MEC Malakoane must assist Vrede Dairy beneficiaries – Roy Jankielsohn

DA FState LO says it is ridiculous that legitimate beneficiaries being denied access to 4 400 ha farm

DA requests FS Agriculture MEC Benny Malakoane to assist Vrede Dairy beneficiaries

10 September 2018

Following severe veld fires around the town of Vrede in the Eastern Free State, which destroyed much of the available grazing, beneficiaries of the Vrede Dairy Project approached the farm management with a request to allow them access to the farm in order for them to graze their personal herds of cattle.

The Vrede Farm management replied to the beneficiaries stating that they would need approval from a higher authority. In addition they have put prerequisites in place, such as testing for brucellosis, which is the responsibility of State veterinarians who work for the Department of Agriculture. This appears to be an attempt to frustrate the beneficiaries from gaining access to the farm. See the Vrede Management response here.

The beneficiaries then approached the DA for assistance and on Friday, last week, we wrote to Agriculture MEC, Dr Benny Malakoane, requesting him to intervene in the matter. See the letter here.

It is ridiculous that the Vrede Farm Management are denying the legitimate beneficiaries access to the 4400 hectares farm, especially in their time of need when there is a scarcity of grazing on commonages due to veld fires. According to the contract between representatives of the beneficiaries and the provincial government, they should be given access to the farm.

The list of beneficiaries have been used by the Provincial Government to justify the existence and the R250 million expenditure on this project. Currently the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development in the province continues to spend R20 million a year on the project. The project has been managed by the company E’tsho after the controversial Gupta-linked company Estina withdrew. E’tsho has been the only beneficiary after Estina withdrew by pocketing a million rand per month for professional fees.

While our subsistence and emerging farmers are struggling to survive on commonages that are over-grazed and often destroyed by fires, the Provincial Government are playing musical chairs with companies managing the so-called project.

A project should not have any reason to exist if there are no beneficiaries, and in this project the beneficiaries have been side-lined and denied access to the farm from the very beginning. The project has only been used to plunder provincial funds. About 500 cattle bought with provincial funds for the project are also unaccounted for.

The Vrede Dairy Project is a model for how the ANC government has failed to implement meaningful land reform. It is a classic example of the Motlanthe report regarding land reform failure, namely corruption, elite beneficiation and lack of support to beneficiaries. In the case of Vrede there are only beneficiaries on paper.

The DA will continue to assist the Vrede Dairy beneficiaries through whatever mechanisms at our disposal.

Issued by Roy Jankielsohn, Leader of the Official Opposition in the Free State Provincial Legislature, 10 September 2018