In South Africa. a list published by AfriForum of farms reported to have been identified by the government for expropriation without compensation has caused an uproar across the country.
The government has denied any involvement, but it has sent the pulses racing across the country as the farming community awaits further news about the government's new land laws.
The policy is already blamed for a drop in the value of the country’s currency and observers have warned that it could also destabilise efforts by president Cyril Ramaphosa to lure foreign investors to boost an economy which in a state of decline.
The destabilising impact of the US trade war contributed to another sharp drop in the currency today (13 August) and further enhanced a mood which varies between outrage and despair.
However, some leading producers say fruit growers should cease to harbour the negative thoughts being experienced across the country.
“This is the time for them to focus on productive use of their farms and looking after the people who work for them," one producer outlined. "If they do so, they will continue to farm successfully because the government knows very well that it is doomed without a progressive and developing farming sector.”
The fact is that land owners are concerned, as was indicated by one farming group which has been exporting its fruit for decades asking Eurofruit last week whether the company would lose its land.
One of the country’s leading law firms say it is inundated by concerned growers seeking its council. “Those who expect the worst are perhaps jumping the gun, because we know that the targets will not be progressive and efficient farmers,” said a spokesman. “We know there are a number of categories of land that could be considered for expropriation. These are mainly land that is unproductive and lying idol, or land that has deteriorated to such an extent that it cannot be redeemed. They will also target land that is used purely for speculation and will take a look at land already in government hands.”
The spokesman said that it had already been decided that tribal land will be left alone. “If this is done, what reason is there to expropriate land that is in productive use?”
Observers have noted that Ramaphosa had to seize the initiative back from the more radical Economic Freedom Fighters of Jules Malema, who were threatening him at next year’s national elections.
“There is a lot of sable rattling taking place but we believe one can safely say that not too much will happen until after the election and then one should see more practical strategies developing.”
The events of the last few days have shown just how volatile the situation is. With the international arena in which the South African fruit industry operates becoming increasingly unstable, the country can ill afford instability within its own borders.
The Department of Rural Development and Land Reform denied the veracity of the list published by AfriForum of farms which it claimed would be expropriated without compensation.
The organisation posted on its website that it had "obtained a list of farms identified for this purpose", which is ostensibly being circulated within the department.
It encouraged farmers to check if their farm was on the list and to contact them so that AfriForum "can prepare for a joint legal strategy".
Department spokesperson Linda Page, however, denied the authenticity of this list. "We don't know where they got it from," she told News24. "There is no truth to this document."