Farm project mired in mistrust

Lee-Anne Butler

THE beleaguered Kangela Farm project outside Addo has been drawn into fresh controversy with the arrest of its farm manager on theft charges and accusations that his wife, a municipal councillor, is a loan shark.

The arrest of Kangela Empowerment Trustee member Xola Stefana and another man, Ezekile Dumana, following the theft of animal feed, is the latest scandal to rock the beleaguered R16-million citrus farm deal which has been hanging in the balance since it was sold to the provincial government in 2003.

The latest events come as another prominent empowerment project in the Eastern Cape, the multibillion-rand biofuels project at Cradock, has come to a complete standstill amid financial problems in gettingthe land transferred to beneficiaries.

Provincial police spokeswoman Lieutenant Colonel Sibongile Soci confirmed that Stefana and Dumana were arrested after Paterson police received information that animal feed belonging to Olifantskop Feed in Paterson was being stolen by one of the drivers and offloaded at a farm in Addo.

Dumana is suspected of being the driver of the vehicle.

Stefana declined to comment when approached by The Herald following his release on bail recently.

Allegations have also emerged that the 37 Addo farm workers who were intended to benefit from the project are being fleeced by Stefana’s wife, Sundays River Valley Municipality Ward 3 councillor Siphokazi Kula, through an illegal loan scheme, although Kula has denied the claims.

The workers claim Kula is forcing them to make use of her loan services.

One beneficiary, Wellington Ramba, who has worked at the farm since 2003, claimed Stefana held onto their bank cards and if they owed money to Kula, this amount would be deducted from their monthly wage without their consent. His claims were corroborated by 15 of his co-workers.

Kula vehemently denied she worked as a loan shark or that she or her husband had access to the bank cards of the beneficiaries.

“If they can prove that then I do not have a problem. It is not true,” she said.

The beneficiaries, who have called for a complete overhaul of the Kangela management, have now approached Port Elizabeth lawyer Tertius Delport to assist them.

One of their demands is to view the trust deed so that they have a better understanding of their rights. In addition, they want access to the farm’s financial statements.

Themba Maki, who has worked on the farm for 50 years, said he still only received a meagre R1980 a month, despite his status as a beneficiary.

He claimed workers had not received any of the training they had been promised to give them the necessary skills to take over the running of the farm.

Evans Nevondo, chairman of the Kangela Empowerment Trust, said he was not aware Stefana had been arrested.

“If the court finds this to be true he will have to account in front of the trustee members,” Novondo said.

He said someone was trying to make the beneficiaries believe mismanagement was taking place on the farm.

“Kangela is working very well, compared to other BEE farming projects. We do not rely on government to pay salaries or for running expenses. The Department of Agriculture has promised funding to plant new trees but we are still waiting on this funding. The last time trees were planted at Kangela was in 2004,” he said.

“The beneficiaries can complain that they are not getting paid but what can we do? If we do not receive funding for new trees Kangela will go under.

“Beneficiaries have also received bonuses of R3000 to R4000 for the past few years because this is all we have been able to afford. We still need to provide money for running costs such as water and fertilisers,” he said.

Nevondo also said beneficiaries had access to the trust deed in the past and had attended an information workshop where they learnt what a trust was.

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