Black farmers gathered in Gauteng and the Eastern Cape today to voice their disappointment in government. The farmers say they are fed up with officials who are simply not solving black farmers’ problems.
The demonstration was supposed to take place in April but was postponed by the organisers, who cited “logistical reasons and other obstacles” at the time.
As one of the organisers of the march, farmer and deputy secretary for land and agriculture at the Azanian People’s Organisation (Azapo), Nosipiwo Manona says around 300 farmers from seven districts across the province met in Bhisho to deliver a memorandum to the MEC for rural development and agrarian reform, Nonkqubela Pieters.
Their memorandum contains a list of grievances by black farmers, which centres around land ownership, government support and procurement from black farmers, among other issues. The farmers have requested a response within seven days.
‘Reluctance to solve our problems’
“We are here today to voice our concerns and grievances against our government, which seems to be reluctant at solving black farmers’ problems, not just provincially but nationally. The services from the department of agriculture [land reform and rural development] are not reaching black farmers. We want land and title deeds. We demand tractors and access to markets,” says Manona.
Farmers also want action on their challenges with water and water rights. They are fed up with having to “climb mountains” when they need water rights.
“As black farmers, we don’t stand a chance against our white counterparts, as we don’t have land or own the land. Our counterparts own the land and they are not subject to rent and other problems, which gives them a head start,” she says.
Asked about the National Agriculture and Agro-processing Master Plan which was signed just two weeks ago, by leading agricultural organisations who also represented black farmers, Manona says that government has signed a number of agreements in the past that are now just gathering dust.
“[We] have been on this road before. We have signed many other agreements and [were] promised many things. We take note of the master plan, however, the implementation process is always a challenge. We can’t be sure if the master plan will assist us. We need to demand attention all the time.”
‘We want to be treated equally’
In Gauteng, Pinky Hlabedi from the National Plaas Farmers Association says they delivered their memorandum to the department of agriculture [and rural development] in Johannesburg, where deputy director Dorah Modise accepted it on MEC Parks Tau’s behalf.
Sharing Manona’s sentiments, Hlabendi says that they want the government to hear their voices and not to use the one-size-fits-all approach when considering farmers. As they believe they don’t operate on the same level as white farmers, they wish their voices to be heard distinctly.
“We want the government to treat us equally. We want title deeds and the government must buy us land if there’s no land for distribution.”
Hlabedi adds that this is only the first round of their national campaign. The Gauteng and Eastern Cape events will be followed by similar events in the Free State and Kwazulu-Natal on 23 June.
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