The South African civil rights organisation AfriForum, Akkerland Boerdery, the agricultural organisation TAU SA, the trade union Solidarity and Agri Limpopo argued at a joint media conference in Pretoria today that the South African government’s current attempts to expropriate two Akkerland Boerdery farms, Lukin and Salaita, at 10% of the market value employ land reform as pretext to hide the real motives behind expropriation: That the government wants to lay its hands on coal reserves under the surface of these farms to facilitate expansion of the Chinese government’s economic interests in South Africa.
The organisations pointed out that Chinese government-controlled companies were planning development to the value of $10 billion in the Musina-Makhado special economic zone (SEZ), in which Akkerland falls. Exploration by the controversial Coal of Africa on Akkerland indicates that the farm’s coal is suitable for use in power stations and steel factories.
According to Akkerland, AfriForum, TAU SA, Solidarity and Agri Limpopo, government needs the coal reserves on the farms because the Chinese development includes among other the building of a coal-powered power station, a coal plant and various metallurgical plants. More information is available at:
AfriForum, TAU SA and Solidarity also announced that they would financially support Akkerland Boerdery’s legal actions against government’s expropriation attempts in the interest of the protection of property rights. They would also offer help to uncover the injustices committed against the Akkerland Boerdery nationally as well as internationally. These organisations also requested the public to contribute financially to Akkerland’s legal battle and have already opened a separate banking account in the name of the Akkerland Regsfonds (account number 9343268401 and ABSA branch code 632005), which will be administrated by TAU SA’s auditors. The organisation will also publish the banking details on their respective websites.
Johan Steenkamp, co-owner of Akkerland Boerdery, points out that Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, Minister of Rural Development and Land Reform, served Akkerland Boerdery with an ejectment order on 29 March this year in which the owners were given seven days to vacate the farms. “The Minister would have known that 30 March to 2 May was a long weekend. I believe she wanted to make it difficult for us to take timeous legal steps. This agrees with the Minister’s public statement that she did not want farmers targeted for expropriation to know this beforehand to prevent them from preparing legal action,” Steenkamp said.
According to Steenkamp, they succeeded in taking timeous legal steps to have the ejectment order temporarily repealed. Akkerland is preparing itself for a drawn-out court battle against the baseless land claim and government’s expropriation attempts. “We fight for property rights, because the fact that government wants to pay only 10% of the market value of Akkerland Boerdery’s farms in effect means that it is busy expropriating 90% of our property without compensation,” Steenkamp added.
According to Kallie Kriel, CEO of AfriForum, Akkerland Boerdery’s two farms are listed at the top of government’s secret expropriation list titled Proposed expropriation test cases, which is currently circulating in the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform and was recently made public by AfriForum.
“Despite government denying until very recently the existence of such a list, the correctness of the list is confirmed because government has already started to expropriate Akkerland’s farms at significantly lower compensation than market value,” Kriel adds.
According to Louis Meintjes, President of TAU SA, the expropriation of Akkerland’s farms at a fraction of its market value is an indication that the ANC’s stated policy of expropriation without compensation is in the process of being settled.
“The principle is that it is unacceptable for the state to want to expropriate the assets of its citizens without paying for it or paying for it only in part. Expropriation at compensation lower than the market value under the pretext of land reform and redistribution of land is the fate of Johan Steenkamp’s Akkerland farms if we do not stand together now and help him. TAU SA appeals to farmers as well as other deed holders to unite and help Johan to prevent the theft of property for which he has worked hard over the years. We appeal to every South African who values future of the country to support these organisations in order to help Johan to save his farm from ANC corruption,” Meintjes says.
Leon Borcherds, President of Agri Limpopo, says the principles on which the court must rule on in the Akkerland case will have a decisive impact on how land owners will in future be compensated for expropriation. It is especially the wide, unregulated discretion of the Valuator-General – who must quantify the constitutionally-permissible deductions from market value to reach a “fair and reasonable” compensation – that must be tested in court. Agri Limpopo accepts that, in a democracy, it cannot be expected of an individual land owner to have to foot the bill for a national responsibility such as land reform. Even though market-related compensation is not guaranteed in the Constitution, it is also not prohibited and remains the only way to accelerate land reform without harming investments, agricultural financing and goodwill. The high-level Mothlante report on land reform has already showed that it is the state’s corruption and inability that cause land reform to fail – and not the voluntary seller principle. Agri Limpopo suggests that the Minister packages the public private partnership in a special review agency to ensure that the land reform process is cleared of corruption, self-enrichment and nepotism.
According to Marius Croucamp, Solidarity’s Deputy Chief Secretary responsible for the metal and engineering industry, the steel products produced by Chinese plants in the Musina SES will directly compete with products manufactured by the struggling local industry.
“The steel market in South Africa and pressure on the international steel market cause the margins on which local steel companies operate to become so marginalised that any further competition in the market will force local companies to close down. This will result in thousands of South African workers losing their jobs. Local companies that will possibly be affected include Columbus Stainless in Middelburg and Samancor, South 32. Consequently, communities around these factory towns may collapse and leave thousands of people destitute. Solidarity is also unaware of any studies done to determine the impact of the Musina SES on the current South African steel industry,” Croucamp says.