Women supplying food to poor lose their land

A group of women farmers has been left stranded after their 4ha farm has allegedly been sold illegally as household stands by a man known only as Mzezane.

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This is putting a halt to the women’s efforts to feed the poor from their crop. The Vuselani Home Based Care Centre was legally awarded the use of the land in Gutshwa Tribal authority area near Kabokweni in Mpumalanga by Chief Sive Khumalo seven years ago and has the Permission to Occupy documents in place. Since receiving the documents they have been growing crops to feed adjacent poor communities and those living with HIV/Aids. More than 300 people rely on the centre for food.

According to Fikili Mhaule, a caregiver, a man known only as Mzezane, allegedly started selling portions of their land in 2010. “The chief tried to intervene but this man insisted that the land belonged to his forefathers,” said Mhaule. The matter has been unsuccessfully reported to the agriculture and land reform departments. This despite the fact that the same departments previously assisted the women with fencing the farm, buying water tanks, sinking boreholes and supplying water pipes.

“Those improvements are currently being used by the illegal occupants for basic services. The police are also not helping us,” said Mhaule. According to Mhaule the stands are being sold for R1 500 each. “I do not know how I can assist these women now. This person appears to be operating in the shadows. All my attempts to resolve this issue has been to no avail,” said Chief Khumalo.

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The Care Centre now has to make do with a smaller portion of land to feed the hungry. Meanwhile, the provincial department of agriculture promised to investigate and asked the police to take the matter seriously. Lieutenant-Colonel Leonard Hlathi, police spokesperson for Mpumalanga, confirmed the case is under investigation.