In an exclusively with Johan Steenkamp, a well-known avocado farmer and founder of Peppadew in South Africa, to get a first-hand account of a farmer dealing with the complications of expropriation without compensation, and the newest developments surrounding this process.
Steenkamp is co-owner of Akkerland Boerdery, which farms on two properties, Lukin and Salaita, near Njeledam behind Soutpansberg. His business partner is his brother-in-law, Arnold Cloete.
“I just want a reasonable and market-value accurate price for my land. We don’t want to fight with anyone, but we want to be treated with respect, and we want to be rightly compensated,” Steenkamp told the Herald.
“I have to be very careful about what I say. Everything is sub judice because we are currently involved in two court battles – one against the expropriation of land involving the Musekwa community, and another to fight the expropriation without compensation of our land,” he explained.
Akkerland Boerdery was originally offered an allegedly ridiculous amount of money as compensation, after the land was initially expropriated in favour of the Musekwa community. According to Steenkamp, the offer was neither reasonable nor accurate in terms of the market value of the property, and they started a process to ascertain the legality of the offer in court.
Even before this expropriation process began, the new minister of rural development and land reform, Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, let Akkerland know their farms would be expropriated. The court documents were delivered a day before Easter weekend, and they were given just seven days to hand over the keys to their farms.
After an emergency interdict against the minister, a process is now underway to set aside the entire expropriation process involving the two farms. The Herald heard from a reliable source that the Musekwa community do not have a title deed to the Lukin and Salaita farms. The Kuvule community, by contrast, produced allegedly legitimate title deeds to the land long before the expropriation took place.
Their lawyers, Denga Incorporated, have confirmed the view that it is, in fact, their clients who have actual rights to the land.
Steenkamp refused to comment on allegations that the mining corporation Coal of Africa may in fact be behind the expropriation action, and that this has nothing to do with historical land reform, and everything to do with mining.
It is common knowledge that the Lukin and Salaita farms form part of the valuable coal belt in the region.
Coal of Africa refused to comment on whether they planned to mine coal in the area.
However, a reliable source told the Herald that mining plans have indicated that operations could begin before the end of the year.
All questions posed to Akkerland Boerdery’s lawyers were not answered, with the view that the matter is before the courts.