THE African Farmers Association of South Africa (AFASA) has raised concerns about how a Limpopo MEC benefited from a multi-million rand government cattle scheme meant to uplift poor farmers and create jobs.
Its general secretary Aggrey Mahanjana said this was the latest case of a politically well-connected person scoring from a programme designed to help emerging farmers participate in the mainstream economy.
This came after it emerged that Limpopo Agriculture MEC Joy Matshoge awarded herself a herd of 51 Nguni cattle, worth about R1.million, as an “interest free” loan from the taxpayer.
Premier Stan Mathabatha has since vowed to act against Matshoge, who is also Limpopo ANC Womens League chairperson, after receiving a report from Public Protector Thuli Madonsela. Mahanjana said: “Obviously we are disappointed especially since it’s not the first case which has happened. I am not even sure whether this person has declared to her parliament that she had benefited from a government scheme which was meant for the benefit of people by her own department.”
Most of AFASA’s 10 000 members had raised similar concerns nationwide due to a lack of transparency in the allocation of the cattle, Mahanjana added.
He insisted that deserving farmers would benefit from the scheme only if the government allowed farmers associations to distribute the cattle while it played an oversight role. The Nguni cattle cost between R10 000 and R45 000 each.
They were supposed to be loaned out to poor farmers as part of Limpopo’s Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) Nguni Cattle Development Trust Strategy aimed at introducing emerging farmers into the mainstream economy and creating jobs.
According to sources and official documents seen by African Times, Matshoge, however, had received 51 of the cattle in two batches between December 2013 and July 2014.
The cattle had found their way to her Du Toitskraal farm near Marken, about 170 km North-West of Polokwane. Matshoge is leasing the farm from the state. Records show that Matshoge had applied for the cattle in 2013 when she was interim provincial ANC secretary, following the disbandment of the provincial executive committee led by former premier Cassel Mathale.
According to a contract signed between the Trust and Matshoge’s Dikgale farming, dated December 5th 2013, she had received the last batch of 36 cattle on JULY 24 2014. The contract states that it would “endure for five years and or until the trust has, by means of a certificate delivered to the farmer, certified that the process of passing on the gift has run its course and been completed”.
The Trust’s September 16 2015 presentation to Matshoge shows that the scheme had benefited 2 906 people at a cost of R222 million since its inception in 2006.
Matshoge also allegedly pressured her officials into “loaning” 35 herd of Nguni cattle to a senior Limpopo politician without following due process. It’s understood that the top politician’s cattle are kept on a farm in Soekmekaar outside Modjadjiskloof.
When African Times visited the farm, Matshoge’s cattle we found resting inside the kraal.
Lesego Mosito, Matshoge’s relative and farm manager, confirmed that he had received the cattle on behalf of the MEC and another of her relative known only as Tebogo. “The cattle belong to my sister, Joy Matshoge and Tebogo. The IDC application was theirs. I am just here to manage the farm,” Mosito said. “Tebogo is Joy’s relative from her in-law’s side”. The cattle scandal might land Matshoge in hot water with the ANC after its national general council (NGC) resolved that members who brought the ruling party into disrepute be forced to step aside until their names were cleared.
Matshoge confirmed through her spokesperson, Sipho Dikgale that she had benefited from the cattle programme but denied abusing her powers for self-enrichment.
She insisted she got the cattle fairly like any other previously disadvantaged person.
“The MEC has indeed applied to the IDC Nguni Scheme and benefited precisely because she met the criteria by the IDC Nguni Trust,” Dikgale said.
“At the time of the application she was not MEC, nor a member of any of the three entities comprising the IDC Nguni Trust Scheme. The entities are the IDC, the Limpopo Department of Agriculture and Rural Development and the University of Limpopo”.
Dikgale also admitted that Mosito was Matshoge’s relative but denied that she had used him as a front to unduly score from a government-funded poverty alleviation scheme. “While the MEC does not deny the fact that she is related to Lesego, the latter cannot be prevented from taking advantage of economic opportunities on the basis of the relationship,” Dikgale added. He also conceded that Matshoge leased the Du Tuitskraal farm from the Department or Rural Development and Land Reform, but insisted she had applied for it before she became MEC.
Dikgale declined to comment on allegations that Matshoge had failed to declare the cattle to the Limpopo Legislature as required by the law, saying “the declaration is signed between the employer and employee”. Mathoge is not the only politically connected beneficiary of the government’s cattle scheme. The KwaZulu-Natal government was forced to suspend its programme in 2008 after it had emerged that the wives of politicians, bureaucrats and traditional leaders had benefited from it.
Former KwaZulu-Natal Premier Sbu Ndebele’s wife, Zama, subsequently returned her herd of cattle to the provincial Agriculture department following the storm.