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The Portfolio Committee on Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (ALRRD) and the Portfolio Committee on Employment and Labour yesterday concluded their three-day oversight visit to the North West Province.
The committee started at Herbenia Farm, which was purchased by the CF Cronje family seven months ago. The farm has seven permanent employees, who are all South African and who live on the farm during the week. The committees found the farm to be noncompliant in certain aspects. However, the Chairperson of the ALRRD committee and leader of the delegation, Inkosi Zwelivelile Mandela, remarked: “We have looked at the activity on the farm and found it to be a productive farm that is contributing to the economy and ensuring food security. The workers say that this is a family environment and such is the nature of every family that there will always be some differences. However, they will find each other. We are confident that the farm will rectify the areas of noncompliance.”
Thereafter, the committees visited a portion of Herbenia Farm to assess living conditions of farm dwellers on land awarded to them by the Commission on Restitution of Land Rights to Barolong boo Rapulana, organised as a Communal Property Association (CPA).
The commission only found out at a later stage that there were 13 farm-dweller households whose tenure rights were protected in terms of the Extension of Security of Tenure Act (ESTA). The traditional leaders and the CPA acknowledged the rights of the farm dwellers and negotiated transfer of the land to them on condition that the commission compensates them for the loss of the land.
Inkosi Mandela said: “We admire the royal family and the traditional leaders because they have realised the plight of these families and have decided to hand over the land to the CPA.” Given the difficulty to find alternative land, the royal family has requested financial compensation to the value of the land as follows: 80 per cent of the value must fund mechanisation of the farm and 20 per cent allocated as operating capital for the farm.
The committee also heard from one member of the community who told the committee that his father worked on the farm and that he was born on the farm in 1969. In 1989, he started working on the farm. However, he was evicted by the previous owner. When the 13 families were brought here, he did not know about it. He also wanted to know how he could be compensated, as he has a right to the land as well. The committee directed the Department of ALRRD to address this issue and to commit in writing and agree to the proposal by the Chief and the CPA. After having done so, the department can then embark on a business plan to bring commodities to improve the livelihoods of the families living on this farm.
The committee also thanked the Chairperson of the Provincial House of Traditional Leaders and applauded their commitment to advance the lives of the communities they represent. In a symbolic gesture recognising the importance and presence of Makgosi, Inkosi Mandela handed a sheep over to her.
Thereafter at the public meeting, the committee heard the grievances of the community, which ranged from unprocessed land claims that were submitted after the cut-off date for land claims (post-1998) where there is a court order that halts the process of finalising claims after the cut-off date. The cut-off date for labour tenant claims ended on 31 March 2001. However, the community could still engage with the department, which was present, to get feedback on the status of their claims.
The committee also heard about farm workers’, farm dwellers’ labour tenants’ living conditions, who complained of farmers not providing transport for their children to go to school. They also told the committee that their houses are dilapidated and lack water, sanitation and electricity.
Some of the youth complained of the high rate of unemployment in the area and that the farmers were paying far less than the minimum wage. Their poverty forces them to take what they can get. They also told the committee that foreign nationals are taking their jobs and that they need training on farming skills.
Issued by The leader of the delegation of the Joint Oversight to the North West Province, Inkosi Zwelivelile Mandela