1 October, 2019
Outcome in Melmoth-case huge success
Agri SA is elated about the outcome of the
Melmoth case in favour of the landowners this week. The
outcome brings some comfort to concerned landowners
regarding the manner in which experts will deal with the
concept of just and equitable compensation.
The controversial land claims lodged by five
groups of claimants against various farms in the Melmoth
Kwazulu-Natal has taken a drastic turn during
this week when the dispute between the state and the
landowners regarding the just and equitable compensation
that the state must pay to the landowners, was due to be
heard in court. In an attempt to settle the claim, the
landowners had offered
9000 hectares of highly productive land to the
"The claim, which was originally lodged over
42 000 hectares could
have been finalised almost a year ago, had the
Valuer-General, and the previous Minister of Rural
Development and Land Reform,
Nkoana-Mashabane not intervened in the
Agri SA Head: Land.
An agreement was reached in March 2018 between
the valuers appointed by the state and the land owners
respectively, that just and equitable compensation amounted
to approximately R760 million. The Valuer-General, however
determined the value of the land at about
R420 million. This was of course not acceptable
to the landowners. The Minister was not prepared to offer
more than the value determined by the Valuer-General.
"Following a legal battle of 13 years, during
which time the landowners were forced to spend millions of
Rands, there was still no resolution," explained Crosby.
"The landowners then took further legal action with the
help of Agri SA."
In a judgement which sets the tone on this
issue acting Judge Canca ruled in the Land Claims Court that
landowners are not bound by the determination of value by
the Valuer-General, but that they can approach the Land
Claims Court to determine just and equitable compensation.
The dispute regarding compensation was then brought to a
head and set down for hearing in the Land Claims Court for
16 to 18 September 2019.
The landowners obtained the services of further
experts who lodged reports at court. These experts then met
with the experts appointed by the state. At this meeting,
the previous agreement between valuers, reached in March
2018, was confirmed. The valuers also agreed that an upward
adjustment was merited to reflect the increase in value
since March 2018, resulting in an increase in the
compensation that landowners were entitled to.
The case took an unexpected turn when the
current Minister, Thoko Didiza lodged a notice at court a
few days before the hearing to the effect that she would
abide by the ruling of the court in the matter.
One day before the hearing, the Minister and
the Restitution Commission made an offer to the landowners
to purchase the land for a total amount of R805 million. The landowners were prepared to
accept this offer. In terms of the relevant rules of court,
the dispute between the state and the landowners was then
settled on the basis of the offer made by the state and
agreed to by the landowners.
It follows that the state is also liable for
the legal costs of the landowners.
Ever since the dispute regarding compensation
arose, Agri SA had wholeheartedly supported the lndowners
and contributed a substantial sum to the legal costs, and
specifically the cost required to acquire the services of
highly qualified experts.
Shortly prior to the hearing, the state still
maintained that the landowners were only entitled to the
amount of compensation determined by the Valuer-General
(which was based on the controversial regulations
promulgated under the Property Valuation Act.) The
landowners were ready to lead expert witness testimony to
challenge this approach of the state. The state however
acknowledged defeat and made the offer to the landowners.
The result is that the compensation that the landowners will
receive, is about double the amount determined by the
"The outcome of the case is positive for
other landowners who find themselves in a similar position
as the Melmoth landowners," said Dan Kriek, Agri SA
President. "The outcome also demonstrates that the state
will likely not get away with making offers which are
substantially below market value."
Agri SA's view has always been that just and
equitable compensation, in most cases, should approximate
market value. Agri SA is committed to being involved in test
cases to ensure that the interests of landowners are
protected when compensation is determined. Agri SA would
like to thank and congratulate the very able legal team of,
Bertus van der Merwe from Cox and partners, Adv Gerhard
Roberts(SC) and Adv Elana Roberts.
of Agri SA's Centre of Excellence: Land
082 388 0017
Source: Agri SA