Farmers show muscle in watershed case on property values

Agri SA is elated by the recent judgement of the Land Claims Court which confirms that the Minister of Rural Development and the Valuer-General cannot disregard the jurisdiction of the courts in matters of compensation. The judgement thwarts the bullying tactics used to try and get landowners to accept half of the agreed compensation and calls into question the application of the Property Valuation Act. This is the second recent watershed case on compensation which Agri SA has been involved in to ultimately support all South African farmers.

“The implications of this judgement are quite profound since it lays bare the bullying tactics already used, but stops it in its tracks,” said Annelize Crosby, Agri SA Policy Head: Land. “The rule of law and the right to just and equitable compensation has been validated.”

Judge AJ Canca handed down the judgement in the case of the Emakhasaneni community on Wednesday. The precedent this case sets is maintaining the oversight of the courts in compensation matters and limiting the role of the Valuer-General in arriving at the amount of compensation which landowners are entitled to.

Background of the case

The case has a very long history and involves several farms in the Melmoth district in KwaZulu-Natal.

The valuers representing the landowners and the state had previously agreed on what they considered to be just and equitable compensation.  The Valuer-General got involved at a later stage and offered the landowners about 50% of the amount that the valuers agreed upon.  The state took the position that the landowners were obliged to relinquish their properties at the amounts set by the Valuer -General.  The Minister of Rural Development and Land Reform argued that she was bound by the offer made by the Valuer-General and refused to budge on that. Moreover, the state took the position that the court had no jurisdiction over the matter of compensation.

Judge Canca found that the Property Valuation Act could not exclude the jurisdiction of the courts in adjudicating matters of compensation. He also found that the Act did not preclude the Minister from paying compensation that exceeds the value determined by the Valuer-General. He found that the valuation guidelines prescribed by the regulations could result in valuations which are much lower than just and equitable compensation determined in terms of section 25(3) of the Constitution. If the properties had been expropriated, section 25(3) would have applied.  The court was not bound by the values determined by the Valuer-General. Costs were awarded in favour of the landowners.

“This is a step in the right direction for just and equitable compensation.”

Agri SA welcomes this judgement and will be involved in future cases in support of our members and all South African farmers.

The South African Pork Producers’ Organisation (SAPPO) coordinates industry interventions and collaboratively manages risks in the value chain to enable the sustainability and profitability of pork producers in South Africa.