South Africa: Premier Sihle Zikalala - Farm Visits in Ophongolo, Vryheid and Newcastle

press release

Opening remarks by KwaZulu-Natal Premier Sihle Zikalala during farm visits in Ophongolo, Vryheid and Newcastle on the weekend of 10 April 2021

Humble Greetings to you all.

We meet on a historic day which reminds us as a nation of the difficult and painful journey we have travelled together in three decades.

It's a day that reminds us that we must cherish our hard won freedom and defend it because it was achieved through the shedding of blood of our people. It was on this day in 1993 that a giant of our liberation, the revolutionary Chris Hani, was assassinated by right wing extremists who were bent on plunging our beautiful country into anarchy, death, and ruin.

It took the extraordinary leadership of the ANC President, Tata Nelson Mandela, to calm our nation and to remind our nation that this was not a time for revenge, bloodshed, and destruction.

May I humble ask all of us to rise and observe a moment of silence to remember our leader Chris Hani. Let us also remember the many people that we know, black and white, who have lost their lives through violent in all the farming communities in KwaZulu-Natal.

Ladies and Gentlemen, in a few days, on 27 April, our country will mark 27 years of freedom. As we approach Freedom Day, let us all ask ourselves what is it that we can do better to ensure that the farming community, in particular the vulnerable people farm workers, can also point to the benefits of freedom.

On our part, we are happy that the Premier's report back roadshow on the plight of farm workers and farm dwellers has finally continued after being postponed due to circumstances beyond our control.

Initially this Premier's engagement with farming communities was supposed to take place early in March - Human Rights Month - in order to highlight and affirm that the residents of farming communities have rights enshrined in the Constitution, just like any other citizen of the country.

Unfortunately, the unexpected passing away of His Majesty, King Zwelithini kaBhekuzulu, forced the Provincial Government of KwaZulu-Natal to postpone any official programs as a sign of respect, mourning and paying tribute to the departed King. In this regard, we can never pay enough tribute to ISilo for his deep concern for the farming community and passion for agriculture.

We are, however, still pleased that the Premier's roadshow has finally taken place during Freedom Month to indicate once more that farm tenants, farm dwellers and farm workers must not be excluded from enjoying the fruits of democracy and development.

Kubalulekile ukuthi sikugcizelele ukuthi le Nkululeko esineminyaka ecishe ifike kwengu-27 sayithola, akubanga lula neze ukuthi itholakale. Abantu abaningi banikela ngempilo yabo ukuze siyithole le Nkululeko. Kulabo bantu singabala uSolomon Mahlangu, ebesikhumbula iminyaka engu-42 alengiswa nguhulumeni wobandlululo mhlaka 6 ku-April 1979. Isikhumbuza omama u Victoria Mxenge no Winnie Mandela. Njengoba sichazile, iphinde isikhumbuze iqhawe lenkululelo u Chris Hani owasihiya ngalo usuku lwanamuhla eminyakeni engi 28 ngo 1993.

Many more people, including people at the farms and rural communities, lost their lives for the attainment of this freedom.

It therefore pains our hearts to learn that many people who live and work in farms still do not enjoy their human rights and the fruits of freedom, almost 27 years later into our democracy. As government, we are here today to remind you that we know of the plight of the people living and working in farms and we are doing our best to highlight and solve these problems.

It is important that we play our part as government and stakeholders in finding solutions to the persistent problems and concerns facing farming communities because these communities ensure food security, which goes a long way in eliminating poverty, unemployment and inequality prevalent in the country as a whole.

Our intervention should be seen as government's way of showing care and consideration for the plight of farming communities. It is important that as government we ensure social cohesion and stability among farming stakeholders to avoid devastating and sometimes deadly confrontations among these communities.

If farming tensions are not addressed and solved timeously, this would spell disaster for our province and the country.

It is important that as government we interact with all farming stakeholders to iron out differences which make it difficult for peace, social cohesion, and nation building to prevail in these communities. We urge you to work with us in finding lasting solutions which will ensure peace and stability in these agricultural communities.

The challenges besetting farms are no longer just problems of white protagonists versus black antagonists. We are learning also that these challenges also within black farming communities where farmer owners themselves are black people. The problems also concern fights and disagreements in community trust that have benefitted from government's programme of land reform and land restitution. Such challenges give land reform a bad name as we see productive land left fallow and even going to waste.

As government, we are aware of allegations of corruption and embezzlement of funds facing members of the Nkunzana Communal Trust and we welcome the forensic investigation which is underway.

We are here to address allegations of attacks against some community members who are in the forefront of challenging the Nkunzana Communal Trust and counter-allegations against some community members who collude with white farmers (who sold farms to the Black communities through CPAs/Trust) to cause instability in the communities.

The grievances are too many to mention, but be rest assured that we are aware of them and we are here to ensure that lasting and amicable solutions are found. We promise not to rest on our laurels until these pressing matters are resolved for the benefit of all involved.

Before I delivered the State of the Province Address, I visited farming communities in eDumbe and Vryheid and I was disturbed to learn of tensions prevalent in these communities. In eDumbe, the Mthembu family lived in fear for the future as the local farmer had cut water and electricity supply to the farming dwellers.

Farm dwellers are said to have not been offered employment in the local farm unless they signed a letter in which they agreed to leave the farm and relocate to a place many kilometres away from where they are presently staying.

The farm dwellers also do not have access to public transport as the farm owner has allegedly blocked public transport vehicles from entering his property.

We also learnt that children do not have access to Early Childhood Development as the creche they attend has been enclosed in the farmer's property which is surrounded by live electric wire which poses a hazard to the children. This cannot be right as it infringes on the children's right to education.

It was also very disturbing to learn that local police and local security companies were reported to have sided with the farmer in his alleged abuse of farm dwellers. As a result, cases reported with local police were not attended to with haste as the community wishes.

We are presently in engagement with local police and we have urged them to treat all cases without fear, favour or prejudice. We have also directed police to get to the bottom of these disturbing allegations about the conduct of some in our police who bring a bad name to the men and women in blue.

We also visited Mr Fana Mnguni's household in Gluckstad whose newly-built house was allegedly demolished by a local farmer who was accompanied by police and private security companies even though the farmer did not have a court order to demolish the house.

Presently the Mnguni family lives in a makeshift tent, which compromises privacy and security of the family.

It is such prevailing conditions that have necessitated our visits and engagements with farming communities. It is difficult to sleep peacefully when you know that someone somewhere lives in a temporary structure which lacks basic amenities and exposes the family to weather elements.

We are pleased to report back that the farmer who owns land on which Mnguni's house was demolished has after persuasion agreed to allocate the Mnguni family to a better site for him to build the house.

Our provincial government, through Operation Sukuma Sakhe Human Settlement Project, is currently putting up a strong and safer temporary structure for Mr Mnguni and his family.

Furthermore, the farmer shall sign the free transfer of plot agreement with Mr Mnguni and the Department of Agriculture, Land Restitution and Rural Development.

We are here today to plead with you to trust us as your servants that we will ensure that these problems come to amiable solutions.

We are glad that as farming communities, you decided to report these matters before the situation turned uglier.

We are all aware that the tensions turned ugly, violent and eventually deadly in Normandien where a farmer lost his life following these tensions.

As government we urge you to allow us time to solve these problems to ensure the freedom many people died for is also enjoyed by the people who live, work and own farms.

We must work together to build trust between farm-owners and farm workers or labour tenants. Let us respect the laws of this country and where they are broken, the law must take its cause without fear or favour. We also need to start drawing lessons in the province and outside KwaZulu-Natal where harmonious relations exist at the farms.

Agriculture is a critical sector for the KwaZulu-Natal economy. We want to see a thriving sector that contributes to economic growth and job creation. As we advance land reform and land restitution, we want to see more black people playing a meaningful role in agricultural production and the entire value chain. As we do this, we do not want to jeopardise food security.

Our history shows from the beginning, black farm workers have always worked side by side with white farmers. Both have always depended on each other, not just for labour needs, but also for skills transfer. History reminds us that black people were very experienced farmers who understood the African environment better. Over many years with land dispossession and with the mechanisation of agriculture, a number of black people lost interest in farming and lost valuable farming skills.

To create a thriving sector, our provincial government is supporting small scale black farmers and the skilling, especially of youth, to make farming again attractive.

We want to see black and white farmers succeeding together because at the end of the day, they are all South Africans. Our wish is that they must also begin to work together as patriots and recognise that if we put greed aside, there is enough land in our country that can be equitably shared by all those who work it.

We are calling for leadership from everyone. We have only one country to build, not destroy. Let us be each brother's and sister's keeper. And let us remember the words of our icon, founding President Nelson Mandela who said it is in our hands to build this country together. In laying the foundation for our freedom and democracy, he showed in action what he meant when he said: "If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy. Then he becomes your partner."

Let us solve problems in a peaceful way and stop any war talk against one another. We unambiguously condemn the killing of farmers. We unambiguously condemn farm evictions and other abuses at the farms.

Let us work together to ensure peace, stability, security and prosperity in farming communities. Most importantly let us work hand in hand to ensure that social cohesion is a reality and not a pipedream.

Together we can work together to grow KwaZulu-Natal into a prosperous and peaceful province.

I thank you.

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