Durban – One of the flagship rural sugarcane farming projects owned by Tongaat Hulett is facing challenges after a dispute erupted over a 10-year lease that other farmers claim has expired and was never renewed.
As a result, one of the groupings opposed to the extension of the lease is set to march against it on Wednesday.
Equally, the grouping is also mulling taking legal action against the giant company and the local traditional leader, Inkosi Sithembiso Ntuli of the Ntuli clan of Mbongolwane in Eshowe, north of KwaZulu-Natal.
According to Sifiso Ntuli, one of the disgruntled local farmers who surrendered some of his fields for Tongaat Hulett to undertake the sugarcane farming project in the area, the first lease was signed in 2012 and it expired on Monday (1 August 2022) after it decade long life san came to an end.
“The initial 10 year lease was never meant to be renewed at all. What we agreed on was that after this period, Tongaat Hulett will give us back our fields and everything on it. Now we have learned that they have signed another lease which will run until 2030.
“We have learnt that they signed it with some cooperative and our Inkosi. Attempts to get clarification from our Inkosi have failed as we are not entertained when we seek answers,” Ntuli said.
He added that what even made farmers more aggrieved was that Tongaat Hulett was allegedly exploiting them as they were collective given 10 percent of the entire yield the sugar company made from the fields.
“The largest sum of money a farmer with large fields could make a year was a lousy R10 000. Worst still, some farmers made as little R300 on yearly basis for leasing their fields to Tongaat Hulett. So we are saying enough is enough now.
“Hence on Wednesday, we are planning a march to the Oyaya traditional court to demand answers and a review of this lease. If we find now joy, we already have our lawyers on standby to challenge this new fraudulent lease in court,” Ntuli alleged.
Despite all this, Tongaat Hulett stuck to its guns, saying the extension of the lease agreement was correctly signed and the noise about it could be because there is a fight among farmers on who should be on the committee of the co-op.
“Tongaat Hulett is aware of a matter brought forward by a group of individuals claiming to represent the Manyazini Co-op.
“The company is of the view that the contestation of leadership positions is an internal matter within the Co-op.
“Having said that, Tongaat Hulett has satisfied itself that the current lease entered into between the company and the Co-op was signed by legitimate individuals duly authorised by the entity involved,” the company said in a written response to IOL.
Inkosi Sithembiso Ntuli could not be reached for comment as his known cellphone number was not available on the network.