Andrew Wartnaby and his wife Rae. Picture: Bongani Mbatha

Durban - The KwaZulu-Natal family who took in refugees in the wake of last year's xenophobic violence have abandoned their Hope Farm after relations soured with the people they were trying to help.

Some of the men who forced farmer Andrew Wartnaby, his wife and eight children to quit his Cato Ridge land were arrested early last month and remanded in custody, while the Camperdown police investigated cases of contravening a protection order and malicious damage to property.

Wartnaby said on Wednesday he left his farm after his application to evict the 31 refugees from his farm was adjourned indefinitely in June by the Pietermaritzburg High Court.

"I regret having extended a humanly hand to help these people, not knowing that was endangering the lives of my family.

"These people, despite having been offered a place to stay while they were supposed to be sorting out their refugee status, have caused only drama on my farm," Wartnaby said.

In July last year, Wartnaby took in about 140 foreigners on his 20-hectare farm.

At the time, the refugees were arrested for refusing to leave the Westcliff grounds, in Chatsworth, which had been used for a refugee camp after the attacks on foreigners and looting of businesses in the province.

Fifty-four of their children were kept at Chatsworth's Aryan Benevolent Home while the parents were held by the police.

Wartnaby had said he had offered to accommodate the refugees so they could be reunited with their children, until they could get back on their feet. However, a group of the refugees had turned against the farmer.

"No one seems to sympathise with us. All I did was out of the goodness of my heart, with my wife supporting me," Wartnaby said.

Michelle Kingsford, a neighbour and friend of the Wartnabys, said only one refugee was left on the farm after the group was arrested in June.

"I have an agreement with Andrew to keep my animals, including cats, on the farm because I work with the communities, so I travel a lot. When this tension started and Andrew left the farm for safety, the refugees, on numerous occasions, blocked us from accessing the farm to feed the animals."

Kingsford said she told the refugees that the animals were fed before the refugees got to the farm.

"Those arrested violated a protection order granted by the court through the Camperdown police which prevented them from blocking us from accessing the farm," she said.

Provincial police spokeswoman Captain Nqobile Gwala confirmed the arrests.

"Eight suspects were arrested, appeared in the area's court and were remanded in custody. The court appearance outcomes are unknown," Gwala said.

Sheena Jonker, head mediator of Access to Justice, a not-for-profit organisation which had been providing the refugees with legal and other support, said an agreement had been reached with most of the group but a few had irrationally believed they should be resettled in a third country.

Daily News