Landmark land claim ruling made
Pretoria - In a watershed finding, a land claim has been rejected because the community which laid claim to the land does not have the skills to maintain the current production.
On Friday the Land Claims Court in Johannesburg refused the Bahiring community's claim to the farms of eight landowners outside Koster in the North West.
It was found that, among other reasons, relocating the community is not feasible because the land has high agricultural potential and the farms are intensively cultivated.
Furthermore, E I Moosa, acting on behalf of the Department of Land Affairs, conceded in his closing argument that it is not within the government's financial means to successfully relocate the community.
Huge relocation costs
It would have cost the State more than R70m to buy the farms from the landowners.
It would have cost a further estimated R210m to relocate the Bahiring community's 400 families and provide equipment and other resources for them to continue cultivating the land.
The court was told that it is pointless handing cash over to communities to develop the land on which they are relocated, since the communities don't have the skills to ensure that the money is used for that purpose.
An official of the local land claims commissioner testified that none of the 330 relocation projects he currently manages in the North-West is successful.
Some of the greatest obstacles these communities face are a lack of funding and skills to maintain the agricultural operations.
Transfer of the land would have a negative impact on the "food production and economic activities" of the highly productive farms.
Current annual production
Furthermore, there is no national budget available specifically for the relocation of the community in the North-West. Each of the 400 families would only receive R6 595 from the government for relocation.
The current annual production on these farms is 1 800 calves, 5 900 tons of mielies, 400 tons of beans, 470 tons of sunflower seed and 1 080 000 litres of milk.
It was also taken into consideration that the community was compensated when they were relocated 80km away from the farms in the 1960s. At the time the farms were not commercially developed.
Peet Grobbelaar, the farm owners' legal representative, said on Tuesday that the verdict would have a major impact on other pending land claims, because this is the first time that a court has found that the relocation involved in the claim is not feasible due to the land's current use and production.
"The verdict has created a precedent because the current use and production of the land will have to be taken into account in future when it is decided whether relocation is feasible."
According to Grobbelaar, the finding also points to the total failure of government to effectively support relocation programmes.
"In short, the entire land claims plan is a failure, especially in the North-West," said Grobbelaar.