POLITICAL NEWS - Bribery and intimidation claims in the allocation of state-owned farms have been brought to the attention of the department of agriculture, land reform and rural development, but Minister Thoko Didiza has said that no case had been formally reported.
The minister said there have been allegations that government officials have written letters of evictions to individuals and communities on state land and demanded bribes to access land. She said her department had not received anything formally.
“We did indicate that if somebody has information to this effect … where such allegations can be brought to us in terms of who the official is and which office and province they are in, we will be able to deal with those.
“The president [Cyril Ramaphosa] has been emphatic about issues of corruption,” Didiza said yesterday.
The Citizen has reported how the release of 896 state-owned farms comprising 700,000 hectares as part of the land reform programme had been rocked by allegations of bribery, harassment and intimidation, with farmers claiming officials demanded a R250,000 bribe for them to keep farming and receiving state aid.
The minister said this conduct was unacceptable and criminal, advising communities to bring these issues to the office of the acting director-general for attention and to the nearest police station.
The Democratic Alliance and Freedom Front Plus in Mpumalanga have also lamented that established farmers running successful operations on state land have received notices that their farms were available. The organisations cited the case of John Mabaso, a Mpumalanga farmer who has been served with an eviction notice for the Goedhoop farm, between Ermelo and Piet Retief – a successful enterprise in his family’s possession for generations.
However, Didiza emphasised that the main purpose of this process was not to destabilise farmers who have been farming and producing in the past, but to put in place a state land administration and management system that ensures security of land tenure and stability and provides an opportunity for sustainable food security and economic growth.
She said this process would also enable government to develop and implement targeted and sustainable support to small, emerging and commercial farmers. The release of properties, including those that have communities, was also to ensure that there was transparency and enable government to address legal issues necessary to confirm the rights from a process that was left hanging post-1994.
Since the application process was opened over a month ago, the department has received 5 838 online applications from cooperatives, companies or individuals.
She said Ramaphosa has affirmed government’s commitment to accelerate the land redistribution programme, not only to redress a grave historical injustice, but also to bring more producers into the sector and to make more land available for cultivation.