Minister Didiza reassures Mpumalanga farmers ‘there will not be eviction’ amid tensions

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Farmers in Mpumalanga have appealed to the Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development Department to come up with ways of reducing tensions on farms. They made the appeal during a meeting between Minister Thoko Didiza and representatives of their unions in Ermelo.

The aim of the meeting was to discuss issues related to state-owned land leased to farmers. Apparently, some farmers in Mpumalanga received letters informing them that they would be evicted from state farms.

The farmers in question claim that this happened after they refused to pay R250 000 to certain officials in order for their lease contracts to be renewed.

The farmers have urged Minister Didiza to take action against officials accused of corruption. She in turn has assured them that they will not be evicted from the farms.

“There is not going to be any eviction and in any way of actions process in terms of state land, you’ll have to involve the Minister. And in this incident, those letters were not even given out with authorisation of the Minister. So we agreed that there is not going to be any eviction of the farmers we are created in two weeks time the team from the property unit in the Department of Agriculture will come down and all those farmers who have got issues around their leases we’ll meet at the department so that those issues are resolved.”

The meeting comes at a time when tensions continue to rise between farm owners, dwellers and farm workers.

On Friday, four suspects aged between 25 and 53 were arrested for the murder of two Bampoen farm dwellers in Mkhondo. It is alleged that the deceased were part of a group of people that were shot at while trying to rescue one of the farm dwellers who was allegedly kidnapped.

Farmers’ unions say the government should play a more active role when it comes to protecting the rights of the farmer dwellers.

Motsepe Matlala is the president National African Farmers Union of South Africa.

“The Minister is of a view that there is no need for infighting and that ourselves need to seat down with government to identify the real issues so that they can be attended to.  The farm owners can not deny the basic rights of people who are staying on the farm. There must be demarcation and farm needs to be divided and there must be an area demarcated for farm dwellers. There must be access for services that need to be rendered for the people on that farm.”

Meanwhile, Community Safety, Security and Liaison MEC, Vusi Shongwe, has urged the police to ensure that the four suspects are not granted bail.

“The issue of Bampoen farm is not for the first time, you will remember that there was a time where there were allegations that the very same farm have poisoned cattle of those dwellers. Now it’s known that they have shot two people and died which as a department we condemn it.”

The four suspects are expected to appear in court on Monday.