Anger as municipality forces small farmers to pay to use common land

| Selby Nomnganga
Pig farming on common land is allowed only under strict conditions, according to municipal policy. Photo by Selby Nomnganga.

Already hit by drought, small farmers in the Upington area will now have to pay fees to graze their animals on common land.

Small farmers who used to graze their stock on the Hondejag lands about seven or eight kilometres from town have been told the Paballelo area nearby has been earmarked for housing and they will now have to take the animals to a smaller area at Droogtenhout.

And according to the //Khara Hais municipality’s land policy, they will have to enter into five year contracts and pay a monthly fee.

This is a new blow to small farmers already battling the effects of a devastating drought earlier in the year.

At a meeting last week, the municipality’s head of commonage Jackie Greeff distributed contracts to small farmers for signing. The farmers raised objections to the payment system, with the chairperson of the farmers’ committee Mavela “Mcirha” Mahlokomane warning they would not enter into contracts which would oblige them to pay a monthly fee of R2.50 for a goat or sheep and R1.00 for a lamb.

“What are they doing for struggling farmers?” he asked.

He said the drought had already killed 27 of his livestock.

Greeff told the farmers the payment was a separate matter from the contract and that the contract was still a proposal which could be changed.

Ward councillor Elliot Lebetsa implored the farmers not to delay the move to Droogtenhout as the Hondejag area was needed for housing.

There are 232 small farmers using the commonage in the Upington area. Anyone with fewer than 200 sheep, goats or pigs and 50 large animals and from a previously disadvantaged community is defined as a small farmer.

Wellington Vumazonke, who has already moved to Droogtenhout, objected to the relocation.

“There is only one camp. You can’t take 40 people there,” he said.

The daily routine: Mavela “Mcirha” Mahlokomane brings food to his pigs in a wheelbarrow every day. Photo by Selby Nomnganga.

“Freedom is finished”, said backyard goat farmer and pensioner Suzan Bosman commenting on the policy of the municipality which prohibits backyard animal farming.

“I don’t have the strength… I’m not a man [who can] go to the commonage” said Bosman.

She said animals were stolen at the commonages and she did not trust the police to catch the thieves.

Asked why she farmed, she said: “I do it because I am a Xhosa. When I have a ritual to perform I take from my kraal. It is not intended to be rich.”

The kraal in the backyard of pensioner Suzan Bosman in Paballelo township. She has four goats and two lambs and does not qualify for commonage grazing rights. Photo by Selby Nomnganga.

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