Government farms bought at a cost of R30-million for emerging black farmers in the Eastern Cape are lying in a state of forlorn abandonment.
Saturday Dispatch investigated four of the farms in Komga and Igoda and found they had gone from being working farms on purchase to being unproductive and derelict.
The farms were bought by the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform (DRDLR) to create jobs and eradicate poverty.
But those seen by Saturday Dispatch are mostly derelict.
Many of these farms were working businesses, producing dairy products, crops (mostly maize) and beef for the market and for breeding.
The Saturday Dispatch team visited four of the farms worth R29.1-million in the Buffalo City Metro area. Three are dairy farms, while a fourth is a crop and livestock farm.
The farms visited have ploughing fields and grazing camps that are overgrown by grass and infested with black wattle.
We can reveal that:
Hopewell dairy farm, bought for R8.8-million, which had 188 dairy cattle in 2016 and produced more than 1000 litres of milk daily, is left with only 50 cattle today and produces less than 50 litres a day;
Eversly farm in Komga, bought for R5-million with more than 80 dairy cattle, is today left empty with nothing but vandalised farm implements;
Echoing Hill farm outside East London, which was bought for R7.8-million, is left empty, with broken multi-million rand dairy farm equipment lying in an unused milking shed and;
An Igoda farm, Lands End farm, bought for R7.5-million, is disputed as the department is allegedly trying to allow a person who “does not qualify” to occupy the farm, while the person who applied is being told to occupy an empty portion of the same farm.
Most of the farmers who occupy these farms blame DRDLR for not having assisted them.
One of the farmers, Cwayita Mboni, of Hopewell dairy farm, says the department failed to listen to beneficiaries.
“We were thrown in the deep end to fail. This is a successful project that is killed by the department officials whose interest is in their salaries rather than what they are employed to do,” said Mboni.
She said cattle died because she had no start-up capital to buy feed to maintain them.
“When I reported this to the department, I was told to bring death certificates of the cattle for the department to believe me.
“This is hurting as we are accused of being held responsible for the farm’s dereliction.”
Nomajama Qamza and her partner received their farm, Echoing Hill, with 50 dairy cattle, in 2007 but today there are no cattle there.
“That farm never worked from day one.
“Government officials failed to mentor me to make the farm viable.
“There was no additional funds to boost us and instead we had huge electricity bills,” she said.
Zolisa Panyaza, of Komga, stays on Eversley farm where her in-laws are buried.
“We are dwellers here and we want to use this farm as the person who was given this farm left it vandalised,” said Panyaza.
In Igoda, Vusumzi Bobani has been fighting a battle to win a farm that was bought by the department for him. The farm, Land Ends, was bought for R7.5-million from a relocating farmer.
“One official even sent a state employee to come occupy this farm, though this person does not qualify and also never applied for any farm. I suspect that this person paid money to get this farm and that is corruption,” said Bobani.
The department was given an opportunity to respond to the allegations but failed to respond.
Eastern Cape chief director of DRDLR, Zukile Pityi, yesterday said they were in a meeting to discuss the farms but at the time of going to print, no response had been received from them.
The National African Farmers Union’s Eastern Cape president, Pumza Vitshima, said the emerging farmers had complained to them.
“We understand that there was R95-million set aside to assist farmers and none of these farmers received that support and cattle died and farms closed. Those who are still operating are using cash from their own pockets. These farmers zisengela ethungeni elivuzayo [are working in vain],” said Vitshima.
Janine Ristow, of Ruliv, the agricultural non-governmental organisation in East London, said they would gladly assist and mentor the farmers.
“We depend on funds and we’ve approached government for support but we got nothing.
“We can monitor and mentor the farmers until they are able to produce,” Ristowsaid.