DRLD farm allocation dream turns to corruption nightmare

DRLD farm allocation dream turns to corruption nightmare

1/1

GK CRONJE

16 March 2021

The terms and conditions of the contract requires applicants to jump through endless hoops, and submit a mountain of paperwork to be approved, only to have the rug pulled from under them as their farms flourish.

Much to the excitement of emerging farmers, the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (DLRD) launched a programme where individuals could apply for available agricultural state land, as part of the government contribution to the land reform programme. According to the DLRD, government issued notices of 896 farms, measuring 700 0000 hectares of underutilized or vacant state land in various provinces. The lease agreement signed between the state and the beneficiary will be a legally binding contractual agreement, and will be legally binding for 30 years. The lease obligates the beneficiary to maintain all the infrastructure and upkeep of the land allocated to him/her. Beneficiaries will pay a monthly or annual rental fee per hectare determined by the state, consistent with the value of the land in line with area valuation.

A credit management system will be put in place to manage debt recovery and management. This sounds idyllic, and a dream come true for cash-strapped prospective agriculture boffins. Alas, the dream has turned to a corruption nightmare, as complaints from farmers are surfacing with troubling regularity. A large number of farmers across all provinces, who have contracts with the state, and who has made a great success of their farms, are being strong-armed off their farms by government officials in a spectacular display of contract breach. Some farmers have been given only 24 hours to vacate their property, as DLRD officials pounce on these successful farms. Close to home, Amersfort farmer Swazi Motha, producer of maize, soya and dry beans for over 10 years, is one of the farmers caught in the breach of contract by the state.

Motha is the coordinator of the Mkhululi Agri Union, which has been established to oppose the eviction of farmers who have contracts. More than 30 affected farmers reside in Mpumalanga. Maize and cattle farmer in Ermelo, John Mabasa, have also been subjected to the contract breach from the state. Mabasa has been tending to his farm since 2013, where his father and grandfather also farmed. Allegations of corruption from the state and its officials have since been the centre of attention, as some successful farmers have allegedly been offered to be relocated to other farms. This raises several questions, as to the logic behind state officials reclaiming successful farms, and breaching contract. Affected farmers are extremely unhappy with the U-turn by the DLRD and its officials. The terms and conditions of the contract requires applicants to jump through endless hoops, and submit a mountain of paperwork to be approved, only to have the rug pulled from under them as their farms flourish. At this point in time, there is no feasible explanation as to the behaviour of the DLRD.

The Tribune ePaper have attempted on several occasions to engage with the DLRD. The Ermelo branch simply smacked down the phone in the journalist’s ear, and has since not answered the telephone at all. Attempts to contact a DLRD spokesperson, one Gugu Nkosi, yielded no result. The DLRD did also not respond to correspondence at the time of going to print.