While Ivan Cloete braces himself for the fourth great trek to an unknown destination, a Constitutional law expert says his case is a prime example of fragile foundations on which land redistribution is built.
Prof. Elmien du Plessis tells Food For Mzansi there seem to be no balance between the implementation of land redistribution, and what is actually expected of government in terms of section 25 (5) of the Constitution.
Two weeks ago, Cloete, a pig farmer from the Western Cape, was asked to vacate the state land which he turned into a land reform success story.
Should the 56-year-old leave, it would be the third state farm taken away from him.
“The processes that are there, do not provide beneficiaries with any rights that they can assert against government, in cases like this,” says Du Plessis.
“It is (for example) unclear why he was removed from the one farm due to ‘conflict resolution’ when he was not the party who acted unlawfully. These problems do not bode well for the future of land reform and needs serious attention.”
Replaced by MK veteran
Meanwhile the African Farmers’ Association of South Africa (AFASA) says government has a choice. Either they relocate Cloete to a farm with a 30-year lease agreement or funding, or he won’t vacate the farm now allocated to a MK veteran.
AFASA’s stern warning comes after Mcebisi Skwatsha, deputy minister of agriculture, land reform and rural development, indicated that Cloete would be given alternative land.
Food For Mzansi’s exposé about Cloete’s dilemma caused an outcry from black farmers. It then ended up on the agenda of a parliamentary committee meeting last week.
“We are under no illusion that this process has it’s challenges and at times is fraught with the technicalities of administrative justice,” says Zwelivelile Mandela, chairperson of the committee on agriculture, land reform and rural development.
Instead, the grandson of Nobel laureate Nelson Mandela, acknowledges that the Cloete matter embodies “the good, the bad and the ugly of land redistribution (in Mzansi), with all the drama of acrimony between partners, relocation after relocation, intimidation, malicious damage to property, contending claims, allegations of corruption, collusion and even crime and land evasion.”
‘Where is this new farm?’
Cloete (56) has to pack up his livestock and grain enterprise on the Colenso farm in Darling.
As a commercial-scale farmer and beneficiary of government’s land reform programme, this has happened to him twice before. He was moved from the Bellevue in Northern Paarl to the Gelukwaarts farm in Porterville and, more recently, to Colenso.
AFASA, however, is leaving no stone unturned to keep government to its word.
Western Cape spokesperson Ismail Motala tells Food For Mzansi, “Where is this (new) farm? What resources and equipment does it have or lack? We need to answer serious questions about its details first.”
Given Cloete’s proven track record, AFASA believes government should ensure that he ends up on a productive farm.
“We don’t want Skwatsha to pull the wool over Ivan’s eyes. We can only trust anything if there is signed legal documentation in place with which all parties are happy.”
Conditions for ‘deal’
The government’s integrity is not above suspicion, reiterates AFASA.
“It is not only about putting Ivan on a farm. He needs to be a farmer who is earning a living. Ivan was putting bread on his table, and now they are going to uproot him.
“At what cost? If there is no 30-year lease or funding in place, and if the land is not worth moving to, then there is no deal,” says Motala.
Mandela told the parliamentary committee, “We look forward to hearing how this and other cases are amicably resolved to advance our national agenda of land redistribution. No process is without challenge, but the measure of our success is how we navigate and negotiate those challenges.”
‘A faultless victim’
The DA’s shadow minister for agriculture, Annette Steyn, asked Skwatsha to explain under which directive beneficiaries under the proactive land acquisition strategy (PLAS) programme were being served with eviction notices.
“I was very disappointed with the meeting (last week). Skwatsha ignored the question and did not show empathy towards Mr Cloete’s desperate appeal for help,” she says.
Steyn says through no fault of his own, a farmer like Cloete has become “a victim of a department that has lost control of the land reform process.
“He is not alone. There are other farmers too, and no one speaks about that every time we speak about the state land issue. Instead, they bring up the 700 000 hectares that is not currently the problem.”
This is in reference to 700 000 hectares of underutilised or vacant state land which are currently being allocated to black farmers. The 896 state farms are availabled for agricultural purposes.