THE GREAT SOUTH AFRICAN LAND SCANDAL
Dr. Philip Du Toit
Published by Legacy Publications
Private Bag X 122
ISBN NO. 0-620-31684-5
First Published January 2004
(c) Legacy Publications 2004
This book is dedicated to every commercial farmer in
A special thanks to loyal supporters who kept my spirit high – especially Andre du Plessis (
TWO NEWS ARTICLES . . .
THIS DAY, January 8, 2004
Stephen Hofstatter and Michael Schmidt
“Farmland Report Jolts
“It’s starting to have an impact on the market. You can see that the issue is becoming an increasing focus ahead of the April elections”, Callum Henderson, the Bank of America’s emerging markets analyst, told Reuters yesterday. Later this month President Thabo Mbeki is expected to sign an amendment to the restitution act into law that will allow land to be expropriated from farmers opposing claims government deems valid.
Reuters, 07 January, 2004
“Dispossessed want 20% of SA Farmland”
By Alistair Thomson
Families and communities evicted by the apartheid state are claiming 40 to 50 percent of commercial farmland in some provinces and around 20 percent nationally, the land claims chief said on Wednesday. Currency traders have cited foreign media reports that land restitution would be accelerated ahead of elections this year as a concern for foreign investors given the land grab in next-door
The New York Times reported that in KwaZulu/Natal up to 70 percent of farmland was subject to land claims – a figure Chief Land Claims Commissioner Tozi Gwanya said was exaggerated. “The real figure is around 40 to 50 percent”, Gwanya told Reuters. He said 155 000 hectares of KwaZulu/Natal were due to be handed back to nine separate communities in February or March 2004 in one of the biggest transfers to date.
THE GREAT SOUTH AFRICAN LAND SCANDAL
This book cried out to be written. Stories about the collapse of farms handed over to emerging farmers under the government’s land reform program have circulated for some time. But over the last two years, the desecration of some of
The ominous element in the picture is: where will it end? Now that the government has given itself powers to expropriate land at will, for whatever purpose, will the end of this destruction ever be in sight?
Concerned farmers are supporting the publication of this book. They see first hand every day the results of the government’s land restitution program. Occasionally one reads about these catastrophes in newspapers. Some television actuality programs feature farms which have been destroyed after a handover. But there appears to have been no concerted effort by anyone to actually investigate the outcome of these transactions, both for the benefit of the public which paid for the land, and in light of the broader problem of decreasing food production in the country.
In most cases, at least as far as newspapers are concerned, handovers are depicted with exuberance by reporters. Pictures of people toyi-toying after receiving title deeds to their ancestral land are complemented by gratuitous individual stories of people returning to “the land of their birth”. In many instances, this is not the case. In any event, why haven’t questions been asked one or two years down the line about what became of this joyous transfer? Some follow ups occur, but not many. And they are journalists’ probes, not government assessments.
This is not a scientific book in the sense that every single land claim transaction has been investigated. Indeed, we have just started. Perhaps this book should be called Volume One. There appear to be hundreds of examples of farm collapses after restitution. We didn’t have the resources to hire an army of researchers to search and account for every farm which has been lost to production, or has been turned into a squatter camp.
But we have garnered enough evidence, at least as a start, to realize that there is a very ominous and ultimately calamitous trend afoot in
Our researchers were in some instances part time. But they were dedicated and had the advantage of knowing the South African agricultural sector well. Opening one door led to other doors, and a picture emerged which differed little from one end of
In many cases, the beneficiaries were left to their own devices. Some recipients really wanted to farm but received little or no assistance. In other situations, a committee representing “the tribe” simply took over the farm, awarding themselves large salaries while carrying on with their lives somewhere else. The workers “ran” the farm until something broke, then the rot set in. Operating capital simply disappeared on salaries, 4 x 4 vehicles and travel expenses, with workers eventually demonstrating in a nearby town for back salaries.
One researcher was shot at by an angry chief, while another was told he must make written application to visit a ailed land reform farm which, in reality, belongs to the taxpayers. He went anyway. There was nobody at the gate, and a detailed examination was made of the farm without anyone even asking who he was!
This is not a definitive history of who is ultimately entitled to what land in
We discovered a number of outrageous land claims – some based on hearsay, others which overlapped as different tribal warlords fought for the same piece of turf. Some claims were simply lies, while others claimed ground for which they had already been compensated. The existence of graves was another reason for land claims.
An important heritage site has been claimed, not by people whose tribal forefathers lived on the ground, but by people whose forefathers were taken in by the missionaries who created the site, to escape warring tribal chiefs. Through the grace and charity of these missionaries, they were allowed to stay and their children were born at the mission. Now their descendants are claiming the heritage site!
Under what duress do South African farmers operate? They pay taxes for security, yet they conduct their own policing. Many operate in the most violent environment - outside of a war - in the world.
We examine how land claims have affected operating farmers, why they can’t sell, or obtain a bank loan. Many have been driven off their farms by invaders and intimidation. They have turned the key on a lifetime of work. Others have been threatened with death. More than 1 500 have been brutally murdered since 1994, in many instances without anything being stolen.
Stock and crop theft are endemic. Aged farmers sit out all night against a tree, shotgun cocked, to catch the corn thieves. Others go into dangerous locations to find their stolen stock because police assistance is simply not available. Farmers pay handsomely for private security, but those supposed to be guarding their property are themselves intimidated and flee..
In a covert way, it appears the SA government has come to realize that handing over a farm to subsistence farmers is a failure, but they are slow to admit this. Instead, they quietly bring in managers and consultants who rectify – if possible – the damage done, and the patched-up project is again given to the same beneficiaries. A further stratagem is to bring in “mentors” who assist black farmers on a daily basis, checking everything and in effect running the farm. There is also the new lease-back policy. But there are inherent problems with these policies. Why not let those who can farm continue to produce the food to feed the millions in
There are many black farmers who have made a success of ventures, and they are lauded for their hard work, and for the risks they have taken. Neighbouring white farmers are only too happy to assist. But some black farmers obtained loans from the Land Bank, then used their newly-acquired farms as taxi repair depots.
There are alarming signs that no commercial farm is safe in
Some farmers could not talk to us for fear of reprisals. One farmer was scared to death. His farm is next to a huge squatter camp. He told us he had to keep quiet “so I can at least get something for my farm from the Department of Land Affairs”. His farm contains a R1 million dairy operation, but nobody wants to buy his farm. He is trying to get whatever price he can from the government. It is too dangerous for him to stay on the property. He has already moved his family to town, and appointed a manager.
In one area of KwaZulu Natal, the farming community has been reduced from 56 to 14. In another part of the province, trenches have been dug to stop stock theft. Cruelty to farm animals turns one’s stomach. Some farmers have to resort to witchcraft to find their cattle. Farmer Piet de Jager of Levubu told an agricultural magazine he wouldn’t give up his farm. He’d worked for the farm all his life, he was 69, and “what will I do with my life without my farm?” Two weeks after the published interview, he was shot to death in his garden, a few metres from his house, his wife and his grandchildren. Nothing was stolen.
This book is not the beginning. The story started many years ago. I grew up on a cattle ranch on the border of
By highlighting in a small way the heritage which the white farming sector brought to
Cry the beloved country indeed! If many blacks cannot make it as commercial farmers, it is well to remember that most whites are not farmers either. Farming is a highly specialized, risky business. One simply cannot “resign” from farming and get another job. It is a holistic profession, and the land is an emotive element in the equation.
Most of us are “landless”, in the literal sense of the word. The 12% of arable land in this country is very fragile.
This book is a joint effort between myself and our team of researchers. It will be sent all over the world. South Africans should read it with concern. They take so much for granted - the full supermarkets, the mountains of fruit and vegetables, the steaks, the chops, the boerewors (literally, the ‘Boer sausage’ - the staple sausage in
Dr. Philip du Toit, South Africa, 25 December 2003.