The Zebediela Citrus Estate in Limpopo is set to receive a R500-million boost as part of the government’s post-COVID-19 economic recovery plan.

The once-flourishing farming project stopped exporting a few years ago after its ownership was transferred to a Communal Property Association.

The investments from private funders have been sourced by the Infrastructure and Investment Office in the Presidency.

Zebediela Citrus Farm, which includes over 3 000 hectares, was once one of the largest citrus exporters in the southern hemisphere. It was returned to 21 communities through the land restitution programme.

The Batladi Communal Property Association manages the farm on behalf of the communities.

Over the years, the farm that was previously one of the largest citrus plantations has been deteriorating, with ageing infrastructure and a decline in production.

Workers have welcomed the government’s visit with some calling for constant, regular monitoring.

Mabitsela Abel Jele who is Compliance Officer on the farm, says “I am doing compliance which means that I am actually taking care of things making sure that everything that goes out, like exports, lemons, oranges, macadamia are in good condition. We would like the government to be more involved in actually not funding the projects but also in monitoring the projects, making sure that it is in good running order. You can actually give a person money but if you don’t give him any workshop about how to use that money, how to administrate that money then you’re actually losing that money.”

Chairperson of the Batladi CPA, Lesetja Tlolane, says previous years of failures have made them aware of the need to involve young people in the running of the farm.

‘We are very much serious about involving ourselves and the youth in this project so that they can manage to take over and manage some of the projects that are in here. The former partners were not reliable to us, hiding some information from us. We didn’t know where to go, the youth also was not participating in this project. So now because we persuaded them that they must come in and participate then I think there will never be a downfall again.”

Masopha Moshoeshoe from the office of the President says they are committed to restoring the farm to its former glory.

“What we are looking to do in terms of this project is to work with the community to assess the ability for the private sector to invest in this project. It has a need for additional infrastructure and we need to find the best mechanism for those funds to be utilized in this project and for those funds to be returned to investors, it is not a grant or a guarantee of funding, it’s a mechanism where we can work with the community to attract private sector investment into the farm on a long term basis.”

The team from the Presidency also visited the Makhodo-Musina Special Economic Zone.