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Home | ZimCrisis#86 -- White Farmers Protest at Pretoria Seizure Threat

Date: Wed, 12 Jul 2000 10:41:09 -0700
To: "Zimbabwe Crisis Mailing List":;
From: Zimbabwe Crisis
Subject: ZimCrisis#86 -- White Farmers Protest at Pretoria Seizure Threat
Cc: "South African government":;, "African press":;, "Foreign press":;

From Michael Dynes in Johannesburg

SOUTH AFRICAN farmers' organisations yesterday denounced as nothing less than land theft plans to expropriate farming land that could lead to Zimbabwe-style chaos. The move would be seen as an open declaration of war on the white commercial farming sector, which could only have "negative implications for the South African economy, leading to even greater poverty and unemployment", farmers' leaders said.

The warning came after a statement by Gilingwe Mayende, South Africa's land affairs director-general, that the Government was considering using its constitutional powers to seize land and speed up the land redistribution process.

Censuring white farmers for trying to make a "quick killing" while negotiating sales of land with government departments, Dr Mayende said that an over-reliance on the "willing buyer, willing seller" principle was impeding effective land redistribution.

"While the Government has demonstrated a willingness to negotiate land prices on the basis of this approach, the same level of commitment has not been displayed by the majority of land owners whom we have negotiated with," he said.

Dr Mayende emphasised that the Government did not have "endless financial resources" to acquire land, and that it would be prepared forcibly to acquire land for redistribution to disadvantaged groups "in the public interest" if forced to do so.

He also issued a warning that the Government was planning to deploy the security forces in an effort to crack down on farmers who illegally evicted tenant labourers, and participated in acts of brutality against farm workers.

More than 110,000 people have benefited from the Government's land redistribution programme, while a further 3.9 million are still awaiting land or compensation for the racially biased land policies of the former apartheid regime.

Denouncing the Government's land seizure threat, Willie Lewies, of the mainly white Transvaal Agricultural Union, said that Dr Mayende's statement was tantamount to "a disregard for the right to private property" and betrayed a government willingness to distort the rule of law.

"Is the Department of Land Affairs actively creating a climate where a Zimbabwe-type situation will be justified? It seems as if the department did not trust the South African legal system and would rather resort to open intimidation," he said.

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