Farmers upset as grazing land now RDP site

FARMING LAND: From left, Mlungisi Farmers’ Association chairman Zola Magoqoza, with the association’s additional member, Bonisile Mfundisi, at The Rep office recently Picture: ABONGILE SOLUNDWANA

Mlungisi Farmers’ Association members are struggling to find an answer after Enoch Mgijima Local Municipality (EMLM) allocated their Rathwick grazing land to an RDP housing project development.

According to the association’s chairman, Zola Magoqoza, EMLM gave the land for the project to start without the farmers’ knowledge.

Magoqoza said the farmers had a lease agreement with the municipality for the land.

The chairman said: ”We saw work being done on the site and made attempts to meet with the mayor [Luleka Gubula],but she has not been honouring our appointments. We are always told that our meeting has been cancelled.”

The Rep had recently reported, (”Another housing setback”, June 18) that the housing project was being subjectd to delays due to ‘irregularities.’

Magoqoza said this was not the first time the municipality had used the land they were given for other purposes without informing them.”It is not that we are against the housing project, but they should tell us where they are going to place us.”

Mlungisi farmers have been struggling to obtain more land from the municipality to deal with the issue of overgrazing their animals at Rathwick.

This saw them march to the municipality with their many cows to demonstrate in front of the town hall a few years ago.

Magoqoza added: ”The only thing that was formed was a committee consisting of two members of the association with local economic development portfolio head, Sakhile Mvana. That is where it ended – no meetings were convened.”

There were 56 members of the association, he said, but there were also others who were not part of  the association who were based on the same land. ”We are old and our onlylivelihood is to look after our stock. We send our wool to Port Elizabeth.”

”Our livestock is more than the land can handle. What made matters worse was that there were people burning the grass. There is barely any grass left for the cattle. ”

The association’s additional member, Bonisile Mfundisi, said Lawrence de Lange Nature Reserve and Sunnyside were places where we kept our live stock under the old government system.

What must people do for the municipality to be assisted? In other places like Cradock, Tarkastad and Sterkstroom people were given proper places to look after their livestock by the municipality. Others (farms) were vandalised or sold. The municipality has farms which were leased to a single farmer a long time ago in the Bonkolo Basin area.

EMLM spokesperson Lonwabo Kowa said all stakeholders, including farmers, were informed of the project from its initial planning stages and there were no objections.

”There have been vigorous consultations for years and this concern has never been registered. However, the affected farmers will be engaged. There is no appointment that the mayor has failed to honour and farmers are still invited to make an appointment with the mayor or the human settlements section of the municipality.”

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