A horrific read of Incompetence and looting – here’s a fragment of the article:
From 1918 to 1926, more than 565 000 citrus trees were planted on 2 260 ha of this estate’s land. For the twenty five years before the estate was sold to the South African government in 1974, it showed a profit of millions of rands every year. After the sale, Zebediela grew to become “the diamond of agricultural projects”. It was of such great national pride that the Reader’s Digest Illustrated Guide to Southern Africa wrote in 1978 that “nearly 400 million oranges are harvested each year from the groves of Zebediela, the world’s biggest citrus estate. The output is sufficient to provide one orange for every eight people on earth.
“At the height of the season, about 15 000 cases of oranges leave Zebediela every day. The fruit comes from more than 565 000 trees irrigated by enough water to supply a city. The whole estate is highly mechanized and many of the most advanced handling techniques in world citrus production have originated from Zebediela. “The first fruit was picked in 1926 after W.H. Gilfillan and Isidore Schlesinger divided the two original farms into 1 200 plots of 2 hectares. A handsome brochure was produced at the time offering the plots at 67 pounds each, to be farmed as a profit-sharing operation.
“The scheme proved particularly attractive to retired army officers and by 1921 most plots had been sold. In 1928, a branch railway to Naboomspruit was opened to carry the ever-growing harvest on the first stage of its journey to all parts of the world. In 1974, the South African government bought the Zebediela Estate.” After the ANC government came to power in 1994, the administration of Zebediela came under the control of the newly-formed Agricultural and Rural Development Corporation (ARDC), a government parastatal whose administration eventually ruined not only Zebediela but scores of other agricultural projects in the area. Before this takeover, Zebediela’s harvest was worth R30 million a year.
It didn’t take long for the corruption, theft and maladministration to set in. By 2001, the estate was in ruins. The original 2 260 hectares planted had been reduced to 800 hectares. Because no fertilizers and pesticides were used, more than half the trees died as a result of the Department of Agriculture’s failure to grant funds for the survival of the project. Only ten per cent of yields could be marketed.
Read on here: