Another ailing land reform agri-village project exposed – Roy Jankielsohn

DA FState LO says govt continues to invest large amounts of money in failed co-operatives

DA exposes another ailing land reform agri-village project in the Free State

5 October 2019

Yesterday I carried out an oversight visit to the agri-village at Wilhelmina outside Ficksburg with the Constituency Head, DA MPL David van Vuuren and DA Thabo Mofutsanyana Councillor Berry Hlatswayo.

This visit exposed yet another empty promise of a better life for the thirteen beneficiaries and their families who are living there.

Former Free State Premier Ace Magashule hailed the Dityatalawa and Wilhelmina agri-villages as important Hlasela projects in various State of the Province Addresses.

In September my oversight visit to Diyatalawa exposed a derelict dairy, apple orchards in ruins and little other activity for the 50 beneficiaries. My oversight at Wilhelmina has exposed mixed results.

The 343 hectare Wilhelmina farm was purchased by the national Department of Rural Development and Land Reform for the workers on the farm in 2009 at a cost of R5.6 million.

Since 2009 an additional R26.61 million has been invested in the project by national government and another R16.194 million by the provincial government. This brings the total cost of the project to R48.404 million.

Between 2010 and 2018 the project generated an income of less than R2.5 million.

The government-owned farm has 35.8 hectares of peach and 8.5 hectares of cherry orchards. In addition 25 dairy cattle, an apple orchard and vegetable production were later introduced.

The farm has a fruit processing facility that is meant to facilitate the sale of dried and bottled fruit. The cherry and peach production brings in an income that is enough to ensure the beneficiaries an income for five months of the year at about R5 000.00 per month. The rest of the year they are left to live very frugally.

It is clear that at both Diyatalawa (R150 million investment) and Wilhelmina (R48.4 million investment) the large investments by government have failed to bring about a sustainable income or improve the long term outlook for a better life among beneficiaries.

Government continues to follow land reform policies that invest large amounts of money on failed co-operatives following a communist formula that is not viable under South African conditions.

Government will have to introduce land reform policies that are based on private ownership of family farms with beneficiaries who already have agricultural management experience and are well-supported with relevant skills and training.

The DA will continue to visit projects in the Free State to expose how millions of rands of taxpayers' money have been spent on creating further dependency with little hope of sustainability.

Issued by Roy Jankielsohn, DA Leader of the Official Opposition in the Free State Legislature, 5 November 2019