The project was initiated in 2010, but has been marred by controversy. As a result, few farmers in the Ehlanzeni district of Mpumalanga have benefited.
The contract of the original service provider appointed to provide tractor services to Ehlanzeni farmers was terminated under dubious circumstances. Although allegations abound that tractor drivers asked for bribes before ploughing any farmer’s land, the agricultural department in Mpumalanga denies that this was the case.
“The department does not have any information of the service provider that was found guilty of taking bribes,” said Zanele Shabangu, spokesperson for the Department of Agriculture, Development and Land Administration (DARDLA) in Mpumalanga. The department claimed that the project had assisted 54 527 households in the 2010/2011 financial year and that 342 tractors had been allocated to farmers to use across the various districts.
However, a farmer in the Ehlanzeni district, who wished to remain anonymous, said that he doubted that it was possible for 54 527 households to have benefited from the programme because there were not that many households involved in farming in the area.
He also disputed the 342 tractors being allocated, and said that by September last year no lands had yet been ploughed. Dr Lourie Bosman, DA parliamentary spokesperson for agriculture, said that it was very worried about the tractor project because it cost tax payers a lot of money, but very little was being done. “We have asked questions about this project in parliament but have not received any answers.
“The national department hands over money to provincial departments without doing any follow-ups as to the progress of the projects. The government has no control after the money has been handed over.” Farmer’s Weekly contacted the DARDLA, but it could not answer basic questions about the project.