In the past week AfriForum published a list that is being circulated within the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform (DRDLR). The list includes 190 properties (there are 195 on the list, but five must be deducted from the total to eliminate duplicate entries) which according to the heading will/must serve as test cases for expropriation.
Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, DRDLR Minister, earlier this year said that her department has already identified properties that will be targeted for expropriation without compensation. She, however, added that they are withholding information from the public, because she did not want to give land owners who are targeted the opportunity to prepare for legal action. She said full of bravado that, should these people know that they are being targeted, it would make life difficult for her and that it is better that these people do not know.
In the meantime, the ANC admitted after a meeting of the National Executive Committee (NEC) that a list indeed exists of properties that will be targeted for the purpose of expropriation without compensation. According to the ANC there were 139 farms on the list. Here I must remark that it is possible that they in truth spoke about 139 cases, instead of 139 farms. One case could include various farms. The total can thus be more than 139.
Sakeliga approached the court for an order to have the information made public, to which Mashile Mokono, Head of the DRDLR, reacted that the process of expropriation without compensation must be handled in a highly confidential manner. Spokespersons for the DRDLR contradicted the minister’s statement by saying that they cannot publish the list, because they first want to contact the owners individually. This did not happen, however.
In the meantime, AfriForum received a list of farms earmarked for this purpose that is being circulated within the DRDLR. We stated that we do not know what the status of the document is, but that it is necessary that those whose property is being targeted take note thereof. We can confirm that the list is indeed being circulated. Regarding the status of the document (in other words whether it is a discussion document, a suggestion, an official decision and so forth) we are unsure. This must be confirmed by the DRDLR.
Since then the IRR confirmed that their sources also indicate that the document is genuine and that it is being circulated within the department. Thus, there is no doubt about it.
The question can be asked what the reasons are why AfriForum published the list. Here are five reasons:
- Break the secrecy strategy
Government’s strategy regarding expropriation rests on information being withheld from the public. The more information they have and are withholding from the public, the stronger the DRDLR’s position is and the weaker the landowners’ position is. By publishing the list, we in truth hamper government’s attempt to withhold information from the public. The more information that is in the public discourse, the better.
- Communicate with the owners
Publishing the list enables us to come into contact with the owners to verify their information and to keep them abreast of any developments in this regard. AfriForum has appointed full-time personnel to remain in contact with the owners and to answer all their questions.
- Prepare for legal strategy
The more information we have, the better we can prepare for a legal strategy. AfriForum is busy collecting information from the owners which could be of value for a legal strategy. At the same time, publishing the list (and the media storm it created) is forcing the DRDLR to publicly take a stand on this. This enables us to prepare better.
- Forces government toward clarity
By publishing the list, we in fact took the initiative out of the hands of the DRDLR and placed it back in the hands of the owners. The DRDLR is now in a position where they are forced to publicly react hereto. Their first reaction was exactly what we expected – to merely deny everything. This is however in direct contradiction of everything the DRDLR said earlier. The pressure is now on the DRDLR to eliminate the uncertainty by either declaring that this is indeed the final list, or to publish the final list, or to at least declare that not one single property on this list will be targeted by the DRDLR. At this stage, the DRDLR is not willing to admit to something such as this.
- Manage the emotions
The question can be asked whether one does not merely spur on emotions by publishing the list. The counter question is whether playing along with the DRDLR’s secrecy strategy is not merely maintaining an artificial peace. This is exactly what the DRDLR wants. The fact is that there is indeed a list. The property is identified already, according to the DRDLR. Now this list is being circulated. The public has the right to know. Compare this with a hit list. The existence of the list is not doubted (although the DRDLR suddenly denies it). The uncertainty only revolves around whose names are on the list. It is artificial to say that we must not panic, because we don’t know who will be murdered (to use the metaphor of a hit list). The fact is that government plans to execute expropriation. The best way to manage emotions is to empower the public with as much information as possible. In this way, people will be more informed and there can be greater certainty.
If your property is on the list, contact AfriForum at www.onteiening.co.za.
Ernst is Deputy CEO of AfriForum
Follow Ernst on Twitter at @ErnstRoets