At a massive function near President Zuma’s traditional homestead in Nkandla, the two communities received 29 new tractors, farming implements, livestock, and hundreds of thousands of rands in cash, agricultural inputs and other community upliftment-related donations.For years, crippling poverty has made these communities increasingly dependent on government grants. They can now create jobs and income for themselves through diversified cooperative farming enterprises. Agriculture-loving President Zuma said he’d lead this initiative to ensure it doesn’t succumb to the corruption, political infighting and laziness that destroyed many similar upliftment projects.President Zuma and Deebo Mzobe, who owns Deebo Construction and Projects based in New Germany, were the brains behind the Nkandla/Mlalazi Initiative. They approached the two communities’ nine traditional leaders, who collectively allocated 550ha of communal land for community farming enterprises.
The President and Mzobe then approached the public and private sectors for financial and material support. President Zuma donated two tractors and 20 beef heifers while Mzobe donated three tractors and 20 beef heifers. Addressing clearly adoring community members in isiZulu at the launch, President Zuma said, “We are tired of the poverty here. We are tired of the fact that we people of this land here have been waiting to hear from the government in Pretoria when it would help us build up this area. “When Deebo Mzobe came to me with the idea for this initiative, it was the start of we Nkandla and Mlalazi people taking control of our own destiny. Even if government did not want to help us with this idea, we would do it ourselves.”
He stressed this initiative was not about boosting his popularity or garnering votes, but said he and Mzobe simply felt driven to use agriculture as a tool to get their traditional communities out of the poverty and food insecurity traps.
Lydia Johnson, KZN’s MEC for agriculture, environmental affairs and rural development, told the two communities, “Upliftment won’t happen if you and the government don’t hold hands and work together.” She said government would provide the initiative with six tractors and train local men to use and care for them, and provide extension services.Johnson said soil samples had already been taken and analysed to determine the best crops to plant. Initially these would be maize, sorghum and dry beans, for which Johnson’s department would sponsor the seed. President Zuma said he would also like to see large-scale cooperative beef and goat production. Owen Kemp, of Nulaid commercial egg production company, promised the communities 5 000 layer chickens capable of producing 4 000 eggs per day.
President Zuma promised to use every opportunity to come home to Nkandla to evaluate the initiative’s progress. “God helps those who help themselves. And the great support that we already have for this initiative is proof of this. Everyone in these communities must stand up and farm all of the arable land under our amaKhosi,” he said, adding that the aim was to produce enough to eat and to sell. – Lloyd Phillips