Mark Wiley, DA chief whip in the legislature, said last week that a decision had been taken to protect the land as a food producer rather than develop it, after a concerted campaign by environmental activists, spearheaded by Nazeer Sonday of the PH Campaign to stop developers from building on the land.
But farmers said they want to sell the land because crime has made it too risky and expensive to farm.
“It’s not possible to farm in Philippi any more. The farmers in this area are fed-up,” Lizanne Schultz said.
Schultz is a commercial farmer whose father and father-in-law farmed in the PHA for over 20 years. Schultz told the Cape Argus that crime has escalated.
“Theft is a huge problem. We’ve had numerous security guards and they all ran away because it’s too dangerous. The farmers are spending so much money on new equipment and every time it gets stolen,” she said.
Schultz said that the majority of farmers do not support the Western Cape Legislature's decision to preserve the land.
“We don’t support it because we can’t afford it. How are we going to survive?”
Schultz has also accused Sonday of speaking on behalf of farmers even though he is not a farmer.
“He doesn’t farm. None of the farmers have ever had a say, and he is speaking on their behalf,” she said.
Another farmer, Linda Mohr, said: “I love this area, but the farmers here have a very hard life. The area cannot stay as it is, there is too much crime here.”
Mohr added that illegal dumping was another problem. “There is also dumping of rubble and rubbish, which we have to clean up ourselves,” she said.
Sonday said he is aware that the area is facing a massive problem with crime.
“This is not unique to our area. The issue of crime is a countrywide problem, but the real problem has been that the area has been neglected, services have not been delivered and our farmers are not well looked after,” he said. “I was farmer 12 years ago and I’ve spent most of my time trying to protect this area."