“The herd was our pride,” farmer says after Kouga municipality auctions off cattle
Farmers Sebenzile Thomas and Thembile Mabaso with the notices of the fines they had to pay to get their cows back. Photo: Joseph Chirume
Black farmers in the Eastern Cape say the Kouga Municipality is destroying their livelihoods by impounding livestock found grazing in public spaces. They say the municipality should provide them with grazing land rather than taking their cattle.
The farmers also accuse officials of auctioning the cattle without giving them enough time to raise money to pay the fines for the impounded animals.
Kouga municipality says it is not obliged to provide pastures for cattle and the farmers should approach national or provincial government.
Matters came to a head last Wednesday when 31 farmers living in Jeffreys Bay, Humansdorp, Thornhill and Uitenhage staged a sit-in at the municipal offices in Jeffreys Bay. Top of the list of demands handed to the municipality was the demand for land for farming and for grazing.
The farmers also demanded an immediate end to the impounding of their cattle which they said was tantamount to robbery because of the hefty fines charged by the municipality to release the cattle.
Uitenhage resident Skumbuzo Stokwe said 39 cattle belonging to the family were auctioned last year after they failed to pay a R60,000 fine.
Skumbuzo said, “The cattle were impounded in June last year after they were found grazing along the road … the entire herd … This was the only source of income for our family. We inherited the cattle from our parents.The herd was our pride.”
“They were taken to a farm in Loerie whose owner is contracted to the municipality to look after impounded animals. We followed them after two days hoping that they would be released. We were given a bill of R60,000 for keeping the cattle for two days only. We did not have that amount.”
“The cattle were eventually sold at an auction two weeks later. We are now left with four cattle.”
Jeffreys Bay resident Eric Mame told GroundUp his six cattle had been auctioned in October at the same farm in Loerie after he failed to pay a fine of R6,800.
“My cattle were impounded in October. I paid R3,800 to get them back. They were again impounded two weeks later, but I didn’t have the R6,800. All six of my cattle were never returned to me. The Kouga Municipality auctioned them.
“I am now desperate for assistance to raise my family. I depended on selling cattle. It is baffling that our cattle are impounded by the same municipality that is refusing to give us land for grazing.”
“We are facing a shortage of grazing land in this municipality. We are told by officials that there is no such land in the municipality though there is municipal land in Humansdorp that is being leased to a white farmer. That land should be given to us.”
Sebenzile Thomas paid R4,500 to release five of his cattle that were impounded last week, and feared the animals could be impounded again because he did not have grazing land where he lives in KwaNomzamo, Humansdorp. He said he and others had to keep their livestock at the back of their houses.
“The municipality impounds our animals and gives them to a farmer in Loerie to keep them. Many people are failing to pay the amount, ending with the municipality auctioning the cows,” said Sebenzile. He said he now had 13 cattle and ten pigs.
He said the municipality did not own land in Jeffreys Bay. To get land for grazing, the municipality would have to go through a “long and expensive” process to find free land and would have to get council permission to allocate it.”
“It is costing you money to get your cows back when they are impounded. It also costs us money to impound and keep them,” he told the farmers.
Councillor Bryan Dhludhlu, head of local economic development, however assured the farmers that the municipality was compiling a land audit. “The process is taking long because of paperwork. We are through with the land audit on houses. We are busy with land audit for commonage.”
Meluxolo Mbali of Khanyisa Education, a civic organisation dealing with the plight of poor people in the Eastern Cape, said black farmers would take land themselves if the municipality did not respond to their demands. He said the municipality should stop impounding cattle until farmers were given grazing land.
The farmers and municipal officials agreed to meet again soon. Du Plessis assured farmers he would forward their grievances to Mayor Horatio Hendricks.
article origionally written by GroundUp