“I am looking forward to the next 30 years. This makes me whole (again). Four weeks ago, I was shattered. I was broken into pieces and now I am jumping with joy.”
These are the words of a 56-year-old Western Cape farmer who can breathe a sigh of relief following the news that he could now legally occupy the Colenso farm in Darling in the Western Cape.
This after the land reform beneficiary was in February given seven days’ notice to vacate the state-owned farm. He was to be replaced by a youth-led farmers’ group backed by a MK veteran.
In a confidential report seen by Food For Mzansi, the department of agriculture, land reform and rural development finally admitted to its own faults, acknowledging the unfair treatment of Cloete, a pig farmer.
‘It is so overwhelming’
Cloete’s 30-year lease agreement on the Gelukwaarts farm in Piketberg will also now be transferred to Colenso.
An emotional Cloete spoke to Food For Mzansi last night after he received the good news. “I am reading this report over and over and over. I cannot comprehend because it is so overwhelming.”
AFASA’s acting Western Cape chairperson Elton Jepthas welcomed the report issued by Thoko Didiza, the minister of agriculture, land reform and rural development.
“He has been from post to pillar for the last eight to nine years of his life, Jepthas told Food For Mzansi.
“I am very happy for him that he can now be focused and confident that this is the farm where he is going to stay; where he is set to farm alone.”
‘We want to work the land’
Meanwhile Tlhapi Zizi, the group who was going to replace Cloete, said it would comment at a later stage following the dramatic development.
The youth-owned entity had been bundled up in a political dilemma after DA shadow minister Annette Steyn claimed they had political ties.
Pholoso Malatji, chief operations officer of Tlhapi Zizi, rejected these allegations in an earlier interview with Food For Mzansi.
“This is very disturbing to us; to be faced with meddling from politicians and government. That is not our interest at all. We want access to the farm so that we can start working the land,” the 34-year-old said.
In the Cloete report, government admitted that “it is clear that ever since 2012, Mr Cloete was not treated fairly.”
The report goes on to say, “From the investigation, it is clear that the Colenso farm was to be allocated to Mr Cloete, but senior officials of the department decided to allocate it to yet another person.”
Steyn said this confirms what the DA has always argued; that the department of agriculture, land reform and rural development “has been hijacked by corrupt officials who took it upon themselves to parcel out land to their preferred recipients while trampling on the rights of defenceless citizens who have no friends in high places.”
Victory on eve of Human Right’s Day
This morning, Dr Ivan Meyer, the Western Cape minister of agriculture, described Cloete’s victory to Food For Mzansi as “a turning point for land governance in South Africa.”
“The story of Ivan Cloete is a sad story of an injustice and corruption in land reform in South Africa,” he said.
“But now we have victory and justice. He can now celebrate Human Right’s Day on his farm as we have prevented the national government from allocating his farm to an ANC-linked MK veteran.
“This is a victory for all farmers in South Africa. It is a turning point in land governance. Cloete can now sit on his stoep and sing the hashtag #Fortheloveoftheland.”