The newly-appointed board of an old age home is threatening to evict an award-winning vegetable farmer who has been supplying its kitchen with fresh produce for years.
Nomonde Kweza, who was named the best subsistence farmer in the Western Cape in 2014, claims to be victimised and harassed by the Ikhaya Luxolo old-age home. Mama Nomondo, as she is affectionately known, is the driving force behind no less than eight vegetable gardens in various township communities.
Now differences between her and Ikhaya Luxolo board members have hampered her urban farming initiatives.
Speaking to Food For Mzansi, Kweza said trouble started brewing last year when Ikhaya Luxolo was in the process of changing service providers. During this process, Kweza allege that the local Gugulethu Development Forum (GDF) saw an opportunity to position itself as board members.
When Kweza, who also acted as a caretaker of the property, questioned the legitimacy of the board, she was told that her contract would be terminated as the caretaker. Now, she faces eviction.
“For the past three months I have been harassed,” Kweza tells Food For Mzansi. “As a result, the garden hasn’t been productive. I feel suffocated. It’s like I can’t breathe because the people are suffocating me.”
The evicted farmer claims board members have even blocked deliveries of agricultural supplies to the garden. When she is not present, delivery trucks are told to turn around.
“They are telling the securities not to open the gate for anyone coming to the garden. The workers I employ are also not allowed to enter the premises if I’m not there.”
‘Conversations with a gangster’
Ikhaya Luxolo board chairperson Frank Fredericks told IOL that Kweza had violated conditions of running the garden project on the premises.
He says Kweza was supposed to donate 50% of the produce to the home. However, since inception, she has allegedly not done so.
“She is running the business for her own account on our premises while not paying for water or electricity. She is persona non grata on the premises and was notified through the lawyers that the garden arrangement was cancelled. The board reviewed the garden project and she knew that this was coming,” Fredericks told IOL.
according to Kweza, HOWEVER, this is not accurate. she CLAIMS TO HAVE been supporting the old-AGE home.
“How can Frank say that? Where was he when I was driving around collecting surplus food from commercial farmers, which I would give to the old age? Where was he?” Kweza asks.
The 52-year-old evicted farmer says in 2019 production slowed down due to personal challenges she encountered. That year, her husband died and her son became gravely ill, being rushed in and out of hospital.
The arrival of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020 did not make things easier.
Kweza describes the situation as “very disheartening”. “When Frank talks to me it’s like I’m in conversation with a gangster. He’s literally intimidating me,” she says.
Apart from the old-age home, the garden also supports soup kitchens, early childhood development centres and elderly people in the community.