14 March 2001

SOUTH AFRICA: Land restitution continues

South African farmers have vowed protests after the government issued its first expropriation order this week against a white farmer reluctant to give his land back to the original black owners, South African news reports said on March 14. According to a government notice, Willem Pretorius' Boomplaats Farm will legally belong to the State as of 20 March after which it will be given to a dispossessed community.

The conservative Transvaal Agricultural Union (TAU) was quoted as saying that farmers were infuriated by the expropriation, and accused the government of stealing land. "The monstrous way in which land is taken from whites and given to others, is blatant discrimination and racism and is precisely what [Zimbabwean President Robert] Mugabe has done in Zimbabwe - only in a concealed form," said TAU president Gert Ehlers in a statement. "TAU confirms its support of Willem Pretorius and will as far as possible (help) resist this process of land theft," the statement said.

The Commission on Restitution of Land Rights served the expropriation papers on Pretorius, who for eight months resisted the State's offer to buy the farm for US $107,479 for the Dinkwanyane community. Pretorius, who bought the land with a soft loan, wants US $255,903. "I'm going to fight by all means until I get what my farm is worth," Pretorius was quoted as saying shortly after signing the papers. "I can't do anything with the [government's offer] because it can't replace what I've got."

Pretorius has eight months in which to appeal the expropriation in the Land Claims Court. He had farmed the 1,270 hectares of maize and grazing land since 1982 and would be allowed to continue living on the farm until 20 May, after which he must find alternative accommodation, the report said. The farm was claimed by the Dinkwanyane community, which was forcibly removed from the land by the apartheid government in 1957. (IRIN)

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