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How to act during land occupations
If an owner of land receives any information or threats that indicates a possible land occupation, he or she must report it immediately to the South African Police Service (SAPS) and also pass it on to structures of organized agriculture. According to Dr Jane Buys, Security Risk Analyst at Free State Agriculture (FSA), this is one of a few steps that farmers can take to help prevent land occupation.
Following recent statements by the ANC on land occupation without compensation, land claims also took place in the Free State. “Farmers need to know what goes on on their land and can even make notices on border wires saying: ‘Entry is a criminal offense, offenders will be prosecuted,’” she said.
According to her landowners are also requested to put up Agri SA’s farm protocol boards at entrance gates. “If an owner is not present on his land for a certain period of time, he may provide full authority documentation to the supervisor and/or attorney who will act if it appears that a possible illegal occupation may occur during his absence.”
Land claim workshops by FSA and the SAPS can also be offered again at the request of agricultural associations or area offices to empower farmers. This will help them to assist the SAPS in the Rural Safety Plan (RSP) to effectively address land claims.
According to Buys, FSA has compiled a toolkit as broad guidelines that agricultural communities can use when land occupation occurs. This is also included in the 2018 Safety Manual, which in conjunction with the SAPS’s provincial and national instructions, regulates illegal occupation of land in terms of police actions and actions.
She said that in the past two to three years, FSA and the SAPS has offered land claim workshops in all clusters in agricultural communities to empower farmers to address the problem effectively.
Guidelines when land occupation occurs:
- Firstly a complaint of breaking an entry must as soon as possible be brought to the nearest police station by giving a statement explaining clearly the details of the offense.
- To activate the RSP, where possible and depending on unique circumstances (when it appears that the SAPS will take a while to take action and thus prevent occupiers from constructing structures). This means that observation posts are being manned and a Joint Operations Center established to regulate full record keeping of actions, photos, video material and incident manual. If there are a large group of occupiers, the Public Order Policing (POP) must be called.
- Thirdly, civil arrests can be executed in a legal manner (Criminal Procedure Act 51 of 1977) with the necessary statements, after which such persons are handed to the SAPS.
- Fourthly, the landowner may also apply for an expulsion order or interdict by a lawyer to prevent such occupiers from occupying land or putting up structures.
- Immediate action and mobilization of the RSP by farmers must be accompanied by reasoned action and calm heads so that the situation can be held under control until the SAPS or POP arrive.
- When the SAPS or POP arrive, the scene is handed over to them and they take control of co-ordinated actions that they will take use to manage the situation.