While 39 Mpumalanga farmers are celebrating Thoko Didiza’s decision to withdraw eviction notices issued to them, the agricultural sector is cautiously optimistic that title deed handovers will also be expedited.
Earlier today [April 12], Didiza, the minister of agriculture, land reform and rural development, confirmed that her department will look into this following a weekend meeting with concerned farmers in the Gert Sibande district municipality.
“The meeting agreed that the department must speed up the title deeds process until the FALA (financial assistance and land administration) land procedures are concluded,” said the minister via a media release.
She adds that Mandla Msibi, Mpumalanga’s MEC for agriculture, rural development, land and environmental affairs was instructed to meet with her department to look at the functionality of land trusts and community property associations to assist farmers.
Didiza intervened following mounting tensions between evicted Mpumalanga farmers and the Mpumalanga provincial government. During the meeting on Saturday, she resolved to suspend all pending evictions in the Gert Sibande district municipality. This includes, among others, the Chief Albert Luthuli, Dipaleseng, Govan Mbeki and Lekwa local municipalities.
The 39 farmers in the province took government to task over alleged corruption, contractual disputes and lease agreements that were not renewed following a 2013 moratorium.
Also, some of the Mpumalanga farmers have allegedly received letters from the Mpumalanga department of agriculture informing them that they would be evicted from their state-owned farms. This allegedly happened after the farmers in question refused to pay R250 000 to certain officials for their lease contracts to be renewed.
Didiza has since resolved, among others, that all eviction letters be withdrawn, and that a team from the property management unit of her national department be summoned to the province for two weeks.
“The MEC (Msibi) will convene a meeting with farmer organisations within three weeks on post-settlement support and agricultural development support,” said Didiza.
Photo: Supplied/Food for Mzansi