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Pretoria — The first expropriation of commercial South African farmland for restitution was announced by the Commission on Restitution of Land Rights in Pretoria on Thursday.
An expropriation notice would be served on the owner of the 500ha farm Leeuwspruit in the Lichtenberg district of the North West without fail, said provincial land claims commissioner Blessing Mphela.
This comes after two-and-a-half years of inconclusive negotiations on the value of the property — with the owner wanting R3m and the government offering R1,75m, he said.
Mphela said expropriation was the last resort.
Once he received the expropriation notice, the owner would have 30 days to show cause to the minister of agriculture and land affairs why the move should not be executed.
Should he fail in that, no recourse remained apart from a possible high court application, Mphela said.
Descendants to get land
The land is to be returned to the descendants of the original owners of the Leeuwspruit group of farms, in terms of a claim lodged by M Molamu and J Moropa.
The land was initially owned by Abram, Johannes, Thomas, Andreas and Joseph Molamu, until they were dispossessed of it through forced sale transactions under the apartheid government’s racial policies.
Three of the properties have been acquired and one already transferred to the beneficiaries.
Mphela said the owner of the fourth, outstanding property initially wanted R6m for the land. The government’s R1.75m offer was based on the assessment of an independent valuer, and the amount the seller could expect to receive in the open market.
Not enough money
“The argument raised by the current owners is that they will not be in a position to rebuild the same kind of business they are running on the premises with the amount suggested by the valuer.”
A proposal was made that the developed area of the property, which includes the main house and an abattoir, be excised from the deal and an adjustment made to the purchase price. This area comprised some 42ha.
The claimants rejected the compromise, Mphela said, adding that the commission did not pursue the point as the beneficiaries would have a strong case in court.
“Having gone through a long, tedious process, (a) submission to the minister was made with a clear intention to expropriate the farm,” Mphela said.
She approved the commencement of expropriation about a week ago.
Mphela underlined the need to fast track South Africa’s land reform process.
He criticised some land owners for slowing the process and displaying attitudes “reminiscent to that of the previous white apartheid government”.
“Two-thirds of the country, including most of the best quality land, remains in the hands of less than 60 000 people who unfortunately in this case are white farmers, while 14 million blacks or Africans eke out a precarious existence in the former homelands and urban informal settlements.”
(Posted on September 22, 2005)