[DEBATE] : Armed mob grabs land-reform farm
okhela at iafrica.com
Wed Apr 15 08:31:31 BST 2009
Posted to the web on: 15 April 2009
Armed mob grabs land-reform farm
Agriculture and Land Affairs Editor
DISGRUNTLED land-reform beneficiaries have invaded a farm near Malelane in
Mpumalanga, ousting its managers and assuming control of the farm workers
and the running of the farm.
The 3200ha farm, Foroma, is part of Tenbosch, a R10bn land-restitution
project, SA's biggest by value. It is one of several farms handed back to
four communities who lost their land under apartheid legislation since 1923.
Agribusiness Umlimi, which controls the joint-venture farm management
company Makhombo for the Lugedlane community, has confirmed the land
invasion, saying a group of people armed with knives and machetes arrived on
Foroma last Thursday, threatened managers and seized control of the farm.
Umlimi said yesterday that the action had compromised farming operations,
and was jeopardising the ultimate flow of benefits to the community.
Umlimi director Derek Pettit said the invasion was the consequence of
unreasonable profit expectations created by trustees, apparently to entrench
their positions, despite warnings from Umlimi that it would take two to
three years before a return could be expected from what had been badly
In Tenbosch, farming had slowed down on some of the farms.
Others had been abandoned by its previous white owners after the Land Claims
Commission published the claim. By the time Tenbosch was handed over to the
community many farms were no longer in production.
The invasion of Foroma farm comes among other indications that the Tenbosch
project, the government's showcase land restitution project, is beginning to
Attorney Richard Spoor, who acted for a group of concerned members of the
Tenbosch beneficiary community, said yesterday the Tenbosch project was a
shambles in which certain trustees had abused the trust of the community.
Spoor said they had entrenched themselves as trustees by selling membership
to the community and then setting up what amounted to pyramid schemes, which
paid out unsustainable dividends to cronies.
Although there has been no profit so far, Makhombo pays the community about
R180000 a month in rental.
Through Makhombo, Umlimi has disbursed about R3,5m to Mjejane Trust on
behalf of the Lugedlane community in the past three years, but none of the
income was passed on to the community, the group of concerned community
Pettit confirmed this, saying the Lugedlane community had preferential
access to jobs on the farms through labour brokers in the community.
Sugar company TSB has a similar arrangement with the beneficiary community,
though its disbursement does reach the community, according to Spoor. He
said he was bringing an application to the court on behalf of the concerned
group to re-establish accountability, transparency and democratic election
The concerned group was also trying to establish what had happened to the
Pulane Molefe, a spokeswoman for the Land Claims Commission, could not
provide details of the matter yesterday, though she acknowledged that "there
appears to be a dispute among some of the beneficiaries".
Former Mpumalanga land claims commissioner Durkje Gilfillan, who was in
charge of the investigation of the claim and the verification process before
2000, said she was not surprised at the land invasion.
"The commission has made a mess of the claim since the hand-over to the
extent that the former white land owners are now in a position to challenge
its validity in court," she said.
"That would not have happened if the commission had not disregarded all of
the investigation," she said.
"The claim is valid and the claimants have been verified, but those have
been completely ignored by the commissioner," Gilfillan said.
blomn at bdfm.co.za
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