One month after I wrote to the Minister of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (DALRRD), Thoko Didiza, to urgently intervene in the case of Mpumalanga farmers, who are at various stages of being evicted from their farms, the Minister is yet to respond or take action despite making promises to reconsider all pending farm evictions across the country.
Yesterday I was in the Gert Sibande District of Mpumalanga where I met with some of the affected farmers to give them feedback on the DA’s efforts to get their cases resolved. This was a follow-up visit to the meeting that I had with them on the 29th of September 2020. The issues that they raised then, and which remain unresolved to this day, include:
- The Department has started a selective issuing of 30-year lease agreements in the District;
- Allegations started to emerge that some of the Department’s officials were demanding bribes before contracts could be signed;
- There was no platform for mediation of disputes, after some farmers received “eviction notices”. This forced them to write to the Director General and Minister, sometimes with lawyers’ letters, but no response was forthcoming; and
- Some farmers complained that officials kept records of contracts, but no records of these lease payments were kept.
The general consensus among the farmers that I met with yesterday was that the fact that these issues have remained unresolved has left them with the distinct impression that the DALRRD is dead set on evicting them from their farms at all costs.
Using the input that I obtained from the farmers, the issues that I will be taking up with the Department include seeking clarity on:
- What criteria was used to agree to lease renewals for some farmers while denying others?
- What, if any, investigations have been conducted into the allegations of bribery, especially now that the Department is trying to pin corruption on an official who has passed on?
- Why did the Department renege on the 2015 promise made by Gugile Nkwinti to farmers in the Provinces that their lease agreements will be renewed, and they won’t be required to pay anything?
Just as we stood against the unjust eviction of Ivan Cloete, we will not allow DALRRD to intimidate farmers using flimsy excuses to evict them from their land. Successful agriculture operations take years to build and the Department should not be disruptive to the efforts of emerging black farmers.
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