By Barbara Crown, Editor-in-Chief
News about new land reform in South Africa sent a wave of panic throughout the international hunting community. General media coverage, social media posts and email exchanges created the perception that farms and ranches throughout South Africa are in the process of being expropriated. Subscribers contacted The Hunting Report asking if it was safe to travel to South Africa and whether they should cancel their hunting plans there. The short answer is that there is no immediate or mass eviction of landowners (white or otherwise) taking place in South Africa, and hunters should not cancel their hunts there at this time. Here is what you need to know about this development:
On Feb. 26, the South African National Assembly passed a motion to amend Section 25 of the country’s constitution in order to allow the expropriation of land without compensation. Currently, this section of the constitution requires “just and equitable” compensation of lands that the government finds necessary to expropriate for public purposes or in the public interest (for example, to construct a dam or a public expressway). The motion is now with the Constitutional Review Committee tasked with determining if expropriation without compensation is “prudent.” The committee must report back to Parliament by Aug. 31, 2018. Should the committee find merit to the motion, a paper must be created outlining the policy proposal, which is then followed by engagements with lawmakers, attorneys and public consultation and changes to the constitution.
Adri Kitshoff Botha, CEO of Wildlife Ranching South Africa (www.wrsa.co.za), said, “Hunting forms part of our tourist market and therefore part of our economy. We understand that hunting tourists will have concerns, but we urge them not to succumb to panic and to stay in close communication with their hunting outfitters in South Africa to be kept informed about the process unfolding.”
Paul Stones of Custodians of Professional Hunting and Conservation South Africa (www.cphc-sa.co.za) adds that the land issue is a dire one that must be addressed in South Africa. “This is an issue that has been ignored since independence, and now we for once have a president who has said all as it is, and this is not a bad thing. . . . Land is the subject that has caused the most debate, anger, frustration, fear, uncertainty, hope and a litany of other emotions in South Africa. Land will remain a political issue for years to come.”
He goes on to clarify that the motion that was passed is for all property, including urban properties. “There is much unused land in the state’s hands. Some of this land is likely to be distributed. Municipalities, too, hold much land that can be used for housing, and large tracts of unutilized state land are held in trusts by chiefs. It is unlikely that productive commercial land will be targeted.”
In a statement from the Professional Hunters Association of South Africa (www.phasa.co.za), President Dries van Coller points out that President of South Africa Cyril Ramaphosa has ensured that the process will not be the “smash and grab” that occurred in Zimbabwe but will be carried out in such a way so as not to impact food production, jobs and the economy as a whole. “South Africa remains one of the best destinations of choice for international tourists, and as an association we assure the general public that South Africa remains a safe and preferred destination for hunters.”
For now, there is no reason to cancel bookings in South Africa over this issue. The situation certainly bears watching, and hunters with trips booked for 2019 or 2020 should stay in contact with their operators as developments unfold after the review committee reports back to the national assembly.
Another development that hunters should be aware of is a rash of violent attacks on farms in remote rural areas. The attacks, or home invasions, typically take place in the middle of the night. They are not directly related to the motion on expropriation of lands, but like that motion, they are enthusiastically supported by a radical political group in South Africa. If you will be staying on a farm in South Africa during a hunt, you may want to discuss the security situation with your operator. As always while traveling these days, you should be on yellow alert regarding your personal security.