On our oversight visit to the failed Diyatalawa farming project near Harrismith today, the DA was disappointed that the project which had an enthusiastic start has now become static without the farm not being optimally used.

Diyatalawa was once primed as one of the pilot sites for the 2009 Free State Comprehensive Rural Development Programme where millions have been ploughed in since its inception. This project is now plagued by inactivity, infighting and low morale from the beneficiaries as they don’t have the necessary agricultural support to become enterprising farmers. The dairy and milking parlour are not in use and the cattle belong to the people living there, and there are very few cows belonging to the project.

Based on our interactions with the beneficiaries the project does receive support but it is not focused on their needs. It was also evident that training and extention support is not provided in order for the farm to become self-sufficient.

The DA also found farmers that are currently leasing land by agreement to plough, plant and harvest the crops due to a lack of grain production machinery. While it is commendable that the land is being utilised in some cases, the government still needs to capacitate emerging farmers to become self-sufficient in this regard.

The fact is the ANC government is focused on ensuring that cronies line their pockets through projects such as the Vrede Dairy Farm disguised as projects meant to assist emerging black farmers.

This is also supported by a report by the Institute for Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies (PLAAS) which found, in the eastern Free State “only a few politically connected farmers in that part of the country are major beneficiaries of state support”.

Beyond the fact the DA supports transfer of ownership to beneficiaries, the DA has continued to focus on post-settlement support to facilitate self-sufficiency in the long term which contributed to a 62% success rate in the Western Cape compared to the national governments failure rate of over 90%.

As much as land reform is justified, it is self-defeating for the government to dump people on land without sufficient support.

The DA maintains that it is the government’s duty to see to it that they create self-sufficient farmers through the provision of post-settlement support.

This statement follows an oversight visit to Diyatalawa located between Harrismith and Kerstell by the DA Shadow Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Annette Steyn MP, Leader of the Official Opposition in the Free State Provincial Legislature, Dr Roy Jankielson and DA Member in the Free State Provincial Legislature, Leona Kleynhans MPL.