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Wednesday, 21 March, 2001, 13:49 GMT
SA farmer wins land reprieve
South African squatter camp
Land restitution is a major issue in South Africa
By Jane Standley in Johannesburg

The South African Government will not now expropriate the land of a white farmer as planned.

Last week the government ordered Willem Pretorius to sell his 1,200 hectare farm in the north-eastern town of Lydenburg, and gave him two months to leave it.

Mr Pretorius was unwilling to sell his land as he felt the government was not offering a fair price.

The government now says it wants to give another chance to negotiations over the amount of compensation to be given to the farmer.

Unprecedented

The expropriation order was the first to be issued in the post apartheid era.

Mr Pretorius's cattle and maize farm, Boomplaats, briefly became state property on Tuesday, before the government withdrew its expropriation order.

Now the Ministry of Agriculture and Land Affairs says it will re-open talks with the farmer because it believes a peaceful resolution is best.

Nelson Mandela votes in 1994
Giving land to black South Africans has been on the agenda since the end of apartheid
The ministry says its plan have not changed. It will still buy the farm and resettle hundreds of black South Africans on it.

They were violently removed by the old apartheid government 40 years ago with no compensation.

They applied to the government for restitution under a scheme which has seen more than 11,000 similar rural claims already settled.

Fair price?

But these are "willing buyer, willing seller" cases and in this case Mr Pretorius is not a willing seller at the price offered.

The government had deducted cheap loans which the farmer had received from the old apartheid state from the lower of two independent valuations for his farm.

But land and its ownership are highly emotive issues in South Africa and this case has sparked heated debate.

Members of the right-wing Transvaal Agricultural Union, to which Mr Pretorius belongs, have taken up his cause as a test case.

They have been arguing loudly that South Africa has now embarked on a Zimbabwe-style land-grab from white farmers and that they will go to court to prevent it.

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See also:

13 Mar 01 | Africa
White SA farmer facing eviction
13 Mar 01 | Africa
Mbeki's dilemma over Zimbabwe
30 Dec 98 | Africa
South Africa land claims flood in
04 Oct 00 | Africa
South Africa squatters win battle
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