Govt's land seizure list: A timeline

Sara Gon puts the contested list of farms targeted for EWC put out by AfriForum in the context of ANC govt threats

The “list” released by Afriforum of farms allegedly identified for expropriation by the government, has generated a lot of controversy, but not a lot of facts.

Below is the sequence of events against which to consider the veracity or otherwise of the list and its contents.

16 February 2018 – The State of the Nation Address: In President Cyril Ramaphosa’s SONA he said: “Guided by the resolutions of the 54th National Conference [December 2017] of the governing party, this approach will include the expropriation of land without compensation.”

“We are determined that expropriation without compensation should be implemented in a way that increases agricultural production, improves food security and ensures that the land is returned to those from whom it was taken under colonialism and apartheid.”

*27 February 2018 – Parliament: The National Assembly resolved to assign to the Joint Constitutional Review Committee (Committee) the review of Section 25 of the Constitution regarding the right to ownership of land. The Democratic Alliance, Freedom Front Plus, Congress of the People and the African Christian Democratic Party were the only parties to vote against the motion.

During the debate on the motion, Gugile Nkwinti, who was Minister of Rural Affairs and Land Reform until a few days before the vote and is now Minister of Water Affairs, said: "The ANC unequivocally supports the principle of land expropriation without compensation…There is no doubt about it, land shall be expropriated without compensation."

This accords with the resolution taken by the ANC at its December 2017 conference.

27 March 2018 – Minister of Rural Affairs & Land Reform: Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane (formerly Minister of International Affairs and Co-operation) said that government (note: not the ANC) did not want to wait for the Constitution to be amended, and that her department was preparing a test case to expropriate land without compensation.

Nkoana-Mashabane indicated that her department had already identified the land to be expropriated, but that the list of names would not be revealed as this would warn the affected owners to prepare for litigation.

So the Minister says that there is a list.

A well-meaning and transparent government shouldn’t be in the least bit concerned about whether farmers get a heads up over the expropriation of their land

The content of the article in City Press was never denied by the Minister. 

30 & 31 July 2018ANC Lekgotla: The ANC announced it had targeted “139 selected farms that they plan to expropriate without compensation (EWC)”. The ANC had also decided to amend section 25 of the Constitution to allow for EWC.

Whether those 139 properties were on a physical list or a government database is inconsequential; it’s a list.

31 July 2018 – The President’s television announcement: In a bizarre move, President Ramaphosa went on late-night television to announce the ANC’s decision that the ruling party had decided to change the Constitution to expropriate land without compensation.

The decision in favour of EWC was taken by the ANC before the Committee’s review process had been completed. Ramaphosa said that the ANC “will, through the parliamentary process, finalise a proposed amendment to the Constitution that outlines more clearly the conditions under which expropriation of land without compensation can be effected”.

A political party can make and publish any decision it likes on an issue. It is sinister, however, that a ruling party of over 24 uninterrupted years, takes a decision without waiting for the recommendations of the parliamentary review committee which it had proposed and voted for in the National Assembly.

5 August 2018 onwards – Sakeliga’s request: Sakeliga (formerly AfriSake) requested disclosure by Department of Rural Development and Land Affairs Head of Department, Mashile Mokono, of the ANC’s list of 139 properties earmarked for EWC. Mokono refused, saying that EWC “will be handled confidentially between individual land owners affected and government”.

Mokono could not confirm whether Sakeliga had served the department with an application for disclosure. Sakeliga said it had. Mokono’s response was that it was “unlikely to happen… it’s a matter which cannot be made public.”

The following is clear from this exchange -

There is a list of 139 farms;

Neither the ANC nor the Department deny it;

The ANC’s list has become the government’s list;

The Department is taking orders from the ANC before the matter has gone through the necessary parliamentary processes.

5 August 2018 – Zizi Kodwa and Ronald Lemola: City Press published an article saying the Department had identified 139 farms for EWC on the orders of the ANC. Kodwa, a member of the ANC NEC, was quoted widely in the article. The contents of the article were not denied by Kodwa nor by the ANC. 

On 5 August the Sunday Times reported that, according to the government's spokesperson, Ronald Lamola, the ANC had identified 139 farms that would serve as "expropriation targets". 

12 August 2018 – Afriforum’s List: Afriforum released “the list” of the now 195 farms that the ANC and Department intend to expropriate without compensation.

13 August 2018 – Ministry’s denial: "The department will therefore never publish nor circulate a list of farms to be expropriated as that would be highly irresponsible, unfair and unprocedural," said Nkoana-Mashabane.

She also said that such a list would allow farmers to "prepare for a joint legal strategy”. She didn’t comment on the veracity or otherwise of the list.

Nkoana-Mashabane also reassured us that the Committee’s work was still in progress and that the amendment of Section 25 of the Constitution had not taken place.

“We therefore put it on record that the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform has not embarked on any process of expropriating land without compensation.”

However, Department spokesperson Linda Page said they did not know where AfriForum got the list from and that there was no truth to this document”.

Two observations can be made:

The Minister says there is a list but the department would never publish or circulate it.

The spokesperson says that the contents of the list are completely incorrect and that not one of the properties on the list is earmarked for EWC.

So the Minister and the spokesman don’t deny the existence of the list, but only the spokesperson denies the veracity of the list’s contents. The Minister says nothing about it

AfriForum has been criticised for releasing the “list” and the SA Institute of Race Relations has been criticised for expressing the view that the list is genuine.

An IRR analyst was able to independently verify the veracity of the list. Several farms on the list have been linked to government attention and some of the farmers have received notices of expropriation.

AfriForum has been criticised for not revealing the source, though every journalist worth her salt would understand why it is confidential.

Adriaan Basson, editor of News24, said that AfriForum had lied because Nkoana-Mashabane said so. Peter Bruce, columnist for BD Live, said that the “loud and threatening response” to EWC would alienate people because no farm had yet been subject to EWC.

It appears the fire in the belly of investigative journalism has burnt out. This is surely a subject begging for some investigative journalism – if only to prove AfriForum wrong.

Sara Gon is a Policy Fellow at the Institute of Race Relations (IRR), a think tank that promotes political and economic freedom. If you agree with what you have just read then click here or SMS your name to 32823.


1.  NA adopts EFF motion, amended by ANC, on EWC News24, 27 February 2018;

2. Land: The people speak - Hearings enter final stretch in the Western Cape, News24, Jan Gerber, 1 August 2018;

3. Land: The people speak: CRC doesn't want to preempt that Constitution will be amended, News24, Jan Gerber, 4 August 2018;

3. WATCH | Ramaphosa announces ANC NEC decision on land expropriation, TIMESLIVE, 31 July 2018;

4. The names of 139 farms to be expropriated ‘cant be made public, The Citizen, 10 August 2018;

5. This is the list of farms targeted for EWC - AfriForum, Politicsweb, Ernst Roets, 12 August 2018

6. There is no list of farms targeted for expropriation - Land reform minister, News24, Vanessa Banton, 13 August 2018

For a detailed analysis of the National Assembly’s resolution see The NA's resolution on EWC: A clause-by-clause analysis, Politicsweb, Gabriel Crouse, 2 March 2018.