Mantusini Dairy: More cows perish as cash crisis at farm deepens

Issued by Retief Odendaal, MPL
Shadow MEC for Rural Development and Agrarian Reform

More cows at the governments’ R43 million Mantusini Dairy Project near Port St Johns, have died, and at least four are on the verge of death, because no support has been forthcoming from the MEC of Rural Development and Agrarian Reform, despite much promised intervention.

Last year the Democratic Alliance exposed how 350 dairy cows of an original herd of 500 perished due to malnutrition and neglect. There are now only 89 cows left at the project, with 72 having been relocated to another facility in Kokstad.

During an oversight inspection at the farm this week, the DA found that since our last visit, 11 more cows have died and four more are seriously ill and in need of veterinary care, but there is no finances available to secure treatment or medication.

The DA has now reported the matter to the National Council of Societies for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (NSPCA) to request their urgent intervention.

Officials from DRDAR have previously indicated that they will ensure that the dairy project receive the necessary assistance from state veterinarians. It would seem that this has failed to materialise.

This multi-million rand government project, on 373 hectares of communal land, was promoted as an empowerment project that would uplift some 500 individual households. Instead, it has become a dysfunctional, non-operational white elephant, where animals have starved to death because government has failed to provide any technical or financial support.

Notwithstanding firm commitments from DRDAR MEC, Nonkqubela Pieters, that her department will assist, the dairy farm is close to collapse.

Representatives of the dairy farm have revealed that the trust owes more than R650,000 in arrears to ESKOM who have long since disconnected the electricity supply to the farm. In addition, R280,000 is owed to service providers who provided feed to the farm.

There is no farm or project manager and no clean drinking water for livestock. The farm has deteriorated to such an extent that it is estimated a further investment of R20 million would be needed to get the dairy farm operational again.

The DA have once again approached MEC Pieters for her urgent intervention and will monitor the situation closely.

We will also continue to work closely with the NSPCA to ensure that the cows at the facility do not suffer as a result of the incompetence of government and that they receive all necessary veterinarian support required.

Government must immediately re-evaluate this project and provide a sustainable solution to the problems at Mantusini.