Yesterday Dr Roy Jankielsohn carried out an oversight visit to the agri-village at Wilhelmina outside Ficksburg, accompanied by the constituency head, DA MPL David van Vuuren, DA Thabo Mofutsanyana and councillor Berry Hlatswayo.

This visit exposed yet another empty promise of a better life for the thirteen beneficiaries and their families who are living there.

Agri-villages in ruins

Former Free State premier, Ace Magashule, hailed the Diyatalawa and Wilhelmina agri-villages as important Hlasela projects in various State of the Province Addresses.

In September, my oversight visit to Diyatalawa exposed a derelict dairy, apple orchards in ruins and little other activity for the 50 beneficiaries. My oversight at Wilhelmina has exposed mixed results.

The 343ha Wilhelmina farm was purchased by the national Department of Rural Development and Land Reform for the workers on the farm in 2009 at a cost of R5,6 million.

Project costs

Since 2009 an additional R26,61 million has been invested in the project by national government. Another R16,194 million has been invested by the provincial government. This brings the total cost of the project to R48,404 million.

Between 2010 and 2018 the project generated an income of less than R2,5 million.

The government-owned farm has 35,8ha of peach and 8,5ha of cherry orchards. In addition, 25 dairy cattle, an apple orchard and vegetable production were later introduced.

The farm has a fruit processing facility that is meant to facilitate the sale of dried and bottled fruit. The cherry and peach production generates an income that is enough to ensure that beneficiaries receive roughly R5 000 per month for five months. The rest of the year they are left to live very frugally.

Large investments failed to produce sustainable income

It is clear that at both Diyatalawa (R150 million investment) and Wilhelmina (R48,4 million investment) the large investments by government have failed to bring about a sustainable income. It has also failed to improve the long-term outlook for a better life among beneficiaries.

Government continues to follow land reform policies that invest large amounts of money on failed co-operatives, following a communist formula that is not viable under South African conditions.

A call for urgent land reform policy adjustment

Government will have to introduce land reform policies that are based on private ownership of family farms. Beneficiaries must also have agricultural management experience and should be well-supported with relevant skills and training.

The DA will continue to visit projects in the Free State to expose how millions of rands of taxpayers’ money have been spent on creating further dependency with little hope of sustainability. – Dr Roy Jankielsohn MPL, African News Agency on behalf of DA