DAFF female farmer award winner fiasco

The agriculture department is insulting the many hardworking, successful and deserving female farmers in South Africa by saying that Hlengiwe Hlophe is the best commercial female farmer we have.

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This years, DAFF female farmer award winner has been awarded more than R500 000 in prize money, after first being named the top commercial female farmer in KwaZulu-Natal and later winning the national title in this category in the Department of Agriculture Forestry and Fisheries’ (DAFF) Female Entrepreneur Awards.


DAFF female farmer award winner expose

After publishing the results of the awards, a Farmer’s Weekly reader alerted us to disturbing allegations of animal neglect on her farm.

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An investigation (see full story 25 September 2015 issue, pg 16 & 17) by Farmer’s Weekly found that on visits to the farm in 2013 and 2014, the National Council of Societies for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (NSPCA) in South Africa and the South African Pork Producers’ Organisation (SAPPO) had made shocking discoveries about the living conditions of pigs and chickens.

If these allegations are true – and according to official documents in our possession, they certainly appear to be – Hlophe should be stripped of both her titles and her farm, which was bought with a Land Redistribution for Agricultural Development grant. DAFF must open the selection and adjudication process of the competition – which appears to be veiled in secrecy – and it must be thoroughly scrutinised.

This is not the first time that a winner in this competition has reached news headlines for the wrong reasons.

Farmer’s Weekly reported previously how Nomzamo Khoza from People’s Bio Oil in KZN, the overall winner in DAFF’s Female Entrepreneur of the Year competition in 2013 (her total winnings amounted to R870 000), had come under scrutiny for the suspicious awarding of an R8 million grant. The KZN Department of Agriculture and Rural Development’s investigation into the awarding of the grant has now been referred to the department’s legal services division and to a state attorney for advice on how to proceed.

Khoza is also being hounded by disgruntled investors who allege that they have not been paid out any returns on investment.
Some of this year’s competition judges told Farmer’s Weekly that the quality of the information provided by DAFF on the finalists that formed the basis for adjudication was of “very poor quality” and “left much to be desired”. Well, they should have spoken up sooner.

DAFF needs to do some serious introspection. If Minister Senzeni Zokwana and his team cannot host a credible competition for female farmers, the competition should not exist at all. Female farmers – indeed all farmers – in South Africa deserve better.

Denene Erasmus is the deputy editor of Farmer’s Weekly.