KZN government establishes committee to resolve farming tensions
Durban - The KwaZulu-Natal provincial government has established a committee to address matters related to the co-existence of farm dwellers and farm owners.
This was revealed by KZN Premier Sihle Zikalala when he visited farm dwellers and farmworkers in the Normandien area outside Newcastle yesterday.
The area has been in the spotlight following escalating tension between farmers, farm residents and workers. Last year in August, farming couple Glen and Vida Rafferty were found dead outside their home; both had sustained gunshot wounds.
Police said in February that Sizwe Tell Zwane, 33, pleaded guilty to the murders and was sentenced to 10 years’ imprisonment on one count of robbery, and received 25 years’ imprisonment on each count of murder. Two other accused are yet to go on trial for the murders.
Zikalala said the committee would be led by the KZN MEC for Agriculture and Rural Development, Bongi Sithole-Moloi and would sit every month and provide feedback to the affected communities on a quarterly basis.
According to Zikalala, there were many issues they had identified that were driving conflicts in farming communities, including land issues and the living conditions of farmworkers.
“The first problem is that the land was taken away from the people. However, when we try to return it, it always comes with lot of issues,” said Zikalala, adding that corruption in the land-reform programme created serious challenges.
Zikalala also noted serious problems, involving the co-existence farm dwellers and farm owners.
He said there were many community trusts whose terms of office had expired, and that the re-election of new boards of trustees seemed to be moving at a snail’s pace.
“We are going to be engaging with the minister of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development, Thoko Didiza, to fast-track the process across the province. We are also going to audit these trusts to ensure that they work for the farm dwellers.”
He said they would meet Didiza in two weeks, to obtain forensic and Special Investigating Unit reports dealing with corruption in the trusts.
Normandien farm dweller Lucky Shabalala said the local community was living in fear even after repoting matters to Police Minister Bheki Cele.
Shabalala said police were still not attending to their issues as frequently as they attended to matters raised by farm owners. “One of the people who were found to have murdered … white farmers was sentenced to 60 years in jail. However, we are living with a farmer who killed a black man here in 2011, yet nothing has been done. The police don’t take farm dwellers seriously,” said Shabalala.
Themba Mazibuko said that, as desperate farm dwellers, they feared that the resolutions and recommendations made by Zikalala, were going to “disappear”. “The white farmers are at war with us black farm dwellers. On our farms, there is no water, no roads or proper schools. Whenever we try to build, they come and demolish,” Mazibuko claimed.
Zikalala assured the angry communities that all issues raised would be addressed accordingly.