In October 2015 Special Assignment broadcast a documentary titled By their Fruits, the first part of an ongoing investigation into the government’s land reform policies. We focused on Nirwanda – a De Doorns grape farm, nestled in the Western Cape’s Hex River Valley. The farm is a microcosm of some of the problems experienced in the implementation of the agricultural land reform in South Africa.
In By their Fruits, Part II we investigate accusations of corruption leveled at commercial agricultural companies, allegedly profiting from government’s Recapitalisation and Development Programme (RADP) while depriving the rightful land reform beneficiaries the fruits of their labour. The RADP was established in the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform (DRDLR). It is a tripartite arrangement, whereby government purchases struggling farms, leases them to emerging farmers in the form of co-operatives or farmworker trusts and, with the assistance of strategic partners – BEE accredited agricultural companies – makes them productive, profitable and commercially sustainable.
We investigate allegations of BEE fronting made against a farming and export multinational called the South African Fruit Exporter (SAFE) and its empowerment company BONO that have secured lucrative government contracts to manage RADP farms throughout South Africa. We revisit Nirwanda, where ‘The Big Five’ – a farming co-operative approved by the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform (DRDLR) to lease the farm as part of the RADP – complains of being coerced by departmental officials into accepting BONO as its strategic partner, despite its reservations about BONO’s performance and bona fides. Members of the Big Five allege that BONO is being used as a BEE front for SAFE to export the farm’s produce at a profit without reinvesting the dividends back into the farm, of providing inadequate management on the farm and no financial statements to the approved beneficiaries of the Recap Programme. BONO and the DRDLR vehemently deny these allegations and argue that the Big Five are simply disgruntled because they do not want to share the farm with the farmworkers on Nirwanda.
Is there truth to the allegations of mismanagement leveled by disgruntled beneficiaries or are SAFE and BONO guilty of mismanagement and BEE fronting?
We provide an update on the impasse and potentially volatile situation at Nirwanda while examining the historical and political significance of Nirwanda, in the wake of the crippling farm worker strikes of 2012 and 2013, particularly, in the build-up to the 2016 municipal elections, and the ongoing contestation of the Western Cape.
Watch By Their Fruits, Part II on Special Assignment this Sunday 20h30, SABC 3.