Boots on the ground in DALRRD farm corruption saga

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GK CRONJE

6 April 2021

Explanations requested from Minister Thoko Didiza, one month ago, yielded no response. Enquiries sent by the Tribune ePaper to the DALRRD have been acknowledged, but no response had been received from the Department.

Suzuki Ermelo (WEB) 22 September 2020.jp

Amidst a flurry of confusion and flying allegations of corruption and nepotism, harrowing tales have emerged from the affected farmers. Thabani Nxumalo of Klipplaatdrift farm stated that he had a three-year lease agreement on the Ultkyk farm from 2013. In 2019, he had to move to Klipplaatdrift farm because his farming operation was too big for Ultkyk farm. In 2020, he received an eviction order from the Department, despite making an undertaking to resign from his current job to meet the requirements for renewing the lease.

The Department has since advertised the farm for new potential lessees to come and view the farm. 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. Mr. Nxumalo of Tweefontein farm started farming in 2009 after signing a three-year lease agreement. In 2018/2019, he signed a 30-year lease agreement, for which the Department did not give him a copy. He was given a strategic partner to work with for 5 years. Without notice, he was told that his lease agreement will not be renewed. Ms Nconwane of Steenwyk farm has been farming since 2016. In 2017, she drew up a business plan to access farmer support funding. Her application for financial support has not been granted. Instead, officials have told her that “everything she does is wrong”. Despite her efforts, she has never been given a lease agreement.

Isaac Buthelezi of Dorpsplaas/Drinkwater farm had a three-year lease agreement since 2009, with an offer to purchase. When the lease lapsed, he renewed it again until 2017. Strangely, this time the Department removed the offer to purchase. After 2017, the Department refused to renew the lease completely. The Department sent notice of eviction in 2019 through WhatsApp. Sibusiso Parinengatua of Tarbert farm received a three-year lease in 2011, which was renewed for 5 years in 2014. He received an eviction letter in 2017, with the claim that he is behind on lease payments, and he must vacate the land. He left the farm in 2019 when his lease expired, and after he was told that his lease will not be renewed. To his knowledge, the farm is still vacant.

Sisonke Farmers Group, represented by Isaac Muvhali of Tweefontein farm in Dipaliseng received a lease in 2009, which was renewed for 5 years in 2012. In 2019, they saw an advertisement stating that the farm was advertised for state lease. No one had informed them of this. They were asked to pay a bribe of R250 000 if they wanted the lease renewed, to which they refused. The Democratic Alliance (DA) already has boots on the ground with the affected farmers threatened by illegal eviction orders from the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (DALRRD).

Explanations requested from Minister Thoko Didiza, one month ago, yielded no response. Enquiries sent by the Tribune ePaper to the DALRRD have been acknowledged, but no response had been received from the Department.