Just legal process about land now possible for Principal Traditional Leader after court victory

A just legal process is now possible for Inkosi (Principal Traditional Leader) Goodman Matomane after the High Court in Durban earlier this week ordered that an application by the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development be removed from the roll and that the department must pay the cost of the removal. AfriForum supported Inkosi Matomane with legal aid after the department brought the application against Inkosi Matomane without properly serving the court papers on him.

This court case is related to Inkosi Matomane’s use and occupation of the farm Melville Park close to Underberg in KwaZulu-Natal, which is owned by the department. The department previously approved a caretakership for this farm as well as the farm Beersheba in favour of Vuyani Zigana after the family farmer network, Saai, pressured the department to honour their commitment about a long-term lease agreement for a suitable agricultural land made towards Zigana. When Zigana however arrived on the farm, he found that it had already been occupied by Inkosi Matomane who was allocated the farm in June 2012 through the involvement of the then Minister of the Department of Rural Development, Gugile Nkwinti.

AfriForum and Saai directed a lawyer’s letter to minister Thoko Didiza of the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development to enquire about the allocation of caretaker and long-term lease contracts to successful emerging farmers after farmers from multiple provinces (including Zigana and Inkosi Matomane) brought contractual problems to the attention of the organisations. This letter describes the challenges faced by John Mabasa of the farm Goedehoop in the Amersfoort area, Mpumalanga, and Johannes Bezuidenhout of Nuveld Farming Empowerment Enterprise in the vicinity of Beaufort West, Western Cape.

The organisations directed an urgent appeal to the minister to intervene to ensure surety of the utilisation of government-owned farms by successful emerging farmers since this situation, where emerging farmers in three different provinces experience similar challenges with the department, casts doubt on the department’s ability to function properly and justly. To date, no response has been received.

“When a farmer must remove people from a farm, a crowd of voices goes up when the correct process is not followed painstakingly. In this case, the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development did not follow the correct procedures at all and also did not respond properly to legal documents. It seems as if there is chaos in the department and that the department does not have the ability to manage the properties that they own. How can there any talk about expropriation without compensation by the state if current properties owned by the state cannot be properly managed to the advantage of successful emerging farmers?” says Dr Theo de Jager, Executive Board Chairperson of Saai.

“South Africa as centralised dispensation is a failure in many areas – this deficient legal action and management by the department is just another example. The only solution lies in community federalism. That is why we are building a network of cultural communities that cooperates based on mutual recognition and respect to make a beautiful future for the children of our cultural communities possible. It is a privilege for us to cooperate with a Principal Traditional Leader of the AmaMpondomise Cultural Community to promote fairness and justice,” says Barend Uys, Head of Intercultural Relations and Cooperation at AfriForum.