Mailbox: Could SA land seizures be a repeat of 1960s Transkei farms mess?

As investors were gathering for the World Economic Forum on Africa in Durban last week, Minister for Small Business Development Lindiwe Zulu decided that it was time to call for land seizures. Zulu wants South Africa’s constitution changed to allow the seizure of land for redistribution to black people without compensation. She says the country’s laws are hindering economic transformation, years after 1994. Apart from one having to question her timing of such a call, there are further questions about whether government has actually even thought through land seizures properly. As this reader points out below, the Nats tried land grabs in the Transkei region in the 1960s and, today, several farms there allegedly lie in ruins. Could this be a sign of things to come for the rest of SA? – Gareth van Zyl

Read more: Let us seize land (legally) – enough is enough – Minister Lindiwe Zulu

A few words regarding the above topic.

I really do not understand these calls for land grab at no compensation.

During the early 60s, my grandfather’s farm 200 Morgen which he built up from nothing – no fences, no buildings, no dams, no boreholes since the early 1900s – was bought forcibly by the National Party government for a mere R20 000 compensation as part of developing the Transkei area. He grew tobacco maize and wheat and farmed with sheep and cattle his whole life.

His house was built by Italian prisoners out of sandstone as well as the outside buildings. It was the same with other farms as well – fenced the place, drilled boreholes, put windmills up, laid water onto the house, built a dam near the house for water for the livestock.

This farm is situated 8 miles from Lady Frere on the road to Indwe farm named Palenberg. Around him was a whole community of farmers on their own farms in what they called the Ndonga area and all I can see on Google Earth today are the stone foundations of this house and houses of other farms

A visit to this farm in 2016 and all the other farms known to me personally in the Ndonga area indicated that all the houses were demolished, carried away brick by brick, stone by stone, no windmills any more, hand pumps removed from freshwater boreholes – which my father drilled as a young man. There are no fences, no buildings, no farming activity, no gardens, no livestock on any of these farms. Trees are cut down for firewood. To the south, a couple of kilometres further, a township was established but no farming activities.

Read also: Land Bill’s political value: Is President Zuma trying to capture the Zulu king?

My question is what do they really want when they say ‘we want land’ and what do they want to do with the land they so desperately want? Do the people only want a little piece of land with a few goats, sheep and cattle which they can call their own or do they honestly want the bigger well established commercial farms only to squat on it as is happening on a great percentage of farms already owned by the government?

During the 1960s I stayed and worked at Qamata for three years and assisted in the voting that took place to elect the first President of the Transkei. I knew Kaiser Matanzima personally as he stayed just outside Qamata on the road to Cofimvaba and his place, called the Great Place. He also owned farmland at St Marks. During that time, Russia supplied Russian tractor equipment like plows etc through Port Elizabeth harbour. The Russians also supplied seed and fertiliser to the Transkeian government. After about 18 months later, the tractors were standing rusting in the open with flat tyres. Some without tyres and batteries and wheels and were sold as scrap eventually, and no farming took place after that.

Read also: New farm law to block foreign land ownership: Another ANC move to shut out whites?

Perhaps Minister Lindiwe Zulu should visit this Transkei area and explain to the general public why no farming was established since the 60s and what do they really want from existing farmers and why the best agricultural land in the Eastern Cape (Transkei) owned by government is not used for farming purposes. It belongs to the State and they should proof that they can utilise and farm on this land to make the people in the areas as mentioned self-sufficient.

I think that they only really want to take the so-called wealth and assets away from white people and have no intention of farming at all except for the old traditional farming with a few goats, cattle and sheep and a small patch of maize and wheat. Otherwise, why is nothing happening in the Transkei area with government owned land? Prove to this Country that they can farm. Not everybody, because he is black, is a farmer, and the same counts for whites.

I who would love to get my grandfather’s farm back to farm and create employment but without buildings fencing watermills. This is perhaps not a viable option as everything was destroyed.


Pensioner Farmer

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