When David Rakgase (80) first learnt that he would sign the dotted line on a document making him the official owner of the Nooitgedacht farm in Northam, Limpopo, he was at a loss for words.
Finally, he thought to himself, the moment he had been waiting for since he first entered a 30-year lease agreement through the now discontinued Land Redistribution and Agricultural Development (LRAD) programme in 1991.
“I feel very pleased and I am extremely happy. I don’t even know what to say,” he tells Food For Mzansi. “My children are pleased. Now we can have our own place to call home and where they can continue our own farming legacy.”
Rakgase has been toiling the land on the Nooitgedacht farm for 28 years. In 2002, he first qualified to buy the farm for R621 000 and signed all the necessary documents. A lengthy battle over the ownership of the farm, however, ensued.
Following a dispute of nearly a decade in the courts, government earlier this year agreed to transfer full ownership of the farm to Rakgase at the original price agreed upon in 2002.
When asked if he would rename his newly acquired land, filled with laughter he responds, “Nooitgedacht 11-7Q is my home. It is a part of me. I cannot give it a new name.”
‘No longer walking on eggshells’
Rakgase hopes his story of determination and success becomes the precedent that opens the option for other farmers working and living on land of which they have been unable to obtain ownership from government.
“We need to work in collectives. I have tried to form collectives with some of the farmers who have had a similar challenge, but they were too scared,” he says.
“I have tried to encourage them to visit government offices so that we could collectively ask them where we would go with our cattle if they took away our land? Sometimes we are too afraid to share our struggles. We are too afraid to talk the truth and say that we are suffering. The time for walking on glass and suffering in silence has come to end.”
Though these are joyous times, Rakgase reveals a sinister threat now looms over his land. “The next stage is to deal with the issue of squatters now. Through word of mouth, they have been under the impression that my lease on this land has ended. I do believe this is due to poor communication.
Rakgase says, “After the expiry of my lease on 30 May 2016 the people began to enter my farm because they heard that the land was vacant, and my lease had not been extended.
“I cannot keep begging and begging officials to rectify challenges that I am facing, but they must assist in making it known that this land is now private and under my ownership.”