Gauteng farmer says Rand Water to be blamed for irrigation damage on his farm

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There’s been more drama linked to Rand Water, following recent water supply issues in Gauteng. This time, a commercial farm is allegedly on the brink of collapse and the bulk water utility is allegedly to blame.

The Madeira Gardens Farm in Midvaal, which started about 70 years ago, alleges that all agriculture activity ceased on the farm in 2019 after Rand Water damaged its irrigation systems during a pipeline restoration project on the land. The owner, Ceasar Fugareu, says he tried to seek help from Rand Water after the crisis. But instead, his cries fell on deaf ears.

“If you just knew how much I was producing to Shoprite alone, I mean I was known as the cabbage king,” says Fugareu.

Fugareu adds that his reputation and life changed for the worse.

“We’ve got nothing coming in and the little we had is also being utilised. So, I’ll be on the streets. I don’t know. We were feeding people. It’s a big company.”

The 63-year-old farmer fears that he might soon be bankrupt. He says Rand Water’s negligence has ruined the family business.

“We had a beautiful piece of land here, surviving, producing jobs for 160 people and more at a time. Since Rand Water came in to put in a pipeline, which they are entitled to through their servitude, they’ve done so much damage to us that we did not continue. They damaged the pipes that we irrigate with. They damaged the cable after being told where everything is sitting. That’s where this thing started.”

“So we could not plan and cannot plan while they are in our land. They’ve taken over everything. they do whatever they want to do without ever approaching me.”

Reduced to nothing

The 120 hectares of land used to be a profitable commercial farm, that mainly produced beetroot, cabbage, and lettuce. But it’s now reduced to nothing. With the condition of farming equipment and other infrastructure deteriorating.

“Look it affected us. We had to close down. I had to retrench 160 workers. Plus due to no income coming in, we couldn’t continue.”

Some of his workers, who are still living on the farm, say Rand Water didn’t just cripple the business, but many families.

Several claims have allegedly been submitted to Rand Water but only a fraction has been paid out.

“I’m just demanding what is due to me from Rand Water Board so that we can continue and try and get my people back to work because they are starving families without food and they are there due to this pipeline nothing else,” says Fugareu.

The project was intended to conclude early last year.

Meanwhile, Rand Water has acknowledged its part in the mess but failed to honour an interview request to which it had agreed to. Leaving everyone in the dark, especially this desperate farmer who stands to lose everything. Reporting by Phanuel Shuma and Patricia Vissagie