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Tuesday, 13 March, 2001, 23:27 GMT
White SA farmer facing eviction
War vets in Zimbabwe
There has been no repeat of Zimbabwe-style farm violence
The South African Government has taken legal steps to expropriate land from a white farmer in the first case of its kind since the end of apartheid in 1994.

The farm is being expropriated under a legal process designed to return land to people - mainly disadvantaged black South Africans - who were forced from their homes during the apartheid era.

Willem Pretorius received the order on Tuesday to sell his farm, near the conservative town of Lydenburg in Mpumalanga province, to the government so that it could be returned to a community evicted under apartheid in the early 1960s.

Mr Pretorius says he is going to take legal action to overturn the expropriation order.

Thabo Mbeki
Mbeki has promised to combat crime

South African law stipulates that the government must pay market-related prices for expropriated land.

The right-wing Transvaal Agricultural Union (TLU) said that farmers were infuriated by the expropriation and gave notice of a protest meeting in Lydenburg on Friday.

"The TLU will...render assistance in order to resist this process of land theft," TLU president Gert Ehlers said in a statement.

'Blatant racism'

The TLU accused the South African government of "blatant racism" and compared it to Zimbabwe, where the seizure of land under a land redistribution scheme sanctioned by President Robert Mugabe has resulted in the death of seven farmers.

As in neighbouring Zimbabwe, white farmers in South Africa still own most of the arable land.

Thousands of black families were forced off their land under the apartheid government's policy of enforced racial segregation.

The government has sought to redress the land ownership imbalance since the end of apartheid in 1994.

Massive backlog

But rural communities have complained that the government is moving too slowly and a massive backlog of land claims has heightened tensions in farm areas.

Farmers have also evicted families that have lived and worked on their farms for generations, fearing that black families might be able to claim ownership.

Black resentment, poverty and a general rise in crime have been blamed for the 804 farm attacks that resulted in the death of 119 South African farmers last year.

President Thabo Mbeki promised on Tuesday after a meeting with black and white farmers that his government would increase its efforts to stamp out crime.

Committed to change

Mr Mbeki was not available for comment after the closed-door meeting of organised agriculture and government officials, but Japie Grobler, president of Agri South Africa, said that he was satisfied.

"The president spent a lot of time on the subject of safety and security. He reiterated government's commitment to changing the situation in this country. He reiterated that something more ...has to be done," said Mr Grobler.

Agri SA represents about 63,000 black and white commercial farmers and is far more liberal than the TLU.

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See also:

13 Mar 01 | Africa
Mbeki's dilemma over Zimbabwe
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