Struggling farmers strike it rich

Five brothers who were struggling to keep their dry, dusty sheep farm going became millionaires overnight after uranium was discovered on their land and they were paid R20-million for the mining rights.

Just a few months ago the five Ngondo brothers were hard put to meet the mortgage payments after drought claimed 100 of their sheep. Now bank managers are queuing up to discuss how they should invest their windfall.

“It has happened very quickly,” Solomon Ngondo (67) said on Monday. “We are township people and this is a great deal of money for us. We don’t want to squander it.”

Four years ago the brothers bought the 6 000ha farm outside Beaufort West in the central Karoo, Western Cape, but raising goats and sheep was tough going. “We lost 100 sheep because of a drought,” said Ngondo. “Neighbouring white farmers helped us, but it was difficult.”

Early this year they were approached by someone who wanted to buy the farm “We said no, we wanted to keep our land,” said Ngondo. Then they were offered R3,5-million for their mineral rights. They said no again. “I got very suspicious when two days later they came back with an offer of R6-million.”

The brothers decided to hold out a while longer. In the end Uranco, a London-based mining firm, paid them R14-million up front and will pay the remaining R6-million in three instalments.

The Ngondos will also get a 4% annual royalty.

The brothers thank their late father, Mono, for their good fortune. He was a brickmaker, but always wanted to own a farm. Apartheid made it impossible.

The family sold their mining rights just in time. The government has changed the law, so that from now on the state has the mining rights, not the individual landowners.

“We are going to develop this farm,” said Ngondo. “We want to increase the number of sheep from the 700 we have now. We want to raise more goats. We want to get solar-powered electricity and new boreholes so we will have water. We have big plans.” - Guardian Unlimited Â

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