8 August 2023
By: Jasper Raats
After years of turbulent partnerships, the operating company of Zebediela Citrus Estate has voluntarily filed for liquidation.
The liquidation application, which was scheduled to be heard in the high court in Polokwane on August 1, was withdrawn at the 11th hour when Zebediela Citrus Estate in Limpopo was declared bankrupt without opposition from the operating company, Zebediela Fruit.
The liquidation application was brought by the estate’s last strategic partner, the Humansdorp Agricultural Cooperative, according to News24. Zebediela Fruit decided to enter voluntary liquidation because it could not service its outstanding debt of R180 million.
Zebediela Citrus Estate was once South Africa’s largest citrus export farm, but since it was transferred to the Bjatladi Communal Property Association as part of a restitution process in 2003, it has been in decline. Several strategic partnerships floundered over the years.
Ike Kekana, a member of the Bjatladi Communal Property Association, said in an interview with the SABC that the community has now lost its rental income from its last strategic partner. According to him, each member earned R50 per month from the rental agreement.
“I don’t mind the rental money, but I feel sorry for the workers of the estate who have now lost their jobs,” Kekana said. “The creditors will likely not get their money back either because there is not much of value left on the estate.”
Citrus farmer Piet Engelbrecht, chairman of Agri Limpopo, says Zebediela will need a massive cash injection to unlock the estate’s potential. The problem is that no one wants to invest in a farm where disputes in the owners’ community frequently halt agricultural activities, he says. He also doesn’t believe the government has enough money to make such an investment.