Tension grows between Newcastle farmers and black communities
Tensions are still high in the farming community of Normandien as black communities are still roundly accusing white farmers of being a law unto themselves.
This became evident on Sunday when KZN Premier Sihle Zikalala convened an imbizo to give feedback to local communities, after a heated meeting last year, which was attended by Police Minister Bheki Cele.
The meeting attended by Cele was held after a white farming couple were killed, stoking racial tensions.
Instead of accepting a way forward, locals on Sunday told Zikalala and some of his Cabinet members that nothing has changed. Instead, some white farmers are allegedly evicting some farmers dwellers, confiscating and selling their livestock, and even blocking development – like water and electricity installations.
Topping the list of grievances was how farmers allegedly impounded stray cattle from local communities into their farms, and later illegally sold them. One farm dweller, Melusi Mathimbane told Zikalala how his family had gone hungry because a farmer confiscated their goats.
Another farm dweller, Lucky Shabalala took the podium and accused government officials of misleading Zikalala on some matters pertaining to a dispute between Matimbane residents and a farmer who allegedly confiscated a combined herd of 350 livestock. Shabalala said that this is still a bleeding wound that makes it difficult for them to live in peace with white farmers.
“We will never reconcile with these white farmers who are mistreating us and the law enforcement agencies are turning a blind eye. Someone was recently sentenced to 60 years for killing a white farmer, yet we have a farmer who killed a person in 2011 and is still walking around free. Instead they have applied to have a black judge, who is hearing the matter, to be removed and have a white judge preside over it,” Shabalala claimed, underlying the depth of the tensions between white farmers and locals.
Also raised with Zikalala was how some white farmers were blocking development in order to frustrate farm dwellers. A resident from Springvale farm, who only identified herself as Mrs Dladla, claimed the local municipality was blocked by a farmer from installing electricity.
“The government wanted to install electricity for us, but later stopped when a white farmer refused to grant them permission to do so. The same farmer does not want us to fetch firewood (for energy) from the farm. We want a government decision on this matter by month end,” she fumed.
One resident, Mangaliso Kubheka, from the Landless People Movement, even bluntly accused the judiciary of “being captured.”
Kubheka then demanded that the national government must act against Piet Retief (Mpumalanga province) farmers – who killed two black people, who were protesting against farm abuses.
As the talk of “fighting back against white farmers” dominated the meeting, residents, Themba Mazibuko and Mhleli Shandu said they were outraged.
Shandu told Zikalala point blank that they have acted with restraint for too long.
“White farmers are confiscating our livestock as we speak. What should we do, tell me premier? Fight them? Give us direction … Let me tell you that our elders have given us a nod to go ahead and fight against these white farmers,” Shandu threatened.
Opening the meeting, Zikalala told the residents that one of the challenges, in the effort to bring all the sides to the table, was that “they don’t trust each other.”