Farmworkers head home after a long day of planting and ploughing at a macadamia farm in Ncera Village in the Eastern Cape.    Picture: Daily Dispatch
Farmworkers head home after a long day of planting and ploughing at a macadamia farm in Ncera Village in the Eastern Cape. Picture: Daily Dispatch

The government is forging ahead with plans to deregister Ncera, a failed state-owned farm in the Eastern Cape.

The farm was set up to develop the capacity of smallholder farmers in the area, and activities include livestock farming and open land and tunnel cropping. There is also a tractor workshop.

Allegations emerged that officials in the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries were allegedly looting farm assets and funds, leading to the collapse of operations.

Discussions to close Ncera started as long ago as 2001, when the then department of agriculture faced financing shortfalls of about R1.5m to R2m a year, after the government’s takeover of the farm from the South African Development Trust Corporation.

Kgadima Mannya, a deputy director-general at the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries told MPs on Tuesday that the de-registration process was likely to be completed by April 2017.

"We approached Treasury to request … the deregistration, and in our discussions with the technical team in Treasury, we have gotten approval in principle," said Mannya.

He said the Treasury had requested that the department transfer the remaining workers on the farm to the Agricultural Research Council (ARC).

"At the moment we are resolving the issue of the wages because they are not comparable with the ARC nor with government either way we have to transfer them … we expect we will be done before the end of the year.

"We also have engaged the Department of Public Works and Rural Development regarding the transfer of the administration of the land so that the land is utilised by the local communities," he said.

"Once we have resolved these issues before the end of the calendar year, then we will go back to Treasury to request that they deregister Ncera. Because of the financial implications, we expect that this process may have to happen as of April 1," said Mannya.

Mannya was part of a delegation from the department led by Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Senzeni Zokwana that briefed legislators on the department’s annual report and the progress on the deregistration of Ncera farms.

MPs have, in the past, questioned the farm's viability, saying it offered no value for money and should be closed.

A forensic audit by KPMG into the farm in 2010, highlighted that the department had failed to put in place adequate mechanisms to address some of the issues at Ncera, which recorded a R22m accumulated deficit in the 2004-05 financial year, and almost R24m in the following financial year.

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