This is what successful land reform looks like


Little Barnet was barren. The farmers who bought the land didn’t care. Forlorn fields beckoned imaginative minds, offering an enticing challenge to the ambitious group. Among the 18 members of the Longvale Trust, almost all of whom were land reform beneficiaries, was Tshilidzi Matshidzula. The 19-year-old was brought in right after completing his Diploma in Animal Science and Production at TUT – a massive break in his fledgling career. But just when everything seemed to be going his way, tragedy struck.

Two years into its watch over the farm, the trust was on its way to establishing a respectable dairy operation. More pastures were developed. Cows bought. Then, horror. The managing trustee was murdered. Shock and trauma led to an exodus of shareholders. Those who remained were left with the conundrum of how to continue. Matshidzula held fast. Amid the chaos he found a way to save the project and, taking out a loan, purchased a 40 percent stake in the trust.

The move was risky, but bold. And it paid off. Almost a decade later, Matshidzula manages the successful farm that he partly owns. He has played a pivotal role in building it from the ground up to become a multi-million rand business. Where others shied away from the task of saving a faltering project, Matshidzula revelled in the challenge. He saw potential in the land and, more importantly, in himself. Now he is one of South Africa’s only black farm owners. And he is thriving.