Infighting among beneficiaries drives productive farm to verge of collapse

2010-08-17 00:00

ANOTHER productive farm handed to emerging farmers under the land restitution programme is on the verge of collapse as the claimants and board of trustees trade accusations of mismanagement and corruption.

The Qedinsila farming project in Claridge, a timber and sugar cane farm purchased by the Land Claims Commission for an estimated R13 million last year for the Emagcekeni Trust, is failing due to a lack of investment, mismanagement and fighting among the beneficiaries.

Emagcekeni Trust has 400 beneficiaries and the farm is one of nine in the area that they had put under claims.

Sources close to the farm say that although the farm is still operational, it will soon collapse because of mismanagement by the board of trustees.

The board is accused of not releasing funds for developing the farm, failing to declare how much the timber is sold for, spending money on unnecessary items such as cars, and failing to call annual meetings.

When The Witness visited the farm last week, its manager, Skhosiphi Zuma, who is also chairperson of the working committee that manages its daily operations, said they need at least R3 million in funds to ensure that the farm operates to its full capacity.

He said the farm is in danger of collapsing as no investments are being made.

“The problem is that we are selling timber and sugar cane, which we found when we took over the farm. We are cutting that down without planting anything new.”

He said the tight rein that the board of trustees keeps on the finances is one of the problems.

“When we need something on the farm we need to ask the board. There is no budget set for running the farm and under these conditions the farm is not going to last for more than two years.”

Mdu Zuma, chairperson of the co-operative on the farm, also expressed concern, saying there is a need for the trustees to be more transparent. “There are issues such as the harvesting of the timber at the farm. Only the board knows about the prices charged. The beneficiaries know nothing and that needs to change.”

He also warned that the farm will collapse if the approach is not changed.

Ephraim Kunene, the trust’s chairperson, said allegations of mismanagement are unfounded. He urged the beneficiaries who are dissatisfied with the way the farm is being run to air their grievances in a meeting, in accordance with the trust’s constitution.

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