Nonkululeko Hlope, SABC, September 21, 2020
Emotions ran high at a meeting between Police Minister Bheki Cele, farmers, and farm dwellers in Normandien in northern KwaZulu-Natal. Cele met with the farming community over concerns about ongoing tensions.
Farmers and farm dwellers raised their concerns over allegations of unfair treatment in cases by the local police station. This is Cele’s second visit to the area in under a month following the death of the local farming couple, Glenn and Vida Rafferty, who were ambushed and gunned down on their farm three weeks ago.
Suspect, Siyabonga Macu, has appeared in the Newcastle Magistrate’s Court on charges of murder. He is charged with the double murder of the Normandien farm couple last month. Macu will apply for bail next week.
Farm dwellers raise their concerns
Nearby, a heated meeting between farm owners, dwellers, and Police Minister Bheki Cele unveiled tensions within the farming community in this area. Some farm dwellers raised concerns about how they say farmers treat them.
They also accused the local police of not adequately dealing with matters reported by farm dwellers.
An emotional pensioner, Dumazile Lukhele, shared her struggles and asked Cele to intervene. “The white farmers in our area are terrorising us, all the time. There was a time when I was in a process of building my house the farmer destroyed it. In another incident, I wanted to bury my child, the farmer came with dogs and attacked us, he prevented us from burying.”
Law enforcement response
Chairperson of the Amajuba Landless People Movement, Somandi Hadebe, questioned what he referred to as a quick response by law enforcement authorities, following the Rafferty’s murders.
He says tensions in the area have been around for many years. “A number of black farm dwellers have died at the hands of the white farmers in this area but nothing has been done, not a single official attended to our cries, but when a white farmer is killed we are now suddenly seeing government officials coming to our area. I have asked the Minister why are they are here to form structures knowing very well those structures will not survive.”
Cele assured farm dwellers that pending cases would be re-investigated.
In particular, he responded to a comment from a local farmer, Roland Collyer, who reportedly down-played a shooting that is said to have taken place some years ago, where a farmer allegedly shot and killed a farmworker and claimed to have been shooting a dog.
“It can’t be an old case that somebody died because you thought you were shooting a donkey or shooting a dog, a baboon it can’t be. Next time Mr. just show some respect for some of us. This thing of yours of putting me on the spot wanting me to answer you, it is arrogance, you have no respect. You put me here; you even say I must use my head to nod that is arrogance.”
Meanwhile, Collyer presented his version of the alleged incident, calling it is an old case that is long gone.
“It is a point that keeps coming up in these meetings. If I can rectify it Mr. Geldenhys had dogs in his property, he shot the dog and the owner was lying behind it. That is an old case so we would like to see that this gets seen as an old case that has passed.”
Farmer Darrell Brown says he strongly believes that the causes of these ongoing tensions are due to unresolved land reform issues.
Brown is calling on the government to honour the promises that were made to the people. “People have been given promises which have not been carried out. This leads to tensions and racial tension in this area. Land affairs need to take this issue seriously and government needs to take this issue seriously because the failure of government in finalising these issues is really the root cause of the problems we are discussing here today.”
Cele has also ordered an investigation into allegations from farm dwellers of poor work by the local police. He has demanded a report back within fourteen days.