In a statement on Thursday, the DA in the Western Cape said they welcomed a court ruling on Wednesday that interdicted Deputy Minister of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development Mcebisi Skwatsha, along with the ANC national government, from settling more “vulnerable people in sub-human conditions on the Mesco Farm” in Stellenbosch, which they explained was being leased from the state by a black emerging farmer and workers’ cooperative.
MP Leon Schreiber said the DA had earlier visited the farm and lodged a complaint against Skwatsha at the Human Rights Commission for violating the human rights of both the vulnerable families and the emerging farmer and workers.
Under Wednesday’s court order, Skwatsha would be prohibited from “inflicting any further suffering on citizens as part of his vulgar political game”.
The DA claimed that the ANC was engaging in an “orchestrated ploy” to “dump dozens of families who were evicted from the private Klein Akker property in Kraaifontein on the farmland leased by a black wine farmer and workers”.
This, they said, defied a high court ruling that the families should instead have been settled on residential land in Cape Town, which the court regarded as a “safe site” and where they were to have received structures and services, including water and sanitation, from the City of Cape Town.
“Due to Skwatsha’s illegal intervention, the families were forced to live in pigsties and cattle kraals on the farm in sub-human conditions, without access to services like running water or electricity on land not zoned for residential use,” said Schreiber.
“At the same time, by moving people into his house and on to his property, Skwatsha’s arbitrary actions illegally expropriated the farm of an emerging farmer without notice or compensation.”
In a statement towards the end of August, however, the ANC in the Western Cape had said they welcomed and applauded the decision by Skwatsha “to assist victims of farm evictions by temporarily accommodating them on a state farm near Stellenbosch”.
The ANC’s Dennis Cruywagen said the announcement by Skwatsha was bringing relief to about 263 people, including children and the elderly, who were part of a group of 93 households evicted in terms of a court order from the farm Klein Akker in inclement weather in the second-last week of August.
“They are going to be temporarily accommodated on [the Mesco farm] while a permanent solution is sought,” the deputy minister also said in a statement at the time.
The coordinator of the ANC’s Western Cape interim provincial committee, Ronalda Nalumango, further welcomed the national government’s intervention.
“We want to commend Deputy Minister Skwatsha’s swift intervention. He has intervened on behalf of a caring and compassionate government that was deeply affected by these evictions,” Nalumango said.
She also praised Social Development Minister Lindiwe Zulu for also taking up the cause of the evicted families.
“We appreciate her getting involved and taking up the plight of people who were made homeless.”
However, Schreiber said on Thursday that the DA was “deeply disturbed” by what he alleged to be the ANC government’s blatant disregard for the rule of law and property rights of a farmer and workers who were supposed to benefit from land reform.
“Instead of nurturing and enabling them to become prosperous, the ANC undermined them at every turn and expropriated their property rights illegally. This shows once again that the failure of land reform in South Africa is due to the ANC’s corruption, populism and outright criminal tendencies.”
He said the the DA would carry on fighting any attempt to “scapegoat farmers for the ANC’s failure”, and would continue fighting for the rule of law to prevail.
“We call on the national government to work with the DA-led Western Cape and City of Cape Town by releasing all suitable state land to use for housing, and to restore the dignity of all the people who had their human rights violated by Skwatsha.”