AN 80-year-old grandmother from Riviersonderend has been left destitute after the Theewaterskloof Municipality impounded and auctioned her 22 goats because she was unable to pay a hefty penalty of R30 000.
Nosinothi Ntsombi said she had been using municipal land for her livestock to graze on since 2009, supporting her family by supplementing her pension raising goats and selling them within her local community.
She is among several small-scale farmers in the Caledon-Greyton-Riviersonderend district relying on municipal commonage. They are facing a battle to reclaim their animals impounded after a by-law was introduced by the municipality. It prohibited animals from wandering on to municipal and private property.
Goats raised by Ntsombi and other small-scale farmers in Riviersonderend were impounded after straying on to a neighbouring golf course, which itself is on land leased from the municipality.
“The officials took my 22 goats, but that was after the fencing between the commonage and golf course was destroyed after a storm. The impounding fee was over R30 000 that I do not have.
“I have two children (in my care) I have to send to school and it’s been very difficult,” said Ntsombi.
She said she had not been able to attend court as she did not have transport and, at her age, was unable to hike the over 50km to get to Caledon Magistrate’s Court as other small-scale farmers had done.
Samuel Ndluma, 70, was among farmers who hiked to court for the hearing of horse owner Antony Jeffery “Oom Pops” Sampson, which they regard as a test case.
“Our livestock was also in the “kraal” on the commonage, with no fencing next to the golf course that leases land from the municipality. We don’t know if our goats are still in the impound or have been sold off like the ouma’s (Ntsombi),” said Ndlumane.
He said there had been an agreement between the small-scale farmers and the municipality going back almost 20 years regarding the use of municipal land and hoped that a solution would soon be reached.
Ndlumane was waiting to hear when his case would get to court. He believed a favourable outcome for Sampson would benefit them all.
Mayibuye Land Rights Movement spokesperson Denia Jansen said: “We have spent millions to assist small-scale farmers in the rural areas of the Western and Eastern Cape.
“What we find is that commonage land is being leased to commercial farmers, but the details of duration, hectares and fees are being kept under wraps.
“We would love to know how much they are assisted by the municipalities when small-scale farmers have to struggle to get land.”
Jansen’s organisation is assisting rural workers and small-scale farmers within the Overberg, Breede Valley and Theewaterskloof municipalities. She said commercial farmers are treated favourably, yet small-scale farmers were entitled to the land after years of being marginalised.
Approached in his office in Caledon, Theewaterkloof Municipality spokesperson Hugo Geldenhuys would not comment because of the pending court case of Sampson, but had previously stated the municipality stood by the integrity of its by-law.
Later, in a statement, he said allegations against the municipality “illegally” impounding animals were incorrect. The danger posed by wandering animals was the reason behind their by-law.
“There have been complaints and at least one death as a result of wandering animals. Officials strive to first contact the owners and notifications (in leaflets and posters) are sent to public areas, after which a fine must be paid due to the costs in caring for the animals while in (our care),” read the statement.
He said auctioning was only requested at court after seven days if contact had not been made with the owner, or if the fine set by the by-law had not been settled.
Any agreements brokered with the Theewaterskloof Municipality had always been documented as is procedure, said Geldenhuys.
And the situation regarding land could only be addressed by the department of Rural Development and Land Reform and the Provincial Legislature.