Minister Didiza claims to be in the dark amidst scandal

Minister Didiza claims to be in the dark amidst scandal

press to zoom

press to zoom
1/1

GK CRONJE

13 April 2021

"And in this incident, those letters were not even given out with authorization of the Minister. So we agreed that there is not going to be any eviction of the farmers we are created in two weeks time the team from the property unit in the Department of Agriculture will come down and all those farmers who have got issues around their leases we’ll meet at the department so that those issues are resolved.”

The Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development Department minister, Thoko Didiza, on Sarturday held a meeting to appease farmers in the area amidst a massive scandal which involves eviction letters, threats of eviction from department officials via WhatsApp messages, bribery from department officials and various other issues. The meeting addressed issues related to state-owned land leased to farmers, which are now being cut short and unlawfully terminated by department officials. Several farmers in Mpumalanga received letters informing them that they would be evicted from state farms, and some have been lured into paying bribes to officials of up to R25 000 to have paperwork processed and the lease renewed.

John Mabasa of Goedehoop farm said that his family had been farming on their family land for over two centuries. When he submitted a land claim in 1998 to formalize his family’s land holdings, the Department claimed that they had no records of the claim. In 2013, after a Public Protector finding instructed the Department to allocate him a farm, he was given caretakership on a portion of land. The award came with the condition that he should farm as part of a co-op. When he refused to pay R25 000 to ensure that a proposed business plan was approved by the Department, his land was advertised for occupation for interested new leases. Swazi Motha of Rietspruit farm is part of a group of three farmers who, in 2013, were granted a lease to a farm. In 2019, when asked to apply for financial assistance, they were told to “pay something” to facilitate the signing of the contract. They refused to pay the bribe, and received a letter of termination in 2019.

To date, the department had been keeping mum on the issue. Although the enquiries from the Tribune ePaper have been acknowledged, no response had been received from the department despite several enquiries. However, in a turn of events that is laughable, to say the least, Didiza has assured the farmers that they will not be evicted from the farms, and claimed to have been in the dark amidst this saga, and did not authorize the eviction letters to be sent out.

“There is not going to be any eviction and in any way of actions process in terms of state land, you’ll have to involve the Minister. And in this incident, those letters were not even given out with authorization of the Minister. So we agreed that there is not going to be any eviction of the farmers we are created in two weeks time the team from the property unit in the Department of Agriculture will come down and all those farmers who have got issues around their leases we’ll meet at the department so that those issues are resolved.” Didiza stated. This is of very little comfort to the affected farmers, as it is clear that there is a high level of confusion and collusion within the department. This is a developing story.