Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Court overturns minister’s land grab

I am aware that news on land grabs in South Africa will tickle the amygdala's of our readers big time. Not that there are a lot of you. But any news which sounds/smells/feels remotely like Zimbabwe gets people talking.

And here you are: a minister and her department decides that anyone who is not using his land has a problem. Luckily, the Department lost this time, but we should not underestimate the popular view on Zim by the ANC leaders.

The ANC never tackled Mugaba, actually, they protected him.

I do not have a problem with expropriation as long as there is law protecting land owners against politicians and their families and as long as they are treated with consideration.

In Europe, governments also take land from their people if they decide it is in the interest of "the greater good'.

Of course "the greater good" is in itself a discussion point, but in South Africa, land ownership by black people might well be "a greater good".


Court overturns minister's land grab.

Business Day; Stepphan Hoffstatter; March 27, 2009

THE North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria yesterday ordered the government to restore land to a black farmer evicted last month under its controversial “use it or lose it” policy

THE North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria yesterday ordered the government to restore land to a black farmer evicted last month under its controversial “use it or lose it” policy.

The case was brought by land- reform beneficiary Veronica Moos against Arts and Culture Minister Lulu Xingwana, who launched the policy with histrionic fanfare while land and agriculture minister.

Moos initially sought a punitive costs order against Xingwana in her personal capacity for her active role in the eviction, but this was later dropped.

Yesterday, the new Department of Land Reform and Rural Development, which has been split from agriculture, was given notice that it had 12 hours to restore the 21ha farm near Bapsfontein in eastern Gauteng to Moos.

Several government sources told Business Day that beneficiaries close to Xingwana had already been allocated the farm.

Moos said the new beneficiaries made several attempts this month to occupy the farm on orders from the department, violating an interim agreement that the property would remain vacant pending the outcome of the case.

“This is a great relief, but it’s only the first step to getting my farm productive again,” Moos said.

“I still have no money for production inputs. I’m not in a position to secure funding elsewhere because I have no lease or title deeds,” she said.

The judgment could expose the department to further legal action from evicted land-reform beneficiaries deemed unproductive. It also highlights structural faults in the state’s Proactive Land Acquisition Strategy, in which the government buys farms aggressively on the open market and leases them to beneficiaries. Leases can be terminated if farms are underutilised.

Designed to speed up land delivery, the strategy has accelerated the failure rate as new farmers cannot obtain credit from commercial banks, co-operatives, or food processing companies because they lack secure title. So they remain dependent on government support.

At least five evictions had already taken place under Xingwana’s policy, and several more were planned, the department said.

Lawyers for Human Rights, which is handling Moos’s case, is considering a court challenge against the strategy because, they say, it is open to arbitrary abuse by officials.

Spokesman Eddie Mohoebi said yesterday the department would have to study the judgment before commenting in detail.

All evictions had followed due process, and Moos had received adequate state support, he said.

This is contradicted by court documents showing Moos tried on several occasions to get the department to honour promises of support and to supply her with a valid lease.

Xingwana accused Moos of neglecting her farm and subletting it to white neighbour Jan Merneweck.

Moos countered that she had received a fraction of the support promised, and was forced to deplete her pension savings to keep the farm going. She had asked Merneweck to share her homestead after burglaries left her afraid to live there alone.

Xingwana shocked the land-reform sector in March by announcing that unproductive beneficiaries on state land would lose their farms. Agricultural unions and land activists denounced this as a pre- election ploy aimed at diverting attention from her department’s bungles.

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