Afrikaner rights group AfriForum's release of an unverified and disputed list that purports to denote farms targeted for expropriation without compensation, has led to millions of rands in possible losses for at least two farmers whose properties are named in the document.
Louis Hauman, a cattle farmer north of Kuruman in the Northern Cape, told News24 he was in the process of negotiating the sale of his farm of more than 6 000 hectares with two potential buyers when AfriForum released the list. The offers on the table were immediately withdrawn.
"AfriForum caused me a lot of damage," Hauman said on Thursday.
Ferdie Klopper, a farmer in the Kroonstad district, who has also been trying to sell his property, said "this publication of this list has damaged me".
"My farm, and possibly those of my neighbours too, is now a target. I will struggle to sell the farm on the open market."
The list was released at midnight on Saturday and has led to a public outcry over the government's stated plans to test expropriation without compensation in the Constitutional Court.
AfriForum said it has been unable to confirm the list's status, but it believes it is in the public interest to publish it.
Ernst Roets, AfriForum's deputy CEO, insisted that he believes the list to be a document circulating in the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform.
He received support from the South African Institute of Race Relations, which says it believes the list to be real, as well as from the Transvaal Agricultural Union (TAU).
The department denied that the list is authentic, while AfriForum has also been slammed as "irresponsible" by AgriSA, the largest agricultural representative body in the country.
Hauman says he will now never be able to sell his farm on the open market and that the only buyer that remains will be the state, which will not be able to pay a market-related price.
"We successfully defended a land claim on the property in 2008, but a couple of years later I did offer the farm to the state, which assured me it would not sell me short. When the state eventually came with an offer, it was 25% below market value, and I refused to sell," he said.
'AfriForum said Roets will call me so that I can give him a piece of my mind'
He says the property, which has been in his family since 1943, is worth R35m, including all the movable assets, such as tractors, trucks and equipment.
"I've put in my life's work into this farm and it feels like there's nothing left. If AfriForum had called me before they published the list, I would have advised them to be more responsible than they were. I would have told them to try and get some more information because the consequences could be catastrophic.
"AfriForum said Roets will call me so that I can give him a piece of my mind. I'm still waiting," Hauman says.
Klopper said he also offered his farming land to the state and that he indicated to the department that he would be willing to remain on the farm for six months after the sale to mentor the new owners so that there could be a meaningful transfer of knowledge. However, he said the state did not commit to buying the farm and the whole process has been left hanging in the air.
The publication of the list however, now means the value of the property has been negatively affected and that banks will have exposure to the tune of R24m.
"My farm's value is now lower than what it used to be... this has caused me damage and the property is now branded (as a target for expropriation without compensation)," he said.
'They understand why we did it' - Roets
Roets told News24 his organisation remained convinced that the expropriation list was an authentic government document but that he has been unable to confirm its status within the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform.
He confirmed that he had spoken to two farmers who were unhappy about the list's publication, but they were even more anxious about the current debate around expropriation.
"They understand why we did it," he said.