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Uitkoms van Melmoth-saak groot sukses / Outcome in Melmoth-case huge success

English to follow:

20 September 2019

Agri SA is verheug oor vandeesweek se uitkoms van die Melmoth-saak ten gunste van grondeienaars. Dié uitkoms bring ’n mate van gerustheid vir grondeienaars oor deskundiges se hantering van billike en regverdige vergoeding.

Die opspraakwekkende grondeise wat deur vyf groepe eisers teen verskeie plase in die Melmoth-omgewing in Kwazulu-Natal ingestel is, het hierdie week ’n dramatiese wending geneem in die dispuut tussen die Staat en die grondeienaars oor wat die billike en regverdige vergoeding moet wees. Die grondeienaars het ter skikking van die eis ongeveer 9000 hektaar hoogs produktiewe landbougrond aan die Staat aangebied.

Die eis, wat aanvanklik oor ongeveer 42 000 hektaar ingestel is, kon al ongeveer ’n jaar gelede afgehandel gewees het,” sê Annelize Crosby, Agri SA Beleidshoof: Grond. “Die tussenkoms van die Waardeerder-Generaal, Kimi Makwetu en die destydse Minister van Landelike Ontwikkeling en Grondhervorming, Maite Nkoana-Mashabane het die hofproses laat sloer.”

 Waardeerders, wat onderskeidelik deur die Staat en die grondeienaars aangestel is, het reeds in Maart 2018 ooreengekom dat die billike en regverdige vergoeding waarop die grondeienaars geregtig is ongeveer R760 miljoen beloop. Die Waardeerder-Generaal het egter die waarde van die grond op ongeveer R420 miljoen bepaal. Dit was uiteraard nie vir die grondeienaars aanvaarbaar nie. Die Minister was nie bereid om meer aan te bied as die waarde wat deur die Waardeerder-Generaal bepaal was nie.

“Na ’n regstryd van 13 jaar, wat die grondeienaars miljoene rande aan regskoste gekos het, was hierdie nog nie die einde van die saak nie,” verduidelik Crosby. “Die grondeienaars moes die stryd verder met die hulp van Agri SA voer.”

 In ’n toonaangewende daaropvolgende uitspraak van waarnemende regter Canca in die Grondeisehof, is beslis dat die grondeienaars nie gebonde is aan die waardebepaling van die Waardeerder-Generaal nie en hulle tot die Grondeisehof vir ‘n bepaling van die billike en regverdige vergoeding kon wend. Die dispuut is op die spits gedryf in verrigtinge in die Grondeisehof wat vir verhoor geplaas was vanaf 16 tot 18 September 2019 te Durban.

Nadat die grondeienaars die hulp van verdere deskundiges ingeroep het wat verslae by die hof ingedien het, het die deskundiges van die Staat en die deskundiges van die grondeienaars nogmaals vergader waartydens die vorige ooreenkoms wat in Maart 2018 tussen die waardeerders bereik was, bekragtig is.  Die waardeerders het ook ooreengekom dat daar meriete is in die opwaartse aanpassing van die waardes as gevolg van die tydsverloop sedert Maart 2018 wat gepaard gegaan het met ‘n toename van die vergoeding waarop die grondeienaars geregtig is.

Die saak het ’n verrassende wending geneem toe die huidige Minister, Thoko Didiza ’n paar dae voor die verhoor ’n kennisgewing by die hof ingedien het ingevolge waarvan sy haar berus het by wat ook al die bevinding van die Grondeisehof sou wees.

’n Dag voor die aanvang van die verhoor het die Minister en die Kommissie op Herstel van Grondregte ’n aanbod aan die grondeienaars gemaak om die grond vir ‘n totale bedrag van R805 miljoen aan te koop. Die grondeienaars was bereid om die aanbod te aanvaar. Ingevolge die betrokke Hofreëls is die dispuut tussen die Staat en die grondeienaars gevolglik afgehandel op sterkte van die aanbod van die Staat soos aanvaar deur die grondeienaars. ’n Verdere gevolg hiervan is dat die Staat aanspreeklik is vir die grondeienaars se regskoste.

Sedert die dispuut tussen die grondeienaars en die Staat oor die vergoeding ontstaan het, het Agri SA die grondeienaars heelhartig ondersteun en ruimskoots finansieel bygedra tot hulle regskostes en spesifiek ook om die grondeienaars in staat te stel om die hulp in te roep van hoogs gekwalifiseerde deskundiges.

Tot kort voor die aanvang van die verhoor het die Staat volgehou dat die bepaling van die vergoeding deur die Waardeerder-Generaal (wat gebaseer is op die omstrede Regulasies uitgevaardig in terme van die bepalings van die Wet op Eiendomswaardering) die enigste bedrag is waarop die grondeienaars geregtig is. Die grondeienaars was gereed om die getuienis van hulle deskundiges aan te bied en die Staat te beveg, toe die Staat die aftog geblaas het deur die bogenoemde aanbod aan die grondeienaars te maak. Die resultaat is dat die vergoeding wat die grondeienaars nou gaan ontvang ongeveer twee keer die bedrag is wat die Waardeerder-Generaal as vergoeding voorheen bepaal het.

“Die uitslag van die saak is positief vir ander grondeienaars wat hulle moontlik in dieselfde posisie bevind as die Melmoth grondeienaars,” sê Dan Kriek, Agri SA president. “Die uitslag wys ook dat die staat nie maklik sal wegkom met aanbiedinge van vergoedingsbedrae wat baie laer is as markwaarde nie.”

 Agri SA se standpunt is nog altyd dat regverdige en billike vergoeding in die meeste gevalle naby markwaarde behoort te wees. Agri SA sal by verdere toetssake betrokke raak om seker te maak dat grondeienaars se belange na behore beskerm word by die bepaling van vergoeding. Agri SA wil ook die bekwame regspan van die grondeienaars, Bertus van der Merwe van Cox en vennote en Adv Gerhard Roberts(SA) en Adv  Elana Roberts bedank en gelukwens.

Navrae:

Annelize Crosby

Agri SA Hoof van Sentrum van Uitnemendheid: Grond

(S) 082 388 0017

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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 area in 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 state.

“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, Maite Nkoana-Mashabane not intervened in the matter”, said Annelize Crosby, 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 Valuer-General

“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.

 Enquiries:

Annelize Crosby

Head of Agri SA’s Centre of Excellence: Land

(C) 082 388 0017