Bitter Harvest is a follow-up to an on-going investigation into alleged corruption and elite capture of state-owned farms. In 2015, we went to Nirwanda, a grape farm ín the Western Cape, where a bitter battle between a farming co-operative known as ‘The Big Five,’ beneficiaries of the government’s agricultural land reform, and a Dutch multinational, ‘the ‘South African Fruit Exporters’ (SAFE) and its BEE partner BONO, was playing out.
In 2013 the Big Five members were approved as beneficiaries and lessees of Nirwanda. They claim, contrary to government policy, they were forced to take on SAFE and BONO as strategic partners, to receive government funding. In 2016, a damning forensic report, exposed exclusively by Special Assignment, found that SAFE and Bono were in a corrupt relationship with department officials and recommended criminal charges be laid against them and the company.
SAFE and BONO exited Nirwanda leaving fortunes in unpaid bills, neither electricity nor water and no money to pay farm workers. And now, Special Assignment has evidence of department officials negotiating behind closed doors to re-instate BONO on the farm and evict the Big Five. Determined not to be undermined or intimidated, the Big Five, through a formidable team of lawyers, has launched a lawsuit against the department and SAFE/BONO. The members claims that all they want is to be acknowledged as legitimate beneficiaries and to receive their lease to apply for funding in order to develop the farm into a model of agricultural excellence throughout South Africa.
Watch Bitter Harvest, produced by Hazel Friedman on Special Assignment, Sunday at 21h30, SABC 3 and The News Channel 404.
For more information contact Special Assignment: 011 714 5419
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