The DA in the Free State Legislature have submitted questions to both the MEC for Agriculture, Mr William Bulwane, and MEC for Police, Roads and Transport, Mr Mashinini regarding their plans to deal with problems regarding commonage management in the Free State. Although commonage management falls under local municipalities, the provincial government must ensure law enforcement and support to local commercial and commonage farmers.
The DA has received complaints from commonage farmers regarding the lack of support from both municipalities and the provincial government. Herds are becoming too large for commonages while some state owned land and farms lie fallow. Other complaints relate to lack of veterinary services, grazing, water and markets, while stock theft and poor fencing cause additional problems. See pictures here, here and here.
The commercial farmers face increased stock theft, but also the invasion of grazing by livestock from commonages. The lack of action by either local government authorities or police fuels potential conflicts between commonage and commercial farmers. Many of the livestock owners are from Lesotho and indications by farmers that they will impound livestock and charge the owners for grazing are often met with threats of arson or other form of violence. This situation threatens both the safety and livelihoods of farmers and their employees.
The situation is worse along the Lesotho border where livestock from Lesotho roam and grace freely on the South African side. Once again there is a lack of law enforcement regarding livestock invasion of land, but also stock theft. Porous borders due to the lack of border control and law enforcement not only threatens safety and livelihoods of South African farmers, but also increases threats of the spread of diseases from Lesotho, such as Anthrax.
The DA in Parliament recently launched an upgraded alternative rural safety plan that could assist with such problems. The DA in the Free State Legislature will continue to probe these issues through the Legislature in order to ensure that our subsistence, emerging and commercial farmers of the Free State all receive the necessary support from their provincial government. It is important that our food producers in the province are able to work and live alongside each other in harmony.