Former president Nelson Mandela’s farms in the Eastern Cape are derelict, with little or no agricultural activity taking place. One of the farms has been badly vandalised and the situation is no better at the other farm, where the herd of cattle has dwindled dramatically, and the gardens are overgrown and untended.
The sorry state of affairs is a far cry from what Madiba intended.
In his final will, signed on September 30 2004, Mandela wrote: “It is my wish that the farming operations in Qunu and outside Umtata continue after my death and that the NRM Family Trust continues to employ the manager now running the operations and find suitable persons should he no longer be available to do it.”
A Daily Dispatch team recently visited both farms and discovered this wish seems to have been forgotten.
The farmhouse in Hillside, near Mthatha airport, is now dwarfed by long grass. There is no manager and the once modern house has been badly vandalised. It has no electricity supply, the windows are broken, built-in cupboards have been ripped from the peeling walls and many doors have been stolen. The thatched roof of another house on the property has vanished.
At the main farm in Qunu, the fields stand unploughed and neglected, the lawns have not been mowed and there is not a single vegetable growing in the garden. The 100-head herd of cattle is down to about 18 beasts, including calves. The herd has also dwindled at the Hillside farm, where some of the cattle have died. Here the cattle kraal is broken, as is the borehole which was operated by a windmill and was the only water supply for the farm.
Cattle herder Mzimasi Guma, 68, who worked for the family for more than 20 years, has watched the property that belonged to the late global icon deteriorate into a “ghost house”.
Guma told the Dispatch that some of the farm’s Bonsmara cattle had been sold.
“I am told that these cattle were sold but what I am noticing is that the house has been vandalised. There’s no security at this farm; the manager left a long time ago,” said Guma.
“The cattle were being sold and there are only four that are left here in Hillside but I know the same is happening in Qunu. I believe that the reason for them being sold is because of the drought and feed is expensive. But Madiba loved his cattle. Every time I met him, he told me about his love of farming and cattle,” Guma recalled.
He referred the Dispatch to a Mr Titi and to Nomahala Sangoni.
“They are taking care of these farms and staff. They pay our salaries; speak to them,” he said.
Both Titi and Sangoni referred the Dispatch to the Mandela family.
“I will suggest that you speak to the family about these issues,” said Sangoni. Titi said he had no authority to speak to the media about the properties.
“I can’t speak about anything. Speak to the Mandela family, ” he said.
Mandela’s eldest daughter, Makaziwe Mandela, who spent a couple of days in Qunu recently, referred the Dispatch to the executors of her father’s estate.
The three executors are retired Deputy Chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke, retired judge Themba Sangoni and advocate George Bizos.
Numerous efforts were made by the Dispatch to contact the three executors but they could not be reached for comment.
Attempts were also made to speak to Mandela’s grandchildren but Mandla Mandela, a traditional leader and an MP, could not be reached for comment while his younger brother, Ndaba Mandela, said he was abroad and told the Dispatch reporter “Don’t waste my time. Ungandibuzi amasimba mna. Don’t ask me kak.”
Qunu traditional leader Nokwanele Balizulu confirmed that the farms were neglected and abandoned. She said this made her heart sore.
“Madiba cherished both these farms and as a traditional leader this makes my heart bleed. I wanted to cry when I saw the condition of the Hillside farm house. This is an insult to Madiba’s legacy,” Balizulu said.
She said there were once 96 cattle that were healthy and strong at the Qunu farm. “Madiba loved his cattle. It is bad to see his properties dying with him. The family cannot fold their arms and watch the houses collapse and cattle die.”
– Daily Dispatch