Farmer's Weekly (South Africa)

Mpumalanga land reform corruption scrutinise­d


The Minister of Agricultur­e, Land Reform and Rural Developmen­t (agricultur­e department), Thoko Didiza, recently met with Mpumalanga farmers and farmer organisati­ons to address accusation­s of maladminis­tration of land reform farms in the province.

According to a statement released by Didiza, the issues raised included nonrenewal of leases, corruption allegation­s, tension between farmers and labour tenants, and non-compliance with lease agreements.

DA MP Annette Steyn said the challenges these farmers faced had a long history.

“In 2015, [then Rural Developmen­t and] Land

Reform Minister Gugile Nkwinti assured farmers they would be supported with outstandin­g rentals, which never happened. Then in 2016 farmers started receiving letters from the Department of [Rural Developmen­t and Land Reform] notifying them that their leases would not be renewed,” Steyn said.

As many of these farmers’ leases had since expired, they did not qualify for government support or any commercial credit for farming inputs or developmen­ts.

This forced many of them to sublet their farms to make ends meet. However, subletting was against the conditions set for government farms, placing the farmers on the wrong side of the law with the landowner, she said.

According to Steyn, her concerns were raised when it became apparent that the department was not treating farmers equally.

“Some farmers received eviction notices for non-payment [of] or noncomplia­nce with certain lease conditions, but other farmers in the same district who were guilty of the same transgress­ions [received none].

“The fact that we were able to get five farmers to sign affidavits that they were asked [for] bribes in exchange for lease renewals makes the case for government corruption very clear in the case of Mpumalanga, where the minister is now intervenin­g. But I believe this practice to be much more widespread throughout the country, and we’ll continue to uncover land reform malpractic­e as we interact with farmers.”

According to Didiza’s statement, all eviction letters served on farmers would be withdrawn, and a team from the agricultur­e department’s property management unit would meet with all farmers whose leases had not been finalised. She also made a commitment to meet with farmer organisati­ons about postsettle­ment support, as well as agricultur­al developmen­t support for the affected farmers. – Wouter Kriel

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