Stock theft, illegal grazing and fears that their livestock could contract diseases such as anthrax from animals in neighbouring Lesotho pushed Free State farmers to embark on a legal battle against the government.
For two years, they fought to get a stolen fence dividing the two countries replaced and patrol roads along the borders upgraded. But despite a 2010 ruling ordering the government to replace the fence, it took another ruling by the Bloemfontein High Court in September for the government to spring into action.
“Free State Agriculture’s view of this agreement is not a victory over the government, but a reminder of the responsibility and obligations to the rural and vulnerable citizens on the Lesotho border. Stock theft remains a serious matter as a shortage of equipment like vehicles for stock theft units is still not resolved. Animal diseases… also threaten our industry,” says Kobus Breytenbach, chairman of Agri SA’s rural safety committee.
In line with the court order, the Department of Public Works will construct and repair the patrol road from this year until the 2014/2015 financial year “so that by the end of June 2015 at the latest, the entire patrol road will be capable of being used effectively for the patrol of the Lesotho-Free State border by any 4x4 vehicle including five-ton vehicles”.
The department was also ordered to make available sufficient funds for the construction of the fence along the entire borderline. The Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries was to oversee the construction of the fence.
Farmer representatives met government departments concerned yesterday at Agri SA offices in Centurion.