16 February 2018
AFASA welcomes arrest of officials and well-connected individuals linked to Vrede dairy project
The African Farmers Association of South Africa (AFASA) has welcomed the arrest of government officials and politically connected individuals linked with the Vrede dairy project in the Free State. AFASA condones and fully support the law enforcement agencies’ work and continue to call for the strong arm of the law in dealing with those involved in the corrupt act.
During a consultative meeting between AFASA and Free State MEC for Agriculture and Rural Development, Mr Oupa Khoabane, AFASA President, Dr Vuyo Mahlati expressed discontent over this horrendous incident. The meeting was held in Sasolburg as part of AFASA’s provincial roadshows to mobilize black farmers in the country. Dr Mahlati told the MEC that the Vrede case was a sore point for AFASA and more importantly, to all black farmers who often get blamed for being unproductive.
“In many cases, black farmers have unfairly been portrayed in a negative way following cases like Vrede, where large investments are lost in failed projects conceptualised by corrupt individuals in the name of black farmers. The Vrede case is a typical example of many projects where officials connive with other well-connected individuals masquerading as farmers, to swindle government out of money meant for farmer development. Often these projects become white elephants. In the end, black farmers get a raw deal over these failures,” Dr Mahlati explained.
Dr Mahlati said Vrede was not an isolated case. She added that many other cases of failed projects presented as “support for black farmers” by government exist across the country. “Corrupt individuals outside and inside government use such projects to syphon money from taxpayers, which in turn reflects badly on black farmers,” she said.
MEC Khoabane said the case of Vrede was unfortunate and welcomed the arrest of officials said to have been involved in the scandal. The MEC further stated that evidence, in this case, showed that the project was not designed to benefit farmers. “Projects meant to benefit farmers are designed in consultation with the farmers. While the scandal gave the department negative publicity, it was a blessing in disguise as it helps in clearing the way for appointing suitable people, and for black farmers to take charge in their own development,” Mr Khoabane told AFASA.
The MEC encouraged AFASA to take a leading role in their own development. “AFASA must be active and should watch closely what we do as the department in order to hold us accountable where needed. Farmers must actively take charge of projects meant to support their growth and in giving us direction. If we don’t have an active farmer organisation that holds us accountable, we will continue to have cases such as Vrede,” the MEC said.
Dr Mahlati closed the meeting by telling the MEC that AFASA will continue to watch the developments in the Vrede case closely and guard against the repeat of such cases in Free State and other provinces.