Since the Democratic Alliance (DA) took a stand against the unlawful eviction of Mr Ivan Cloete from the Colenso farm in Darling, a number of farmers across the country have made contact with the DA requesting assistance from pending evictions by the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform, and Rural Development (DALRRD). The DA has since advised each of the affected farmers not to vacate their farms and to continue with their farming operations as usual.
Minister of the DALRRD, Thoko Didiza, needs to level with affected farmers and explain to them why:
- She has failed to issue a moratorium on farm evictions pending the conclusion of investigations into why the evictions were issued in the first place;
- Evictions have been issued against productive farmers if no alternative resettlement is available; and
- New applicants for land are being allocated occupied farms instead of unoccupied state land as promised in her 700 000 hectare programme?
Recently, I have been attending to the issue of Mr Vuyani Zigana who was evicted off of the Nooitgedacht farm in Kokstad. Minister Didiza was informed of Mr Zigana’s case in June 2020, after which she ordered the DALRRD to launch an investigation into the eviction.
Despite the outcome of a DALRRD-sponsored report implicating departmental officials in the unfair treatment of Mr Zigana in the allocation of the Nooitgedacht farm, the harassment of the farmer has continued. The report’s recommendations continue to be blatantly ignored and the priority, it seems, is to drive Mr Zigana off his land at all costs.
Instead of harassing Mr Zigana, the department should instead be implementing the recommendations of the investigation it sponsored by taking disciplinary action against DALRRD officials who were implicated in inappropriate action in the allocation of the Nooitgedacht farm. Mr Zigana cannot be victimised for the department’s own incompetence and failure to adhere to its own administrative processes.
The unfair targeting of farmers through dubious eviction orders is so widespread that on the 4th of March, during an oversight visit to Kokstad, I came across six farmers who are at various stages of potentially being evicted from their farms. Notwithstanding the legality of these eviction orders, what is curious is that no effort is being made to provide any alternative locations for the would-be evicted farmers. For a department whose brief is to ensure the growth of the agricultural sector and the sustainability of jobs related thereto, the zeal by which it is prepared to destroy productive farming enterprises is shocking.
In Mpumalanga, despite making representations to the Minister on their behalf, a group of successful emerging Black farmers are still facing eviction orders from officials in the DALRRD’s Mpumalanga offices. The DA has been working alongside these farmers and we have evidence of the relentless tug-of-war they have been subjected to by corrupt officials.
Minister Didiza cannot continue burying her head in the sand while rogue officials in her department wreak havoc across the country through nefarious eviction orders. It is high time she put an end to this chaos and protect farmers from a marauding gang of officials overstepping their powers. The DA calls for an immediate moratorium to be placed on all farm evictions.