Eastern Cape land reform farms mired in debt, infighting

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by Sipho Masondo HERALD REPORTER masondos@avusa.co.za

DAVID UITHALER, farmerMORE land reform farms in the Eastern Cape have failed due to infighting and lack of capital and skills. Two weeks ago The Herald reported that several farms in the Addo area had failed and were auctioned off, and a new investigation has highlighted problems in the Gamtoos valley area.

The aim of land reform is to transfer 30 per cent of agricultural land to the previously disadvantaged over the next 15 years. This is done by grouping people together and giving then grants to purchase farms.

In the Cacadu region alone 90000ha of land has been distributed to more than 12000 beneficiaries at a cost of more than R370-million.

The latest farms to run into problems include:

In the Uitenhage area last year 22 beneficiaries auctioned their 674ha farm for about R1,1-million because they couldn‘t continue farming any more. The group owed the Land Bank about R400000, which with interest had escalated to about R600000.

Another set of 12 beneficiaries, the Hlanganani Trust from Motherwell, sold off its farm of 70ha for about R650000 in 2007 to a white farmer.

In Hankey the Peter Family Trust, with 10 beneficiaries, were last month rescued by the South African Fruit Exporters after the Land Bank threatened to auction the farm to recoup money it had loaned them in 2000. This was the second time the Land Bank had threatened to auction the farm.

The 36ha farm has no electricity or farming implements, and citrus trees are dying.

The 42 Dankbaar Farm beneficiaries in Hankey are having similar problems. Workers haven‘t been paid since January. There is no electricity on the 256ha farm, meaning citrus trees cannot be watered. Beneficiaries have accused each other of misappropriating funds. White farmers in the area are said to have expressed interest in buying the farm.

In Patensie a group of 200 beneficiaries have leased out 35ha of their 300ha farm to a white farmer to prevent the farm from going under. In 2006 Patensie Citrus rescued the group when the land bank threatened to auction the farm because of a R1,2-million loan it couldn‘t service.

David Uithaler, leader of 22 beneficiaries from Uitenhage of a farm which was auctioned, said: “I stayed at the farm for four years but I couldn‘t cope. We didn‘t have money to take the farm forward. We are very anxious to get farms, but you must have money to run them. My purpose was to produce food to feed the country, but if you don‘t have money you can‘t live up to the idea.”

Hazel Peter of the Peter Family Trust said they had decided to go into a joint venture with the South African Fruit Exporters which has promised to revive the farm and bring it to production.

But this will be at the expense of dividends in the next two years.

“We just want our farm to be saved,” she said, adding that the were also conflicts between the beneficiaries.

A land affairs department official said he would have liked to see more success with land reform. “It‘s not doing well. We need more support for these projects. We distribute land but we also try to help with technical skills and this is not our responsibility, but that of the department of agriculture.”

Department of agriculture spokesman Fikile Black said emerging farmers should approach the district offices and request assistance, which was subject to the availability of funds.

“We also have extension officers who assist farmers with skills.”

source: Weekend Post

KwaNobuhle farm taking off

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by Sipho Masondo HERALD REPORTER masondos@avusa.co.za

Uitenhage KwaNobuhle farmersTHERE is a sweet smell of success about a project in Uitenhage that was started to help alleviate the misery of a group of impoverished people – it is now helping to add flavour to German cuisine

While many farms have failed under the government‘s land reform programme, the Uitenhage-KwaNobuhle Farm community project is providing shelter, food and a steady income for its 55 beneficiaries.

Administrative manager Mlamleli Maseti said failure was not an option for the group.

Besides supplying Port Elizabeth export company Dynamic Commodities with sweet baby peppers, the beneficiaries pride themselves on having developed the 38ha farm into a productive operation.

They supply retailers like the Fruit and Veg and Spar groups, BC Brothers and the Uitenhage and Motherwell markets, as well as hawkers, with fresh vegetables like cabbage, spinach, carrots, green beans and beetroot.

Maseti said the secret to making the farm work was listening to the people. “You can‘t make it without the people. When we started in early 2003 the land was bare. There will always be ups and downs where many people are involved because they bring different minds and backgrounds. But we constantly remind them about the purpose of coming together. It‘s about teamwork and having a good support system.”

Maseti said Dynamic Commodities supplied the farm with sweet baby pepper seedlings, which are planted on 10ha. “The produce that we export is huge and the profit is very good. We get about R4 for 1kg, and we are looking at more than 15 tons a hectare. The sweet baby peppers are ripe and we started harvesting last week. This is agriculture and we do experience ups and downs, but generally we are doing well.”

However, he said the crop had not done quite as well last year, when it was piloted for the first time on 5ha after they had entered into an agreement with Dynamic Commodities.

“It was trial and error last year. In the end we managed to break even – we made a little profit. We made mistakes but we have learned.”

Maseti said the farm employed about 50 permanent staff, which escalated to more than 200 people during harvesting season.

He said the farm‘s success was due to the Nelson Mandela Bay municipality, which leases the land to the group, and to other role players like the Uitenhage-Dispatch Development Initiative, VWSA and the Eastern Cape agriculture department, which assisted in various ways.

VWSA donated about R3- million, which the farm accesses in stages. The agriculture department assisted with farming implements, including a tractor, fencing and irrigation infrastructure, while UDDI provided project management expertise.

UDDI project manager Sandile Adam said the farm was divided into two phases. The 20ha first phase is for conventional farming of vegetables like carrots, tomatoes, sweet baby peppers, spinach and beetroot, under drip irrigation.

Phase2 involves organic and greenhouse farming. “We will have high-value crops like tomatoes and cucumbers in greenhouses on about 18ha. We are already putting up fencing and irrigation systems.”

Traffic bosses face charges in licence fraud scandal

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by Brian Hayward WEEKEND POST REPORTER

THE Nelson Mandela Bay traffic department has been rocked by allegations of wide-spread fraud and corruption at a senior level.

Five suspended senior and middle management traffic officials yesterday started laying charges of fraud with police against three top department officials  “including two assistant directors,” alleging a cover-up of corruption and mismanagement.

The three are alleged to have requested “kick-backs” for considering certain officers for promotion, arranging that examiners unconditionally pass driver and learner licence tests for friends and family, and using municipal funds for personal holidays. The group pressing the charges include Uitenhage principal examiner Dennis Januarie, senior traffic officer Lindsay Klerk and middle-management officers Petro Meyer, Elsie Gilbert and Luzaan Kettledas.

According to well-placed sources, the group has claimed they have been unlawfully suspended since December last year for refusing to bow to pressure from the department’s senior management to illegally pass certain drivers in their learner’s tests and practical exams or allow unqualified drivers to obtain driver’s licences. After attempting to open a case at the Uitenhage detective branch yesterday, the group were instructed to lay the charges with the Port Elizabeth Organised Crime Unit in Newton Park.

The unit is responsible for investigating fraud and corruption within the traffic departments.

Police spokesman Superintendent Priscilla Naidu confirmed the charges needed to be opened at the Port Elizabeth unit, because detectives would investigate the counter-allegations in conjunction with the claims made.

The charges have opened a can of worms over long-standing allegations and counter claims of wide-spread corruption in the department’s upper echelons for which it has come under fire in recent months. These include incidents of officers accepting bribes and issuing fraudulent licences.

According to signed affidavits “which Weekend Post has in its possession” from those suspended, the charges are against a high-ranking licensing officer, a top law enforcement officer and a senior examiner.

“They were suspended because they refused to be their (top management’s) puppets,” said a municipal employee close to the case, who spoke on condition of anonymity. When approached for comment, the five suspended officers said they were bound by a confidentiality clause in their contracts which prohibited them from speaking to the media. But according to the municipal source, the group, along with three other colleagues who did not hand in affidavits, were unlawfully suspended by the department last year.

The informal charges include receiving bribes from driver’s licence applicants, failing to complete forms, using colleagues’ passwords while working on official documents, and “completing transactions with applicants not present”. Lawyers say the department did not give the eight an opportunity to state their cases and had failed to present formal charges within 60 days of their suspension.

George Malgas, a Uitenhage lawyer acting on behalf of Januarie, said he had received no word from the municipality despite sending a letter to manager Graham Richards last week demanding formal charges be presented to his client.

“The things the (suspended) group was accused of doing are the same things they (senior management) are guilty of,” the source said. “They are corrupt and need to be exposed.” Yesterday, DA MP Pine Pienaar hit out at corruption within the department, calling on police to launch a province-wide inquiry.

“It shouldn’t just stop at local municipal levels, but at all municipalities throughout the country. The police must get involved with this investigation across the province, because lives are at stake,” he said. “An illegal driver’s licence is life-threatening.”

Pienaar said road deaths were directly attributed to fraud within the traffic department, as many unqualified drivers went on to cause serious and fatal accidents. “Road fatalities in this province are already far too high,” he said. “It is growing and by 2010 it’s projected that as many as 3000 people will die on our (Eastern Cape) roads.”

Uitenhage golf day a huge hit

Posted 3 CommentsPosted in Events, Uncategorized

by Meshack Khotha (Sowetan)

Uitenhage Golf Course in Eastern CapeAn amount of R100000 was raised during a fundraising golf tournament held at the Uitenhage Golf Course in the Eastern Cape at the weekend. This was a dream come true for Butityi “BK” Konki, boss of BK Investment Holdings, who was the organiser of the one- day event to celebrate his 50th birthday.

“It has been my wish to stage a development tournament in Uitenhage. I am chuffed about the way things happened and would like to thank all participants who made this day a success.

“ The money that was raised in this tournament will benefit aspirant golfers at school level in the area,” said Konki, who added that the event will be held yearly .

It was the second development tournament sanctioned by Konki after the successful Butityi Konki Schools Rugby Tournament won by Solomon Mahlangu High School last season. Konki’s 50th birthday celebrations ended with a glittering function at the Barkly Theatre in Uitenhage on Saturday.

Prominent people who attended the tournament included former Springbok manager Zola Yeye and former Uitenhage Springboks Morgan Cushe and Vusunzi Nakani. Others were Eastern Cape MEC for sports, arts and culture Noxolo-Abraham Ntatiso and boxing legends Philip Ndou, Dingaan Thobela and Welcome Ncita.

source: Sowetan newspaper

Techno-wise teens flock to stores for “Twitter-tracking” Apple iPhone gizmo

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Melody Brandon WEEKEND POST REPORTER brandonm@avusa.co.za

Apple 3G iPhone South Africa Port Elizabeth UitenhageTHE eagerly-awaited Apple iPhone, released earlier this month complete with all the frills and fancies craved by gizmo-lovers, has seen cellphone stores in the Eastern and Southern Cape cleared out of their stock by frenzied buyers.

Not only are the young- at-heart clamouring for the latest cellphone toy which sells for R9000 for the handset on its own or R2000 and more on a two-year contract, but youngsters are also managing to get their mitts on the prized gadget.

Already some teenagers’ relentless nagging has paid off with brow-beaten parents flocking to stores en masse to buy the product for children as young as 14 years old, according to sales staff.

“We’ve had a lot of interest from Apple (company) fans who are familiar with the brand. The younger age group are our biggest buyers,” said Naasig Seharnick, a Port Elizabeth cellphone salesman at Cellucity. “Parents come in and pay cash for the phone.”

As if a complete library of music or photo albums was not enough, the phone also gives frequent Twitter updates“, short, SMS-like sentences stating what friends are up to throughout the day on the internet, as well as users’ global positioning system (GPS) co-ordinates.

East London cellphone salesman Renier North said despite the option of other cellphones which could do “similar things”, the iPhone was still coming out tops, especially among Apple technology lovers.

George salesman Geovan Theron said his customers chose the handset over all the others available. “With the iPhone you are getting the raw product that you can download applications for, so you can choose what you want,” he said.

And although better-halves might be occupying second place to the shiny toy, they can feel treasured as its handy GPS positioning means they can check up on their loved ones day or night, with their current co-ordinates posted on the internet via Twitter.

But with the lightening release of new technology comes the quicker pace of replacements, with website giants Google on the cusp of releasing their answer to the iPhone, the G1, or Google phone, heading to South Africa next year.

Techno-junkies say it’s bad news for Apple, but good news for consumers.

For those wanting to read a first-hand iPhone user’s account, log onto Justin McCabe’s blog and scroll down to the iPhone blog entry.

source: Weekend Post
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Uitenhage’s Concentration Camp history

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Uitenhage Concentration Camp: GHOSTS OF WAR: A monument in memory of eight adults and children who died in Uitenhage’s concentration campBEING one of the oldest towns in the country, Uitenhage is steeped in a rich history. But few know it was home to a concentration camp during the Anglo-Boer War between 1899 and 1902. Chairman of the Concentration Camp Trust Superintendent Kallie Calitz is working hard to ensure the area is protected and remembered.

“You won’t believe that the majority of Uitenhage’s current residents don’t know about the concentration camp – and it’s in their backyard,” Calitz said.

Situated on the outskirts of the upmarket suburb of Vanes Estate, you will find one lone house with a memorial statue in front of it, which was declared a national monument in 1972. There is another monument made out of high cement walls in memory of the eight children and adults who died in the camp. Calitz said the concentration camp was established because a large number of women and children were dying in a Bloemfontein camp because of extreme temperatures. The new one had to be somewhere near water and a train line.

“Uitenhage was the ideal place because it had an established rail system and there were natural springs,” Calitz said.

The camp was built for 2000 people, but only 1800 stayed there. Although today the site is only four hectares in size, Calitz said they estimate it was about 10 hectares originally. When the concentration camp was built, the town was already 100 years old.

“At first the residents looked down on the people from the camp, but then they realised that these are our people and they started to accept them,” Calitz said.

“For entertainment people went to the camp and played records for the women and children. When the people were given permits to come to town to buy goods, the residents would pick guavas from one of the trees and give them to the children,” Calitz said.

All the houses were made of zinc and wood as opposed to the tents of the other camps. Today, only the house that is believed to have been the commander’s, stands on the site. The rest of the houses were broken down and rebuilt in Port Elizabeth’s Red Location. Peace came in May 1902, but the people stayed in the camp until October. “W here were they supposed to go back to? Their farms (in the Free State) were taken away, their houses had been burned and their husbands shot,” Calitz said.

“Some people moved to town, got married and their descendants are probably still here today.” – By NICOLETTE SCROOBY, source: Daily Dispatch

Jobs boom follows R1bn plan to boost local content at VWSA

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UP TO 1000 motor industry jobs could be created in the next nine months in the Eastern Cape following a R1billion investment plan unveiled yesterday by Volkswagen SA and component managers for Uitenhage.

VWSA managing director David Powels said the investments were being taken to “step up to the challenge and opportunity presented by the new automotive production and development programme (APDP) by attracting several key national and international component manufacturers to set up operations in Uitenhage”.

Powels said the R1bn investment came as a result of VWSA challenging components suppliers to “significantly improve processes and productivity levels to both survive and grow in the medium term”.

As a result, five suppliers were already establishing manufacturing facilities in the Nelson Mandela Bay logistics park established by the Coega Development Corporation, adjacent to VW’s Uitenhage factory. A sixth supplier would set up operations at the entrance to the Uitenhage industrial area.

The suppliers are interior plastic components manufacturer Faurecia Interior Systems, metal pressing parts manufacturer Bloxwich Industries, side mirrors and cables manufacturer Flextech, bumper systems manufacturer Rehau Polymer, and headliner and door panels manufacturer Grupo Antolin. Nelson Mandela Bay’s Bel-Essex Engineering was also in the process of constructing a new facility directly opposite the Volkswagen plant.

Volkswagen itself announced earlier this year that it would be investing more than R3bn in its own manufacturing and related activities from this year through to the end of 2010. That investment would also create several hundred jobs, Powels said at the time.

Yesterday, Powels said: “Our company has instituted an unprecedented focus on dramatically increasing manufacturing depth and extent of the local component supplier industry.

“The new APDP presents the opportunity to revolutionise the South African supplier component industry which has a long way to travel before it can claim global competitiveness.

“In terms of cost competitiveness, there’s an approximate 20% gap to manufacturers in Western Europe. The gap widens to more than 30% when comparing domestic automotive manufacturing cost structures to those in emerging automotive power houses such as India, China and Russia. There is only one way in which the automotive manufacturing industry in SA will be able to survive in the medium to long term – by securing much higher levels of local content. This includes the need to introduce new technologies and increase the use of local materials in the domestic component manufacturing industry.”

CDC chief executive Pepi Silinga said the initiative would send a positive message to the auto industry and strengthen the position of the region in the sector. “The positive impact of these developments to the economy of the Eastern Cape will be huge. They will bring dramatic shifts in people’s lives in the metro and in the province far sooner than expected.”

The VWSA announcement comes only days after General Motors in Port Elizabeth announced that it would shed 1000 jobs by the end of year, and Ford, with operations in Port Elizabeth and Pretoria, said it would be shedding 800 jobs.

GM shed more than 400 jobs earlier this year and is now in the process of reducing its head-count by several hundred more, with more cuts planned through to the end of the year.

Source: The Herald, Avusa Group News

Uitenhage man gets 1,8 million per cent rates hike

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Patrick Cull

IF you think your rates increase was excessive, spare a thought for a Uitenhage resident whose bill has increased by a whopping 1837960 per cent.

But this was all down to a past blunder. The property had been incorrectly valued and cost the owner just 10 cents a year in rates. The value is now put at R380000 and the owner will pay R1838,06 a year, or a fraction over R150 a month.

This is just one of the anomalies brought to light in the recent general valuation in Nelson Mandela Bay.

The second highest rates increase was 652900% for a property in KwaNobuhle that had also been incorrectly valued previously with rates of just 10 cents a year. Now valued at R150000, the new rates are R653 a year.

The owners of several other properties, incorrectly valued in the past, have also received hefty increases in percentage terms.

One in Motherwell, for example, was paying R2,05 a year, a figure that has been increased to R333,75 after the house was valued at R84000.

A number of houses in Greenbushes, Bethelsdorp and Parsonsvlei were also affected, the owners having been paying rates of between R1,64 and R11,29 a year because their properties were incorrectly valued on the previous roll.

source: The Herald Online, 14 August 2008