Controversy over farm project
THE beleaguered Kangela Farm project at Addo has again been marred by controversy with the arrest of its farm manager on theft charges and accusations that his wife, a municipal councillor, is a loan shark.
The arrest of Kangela Empowerment trustee member Xola Stefana and another man, Ezekile Dumana, in connection with the theft of animal feed last week is the latest scandal to rock the R16-million citrus farm deal which has been hanging in the balance since it was sold to the provincial government in 2003.
The latest events come as another prominent BEE farm project in the Eastern Cape, the multi-billion biofuels project at Cradock, has come to a complete standstill.
Provincial police spokeswoman Lieutenant Colonel Sibongile Soci confirmed that Stefana and Dumana were arrested after Paterson SAPS received information that animal feed, belonging to Olifantskop Feed in Paterson, was being stolen by one of the drivers, and was being off-loaded at a farm in Addo.
Dumana is suspected of being the driver of the vehicle.
“SAPS members followed up the information. Animal feed to the value of about R19,770 was recovered on August 23 at about 9am. The animal feed was positively identified by one of the employees of Olifantskop Feed,” Soci said.
Stefana declined to comment when approached following his release on bail.
However in the wake of the arrests, allegations have also emerged that the 37 Addo farm workers who were intended to benefit from the project are being fleeced by Stefana’s wife, Sundays River Valley Municipality Ward 3 councillor Siphokazi Kula, through her loan shark business.
The workers claim Kula is taking advantage of their meagre salaries and forcing them to make use of her loan shark services in a scam run together with Stefana.
One beneficiary, Wellington Ramba, who has worked at the farm since 2003, said Stefana held onto their bank cards and if they owed money to Kula, this amount would be deducted from their monthly wage without their consent.
By doing this they were forced into taking loans from Kula every month, he said.
However Kula vehemently denied that she worked as a loan shark and that she or her husband had access to the bank cards of the beneficiaries.
“If they can prove that then I do not have a problem.
"It is not true.
"I do not work as a loan shark but I do sell clothes and handbags. What they are saying does not make any sense,” she said.
The beneficiaries, who have called for a complete overhaul of the Kangela management, have now approached Port Elizabeth lawyer Tertius Delport to assist them.
One of their demands is to view the trust deed so that they have a better understanding of their rights. In addition, they want access to the farm’s financial statements.
Themba Maki, who has worked on the farm for 50 years, said he still only received a meagre R1,980 a month, despite his status as a beneficiary.
Maki claimed workers had not received any of the training they had been promised to give them the necessary skills to take over the running of the farm.
“Some of us only make R1,300 a month and others only R1,500 a month. We are getting robbed here,” said Maki.
Delport confirmed beneficiaries had approached him for assistance in retrieving a copy of the trust deed, adding that an inquiry had been made with the Registrar in Grahamstown a month ago and he was expecting a copy to be sent shortly.
Evans Nevondo, chairman of the Kangela Empowerment Trust, said he was not aware that Stefana had been arrested. “If the court finds this to be true he will have to account in front of the trustee members”.
But in denying that Stefana was in possession of the workers’ bank cards, Nevondo believed there were people who were trying to influence the beneficiaries into believing mismanagement was taking place on the farm.
“Kangela is working very well, compared to other BEE farming projects. We do not rely on government to pay salaries or for running expenses. The Department of Agriculture has promised funding to plant new trees but we are still waiting on this funding. The last time trees were planted at Kangela was in 2004,” he said.
“The beneficiaries can complain that they are not getting paid but what can we do? If we do not receive funding for new trees Kangela will go under. ,” he said.
“Beneficiaries have also received bonuses of R3,000 to R4,000 for the past few years because this is all we have been able to afford. We still need to provide money for running costs such as water and fertilisers,” he said.
Nevondo also said beneficiaries had access to the trust deed in the past and had attended an informational workshop where they learnt what a trust.