Date: 01 September 2018 By: Andries van Zyl
News of the government’s intention to expropriate two game farms just north of the Soutpansberg has dramatically escalated into an international issue, with United States President Donald Trump wading in on the matter.
“I have asked Secretary of State @SecPompeo to closely study the South Africa land and farm seizures and expropriations and the large scale killing of farmers. “South African Government is now seizing land from white farmers.” @TuckerCarlson @FoxNews
This was the tweet by President Trump after he had allegedly watched a Tucker Carlson exclusive on Fox News about the issue last week. The tweet not only sparked a media frenzy, but also strong resentment from the South African government and the EFF’s Mr Julius Malema.
“Donald Trump must leave us alone ... When we were facing apartheid, when we were facing oppression, he was not here. He did not fight side by side with us and we were able, on our own, yes with support of progressive forces in the world, to resolve the apartheid question. As far as I recall, Donald Trump was not around the negotiating table when we negotiated the end of apartheid. So, stick around there in the White House, we will do our business here and we will find solutions for our problems. So, stay out of our issues,” said South African President Cyril Ramaphosa over the weekend. He gave Trump this stern warning while attending the launch of the Ha Matsila Development Trust Project near Elim.
The EFF’s Malema also has much to say. “…we are not scared of them [the US and Trump]. We remain unshaken. Actually, we are more determined after the Donald Trump tweet, to expropriate land without compensation,” said Malema during an EFF briefing last week.
The Fox News exclusive specifically referred to the government’s intention to expropriate the two farms in the Nzhelele area, the farms Salaita 188 MT and Lukin 643, as “test cases” to test the legality of expropriation without compensation. Government has also already indicated its intention to amend Section 25 of the South African Constitution to make it easier to expropriate land without compensation to speed up land reform.
Government also indicated that expropriation was seen as an option where negotiations on the basis of the “willing buyer, willing seller” principle had broken down. Mr Johan Steenkamp, one of the directors of Akkerland Boerdery, which owns the two farms, told the Zoutpansberger that their fight with the government about ownership of the farms had been dragging on for years. This eventually culminated in their receiving notice from the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform earlier this year that they must vacate the farm as it was being expropriated. An outstanding land claim had been registered against the farm by the Musekwa community, and Steenkamp had to apply for an urgent court interdict against the department’s notice for them to vacate the farm. The interdict was granted.
Steenkamp said, however, he believed that the land claim was not the real issue behind the government’s notice to expropriate. What is a well-known fact is that MC Mining, previously known as Coal of Africa Limited (CoAL) has an executable mining right in the area, known as the Makhado Project, and both Salaita and Lukin are said to lie on coal deposits worth billions of rands more than what the government is offering for the farms. Steenkamp believes expropriation forms part of a conspiracy to secure the coal deposits without having to pay for the land they are on.
Whether MC Mining is “in on the deal” remains to be proven. According to MC Mining’s third-quarter report released on 26 July, the construction of the Makhado Project is dependent on three initiatives, one of which entails securing access to two key properties that form part of the project.
The Zoutpansberger asked MC Mining if they were indeed referring to the farms Salaita and Lukin. In response, Ms Florence Duval, MC Mining’s group corporate affairs manager, confirmed that this is indeed the case. “The Company requires access to the key Lukin and Salaita farms to confirm geotechnical information prior to construction commencing. These properties are subject to a South African Government land claim process and MCM monitors the progress thereof and any potential effects of this process on the Makhado construction timetable. However, MC Mining has commenced a statutory process to obtain access to the properties by virtue of its mining right,” said Duval.
As for the latest developments, Akkerland Boerdery indicated over the past week that, since the matter was now before the court, they would have to issue a “no comment” reply on further questions because of the sub judice rule.
Following initial media reports of the intended expropriation of the farms Salaita and Lukin, Agri SA warned citizens to treat reports such as these with caution. “Agri SA wants to point out that this is not expropriation without compensation and there are legal remedies available to the landowner, which is apparently being exercised in this case,” said Annelize Crosby, legal advisor for Agri SA, in a press release. “If the Minister has erred by expropriating before the validity of the claim is settled by the court, the court should assist the owners,” said Crosby.
Andries joined the Zoutpansberger and Limpopo Mirror in April 1993 as a darkroom assistant. Within a couple of months he moved over to the production side of the newspaper and eventually doubled as a reporter. In 1995 he left the newspaper group and travelled overseas for a couple of months. In 1996, Andries rejoined the Zoutpansberger as a reporter. In August 2002, he was appointed as News Editor of the Zoutpansberger, a position he holds until today.