Through The Grapevine

As the African National Congress prepares to start its policy discussions this weekend, one of which is a discussion under economic transformation regarding land reform and its intention to return land to the people and provide them with the necessary support, this week’s Special Assignment exposes the alleged corruption inherent in the existing Land Recapitilisation and Development Programme.

The story takes place on Nirwanda, a table grape farm in the picturesque Hex River Valley of the Western Cape. Behind closed doors, where decisions are made and instructions given, there are flagrant violations of South Africa’s Constitution and our Agricultural Land Reform Policies.

For several years, a bitter battle has been waged between a farming co-operative known as the Big Five and a multinational fruit exporter and its BEE partner who run Nirwanda Farm and export its grapes. The Big Five is the beneficiary of the government’s Recapitalisation and Development Programme, established by the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform in 2009 to transform struggling farms into successful commercial enterprises by equipping emerging black farmers with the skills and financial resources to become self- sufficient. This would be achieved through strategic partnerships with established agribusinesses that would help manage the farms and transfer skills while providing employment and food security to communities that had been deprived of access to land during apartheid. The cooperative accuses the multinational company, SAFE and its BEE partner, BONO of unilaterally imposing themselves onto Nirwanda Farm as the strategic partner and of swindling them out of the profits.

But, is this an isolated case of corruption, or is it the symptom of a much more sinister malaise that is afflicting agricultural land reform in South Africa? Has agrarian reform been captured by corporate elites in collusion with corrupt government officials, in contemptuous disregard for the intended beneficiaries of land reform?

In this exclusive investigation we expose the alleged rot seeping through agrarian land reform that threatens to turn the fruits of noble policies into a bitter harvest. A damning forensic report on Nirwanda highlights an allegedly corrupt relationship between SAFE & BONO and officials from the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform,


Watch Through the Grapevine, produced by Hazel Friedman on Special Assignment. Broadcast Mondays on SABC 3 at 21h00.