SIPHOFANENI: The Eswatini Water and Agricultural Development Enterprise (ESWADE), an entity linked to royalty under the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives has been accused of systematically plotting to 'kick-out' over 265 sugarcane Farmers Associations by hiking a water bill by 1000% thus forcing them out of business.
This comes in the midst of nation-wide land grab by royalty including projects owned by Swazis that continues to create tension across the country particularly in the rural areas where the level of poverty remain high.
One of the affected farmers who spoke to this Swaziland News said that in a season, they used to pay a water bill of about E 400 per hectare to ESWADE, now there was a proposal made by ESWADE that the bill should be hiked to E 4000 under unclear circumstances.
“Most of the farmers received 70 % of their funding from the European Union (EU), we had an arrangement with ESWADE that we should pay E 400 per hectare for the water that we use in the fields in a season. Now they are proposing to increase the charge to E 4000 per hectare under unclear circumstances, they claim that part of the E 4000 will be used to pay back the EU Funds. But to our surprise, the new arrangement will also affect those who didn’t receive the EU’s funding, this will kill our business as we also have other financial obligations that we need to attend to”, said the farmer.
Efforts to reach Charles Bennet , the Chairman of ESWADE proved unsuccessful at the time of compiling this report.
But Mduduzi ‘Gawuzela’ Simelane, the Member of Parliament (MP) of the Siphofaneni Constituency said he was aware of the matter.
“I got a message from the farmers this morning ( Tuesday) , I’m yet to meet with them and I can only make a comment after that. But according to my knowledge they are not supposed to pay back the funds from the EU”, said the Siphofaneni MP.
When reached for comments, Mbongiseni Shabangu, the Secretary General of the Swaziland Democratic Party (SWADEPA) said the farmers were not supposed to pay back the donor funds adding that this was a strategy for royalty to push the farmers out of business so they could take over.
“First of all, they shouldn’t be paying back the money that was donated by the EU. Most Swazis are not privy to the details of the donor funds that is why they end up being scammed by entities like ESWADE .Its high time for the donors to have an audience with beneficiaries because as the situation stands, royalty and government are exploiting these funds for their own benefit.We strongly condemn the ESWADE for pushing farmers deeper into poverty by charging these fees which are not transparent and justifiable. The farmers are already paying royalties fees (tetfulo) but it seems like they are pushing them out business so that royalty can take over”, he said.
Royal linked ESWADE wants to systematically kick-out over 265 sugarcane farmers Associations, hikes water bill