Land Claims Commission officials in Limpopo are reneging on signed purchase offers for properties under claim and threatening owners with expropriation if they object to revised offers far below market value, according to reports from landowners and documents in Farmer’s Weekly’s possession. This has led to speculation that the commission is deliberately stalling land claims until the new Expropriation Bill is enacted.
The Bill will make it easier to pay below market value for claimed properties if it’s enacted, but faces more hurdles as parliament’s public works committee withdrew it last week to seek clarity on whether some of its clauses would pass constitutional muster. L egal experts have warned that the Bill is unconstitutional because it allows officials and their minister to decide on compensation in the event of a dispute. The constitution reserves this right for the courts.
The commission declined to comment on the charge, or respond to speculation that it was implementing a policy directive from Pretoria to reduce offers to landowners because of budget constraints. But Farmer’s Weekly has a notice shown to landowners under claim in the Waterberg that lists 28 properties for expropriation under the heading: “Intended course of action”. Internal correspondence and minutes of meetings also seen by Farmer’s Weekly indicate that signed offers will be revised downwards and that other properties in the area face expropriation.
But the commission denies this. “There is no single property in the Waterberg which is presently subject to expropriation,” it told Farmer’s Weekly. But several landowners interviewed said officials had told them the directive from Pretoria was to refuse to honour previous signed offers as valuations would be drastically reduced. It should be made clear to landowners who object to the new valuations that they would face expropriation, the officials apparently said.
One landowner signed an acceptance offer in December and was told earlier this month it was considered too high. This has scared off investors in his joint venture proposal with the claimants, which he’d believed would create 100 jobs. Another landowner signed an offer in March, but was warned recently that all valuations were under review in Pretoria. The commission said the suggestion that it was failing to honour its purchase offers was “purely speculative”. – Stephan Hofstätter
Namibian agri minister warns relocated farmers
Namibian Agriculture minister John Mutorwa of the leading SWAPO party has rapped relocated farmers over the knuckles for not managing their properties in a sustainable manner. He cited the example of an irrigation project in the Omusati region, where 82 plots were made available to emerging farmers. However, 21 of these were underutilised. Mutorwa was quoted in the local media as saying that farmers not using their plots should start doing so, or risk the land being taken away from them. He added that government couldn’t afford to have underutilised land in a time of a global food crisis. – Servaas van den Bosh
Class action comes over reduced offers
Mpumalanga farmers who have been told to accept new offers of only 60% of the offers they had already accepted for the settling of restitution claims on their land have decided to take court action against the Land Claims Commission for reneging on previous agreements.
Farmers have been told to accept these offers or face expropriation, but they now argue that they would not have been willing sellers if government hadn’t created the impression that market-related prices would be paid for their land. They’ve instructed their legal representatives to prepare a class action against government under the estoppel principle, which prevents anyone who makes an agreement with another person from later asserting a different state of affairs, after the second party had relied on this prior agreement. – Jasper Raats