own admission 90% of farms handed over during the land reform process failed. The government failed the people. Again – this does not matter.

 DA Shadow Minister of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development, Annette Steyn MP, stated “The delay in issuing a report on the Cloete matter is evidence of a Department that has tied itself in knots and is unable to admit that it erred in trying to evict Cloete from the Colenso farm. The DA looks forward to a timely conclusion of the SAHRC investigation so that Mr Cloete can continue with his farming activities without further interference.”

It is past the time that citizens of South Africa support those organisations working to change this expropriation threat and the language and messaging around it. The new Expropriation Bill is not only about land. The near-penniless government is going to have to scramble to keep rearranging its promises, and it won’t be pretty.

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