A tractor clears a sugar cane field near Armstrong Hill in Inanda where farms are being 'land-grabbed'.
Durban - Small-scale farmers are living in fear while land-grabbers destroy their sugar cane crops with bulldozers in Inanda, north of Durban.

The farmers have now turned to the court and police for intervention.

Although the land-grabs have been sporadic over the past two years, the area has been tense since last Wednesday.

Provincial police spokesperson Captain Nqobile Gwala said Verulam police escorted one of the farmers to the Inanda Tea Estate area after receiving allegations of trespassing on Wednesday.

“Police approached a male who was on site, who produced documents saying that he had purchased the land from the local inkosi.

“Police also asked the complainants for their title deeds, which they did not have in their possession. Police informed the complainants to get their title deeds and to open a case of land invasion,” Gwala said.

A member of the Tea Estate Landowners’ Association said the matter was before the Durban High Court for urgent intervention, to avoid potentially dangerous consequences.

The man received reports that some plots were sold and receipts issued with the Qadi Traditional Trust letterhead.

“The tension has escalated to such an extent that we fear for the personal safety and security of our members.”

The Sunday Times reported that the Tea Estate Farming Organisation had approached the Durban High Court in December to interdict Inkosi Mqoqi Ngcobo, of the AmaQadi Tribe, and his indunas, from selling the land which the farmers claimed they owned.

According to Ngcobo’s responding affidavit, he did not instruct anyone to sell any properties except those within the tribal community.

Willie Naicker, chairperson of the Umdloti Farmers’ Association, said they had tried every avenue to avert the damaging of crops.

“Farmers are helpless. We have to be productive to meet our sugar cane supply agreements. Nearly 750 staff have been affected because of intimidation and a volatile situation. We are working with a few staff,” Naicker said.

The Daily News saw a tractor clearing a huge piece of land under sugar cane.

A farmer, who declined to be named, said it was not a pretty site witnessing crops that had been planted for 16 months and were ready for the mill, being bulldozed from the root.

At least five chunks of his property had been cleared by invaders.

A marigold field and one with vegetables were also uprooted by bulldozers on another farm.

Naicker said the police did not make any arrests in the cases and none had gone to court over damage to property.

Gwala said the farmers had opened numerous cases which were still under investigation.

Police also advised farmers to liaise with the relevant authorities pertaining to land invasion.

In November last year, the POST newspaper reported on similar land grab incidents and crops being destroyed in Inanda, Hazelmere, Redcliffe and New Glasgow.

President Cyril Ramaphosa, in his State of the Nation address, said that land expropriation without compensation would be done without damaging the economy, agricultural production or food security.

Daily News