EMERGING farmers are struggling to access funding from a provincial rural development agency that has allowed politicians and business owners to run up loans totalling R125-million.

Yesterday’s Daily Dispatch exposed how the husband of rural development and agrarian reform MEC Zoleka Capa has owed the Eastern Cape Rural Finance Corporation (ECRFC) more than R267 400 since 2004.

Yet despite a new policy allowing experienced farmers to receive funding of up to R500 000 without mentoring, farmers like Zithulele Ntshakaza, 70, who has farmed since 1984, have had their dreams dashed as the agency rejects their loan applications.

“When I applied for R400 000 I was told I had no collateral and I’m too old. The fact is young people are not interested in farming. We who are interested and capable don’t get funding,” said Ntshakaza, who supports 12 people.

The ECRFC last year merged with AsgiSA Eastern Cape and the Eastern Cape Appropriate Technology Unit (Ecatu) to form the Eastern Cape Rural Development Agency (ECRDA), which is allocated a budget by Capa’s department.

Ntshakaza described as disturbing the fact that the MEC’s husband received funding from an agency meant to benefit the poor and questioned ECRDA controls.

“Their problem is that they don’t do proper due diligence. It seems they don’t even bother to collect so that the money can be ploughed back to the people who are actually deserving,” he said.

Another farmer, Bandile Gqwetha, said he was given a third of the R250 000 he required for lamb production, a sign of maladministration as he had submitted a business plan detailing his needs.

“They gave me R80 000 and told me to reapply for the balance. That shows maladministration because they had documentation showing what I required the financing for.

“They did not reject me outright but there was an obvious lack of care in processing my application,” he said. “Most people are told to offer collateral although there is a new policy that allows them to get funding if they have enough experience. Yet there are people like [Ndumiso] Capa, who can get their hands on funds with no problem.”

ECRDA had not responded to questions posed by the Dispatch by the time of going to print.

Calls are mounting for Capa’s axing as MEC following yesterd report.

The United Democratic Movement’s Max Mhlathi said Capa’s influence was “dangerous” as she was not accountable.

“The premier should act to handle this – it is a difficult and dangerous conflict of interest.

“The Office of the Premier should call for rural development and agrarian reform MEC Zoleka Capa’s head amidst the scandal involving her husband,” he said, adding that it should ensure that money owed to government agencies such as the ECRDA was collected.

Democratic Alliance provincial spokeswoman Veliswa Mvenya said: “Eastern Cape premier Noxolo Kiviet must fire rural development and agrarian reform MEC Zoleka Capa if she is serious about rooting out corruption in this province.