An 85-year-old farmer has accused a Limpopo local municipality of refusing to compensate him for fire damages after municipal workers allegedly torched his farm while burning rubbish.
Harold Ramahala of Mohlaka Mosoma village in Bolobedu, near Modjadjiskloof, said four years ago refuse collectors burnt rubbish close to his 21-hectares vegetable farm and the fire spread to the farm and burnt an irrigation system.
“It has been years since the municipality admitted their wrongs and promised to compensate me for the loss.
The incident happened in 2016 and since then no one wants to take the responsibility to replace my irrigation system and fence,” he said.
Ramahala said he was struggling to start afresh and is afraid he might lose his land as he lies fallow. “At the time they asked me to make a quotation for my loss and it came to R28,000 in total. Now farming equipment is expensive I can’t afford it on my own,” he said.
Ramahala, who inherited the farm from his father, said as a result of the fire he had to lay off 15 permanent employees. “We were planting baby marrows, chillies, tomatoes, and maize.
I had no choice but to let them go but it pains me to see them loitering around without jobs,” he said. He said a year before the fire he had harvested thousands of chillies.
“At that time we hired 15 more temporary workers to help with the harvest. I’m worried because it appears our government wants to kill my farming business,” he said.
He added that he used to make R50,000 a month. Criminals have since stolen a borehole pump at the farm. In 2018 the municipality acknowledged the matter and said they were attending to it.
“We can confirm that we are currently engaging engineers to establish facts and their commitment level in this regard. “We will update you and commit to reach an amicable solution by 31 July 2018,” said municipal manager Innocent Sirhova.
Municipality spokesperson Lovers Maenetja said the municipality has noted Ramahala’s issues and is working on proper budgeting for it.
“We have funded a couple of projects of Mr Ramahala, including buying him a borehole, irrigation system and others, and we are behind his farm to make sure it succeeds.
We are pleading with him to bear with us,” she said. Ramahala said he will approach the public protector’s office to lodge a complaint.
He has also registered a complaint with the department of agriculture. Provincial department of agriculture spokesperson Joshua Kwapa referred the matter back to Letaba municipality, saying it is a civil matter between the two.