THE state of the municipality’s Kruisfontein farm in Alexandria has to be seen to be fully appreciated.
A couple of photographs of dead animals and destroyed property, accompanied by our description of the controversial history of the farm since it was acquired as a land reform project, do not quite convey the shocking and depressing reality.
Before it was sold by the former private owners to the Alexandria Transitional Council in the mid-1990s, Kruisfontein farm was the biggest dairy in the area, with about 300 to 400 cows.
“In the mid-1990s, that was big,” Alexandria Agricultural Association (AAA) chairman Brent Mcnamara told TotT as we drove around the farm recently.
Now the two big dairies are in ruins, roofless, stripped of timber and metal, as are the farmhouses on the property. One of the farmhouses was used by stock thieves to slaughter a cow, its skull and bones still on the floor.
Invasive inkberry trees infest the entire farm, and as McNamara said, the department of economic development and environmental affairs, so enthusiastic about policing and prosecuting farmers for contravening the National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act and Conservation of Agricultural Resources Act, are not interested in holding the municipality to account.
Used as commonage for years, ever since a highly questionable lease given to a few select comrades was terminated, the property has been used willy-nilly with no access control.
There are now far more cattle on the property than the farm can handle. The last count during an operation by the Grahamstown Stock Theft Unit two years ago was 750 cattle.
The farm is severely over-grazed and water is scarce. McNamara predicted the few remaining watering holes would dry up by August, and then we would see more cattle dying besides the rotting carcasses we came across.
Irresponsible cattle owners leave the beasts to their own devices. We came across an emaciated cow stuck in the mud in one of the watering holes, which is where it would probably die, poisoning the water for the rest of the herd.
Another sick cow lay against the fence bordering Kwanonqubela township, no-one paying any heed.
One of the owners has more than 100 head of cattle on the commonage, profiting from keeping his herd there and not having to pay a cent.
The municipality ignored the AAA’s appeals about Kruisfontein for years, and only recently seems to have been galvanised to do something.
Local farm security operator Alfred Kosani, who has found stolen cattle there, summed it up: “It’s not a farm anymore – look at it. There’s nothing expect bush.”
– Jon Houzet