By Justin Jones
Land reform in South Africa made international headlines again in August, with some sensationalized reports in the media renewing fears of land grabs. As we first reported in our March issue (see “What that South African Parliamentary Land Reform Motion Means”), the South African National Assembly passed a motion on Feb. 26 to amend Section 25 of the country’s constitution in order to allow the expropriation of land without compensation when necessary. This is part of an effort by the ruling party African National Congress (ANC) to speed land reform efforts. That motion is still in process in a constitutional committee in Parliament.
The government’s recent move on two game farms controlled by Akkerland Boerdery (PTY) Ltd. in Limpopo also made headlines. The goverment seems to have tried to expropriate these areas more quickly than in past cases, and the owners of those properties obtained a court interdiction. They have disputed the government’s valuation of the land offered as compensation.
In March, we stressed that there was no reason for hunters to panic or to second guess booking a hunt in South Africa. At the time, we spoke with Dries van Coller, president of Professional Hunters Association of South Africa (www.phasa.co.za), who said he believed that the government would ensure that land reform efforts would be in no way similar to the destructive, wholesale seizures made over previous decades in neighboring Zimbabwe.
Paul Stones of Custodians of Professional Hunting and Conservation South Africa (CPHC) says that South Africa has long been too slow to address land reform. In a recent email conversation, he writes,
“As far as land reform and expropriation without compensation, we believe the subject has been abused by political parties to further particular agendas. Although political risks do exist, Custodians takes the view of Agri-SA (South Africa’s largest Agricultural Union) who met with the ANC and have been assured of the following ANC policies regarding the process of expropriation.
- No land grabs will be tolerated
- The protection of production agricultural land will be a priority
- The optimal use of underutilised land in remote rural areas will be promoted
- The protection of property rights will be a priority in agricultural land development
- The government is finalising an audit of all government land for the transfer to black farmers.
6 To start production on the 4000 farms which are already in government hands to unlock commercial value and farming opportunities for black people.”
CPHC issued a statement on the land reform issue in March, which may be read at www.cphc-sa.co.za/membership-news/.
We will continue to keep on eye on the situation, particularly if a constitutional amendment passes and land reform accelerates. Certainly there may be some loss of viable game habitat as a result of the ANC’s efforts to develop the agricultural sector, but whether new legislation or government action will have any appreciable effect on the hunting industry remains to be seen.
This month, we also have some news regarding leopard hunting in RSA. The Department of Enviromental Affairs (DEA) announced a small quota of seven leopard for 2018, along with a set of guidelines pertaining to hunting and species management. No leopard hunting has taken place in RSA since the DEA issued a zero quota in 2016, citing lack of coherent management by the provinces and deficient data on leopard populations.
At the time, PHASA pointed out that there was no data to support the recommendation of a zero quota, and that small offtake from legal hunting in previous years would not have any effect on the biological status of leopard populations. PHASA also raised concerns that the zero quota would lead to more illegal offtake.
DEA spokesperson Albi Modise did not return repeated requests for comment on the 2018 quota. Following the announcement multiple operators sought clarification from the DEA.
Paul Stones at CPHC offered the following: “SA will allocate seven leopard CITES tags to be hunted under very strict conditions. Five permits were allocated to the Limpopo Province and two to KwaZulu Natal. Only areas where there has been a proven increase in leopard numbers may apply and permits will be issued in the name of the landowner.
“Among the conditions, the DEA that the leopard must be a male of a minimum of 7 years old. The PH must also undergo an online course to be trained in aging leopards. We consider it to be risky for PHs to undertake these leopard hunts, as they will all be scrutinised by the media and anti-hunting lobby, who are already watching the process.”
Indeed, other PHs with whom we spoke indicated that aging leopards to precision could be a major difficulty, particularly in low light.
In the August 12 press release on the quota, the DEA noted several other considerations related to leopard. These include a provision for the private hunting sector to continue to participate in monitoring of leopard numbers, and for the DEA to step up efforts to counter to the unregulated trade in leopard skins by religious groups.
It will be interesting to see if any leopard hunts do go off before the end of the year, or whether the new quota will amount to a de facto continuation of the 2016 zero quota. Stay tuned.