The farm of David Rakgase, the Limpopo farmer who battled the government for 18 years to secure his ownership of the land, is listed under the 700 000 hectares of ‘underutilised or vacant state land’ the government intends releasing to help emerging farmers, according to the Democratic Alliance (DA).

DA Shadow Minister of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development Annette Steyn said this emerged from the details released by Minister of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development Thoko Didiza.

In addition, Steyn said, the Gwatyu community in the Eastern Cape ‘recently discovered that their fight to have full ownership rights of their land has only resulted in its listing for possible land reform purposes on Didiza’s list’.

‘The Gwatyu case is particularly concerning because, despite being ignored for years by the government in repeated attempts to present their case, they now face the possibility of having their land parcelled out without consultation.’

In a statement, Steyn said the plan by Didiza to release 700 000 hectares of ‘underutilised or vacant state land’ for agricultural purposes ‘could potentially prejudice emerging farmers after it emerged that some farms on the published list were already under active agricultural production’.

The DA would write to Didiza to clarify the situation ‘to prevent further panic and ensure that affected farmers get the requisite assurance to proceed with their preparations for the forthcoming agricultural season unhindered’.

Steyn said Didiza must provide clarity on why productive farms have been listed; confirm whether existing farm occupants were consulted on the government’s intention to place the property on the list; explain the reasons for listing a farm whose occupant already possesses a lease agreement; and provide documented evidence of the reasons that informed the inclusion of each of the 896 farms on the list’.

The inclusion of Rakgase’s farm on the list ‘is not only puzzling but now borders on vindictive victimisation of this elderly farmer’.

Steyn said: ‘Deputy President David Mabuza’s assurance in Parliament last week that no one will be forcibly evicted from the land is of little comfort to farmers who have spent years fighting for their right to land ownership. The urgent issue at hand is for Didiza to halt her “700 000 hectare” programme until she has cleared the ongoing confusion on the targeting of occupied productive land.’