Darling scandal: Eviction notice against Cloete null and void 

The decision to evict Mr Ivan Cloete from the Colenso farm in Darling has potentially become null and void after the Deputy Minister of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (DALRRD), Mcebisi Skwatsha, conceded in a radio interview on SAFM that the Department may have flouted lease agreements it had with Mr Cloete.

Skwatsha did not deny that DALRRD had a 30-year lease agreement with Mr Cloete on the Colenso farm. What he failed to justify is why did the Department proceed to invite fresh new applications on a farm in which it already had an active lease agreement in place. By violating the terms of the lease agreement it had with Mr Cloete, the process that the Department pursued to allocate the farm to new occupants became procedurally and administratively flawed, rendering it unenforceable.

Skwatsha even went further to admit that the movement of Mr Cloete from farm to farm by the Department was not his fault but the administrative shortcomings of the DALLRD. What is clear is that the Department has lost control of the land reform process to unaccountable officials who are now going around issuing eviction notices without due regard for the rule of law and the rights of the affected farmers.

When Mr Cloete was moved from the Gelukwaarts farm in Porteville, a meeting between Departmental officials and Skwatsha, held at the Deputy Minister’s offices, resolved that the allocation of the Colenso farm to Mr Cloete be based on “settling of a dispute”. The resolution further added that the allocation was to be made without the need for a selection process as per the allocation process. The Department’s sudden U-turn and attempt to opt-out of a dispute settlement with Mr Cloete, with regards to the Colenso farm, borders on illegality and makes a mockery to equitable land reform.

The only way forward that the DA expects to hear coming from the Minister’s office is the restoration of Mr Cloete’s full lease agreement rights to Colenso farm, retraction and nullification of the flawed process that led to an agreement with the ANC’s Mziwamadoda Uppington Kalako. In addition, we call on the Minister to investigate and stop all pending evictions against farmers across the country.