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Post S Africa Land Expropriations: Who Are the "Rightful" Owners? Mqondisi Ngadlela Responds
Created by John Eipper on 08/10/18 5:10 AM

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S Africa Land Expropriations: Who Are the "Rightful" Owners? Mqondisi Ngadlela Responds (Rodolfo Neirotti, USA, 08/10/18 5:10 am)

Please see below Mqondisi Ngadlela's answer to Gary Moore's question about the "rightful owners" of South African farmland being considered for expropriation.


Dear Rodolfo and Colleagues,

I am afraid I was not claiming to be an expert on land restitution matters in South Africa, but was merely providing my understanding on the present debate and public consultation in respect to the expropriation of land without compensation. More importantly, I was trying to address the naked exaggeration of this issue as it is unfolding in our country.

May I suggest that those who might want more information on the matter might consider asking the department of Rural Development and Land Reform or the Commission on Restitution of Land Rights, which is responsible for implementation of the relevant legislation? Perhaps they might provide insight into the present challenges and the possible how of the proposed intervention.

That said, I used the word "rightful owner" to carry the same meaning as "entitlement to restitutions" as defined in section 2(1) of the Restitution of Land Rights Act 22 of 1994 which states that a person shall be entitled to restitution of a right in land if:

(a) he or she is a person dispossessed of a right in land after 19 June 1913 as a result of past racially discriminatory laws or practices; or

(b) it is a deceased estate dispossessed of a right in land after 19 June 1913 as a result of past racially discriminatory laws or practices; or

(c) he or she is the direct descendant of a person referred to in paragraph (a) who has died without lodging a claim and has no ascendant who--

(i) is a direct descendant of a person referred to in paragraph (a); and

(ii) has lodged a claim for the restitution of a right in land; or

(d) it is a community or part of a community dispossessed of a right in land after 19 June 1913 as a result of past racially discriminatory laws or practices; and

(e) the claim for such restitution is lodged not later than 31 December 1998.

I hope this helps,

Warm regards,

Mqondisi Ngadlela

JE comments: Once again, many thanks to Mqondisi and Rodolfo for joining the conversation.  I wonder if the Restitution of Land Rights Act has been "renewed"; note the 1998 deadline for filing a claim.  In any case, the Act does not address lands taken (settled, or occupied) prior to 1913, which presumably would apply to most of the centuries-old Boer farms.

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  • Land Restitution, Squatters, and the Prolific John Dunn (Timothy Ashby, Spain 08/10/18 5:00 PM)
    John Eipper (August 10th) asked if the South African Restitution of Land Rights Act has been "renewed."

    In 2014 the SA Parliament enacted amendments to the Restitution of Land Rights Act of 1994. The initial cut-off time of December 31, 1998 for lodging land claims was changed to June 30, 2019. Another amendment stated that the Act will "ensure that priority is given to claims lodged not later than December 31 1998 and which were not finalised."

    John also noted that "In any case, the Act does not address lands taken (settled, or occupied) prior to 1913, which presumably would apply to most of the centuries-old Boer farms." This is true, but other legal actions have been taken to establish title to lands occupied before 1913.

    One of the most interesting cases involves a protracted legal action taken by the heirs of South Africa's most famous Scottish immigrant, John Dunn of Inverness, who fathered more than 117 children by 48 Zulu wives. They won a High Court case giving Dunn's descendants permanent rights to land on the Zululand coast granted to their ancestor by the Zulu king Cetshwayo (whose impis massacred British invaders at the January 1879 Battle of Isandlwana).

    John Dunn died in 1895 at the age of 61, but the British confirmed the "White Chief of Zululand's" family land ownership in the John Dunn Land Distribution Acts of 1902 and 1935. Starting in the 1970s, a neighbouring Zulu chief laid claim to the family's 68 farms--dedicated to sugar cane and providing homes for almost 1,000 Dunn descendants--as his clan's traditional land. Matters became extremely serious from 1996 onwards when the chief, Nkosi Mathaba, a notorious warlord, began settling squatters from his Macambini clan on the Dunn farms in a land invasion similar to those in neighbouring Zimbabwe. Mathaba claimed that the Land Rights Act gave him the right to have the land restituted to his clan (with no legal justification). About 2,000 squatters built shacks on the cane plantations. The legal property owners and their families (who stated during the court proceedings, "We were not White enough for the Apartheid regime, and now we're not Black enough for the ANC government") were subjected to murder, rape, robbery, threats, intimidation and arson. Sugar cane crops were regularly burnt, especially in the dry season. Pat Dunn, the current de facto head of the Dunn extended family, was burnt out five years in a row, her English husband was shot, and the local Community Hall, built by the farmers without government help, was destroyed by fire. Dunn appealed for police help, but nothing was done.

    Mathaba was subsequently found by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to have been among prominent provincial leaders responsible for deploying hit squads, leading to "gross violations of human rights, including killing, attempted killing and arson." He was never prosecuted for his crimes.

    Although the Dunns won their case, they were unable to evict the squatters from their land (the police refused to take any action), and since the recent announcement that the government will proceed with Expropriation Without Compensation (EWC), the attacks and illegal land occupation have resumed. In KwaZulu Natal, where the Dunns' farms are located, Black activists are targeting Coloured farmers (like the Dunns) and Indian smallholders, as well as Whites.

    According to South Africa's Institute for Security Studies, "there are two crucial factors which have allowed those engaged in the illegal occupation of land, including organizers, to operate with impunity: the failure of the SA Police Service (SAPS) to take constructive action to stop them, and the permissive response of the Department of Land Affairs towards such behaviour."

    A further historical note about "Rightful Owners" of land. South Africa's port city of Durban dates from 1824 when the British built a trading post on the northern shore of the Bay of Natal. A strip of coastal land measuring 35 miles along the coast and 100 miles inland was later granted to the British by the Zulu King, Shaka, in gratitude for the medical skills of Henry Fynn, a British adventurer, who nursed Shaka back to life after he was stabbed by a would-be assassin. Recently, Zulus have launched a legal challenge claiming that all this land should be restituted to the Zulu nation because Shaka only intended to "loan" the huge tract of land to the British, and that he considered the British settlers to be his subjects. Such claims are manifestly spurious, as the diplomatic documents clearly show that the Zulu kings recognised that Natal was under the sovereignty of the British Crown, and that the boundary of the Zulu Kingdom was the Tugela river, which Lord Chelmsford's column crossed at the end of December 1878 and which the Zulu's considered an invasion.

    There must be cut-off dates for land restitution or compensation claims, otherwise the descendants of the Lenape Indians that sold Manhattan Island to the Dutch in 1626 for 60 guilders could attempt to reclaim it. Similarly, after the Norman Conquest the King was declared to be the ultimate owner of all land in England, and Queen Elizabeth could declare that she wants it all back. Several years ago a lawsuit was brought in US courts on behalf of Canadian descendants of American Loyalists whose properties were confiscated after they went into exile. The suit was dismissed as frivolous.

    JE comments:  Not white enough, now not black enough.  We are still painfully far away from color-blind justice.  (By the by, I must learn more about that John Dunn.  What a character.)

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    • South Africa Land Expropriations: BBC (Rodolfo Neirotti, USA 08/13/18 4:54 AM)
      This recent BBC article on South Africa's land reform clearly explains the complexity of the issue:


      JE comments:  A very informative piece.  Two items to show the difficulty of what's ahead:  Whites make up 9% of the South African population, but own 72% of the private land.  One proponent of expropriations gives this memorable quote:  "We are going to take the land,
      even if it means we're going back to the dark ages. This country must be
      African. We are African."

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      • South African Land Ownership by Race (Timothy Ashby, Spain 08/13/18 11:27 AM)
        The BBC (and other Western media such as Bloomberg) has fallen for the distorted facts used by the ANC/EFF to justify takings of White-owned property. Whites do not "own 72% of the private land" in South Africa.

        Last November, the Land Audit Report commissioned by the South African government's Department of Rural Development and Land Reform was released. The report showed that Black South Africans were 79% of the population but, as individuals, they directly own 1.2% of the country's rural land and 7% of formally registered property in towns and cities. White South Africans, who constitute 9% of the country's population, directly own 23.6% of the country's rural land and 11.4% of land in towns and cities. The ANC government has stated its opposition to providing land title to impoverished individuals, as was advocated by Hernando de Soto in his seminal work, The Other Path, which persuasively argued that no nation can have a strong market economy without adequate participation in an information framework that records ownership of property and other economic information. His thesis that people outside of the formal economy--"have houses but not titles; crops but not deeds; businesses but not statutes of incorporation"--epitomises South Africa today.

        Only 33% of land in South Africa is owned directly by private individuals of all races. Companies, trusts, the state, traditional authorities, churches and community organisations own the rest. For example, in KwaZulu-Natal, about 52 percent of farmland is owned by tribal trusts. The government land audit did not establish the racial ownership composition of 67% of land in the country. Only 2% of the land is directly in the hands of foreigners

        In the 23-year period examined by the audit, R90.3bn (about US$6.3bn) was spent on land that is now owned by black people. Of this, the government bought 2.8 million hectares, for which it paid R20.5bn (US$1.45bn). Large areas of this land are today underutilised or fallow. I believe that the government would have achieved far more of its worthy goals if it had simply made the R20.5bn available to prospective black farmers who want to buy land through a financial institution such as the Land Bank.

        Objectively, why should it matter which race (or private or corporate entities) owns land if it is productive (i.e. employs workers and provides agricultural products)? In the USA, the USDA reports that 30% of American farmland is owned by non-operators or corporations which lease it to farmers.

        In South Africa, policy is being driven by misperception, emotion and selfish political ambition instead of facts and pragmatism, as demonstrated by the woman quoted as saying "We are going to take the land, even if it means we're going back to the dark ages.This country must be African. We are African." And, by the way, many South African Whites consider themselves just as "African" as the descendants of the Bantu-speaking people who migrated to modern South Africa centuries after the arrival of the Dutch settlers. Today, "African" is code for "Black," which is the reason that other races and mixed races in addition to Whites are being attacked and harassed to drive them out of the country.

        JE comments:  The BBC did give the 72% figure for "private land that is held by individuals."  (I was guilty of the oversimplification.)  Twenty-three percent of the totality would approximately equal 72% of that 33% (23.6/33=.715).  Still, these numbers create a distorted picture of overall land ownership and use.

        Here, once again, is the Beeb article:


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      • The Dilemma of South Africa's Land Expropriations; from Gary Moore (John Eipper, USA 08/14/18 8:15 AM)

        Gary Moore writes:

        In the BBC article cited by Rodolfo Neirotti (August 13) on South Africa's
        uncompensated land seizures, there is a pinpointing of two key
        clashing points. One is the controversial statistic, dissected for
        WAIS by Tim Ashby, saying misleadingly that 72% of South Africa's
        individual-owned land is owned by whites, who make up only 9%
        of the population.

        And then there is the opposing point, on neighboring Zimbabwe, now
        more or less a ruin after trying the same route. Says the BBC: "There
        is no evidence to show that most Zimbabweans became better
        off after the land grabs we saw in the early 2000s."

        It may be hard for South Africa to avoid the train wreck that could
        occur as these two realities collide.

        JE comments:  The BBC piece also quotes President Ramaphosa that he wants to make sure the expropriations do not hurt the South African economy.  Of course he would say that, but details, devil...

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        • Zimbabwe: Epitome of a Failed State (Timothy Ashby, Spain 08/15/18 3:24 AM)
          With regard to the BBC's opposing point on Zimbabwe, "There is no evidence to show that most Zimbabweans became better off after the land grabs we saw in the early 2000s"--some may read this as old-fashioned British understatement.  Actually it is a prime example of the Western media's reluctance to criticise Black-ruled African countries.

          An English friend was a correspondent for a number of years in East and Southern Africa, working for several major UK newspapers. He told me that the broadcast media in particular is dominated by Leftist editors who have the mindset that however dire the political and economic situation is in these countries today, they are still better off than they were under the evil White colonialist administrations (the friend is now working as a political/commercial risk consultant).

          Zimbabwe is the epitome of a failed state. This beautiful country with warm and friendly people once enjoyed an abundance of natural resources, a booming agricultural sector and a wealth of human capital, but because of the racist and ostensibly "socialist" policies of the ruling ZANU-PF (which continues under the new President Emmerson "The Crocodile" Mnangagwa, who certainly won the recent elections fraudulently), Zimbabwe became a nightmare state. Poverty is endemic, with unemployment and under employment around 95%, and the majority of people living below the international poverty line of $1.90 per day. Zimbabwe is an HIV/AIDS "killing zone," with over a million people infected out of a total population of 17 million. Inflation is still high, although not quite as astronomical as the monthly peak of 79.6 billion percent in mid-November 2008. Many of the confiscated White farms have become deserts due to over-grazing by goats and lack of maintenance.

          Recent statements about Land Expropriation from South African government officials and elected representatives are disturbingly similar to those uttered by Robert Mugabe and his cohorts a quarter century ago. My prediction is that South Africa will disintegrate into an even greater example of a Failed State, rivaling Venezuela. I also expect the Western media to ignore this, downplay it, or find someone or something else (i.e. "the legacy of Colonialism and White Supremacy") to blame.

          JE comments:  That "legacy of colonialism" has become a well-trod excuse for all sorts of contemporary ills.  What is most disturbing is that SA's possible fall into dysfunction will provide ammunition for the "told you so" nostalgists for the Apartheid days.  The ANC certainly knows the world is watching.  The question is whether it cares.

          Zimbabwe is ruled by a Crocodile, as was South Africa in the old days.  That Demon of Apartheid, P. W. Botha, was famous as Die Groot Krokodil.  In those treacherous political waters, be at the top of the food chain--or else.

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      • Are South Africa's Land Expropriations Surprising? (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy 08/13/18 5:00 PM)
        What Timothy Ashby is relating about the political situation in South Africa is not surprising at all.

        This could have been expected 40 years ago. What was not expected was that Nelson Mandela would be such a great man, but this turned out to be only a small marvelous parenthesis.  Now we are back to reality.

        Perhaps instead of demonizing Botha it would have been better to have pushed him to make viable Bantustan reform and not the unworkable (except for Transkei) construction of small states. Often national states, if within reasonable borders, work better than multicultural, multi-language, multiethnic, multi-religious ones where the predominant group for one reason or another inevitably oppresses the others.

        Botha gave up the nuclear weapons, and Gaddafi followed. Do you expect any future leaders to be so foolish?

        JE comments:  The Bantustan states were never more than Apartheid-sanctioned ghettos to allow the Whites to maintain the best land for themselves.  Or is this belief the product of 1980s-era political correctness?  On second thought, is there any objective reason to support a two-state solution in Israel-Palestine while rejecting theoretical White and Black South African states as racist?

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      • Why South Africa Will Not Follow the "Zimbabwe Path"; from Mqondisi Ngadlela (John Eipper, USA 08/24/18 4:04 AM)

        Mqondisi Ngadlela writes:

        In my view, the BBC piece forwarded by Rodolfo Neirotti (13 August) is much more balanced reporting. It looks at the challenges and frustration of the deprived. Yet it also acknowledged the fears of those who see the process as being unfair, most likely because they would be parting with something and the possible economic impact of the proposed policy.

        It also brings up the negative consequences of land redistribution policies experienced in Venezuela and Zimbabwe. It would have done better to also mention the political and emotive circumstances in Zimbabwe which contributed in the resultant chaos. That is because in the Zimbabweans' situation, Zimbabweans claimed that the British government reneged on the deal to provide the country with necessary funding for a land redistribution program. Rightly or otherwise, the chaotic land distribution of our neighbours at the beginning of the century was the product of this background.

        South Africa never had a similar deal with outside parties. Our solution was made by South Africans as part of the negotiated settlement where all parties participated. Lastly, South Africa is busy engaging again all interested parties to find an acceptable solution which is again unlike in Zimbabwe. Therefore, South Africa is far less likely to follow the Zimbabwean solution.

        Further, there is also a debate based on the Freedom Charter that land should be given to those who work it, and those who don't may rather be compensated to ensure land is fully utilised for food security.

        Again, these are just my observations.

        JE comments:  Once again, a big thanks to Mqondisi Ngadlela, and also once again, here is the link to the BBC article of August 11th:


        Mqondisi, was the promised UK money supposed to compensate the Zimbabwean landowners whose land was taken for redistribution?

        (Mqondisi's views expressed here are his own, and do not necessarily represent the position of the South African Forest Service.)

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      • S Africa Land Expropriations in the NY Times; from Gary Moore (John Eipper, USA 08/24/18 3:07 PM)

        Gary Moore writes:

        WAIS is way ahead of today's New York Times: "Trump Tweet Echoes Agenda of
        Supremacy /
        A Racist Narrative for South African Farms.....White residents, who comprise
        about 8 percent
        of the population, own about 70 percent of the private farmland, according
        to government figures."


        Reading down through the article, it seems to keep promising something that
        never is there,
        as if the ideological position came first, with the assumption that the
        facts would catch up,
        but they refused to cooperate. Medieval scholasticism knew this approach. We
        don't expect
        Creationist-scale insistence on blind belief in a modern newspaper of

        See also NYMag: http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2018/08/south-african-farmers-land-trump-tweet-white-genocide.html :  "This reality will not stop Fox News from portraying a few dozen murders of white farmers in South Africa as an incipient genocide / Trump Believes Fox News."

        And from The Atlantic:  "Trump Believes Fox News, and South Africa Pays the Price"  https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2018/08/trump-rule-of-law-south-africa-farmers/568390/ :  "He said he would order the US Secretary of State to 'study the South Africa land and farm seizures and expropriations and the large scale...'"

        All this fuss about a mere "few dozen" farmers murdered. Piffle.

        JE comments:  The South Africa land confiscation debate is finally capturing the world's attention, but once the Trump Tweetstorm blows in, nuance goes out the window.  Note that Fox and Co. are appropriating a metaphor that used to belong to the "sensitive" left:  accusations of genocide.

        We should remember that so far there have been no expropriations without compensation, although the discussion continues in Cape Town/Pretoria.

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        • S Africa Land Expropriations and the Trump Tweet (Timothy Ashby, Spain 08/25/18 3:50 AM)
          Although I despise President Trump, his August 23rd tweet stating that he had asked Secretary of State Mike Pompeo "to closely study the South Africa land and farm seizures and expropriations and the large-scale killing of farmers... South African Government is now seizing land from white farmers" is both timely and accurate. Predictably, the Left/Liberal media has seized upon this to launch a barrage of blistering refutations.

          White South African farmers have been living under a state of siege for years, but attacks on them have certainly increased since the ANC government committed itself to a policy of Expropriation Without Compensation (EWC), with or without a constitutional amendment. After Trump´s tweet, most Western media regurgitated the ANC government´s false claims that the farm attacks are an alt right, white-supremacist fantasy. The opposite is true. While "genocide" is not the official policy of the SA government, such attacks are certainly aided and abetted by the ANC by discouraging police investigations and allowing the Communist EFF to actively promote racial hatred.

          John Eipper responded to Gary Moore´s posting that "We should remember that so far there have been no expropriations without compensation, although the discussion continues in Cape Town/Pretoria." Not true, John. I have been querying my reliable contacts inside and outside SA to cut through the EWC confusion and obtain accurate information about this.

          What is certain is that two private game farms in the northern province of Limpopo--Salaitna and Lukin--are at least in the process of being taken without compensation. One of my contacts in Johannesburg personally knows the owners, Johan Steenkamp and Arnold Cloete, who confirmed that they rejected a government offer which was around 10% of their high opening price, expecting--as businessmen do--that via a process of negotiation, both parties would eventually reach a "willing seller, willing buyer" agreement, as has been the norm in previous land reform cases. However, the government used the rejection of its offer as a first test case for EWC. The owners filed an emergency injunction to prevent eviction until a court had ruled on the issue, but the Department of Rural Development and Land Affairs refused to consider the application, which is contrary to the legal right to dispute the claim in court. The owners have reportedly been evicted, and poachers have already slaughtered many of the animals.

          It should be noted that these two properties were on the list of 195 properties targeted for "test case" EWC, which the ANC government denied existed, but which was leaked by sympathetic people inside the government.

          JE comments:  The animal-lover in me applauds the closing of a "game farm," but why couldn't the poor creatures be spared instead of slaughtered?  Shame on the government for this.

          Tim, do you believe the Trump tweet will do a service to the SA landowners facing eviction, or the opposite?  A good part of the "enlightened" world automatically dismisses anything the President says as spin and propaganda.  We've already seen evidence of this in the New York Times, Atlantic, NYMag, and no doubt elsewhere.

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          • What Effect Will Trump's Tweet Have on S Africa Land Controversy? (Timothy Ashby, Spain 08/27/18 4:05 AM)
            John E asked if I believed that the Trump tweet will do a service to the South African landowners facing eviction, or the opposite?

            The fierce media (and South African government's) reaction to Trump´s fairly innocuous tweet: "I have asked Secretary of State... Pompeo to closely study the South Africa land and farm seizures and expropriations and the large-scale killing of farmers," was to be expected, so I don't think it made any difference to the credibility of the EWC and farm attacks reports.

            However, asking the Secretary of State to "closely study" the issues could lead to US sanctions. The US has economic leverage over South Africa due to the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), which "offers tangible incentives for African countries to continue their efforts to open their economies and build free markets," and contains a clause requiring participating African countries not to oppose US foreign policy. AGOA provides trade preferences for quota and duty-free entry into the United States for certain goods, and the US goods and services trade with South Africa was an estimated $16.1 billion in 2016. Exports were $7.5 billion (about 7% of total SA exports) while US imports were $8.6 billion. US foreign direct investment in South Africa was $5.1 billion in 2016 and this seems to be declining as investors quietly sell off equities. AGOA authorises the President of the United States to determine which sub-Saharan counties are eligible for AGOA on an annual basis, so Trump has the power to suspend South Africa.

            The South African economy is vulnerable given the country´s high external debt (50% of GDP) and short-term refinancing needs (3% current account deficit and 9% short-term external debt as a percentage of GDP), with foreign exchange reserves just sufficient to cover the latter. Trump´s tweet added further to the Rand´s decline, which was already falling as investment analysts began to absorb the effects of EWC and leaked information about plans to eliminate private investment in the South African Reserve Bank (also without compensation), and nationalise mines and other assets.

            JE comments:  The threat of sanctions could indeed have an impact--as long as everything is kept on the down-low.  Should it become a public row, the cries of Trump pandering to "white supremacists" will be deafening, and the S African authorities will have to react with a strong public face.

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