President Cyril Ramaphosa has often stressed that there will be no ‘land grabs’ in South Africa. But the pending constitutional amendment bill to allow expropriation without compensation (EWC) and the new Expropriation Bill of 2020 will ensure that the government becomes the biggest land grabber of all.

Already, the state is grabbing land from current owners or occupiers to a significant extent. But the present scale is nothing compared to what lies ahead – once these bills become law.

Let’s take just some of the relevant examples. Since these are evident across the country and go back many years, they point to a pervasive pattern of abuse and/or incompetence that cannot be attributed to a few ‘bad apples’.

At least a third of the 700 000 hectares of supposedly ‘vacant or under-utilised’ state land the government is now planning to allocate to new beneficiaries is already being used by emergent black farmers. The government is effectively proposing to grab their land from them so that it can pass it on to others (through complex new bureaucratic processes employing many cadres).

Some of the people facing dispossession under the 700 000 ha scheme have fought long and hard for title to their land. David Rakgase, for example, recently won a court ruling compelling the state to honour its 2002 agreement to sell him the Nooitgedacht farm in Limpopo. That this farm has now been included in the 700 000 ha scheme shows a contempt for the court ruling. It also smacks of ‘vindictive victimisation’, as the Democratic Alliance (DA) has commented.

Then there’s the Gwatyu community in the Eastern Cape, which has been trying for many years to have some 42 000 hectares of land transferred into the ownership of the Gwatyu Communal Property Association. Some 1 500 community members have lived on the land for some 40 years and want secure title. But this community has now found that its land is also part of the 700 000 ha to be allocated to others.

Some black farmers face dispossession after failing to pay bribes to bureaucrats. Velly John Mabasa, for example, is a successful farmer in Mpumalanga whose Goedhoop farm has been used by his family for generations. He declined to pay the R250 000 ‘administration fee’ that provincial officials demanded for granting him a 30-year lease. Now, like other black farmers who declined to pay a bribe, he faces eviction.

Suddenly evicted

Also relevant is the story of Vuyani Zigana, who has been farming on state land near Kokstad since 2012. In August 2020 he was suddenly evicted on the basis that his occupation was ‘illegal’. This, it seems, was because a high-ranking ANC cadre in the Eastern Cape wanted Mr Zigana’s farm as a ‘gift’ for a friend who is also a wealthy businessman. This injustice has reportedly been reversed through the DA’s intervention, but Mr Zigana remains vulnerable to threats of this kind.

Lulama Kapa is another black farmer at risk of losing his state land to people with close ANC connections. Mr Kapa and his wife have successfully operated an Eastern Cape farm for some 31 years. For the past decade, Mr Kapa has been battling to get officials to transfer the lease into his name. But this is now unlikely to happen, as a politically connected family has been claiming for some time that the land belongs to it (though the deeds registry contradicts this).

One of the government’s land grabs goes back to 2009, when Veronica Moos was suddenly evicted from the state land she was leasing under the Proactive Land Acquisition Strategy (PLAS). Ms Moos had received only a fraction of the financial support promised by the state, but had managed to keep her farm modestly productive by using her pension savings as working capital. But in 2009 she was summarily evicted on the basis that she had failed to use the land properly. According to media reports, the real reason was that the then land minister wanted her farm for a friend.  

Sometimes land grabs have taken the form of defective expropriations, implemented without complying with the current Expropriation Act of 1975. In 2014, for example, Louis Nathan Langer, a pensioner classified as ‘coloured’ under apartheid, had his half hectare of land expropriated by the KwaDukuza Municipality. This was done despite his objections and without his knowledge. Since the relevant documents were not served on him, it was only in 2016 that he discovered, to his shock, that the property had been registered in the municipality’s name some two years earlier.

Likewise expropriated

Much the same thing happened to Bheki Dlamini, whose 3 000 or so hectares in the Groutville area were likewise expropriated by the KwaDukuza Municipality. He too was dismayed to learn, long after the fact, that his land had been registered in the municipality’s name in 2014. The notice of expropriation required by the Act was never served on him. Nor did he receive the small amount of compensation the municipality had offered.

In some instances, the land grab has been even cruder and accompanied by violence. This is illustrated by the story of the KwaNdengezi settlement near Pinetown, where much of the land is held in communal tenure. Only some community members have ‘permission to occupy’ documents, but the customary land-use rights of all are known and recognised.

In 2010, however, ANC branch chairman and local councillor Mduduzi Ngcobo announced the start of a housing project in the KwaNdengezi area. The project was supposed to be agreed with the community, but was instead imposed on it. RDP houses were simply built on people’s plots without their consent and then sold by Mr Ngcobo to outsiders. Community objections were ignored, prompting the Abahlali baseMjondolo (AbM) movement to become involved.

A number of AbM members in the settlement were threatened or attacked, while the police largely turned a blind eye. Matters came to a head in September 2014, when AbM chairperson Thuli Ndlovu was shot dead in her home by a hitman hired by Mr Ndlovu and paid R15 000 to assassinate her. Mr Ndlovu and another ANC councillor, together with the hitman, were convicted of Ms Ndlovu’s murder in 2016.

Confined to leasehold tenure

One of the most telling land grabs took place in 2010, when the government cancelled the option to purchase it had previously included in its standard PLAS lease agreement. This sparked great concern among many black farmers, who found themselves confined to leasehold tenure and denied any prospect of obtaining title to the land they worked.

This approach was formalised in 2013, with the government’s adoption of the State Land Lease and Disposal Policy (SLDDP). Under the SLDPP, small black subsistence farmers must remain perpetual tenants of the state. Bigger farmers with some capacity for commercial production must lease their farms for 30 years, and then possibly another 20. Only after five decades may these farmers have an option to buy.  In the interim, their leases may be terminated at any time for what the SLLDP describes as a lack of ‘production discipline’. Any fixed improvements they have made will then go to the government, generally without any compensation being paid.

Worse still, the long leases supposedly on offer under the SLLDP have mostly not been granted. Instead, many black farmers have nothing but ‘caretaker’ agreements that run from month to month and can easily be terminated by officials for no good reason.

The biggest government land grabs still lie ahead. Once the EWC constitutional amendment bill and the Expropriation Bill are enacted into law, municipalities and many other organs of state will find it remarkably easy – after a few preliminary requirements have been ticked off – to expropriate significant tracts of farming, residential, commercial, industrial, and mining land for inadequate or ‘nil’ compensation.

Soothing comments

Many of the current soothing comments on these bills – whether from the government or its praise singers elsewhere – assume that the land (and other property) grabbed by the state will be transferred into the ownership of black South Africans to provide them with effective redress for apartheid’s many wrongs.  

But ANC policy and ideology will instead ensure that the government retains ownership of all it seizes. Black South Africans will be confined to leases alone – and will be just as vulnerable to bureaucratic abuse and incompetence as Mr Rakgase and many others have been.

Expropriation, in short, will not bring redress. Instead, it will be used to expand state power, feed the ruling party’s patronage machine, and further cripple the market economy en route to the socialist ‘nirvana’ the ANC and its communist allies have been pursuing for decades.

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  1. Apart from David Rakgase (and the occasional injustice and headaches suffered by people under the Ingonyama Trust) none of these cases mentioned here ever make it into mainstream media or are mentioned by political pundits.
    Easy to control a populace and get public support when citizens are information.

    • The Fourth Estate has always been a soapbox for the status quo. The only thing that has changed from the Muldergate Scandal is the government. I pay the legacy media no mind, except for entertainment once in a while when their abundant hypocrisy and blatant news manufacturing gets called out. To boot, the alleged journalist who made it appear as if Black Monday protesters were donning the old South African flag still has a job last time I checked. So this kind of behaviour is not discouraged, and that is the standard to which the legacy media holds itself.

      So glad that IRR is reporting on the loss of our property rights, because it affects far more than land, and it is the last straw that will break the camel’s back in this country. It’s not fear-mongering, its’reality. This is our last chance to turn the country around and create a prosperous, free and fair society. If nationalisation becomes government policy, it’s a matter of time before we break into the zoo to find something to eat.

  2. The IRR and other groups should be trying to find ways to get this story into squatter camps as this is where political change will come from once they understand the ANC’s Marxist goals which is to maintain high levels of poverty in order to to buy votes at election time,

    around 1996 a friend originally from the design office at Ford Koln Germany now a manufacturing consulting engineer, visiting SA told me that he was part of the engineering team that West German government sent to evaluate why East Germany’s factory were in such a sad state. He pointed out that the ANC government was doing the same to SA’s industry as the East German Marxists did to their factories ie side lining engineering in favour of Marxist Socialism.

    In the late 50’s Verwoerd use engineers at Ford and GM to determine the local component manufacturing policy. This policy accelerated development that it destroyed Job Reservation Policy as there were not enough white workers. The ANC government used sociologists and economists and excluded engineering. Their success was the same as East Germany. Policy forced 30% to 40% of local manufacturers to close at the loss of over 500 000 jobs.

    Unless we find a way to bring the jobless black people into the equation and provide them with understanding, the ANC will continue using social handouts to buy votes. A possibility is to team up with Sloot fm and give brief talks showing how government is abusing them.

    • Very true. Township people are not as uneducated and clueless as one may think, but they are not informed about the reality of the ANC. They are not useful idiots at all, as most are extremely entrepreneurial and as the public consultations show, they are very much opposed to expropriation without compensation, just like the rest of us. Unlike the rest of us, they have a recent memory of a government that also employed forced removals.

  3. There is a reason why farmers and farmworkers are being murdered and the ANC/EFF are the ones instigating and doing it.
    The purpose of this is to remove all land owners, by whatever means, from the rural areas and turn all land into state owned property. People from those areas are being forced into urban areas where everyone is easier to control. We are seeing a typical Communist agenda being played out right in front of us.
    The ANC/EFF and alliances are Communist and have been since the 1950’s. Voting over the last 27 years and mouthing of Democracy, even under Mandela, have been screens to get to where we are now. They have to be removed immediately. Talking and negotiating is a waste of time.

    • I completely agree. I believe that instead of fighting, we need to educate the everyday people. They are the ones suffering and it will get worse. A blanket and food parcel only lasts so long,

    • Agreed. This has no doubt been on the ultra long term agenda of the ANC Politburo since its inception. What we are seeing is the gradual process which is the ANC’s version of Stalin’s Dekulakisation. History has a bad habit of being forgotten, or re-written to suit the narrative of the current batch of politicians. The end of modern day politics world-wide is way overdue. The era of royalty and nobility running countries was ended and replaced with the current system. The current system however is now horrendously corrupt and its existence needs to be terminated. Governance in public spheres needs to be done on a professional basis. Countries need to run on a constitution mandating the KPI’s of those professional bodies and supervision placed in the hands of universally respected and wise folk in the form of a small council. Referendums can be called to tackle dilemmas faced by society – the digital age allows this to be done simply. Politicians can move off and make their money in the entertainment industry (or religious exploits) where they can still enjoy popular idolisation. They must simply be divorced from touching the taxes of citizenry which must be used efficiently and effectively. That I believe should be the new “dream” of future generations.

  4. For all to see in the future: government owned land is empty and the grass is shoulder height, while privately owned land is productive and the grass is manicured. Funny or sad. You decide.

  5. And the idea of 30-year leases is ludicrous in the extreme when it comes to farming.
    Just enough time to give the farmer/family a chance to get a decent operation established, before the heavy hand of the State decides they’re not needed any more …
    The general approach globally is 99 years(?).
    Malemanomics –

    • All property should remain in the hands of the individual. Full stop. What value does the state add? They derive taxes – the market (and the law – properly and fairly implemented) takes care of the rest. Any individual not using the land productively can for example be forced to lease to willing lessors.

  6. Dr. Jeffery, your article hits the nail on the head. When China became communist after WW II land was distributed to small peasants, only to be taken back by the government and the owners expelled from the land. The same is happening / going to happen here if the ANC gets its way. I agree with Michael de Swardt. ANC and EFF are bedfellows. They have the same ultimate goals, the latter doing the dirty work for the former, and distracting attention from the ruling party.

    Since the Covid Command Control Centre came into operation under the Disaster Management law, democracy in SA is history. It will very likely never return, for the ANC will not relinquish this new-found power after having acquired it so easily under the guise of combating the epidemic. If only the duped populace, especially the more educated, will wake up.

    • The ANC and the EFF are playing the same good cop bad cop routine that was formerly played between the ANC and the ANC Youth League. EFF started because Malema was not allowed a place at the trough where the swine feed, but that was between him and Zuma. Now that Zuma is gone, they are friends again.

  7. I agree with Greville Wood and Theo Stehle – we have to find a way to get these truths into the rural areas and squatter camps/townships where people still vote ANC because that is ‘their home’. We urgently need a viable opposition party and trustworthy media to speak truth in a way that the masses understand – otherwise those at last disenchanted with the ANC will just not vote and we’ll suffer another term of journeying deeper into the pit of disaster. We need a clarion call to wake up – we are blessed with an amazingly beautiful country, being destroyed bit by bit – we need a miracle! Pray, people – pray!

    • ‘we need a viable opposition Party..”. We already have one in the form of the DA. Why do South Africans have to have a messiah? The MSM are hugely to blame for the limited success of the opposition; every effort being made to denigrate their efforts. I’ve repeatedly asked why no single commentator or business leader has the balls to stand up and say ‘the ANC is rotten and beyond saving. Only the DA and coalitions can save us’.
      Without the support of the Media the masses will remain under State control.

  8. The ANC is the Gestapo in action that’s what they did in the last war in Germany especially if you were a Jew

  9. An excellent article! I have taken the liberty of forwarding it to CapeTalk567 to hopefully interview you and open this debacle to the greater public.


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