Farmer’s fight far from over

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North Coast farmer Rodger Stewart, who says he was forced to flee his farm after being beaten up by “invaders”, is back farming – but he and the neighbouring Blythedale Coastal Resort still want the Durban High Court to grant final interdicts to stop any further invasions by members of the Zwelabantu Dube Communal Property Association (the Dube clan).

And the issue is far from resolved with the clan – the owner of the land through a successful land claim – now insisting it wants to cancel the deals it struck with Stewart’s New Guelderland Sugar Estates and Blythedale Coastal Resort – the developers of the proposed R10-billion housing estate – and that it wants its land back. Violence erupted on Stewart’s farm last month when a group came to the farm, chanting and toyi toying.

Stewart claims he was attacked – thrown to the ground, kicked and punched – and then forced to sign a document terminating his lease agreement.

Taking his family, he left the farm and through his lawyers, applied to court for an interdict to stop the invasion of the 1 000ha farm which his family once owned. The following day, the Blythedale Coastal Resort – fearing a similar invasion – also made a court application for an interdict preventing members of the clan and their consultant Jabulani Mabaso from any further illegal action.

Mabaso is facing unrelated charges of R200-million government fraud.

In an affidavit filed this week, opposing the finalisation of the interim interdicts, he says he is a member of Alibuye Project Managers, “a consulting firm” appointed in January this year by Inkosi Dube to advise the community about “concerns regarding the settlement of the Dube land claim”.

He said after investigation “we came to the conclusion that the first phase of the settlement of the land claim was not beneficial” – this included the five-year lease signed with New Guelderland Sugar Estates and the 20 percent it held in the joint venture company Blythedale Coastal Resort with the eLan Group in return for its contribution of land.

Mabaso claims in his affidavit that “a number of complex and sophisticated agreements” were entered into between the clan and the minister of rural development and land reform through an “unauthorised person”. It was on this ground that it intended to bring an application to review and set aside those agreements as being “invalid”.

“It is my view that if the status quo is maintained, the community’s interests in the claim will be compromised and eventually extinguished. Review proceedings will be launched soon,” he said.

He said the clan would not seek to “unlawfully remove” anyone from the land and promised there would be no further invasions, or interference.

He denied any knowledge of any assault on Stewart but admitted that “due to frustrations about losing their ancestral land, members of the clan had gone to the properties to seek clarity about their land”.

He also denied that Stewart was forced to sign a document terminating the lease.

Stewart and Blythedale Coastal Resort will file responding papers and the matter will then be set down for hearing. - The Mercury


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