The South African government has seized its first white-owned farm as the owner of a vast hunting reserve was told to hand over his keys.

Johan Steenkamp and Arnold Cloete, co-owners of the Akkerland Boerdery hunting farm in Limpopo province, said they were ordered to hand over their land after talks to buy it at a 10th of the price broke down, the Daily Mail reported.

Meanwhile president Cyril Ramaphosa, who took over from Jacob Zuma last year, told a farmers' conference on Monday that "land reform" was necessary to "correct a past wrong".

The hunting lodge's Facebook page shows several pictures of the farm and wild animals. Photo / Supplied
The hunting lodge's Facebook page shows several pictures of the farm and wild animals. Photo / Supplied

Steenkamp and Cloete asked for 200 million rand ($20.8m) for their reserve but were only offered 20m rand ($2.08m).

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A letter sent to the company earlier in the year said: "Notice is hereby given that a terrain inspection will be held on the farms on April 5, 2018, at 10am in order to conduct an audit of the assets and a handover of the farm's keys to the state."

The farm took out an urgent injunction to prevent eviction but the Department of Rural Development and Land Affairs refused his application.

Steenkamp told Newsweek that the decision was made on "very short notice" during a public holiday.

He said he was given notice to hand the keys over to his farm within seven days.

Annelie Crosby, spokeswoman for the agricultural industry association AgriSA, told the Johannesburg based CityPress: "What makes the Akkerland case unique is that they apparently were not given the opportunity to first dispute the claim in court, as the law requires."

ANC spokesman ZiZi Kodwa said: "Over time I think the markets as well as investors will appreciate that what we are doing is creating policy certainty and creating the conditions for future investment."

However South Africa's state-owned Land Bank has warned that the government could end up getting slapped with a bill of $2.8 billion in default payments if its rights are not protected.

Land Bank Chairman Arthur Moloto said in the company's 2018 annual report that the bank has approximately 9b rand ($94,000,000) of debt, which includes a standard market clause on "expropriation" as an event of default.

Moloto said if expropriation without compensation were to materialise without protection of the bank's rights as a creditor, it would be required to repay 9 billion rand immediately.

Since Cyril Ramaphosa took power, tensions in white farming communities have been rising as he has committed to a programme of land expropriation.

ANC chairman Gwede Mantashe last week said: 'You shouldn't own more than 25,000 acres of land.

"Therefore if you own more it should be taken without compensation."

Akkerland Boerdery, inset, co-owner of the Akkerland Boerdery hunting farm in Limpopo province, pictured.
Akkerland Boerdery, inset, co-owner of the Akkerland Boerdery hunting farm in Limpopo province, pictured.

A record number of white farmers have put their land up for sale as the government has been accused of earmarking almost 200 farms for seizure.

But the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform denied the claim, saying there was "no truth to this document", News 24 reported.

The ANC has so far followed a programme of "willing seller, willing buyer" to redistribute the land, but more than two decades after the end of apartheid the majority remains in the hands of white owners.

The South African constitution does contain a section which allows the government to seize land from farmers, but says that fair compensation must be paid.

The farm was seized by the government after just 10 per cent of the asking price was offered. Photo / Supplied
The farm was seized by the government after just 10 per cent of the asking price was offered. Photo / Supplied

However, the ANC is believed to be trying out a number of "test cases" to see whether the land can be taken without compensation if it is deemed to be "in the public interest".

If such cases fail, it has threatened to amend the constitution to remove the compensation clause.

A program of land seizures in nearby Zimbabwe in the 1990s sent the country into an economic spiral from which it has never fully recovered.

Farm union bosses say a record number of farmers are trying to sell their land before the seizures begin but that nobody is buying, making the land effectively worthless.

The ANC has sought to assuage those fears by saying that land reform will follow a parliamentary process.

"You shouldn't own more than 12,000 hectares of land and therefore if you own more, it should be taken without compensation," ANC Chairman Gwede Mantashe, who is also the country's mines minister, told News24 in an interview published on Wednesday.

Linda Page, spokesperson for the department of land reform, said it is legal for ministers to intervene the law makes provision for the minister to intervene to purchase if it's for the purpose of land reform.

Since 2007, a total of 23 cases have been finalised, seven in Limpopo, one in KwaZulu-Natal, seven in Limpopo, 14 in Mpumalanga and one in the Northern Cape.