The grandson of former president Nelson Mandela has congratulated a Western Cape farmer, Ivan Cloete, for sticking to his guns. This follows after government officials gave him just seven days to vacate a state-owned farm.
Zwelivelile Mandela, the chairperson of the portfolio committee on agriculture, land reform and rural development
Cloete refused to leave the Colenso farm in Darling and raised alarm after government assigned it to a youth-led group backed by a MK veteran.
Following an internal review, minister Thoko Didiza found that “it is clear that ever since 2012, Mr Cloete was not treated fairly.”
The report says, “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.”
‘Resilience amid political shenanigans’
“Cloete remained resilient in the face of shenanigans by allegedly corrupt officials… How many people would have just given up or simply don’t have the energy, resources or technical expertise at their disposal to sustain such a fight,” says Mandela.
He told Parliament that it was refreshing to note that Cloete would finally know peace in his almost ten-year fight with government.
“It is mindboggling how the system fails our people and officials imagine they could get away with such behaviour.”
Cloete (56) has now been given a 30-year lease for Colenso – an unexpected victory that brought him immense joy. He told Food For Mzansi, “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.”
Meyer heads to Public Service Commission
However, the Western Cape minister of agriculture, Dr Ivan Meyer, is holding firm in his call for an investigation into “irregularities and improper conduct” in the battle of wills between Cloete and the national department of agriculture, land reform and rural development.
Meyer told Food For Mzansi that he had lost faith in Didiza’s department. He now intends to submit an official letter to the Public Service Commission (PSC) to further investigate issues of misconduct by the department.
“I do not have faith in Didiza’s department to conduct any investigation of misconduct because corrupt people cannot investigate corrupt people,” Meyer says.
He describes the PSC as “the correct body that must investigate those officials implicit in the cruel treatment of Cloete.”
’System failure is mindboggling’
Didiza played open cards about issues of land governance, land administration, accountability, slow disciplinary processes and consequence management that hampered her department’s ability to deal with land administrative issues.
Addressing the portfolio committee on agriculture, land reform and rural development the minister says, “What we have are officials who may not be able to undertake this task. These issues are reflected in Zigana, Cloete and Rakgase.”
The trio of farmers, Vuyani Zigana, Ivan Cloete and David Rakgase, are all black farmers who have faced threats of eviction from state-owned farms in recent months.
“What has been clear is the arbitrary nature in which allocations have tended to be made particularly at district and provincial levels,” Didiza explains.
Release list of state-owned farms
In a media statement, Meyer adds that the Cloete case portrays the national department of agriculture, land reform and rural development as “cruel and lacking empathy” in dealing with real issues that affected lives and livelihoods.
“The national government must assure South Africans that land reform is not used to benefit politicians and their friends at the expense of hard-working and deserving land reform applicants.”
The provincial department calls on Didiza to provide a complete list of state-owned farms in the Western Cape. The list must include the names of beneficiaries allocated to these farms through government’s land reform programme.
What about Thlapi Zizi?
Furthermore, Food For Mzansi can confirm that Thlapi Zizi, the youth-led farmers’ group that was set to occupy Colenso, would be given access to another state-owned farm. They will not be subjected to another beneficiary selection process to end the cycle of “unmet expectations.”
Thlapi Zizi have declined to comment on the latest developments. In an earlier interview with Food For Mzansi, the group said it was caught up in a political circus between the DA and government.
Chief operations officer Pholoso Malatji vehemently denied allegations of political affiliation brought forward by DA shadow minister for agriculture Annette Steyn.
The Cloete report confirms that disciplinary action will be taken against all senior management and officials who participated in allocation irregularities and mismanagement of the Colenso farm.