The community of Pongola along the South Africa-eSwatini border in northern KwaZulu-Natal are up in arms against a sugarcane farmer they accuse of shooting and killing their cattle.
The farmer has denied shooting the cattle, but told IOL he had chased them from his fields on numerous occasions.
The incidents have raised tempers and tensions in the largely agricultural region.
The community lives next to a sugarcane farm owned by Albie Mentjies.
They allege that for almost four years, Mentjies has been shooting their cattle, which is their sole source of income, without facing any consequences from the police or anyone in government.
Mzweleni Shabangu, a community leader, said they have been living in fear because of the farmer’s conduct and they are now fed up and want action to be taken.
“We have more than 20 livestock owners living in the area that are affected by the conduct of this farmer.
"In the past four years more than 20 of the community’s cows have been shot at point-blank by this farmer,” Shabangu said.
He added that he has made efforts to meet with Mentjies, but there have been no positive results that came out of their meeting.
“He could not cooperate with me and we have since decided to open cases against him with the police in Pongola,” he said.
Shabangu said even residents who were previously afraid of taking up the matter with the police have now joined him in opening their cases so that the farmer could be taken to task.
“The other 18 families are now in the process to open their separate cases regarding the killing of their livestock by the farmer,” he added.
The police in KwaZulu-Natal confirmed that Shabangu has opened a case after he lost two cattle on June 28, 2023.
“Pongola police are investigating a case of malicious damage to property following an incident in which a suspect allegedly shot and killed two cattle on 28 June.
“The complainant alleged that the suspect killed his cattle because they went inside his sugarcane farm and ate the sugarcane,” said KZN police spokesperson Constable Thenjiswa Ngcobo.
Mentjies denied shooting dead the cattle, but said he is forced to act as the community does not look after its cattle which ends up destroying his sugarcane.
“These people don’t look after their livestock and leave them to stray into my sugarcane, every day I have to spend time removing their livestock from my farm.
“That’s not my daily duty, I am also in business here and I spend money to pay the workers, I buy fertilizer and I pay to bring water, I have a right to work where I live,” Mentjies said.
“In one day I have to remove their stray cattle from my farm up to seven times a day and they simply laugh at me when removing them, they just don’t care.”