January 2018 Consultation with Farmers
The Deputy Minister of Public Enterprises Mr.Ben Dikobe Martins, MEC of Agriculture and Rural Development Mr. Themba Mthembu, Amajuba District Mayor Dr. Musa Ngubane and Emadlangeni Local Municipality Mayor Ms Lindile Mhlungu held a closed consultation meeting with farmers in Utrecht Museum on Monday, 22 January 2018.
This consultation meeting comes after Department of Public Enterprises and Emadlangeni Local Municipality hosted an Imbizo which was held at Groenvlei on 3 November 2017. In this Imbizo, the community raised a number of issues that affect them as farm dwellers and farm workers in the areas. The national, provincial, local leadership that was present on the day committed to further processing of these issues which included a possible engagement with farmers associations with an aim to arrive to a resolution to these concerns.
These concerns range from ill-treatment of farm dwellers and farm workers by farm owners, slow progress of land claims / land restitution, forceful evictions of farm dwellers, reduction of land where people are staying by starting a game reserve, unregistered farm workers, poor wages, detaining cattle belonging to farms dwellers if found drinking water on dams, refusal to allow farm dwellers access to electricity.
The Deputy Minister of Public Enterprises Mr.Ben Dikobe Martins spoke to the four farm owners which were invited to attend this meeting about the importance of unifying and working together in making Utrecht move forward. He further stated that Utrecht is one of the gifted towns in South Africa which has large agricultural land; this is a factor that can grow the economy of the town exponentially if it is utilized optimally. He also emphasized to farm associations the importance of ensuring that the rights of farm dwellers to have access to basic services are protected and ensured at all times.
Emadlangeni Local Municipality Deputy Mayor Ntsiki Ndlovu added that farmers and farm dwellers need each other and encouraged them to have a spirit of co-operative governance as all spheres of government are needed in overcoming these challenges that are faced; the municipality and relevant stakeholders must make it its priority that we live in a safe and harmonious environment.
Deputy Mayor Ndlovu further stated that the three spheres of government must work together in ensuring that our communities are capable of carrying the responsibility of stimulating economic activities through capital expenditure and providing an enabling environment that unlocks growth drive, job creation and development of skills.
The chairperson of the Groenvlei farm association Mort Mortensan expressed his shock to learn that some of the farmers in Utrecht are still ill-treating people because in his farm, he treats and ensures that the farm dwellers are treated with respect and dignity and all basic services are provided.
Another meeting is set to take place in July 2018 where both farm dwellers and farm owners will be invited to further discuss the challenges being faced by both parties and seek resolutions thereof