Expropriation list: denial and secrecy dangerous

Kallie Kriel

To deny a problem or keep it a secret will not make the problem disappear. The opposite is true. It is dangerous and worsens the problem because you cannot prepare yourself to address the problem by way of a well-designed strategy.  

The truth of the above was confirmed after discussions that I had over the years with former Zimbabwean farmers who are being supported by AfriForum. According to these farmers, they had also down-played Mugabe's statements that he would take land from white people without paying for it as simple election talk, and had believed that it would never happen. Some of these agricultural leaders did not want to create panic or alienate government, and therefore kept quiet and hoped that the problem would disappear. 

When expropriation without compensation eventually happened, the farmers were completely unprepared. Today, the results are there for everyone to see. 

Ironically enough, a similar situation is currently playing itself out in South Africa. Some commentators and an agricultural leader are so set on not alienating the ANC government and creating panic that they are even willing to participate in the secretive strategy of Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, minister of rural development and land reform, who doesn't want to make known which farms government plans to expropriate. 

AfriForum's release of an expropriation list with the heading "Proposed expropriation test cases" that is currently being circulated in the department of rural development and land reform and that was obtained from a reputable source, was followed, quite unsurprisingly, by the denial of its existence. 

I understand that there are some who question the list because AfriForum cannot reveal its source. However, what I cannot understand is that there are still individuals in the who deny the list despite a range of statements from the ANC and government that indicate that, in fact, the state does have an expropriation list.  

City Press reported on 27 March this year that Minister Nkoane-Mashabane said that government did not want to wait for the Constitution to be amended, and that her department was preparing a test case to expropriate land without compensation. She also indicated that her department had already identified the land to be expropriated, but that the list of names would not be revealed, as this would have warned the affected owners to prepare for litigation. The minister never denied the content of the article and it is therefore accepted as a true version of what she said.  

The minister's statement was followed on 31 July by a late-night announcement by President Cyril Ramaphosa that he and the ANC had decided to continue with the amendments to the Constitution to allow for expropriation without compensation. Another article was published in City Press on 5 August, which indicated that the department of rural cevelopment and land reform had identified 139 farms for expropriation without compensation on the orders of the ANC. Zizi Kodwa, member of the ANC NEC, was quoted widely in the article. 

The ANC also never denied the content of this article. On the same day, Sunday Times reported that, according to government's spokesperson Ronald Lamola, the ANC had identified 139 farms that would serve as "expropriation targets". 

After AfriForum published the expropriation list – which is being circulated in the department of rural development and land reform – the minister as well as her spokesperson denied the existence of the expropriation list, despite earlier remarks by the ANC as well as the minister herself that several farms had been identified. Considering this, it is quite clear that someone is lying. And it is surely not AfriForum. 

In the latest example of the department of rural development and land reform's ramblings, it once again acknowledged in an interview with Rapport (19 August) that is was true that there was a list of 139 farms on which the state and the sellers could not come to an agreement. The fact that two of the farms on the expropriation list that was published by AfriForum are now the first two farms to be expropriated according to an article in the same edition of Rapport confirms that AfriForum's list did not simply appear out of nothing. 

AfriForum's assessment of the facts available to us indicates that government will first expropriate farms on the expropriation list at a compensation that is significantly lower than the market value. This already constitutes a gross violation of property rights and will pave the way for President Ramaphosa's announced plan to amend the Constitution to eventually allow for expropriation of property without any form of compensation. 

By publishing the expropriation list, AfriForum chose not to take the path of denial, naivety and secrecy – in the interest of almost 15 000 farmers who are members of AfriForum, as well as the rest of AfriForum's 212 000 members that will be affected by the economic damage that the violation of property rights will bring about. Except for a few, most farmers whose properties are on the list reacted overwhelmingly with gratitude and said that they now knew the lay of the land and could prepare themselves. The same applies to those that want to buy land. AfriForum has no right to withhold information from the public. 

AfriForum is also strongly against any action that simply focuses on creating panic among farmers and the public in general. Panic is created when you only emphasise the problem without also offering a solution. Panic leads to hopelessness, which in turn causes a paralysing lack of strategic action.  

The third way, which AfriForum chooses, is to look the threat of expropriation without compensation squarely in the eye and to continue with energy, self-confidence and hope to address the problem. 

The joint legal strategy that AfriForum, TAU SA and Sakeliga are currently developing is an example of proactive action that can follow if one does not go about the truth with denial. AfriForum also has a very good relationship with farmers on ground level, as well as many leaders in the provincial structures of Agri SA. The threat to property rights is so great that we simply cannot afford conflict among ourselves.    

AfriForum therefore extends a hand of friendship and cooperation to everyone in the country who believes that property rights should be protected at all costs, and that simple denial of the problem will not solve it.  

- Kallie Kriel is CEO of AfriForum.

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