South Africa: Small-Scale Farmers Demand Access to Land

"Our animals graze in yards and graveyards because there is no land for us"

About 60 small-scale livestock farmers in Kouga Municipality picketed in Jeffreys Bay on Thursday, demanding to be recognised.

The placard-holding farmers, who mainly raise and sell livestock from the backyards of their houses, sang struggle songs outside the mayor's office and council chambers.

They said the municipality should honour an agreement it signed in 2018 guaranteeing them access to common land and farming equipment.

The farmers are members of the Makukhanye Rural Movement, an organisation that represents emerging black farmers in the Eastern Cape.

The farmers came from the towns of Jeffreys Bay, Humansdorp, Thornhill, Hankey and Patensie. A group from the Sundays River Valley area came along to show solidarity.

Their seven-point memorandum demanded an end to discrimination against poor farmers. The memo claimed they did not receive drought relief funds allocated to the municipality by National Treasury.

The memo also claimed that the municipality is rolling over unspent local economic development funds to subsequent financial years even though farmers had submitted their unfilled list of needs to the municipality.

The petition demanded the closure of the Humansdorp pound which the protesters claimed only impounds the livestock of black emerging farmers.

The memo also called for white farmers to fence off their farms and for government to fence off public roads to prevent livestock belonging to small farmers straying onto larger farms. The memo said that their livestock stray because of the unavailability of common grazing land.

Peter Jonas lives in Ramaphosa Village, Patensie, and is also a representative of farmers in the Kouga Municipality.

He told Groundup: "Farmers in Patensie have many animals, such as cattle, pigs and chicken. Our animals graze in yards and graveyards because there is no land for us. We are surrounded by citrus farms.

"We are preparing to go to the Bisho Legislature to meet the premier, and then walk to meet the president in Pretoria to highlight our grievances. "

Mhlozayo Scritch of Uitenhage said he used to have many animals but is now left with ten pigs and six cattle after the rest of his stock was stolen at his house in KwaNobuhle.

"I have lost my livestock to criminals because I don't have grazing land and a safe place to keep them at night. Our cattle are impounded and sent to Humansdorp pound where we are charged R4,500 per head of cattle per week," said Scritch.

He said if farmers fail to pay the pound their livestock is auctioned.

The memo ended: "A failure to implement these demands within seven days will lead to escalation of this campaign through radical and militant actions. "

It was handed over to Councillor Brenton Williams (responsible for the finance portfolio) who was standing in for council speaker Hattingh Bornman.

Williams said Bornman was in a meeting. "I can guarantee you that as soon as he comes I will hand him the memorandum. I appreciate the way you picketed as it was peaceful with no burning of tyres or disruptive behaviour."

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