South Africa: Limpopo Farmer Will Get His Farm From Government but Is Now Dealing With Land Occupiers

Limpopo farmer David Rakgase, who was recently embroiled in a legal battle over the ownership of the farm with the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform, is facing another challenge.

Part of the 3 000-hectare farm in Northam has been illegally occupied.

More than 40 shacks have been built there and the occupiers have put padlocks on the gate that leads to the part of the farm they have occupied.

Rakgase told News24 that the occupiers have indicated that they will not leave the property.

He said several pleas to the government for help to remove them were not heeded. He believes the illegal occupation was another strategy to force him out of the property.

"This came as the legal battle with land authorities intensified with a court case. I contacted the government several times but there was no help.

"I believe they are paying rent to someone else. The government is not helping despite that I continue to pay my rental to it," Rakgase said.

Agreement

Earlier this month, the Gauteng High Court in Pretoria ruled in Rakgase's favour. The court ruled that the government should sell the farm to Rakgase at a price agreed upon in 2003.

He has been leasing the farm from the government since April 1991. He then became a beneficiary of the government's Land Redistribution for Agricultural Development (LRAD) which allowed black farmers to purchase the properties they were leasing.

In 2002, he entered into an agreement to purchase the farm. However, he was made to sign a new lease in 2005 under a new programme - the Proactive Land Acquisition Strategy (PLAS).

"This was despite government confirming eight years earlier that they were in the process of transferring the land and title into my full ownership.

"The new programme requires a black farmer to first lease the land for up to 30 years before full ownership could be transferred," Rakgase said.

He said he never defaulted on rental since he occupied the farm almost 30 years ago. The purchase price agreed upon with the government in 2002 was R1.2m.

However, the DA helped him to take his case to court. This was after he met a DA land and agriculture shadow minister at a farmers' day in Northam.

Rakgase owns close to 300 heads of cattle, goats, sheep and pigs.

"The rental fee that I've paid all these past years, without default, is more than the cost price of the farm agreed upon in 2003. There was a time I continued to pay rent for three years without a lease.

"Now that the court has ruled in my favour, I'll engage the government to give me a discount or reimburse the remainder of the money," Rakgase said.

Rural Development and Land Reform Minister Thoko Didiza has since indicated that the government will transfer the farm to Rakgase.

"The government in respect of the Rakgase matter is not going to be challenging the case. There might have been issues at the departmental level that gave an impression that we are challenging.

"We believe that we need to comply with the judgment of the court," Didiza said.

However, the matter seems to be far from over as the issue of illegal occupation of the part of the farm remains contentious.

The farm is situated on the border of the Limpopo and North West provinces.

Rakgase believes the illegal occupants are part of a community in the North West that laid claim as part of the land restitution programme.

The restitution matter is a subject of contention between the community and the department of rural development and land reform. It will be heard in the Limpopo High Court at a date still to be set.

Source: News24

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