Milking the system for all it’s worth

The state, it seems, has now helped certain connected families become instant dairy farmers. And this while smallholders cannot get title deeds.

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It is apparently no problem for President Jacob Zuma to have a cosy relationship with the Gupta family and for the family to benefit from this relationship. However, it is not OK for others to do the same. When the ANC recently threw its toys out of the cot about the Democratic Alliance’s advertising campaign on MTN and Vodacom airtime vouchers, I had to laugh.

Our ruling party was so upset with the DA’s campaign that it threatened to call on its members to boycott these two networks by not purchasing their airtime. I simply don’t know why the ANC acts like a pathetic bully when something does not go its way. Getting back to the privileges of the Guptas: it seems as if they have found a new cash cow in the Free State.

According to a recent report in the Mail & Guardian, a company linked to this family has received land as well as millions of rands in funding from the Free State government in order to start a dairy farm. This company, called Estina, will get about R342 million during the next three years. Apparently, this “state-of-the-art certified facility” will process 100 000 litres of milk per day.

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Free State premier Ace Magashule announced the project in his state of the province address in February, but omitted to provide any reasons for his administration wanting to become involved in dairy farming. According to the Mail & Guardian report, all that the provincial government said was that both emerging and commercial farmers would benefit from the project through supplying milk to the dairy company.

No farming background
It would seem that the government always supports “privileged” individuals instead of real farmers – people who genuinely need this type of cash injection. It boggles the mind that the poor are never put first. Instead, the benefits due to them flow to people with political connections.The Mail & Guardian identified Kamal Vasram as the only director of Estina. Vasram, who has no background in farming, works in information technology.

How did he manage to secure such a major contract? Could it be that Estina is linked to the Gupta family? The company’s registered address is in the same building as several Gupta businesses. This includes Mabengela Investments, which is co-owned by Rajesh “Tony” Gupta and Duduzane Zuma. Conveniently, it also employs Magashule’s son, Tshepiso.
Even if the Guptas are not involved this time, how does the government begin to justify this one?

Rural Development and Land Reform minister Gugile Nkwinti announced recently that farmers who were given land would not receive title deeds to that land. They would only be able to lease the land for periods starting at five years. Depending on the farmer’s performance, this period would increase to 30 and ultimately to 99 years. According to the Mail & Guardian, the deeds office records that Estina obtained a 99-year lease on the 4 400ha Krynaauwslust farm near Vrede at no rent. All this while poor farmers are forced to pay hefty rentals without receiving any support from the state