Productive Darnall farms targeted for housing development

Among the properties earmarked for expropriation were 17 Indian-owned small-scale sugarcane farms. Darnall farmer Ken Bissessur refused to sell, saying his 10ha smallholding has been in the family for over 150 years and produced the family’s “bread and butter” from sugarcane and cash crops like tomatoes and chillies. “This farm is my livelihood. Taking it away is a serious breach of my Constitutional rights. The farm has employed six black families for 150 years. Should they expropriate my farm, what will happen to all these workers?” he said.

Bissessur said the council had offered him R40 000/ha, well short of the R2 million he believed his land and house was worth, and inadequate to replicate his set-up elsewhere. “Why are they expropriating productive land when our government is promoting micro farming to keep the people on the land and ensure food security? There is enough vacant land in the area to accommodate over 2 000 houses. Land Bank is trying to sell vacant land, the old House of Delegates leases vacant land, and there is also unproductive government land. Yet they are ignoring it.”

An estimated 10 000t sugarcane was produced by these 17 farmers for Tongaat Hulett’s Darnall mill. A commercial sugarcane farmer in the area, Balin Naidu, said the loss of productive land would affect not only the mill and the growers, but the whole community.

“Even though housing will be created, we will lose employment. It will affect the social dynamics of the area. Where do these families and small-scale farmers go? We are not objecting to the housing development, but there is a bigger picture that needs to be considered,” Naidu said.

A Darnall Farmers’ Association representative who preferred not to be named, said about 17 small-scale Indian-owned farms would be affected by the expropriation. “The mill is trying to see where it can assist the growers,” he said. The KwaDukuza Ratepayers’ Association (KDRA) was assisting Bissessur to make his case heard at the municipality. “The Indian farmers are an asset to our community and are very good vegetable farmers. Why should we lose more agricultural land when there is enough vacant land available?” said KDRA secretary Frank du Toit.

Bissessur said some landowners had formed a group to negotiate with the council but no progress had been made.
The municipality did not want to comment as the matter was sub judice.