IRR congratulates David Rakgase, warns that property rights must be defended

27 May 2020 - The Institute of Race Relations (IRR) is encouraged to learn that Limpopo farmer David Rakgase seems finally poised to own the land upon which he has built a successful farming enterprise.

Press Release 

The Institute of Race Relations (IRR) is encouraged to learn that Limpopo farmer David Rakgase seems finally poised to own the land upon which he has built a successful farming enterprise.

Mr Rakgase is currently awaiting transfer of the title to the property to his name.

Since 2002, Mr Rakgase has attempted to purchase the state-owned farm Nooitgedacht in Limpopo – to which government initially agreed. But it subsequently delayed and prevaricated, ultimately fighting him in court to deny him ownership.

This was, unfortunately, in line with prevailing policy – as the government’s court papers noted, the land redistribution programme proceeded from the ‘principle that black farming households and communities may obtain 30-year leases, renewable for a further 20 years, before the state will consider transferring ownership to them’.

It was also grotesque. Not only was he denied the dignity and satisfaction of ownership – this as government boldly declared its commitment to land and agrarian reform – but he was all but powerless when his land was invaded and he was unable to have the uninvited inhabitants removed.

As for the government’s actions, the High Court, in its September 2019 judgment, had this to say: ‘There is no explanation why, when the well-motivated occasion for conversion of a right presented itself, it was shied away from and the elderly Applicant was presented with a much lesser right, being a long-term lease, the end of which he will not see in his lifetime. The argument on behalf of the Minister that the Applicant has security of tenure and that there are no imminent eviction prospects on his horizon smacks of callousness and cynicism, particularly given our country’s historical deficiencies in dealing with land reform.’

These are strong words, but accurate ones.

We at the IRR caution that much is to be learned from Mr Rakgase’s case. Government’s attitude and actions bespeak a deep suspicion, if not hostility, towards private property rights. We have long warned that the endgame of government’s land policies may be effectively to nationalise all land in the country. The dogged determination to deny ownership to Mr Rakgase – and to retain him as a perpetual tenant of the state – provide disconcerting confirmation of this.

A strong, successful and inclusive farming economy needs to be founded on secure property rights. Indeed, this is necessary for a meaningful programme of land reform. ‘Black farming households and communities’ – to use government’s formulation – deserve nothing less.

Said IRR Deputy Head of Policy Research Hermann Pretorius: “I spoke to Mr Rakgase yesterday and congratulated him on this victory. Mr Rakgase has shown a strength of will and of character to fight for his rights that all South Africans can admire and must learn from – especially in this time of unprecedented assaults on our rights. His story has inspired me and my colleagues, reminding us in this uncertain time that the real victors of the battle of ideas are real, decent people. Mr Rakgase has shown us that victories against the odds, and against those in power, can be won.

“‘I will grow strong again,’ Mr Rakgase said to me, and I believe him. If we as a country can find the courage to emulate Mr Rakgase in the fight for our rights, we, like him, will grow strong again.”

 
Media contact: Hermann Pretorius, IRR Deputy Head of Policy Research – 079 875 4290; hermann@irr.org.za
Media enquiries: Michael Morris Tel: 066 302 1968 Email: michael@irr.org.za
Kelebogile Leepile Tel: 079 051 0073 Email: kelebogile@irr.org.za
Ends


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