Tuesday, October 17, 2006

South Africa is to seize land from white farmers


The South African government has issued new orders to seize land from a small number of white farmers who were not willing to settle apartheid-era land disputes with dispossessed blacks, the nation's agriculture and land affairs minister said.

Minister Lulu Xingwana has said her department would only hold price negotiations for six months with whites who own land taken from blacks during white minority rule. If talks failed, officials would take steps to seize the land.

She said wrangling over prices had in the past often taken years, frustrating officials who are under pressure to speed up the transfer of land to blacks in order to correct the skewed land ownership created under white rule.

"I must say, yes, the majority of white farmers have turned around and come to the table and are offering to sell land to support government restitution, but there are hard-nosed ones and we are dealing with that right now," she told reporters on Friday.

Xingwana said that the government was issuing seizure orders to four white farmers in Bela-Bela, located in South Africa's northern Limpopo province, who had failed to reach settlements within six months of being notified that they must do so.

South Africa has promised to put a third of the commercial farming sector in black hands by 2014, but 12 years after the fall of apartheid only 4 percent of the industry belongs to the black majority.

Restitution is part of this drive, allowing blacks to apply to have their rights to land taken from them restored or to seek financial compensation from the government.

Xingwana's six-month ultimatum has fuelled an already politically explosive issue -- especially in a region where memories still linger of the often-violent seizures of white land in neighbouring Zimbabwe.

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