Community ’angry and confused’ after farmer bulldozes family’s unfinished house
Durban - A family living on a farm in Vryheid, northern Zululand, are demanding justice after the owner of a game reserve demolished their house, apparently in full view of police. But the farmer claimed it was his private property and that the family did not have permission to build there.
The house was allegedly built illegally on the property of Isaac Uys, who owns the Boshoek Farm and Thangami Safari Spa.
In a video circulating on social media, three farmers, one driving a tractor, are seen bulldozing concrete walls of an unfinished house. The farmers’ action in the presence of two police officers from Gluckstadt police station has left the local community confused. Some allege that the farmer had given the Nguni family permission to build, however Uys has denied the claim.
The commotion happened on a Friday afternoon when a member of the family whose house was broken down, Lindokuhle Seluleko Mnguni, 24, was allegedly shot by a police officer. The angry community gathered outside the farmer's house and blockaded the gravel road with logs and stones.
Bonani Mnguni, 27, another family member who intended to live in the house, said she used her savings earned while working at a local clinic in Gluckstadt, to install the roof. The building contractor was busy with it when the farmers tore down the structure.
“The farmers did not utter a word to us but went on to demolish the house using a tractor. Police stood by and watched when we asked them to stop the farmers. They said they had been instructed to ensure the farmers were safe,” said Mnguni.
She said her brother Seluleko, who had been shot below the left knee, “was recovering after being discharged from a local hospital“.
Mnguni said there was no trouble when her family relocated to the area with the approval of both the farmer and local headman Induna Kaiser Mnguni in October last year after a series of meetings.
“We were born on the other side of the uMfolozi River. But due to lack of infrastructure, we decided to relocate. When the river swells, after the heavy rains, we could not cross to schools, clinics and police stations,” she said.
Mnguni said on Friday a matric pupil had drowned on uMfolozi river when attempting to cross after returning from picking wild berries. A local IFP ward 4 councillor in KwaCeza near Ulundi, Manyamfolo Masondo, said he was aware of the incident which led to the tension between the farmer and the family. Masondo blamed the farmer for taking the law into his own hands but admitted the land belonged to Uys.
“It is a sensitive matter which needs to be handled with care. We had a meeting with the farmer to seek an amicable solution,” said Masondo. An eyewitness and uncle, Mboneni Mnguni, said they had the minutes of a series of meetings held late last year with both the Induna and the farmer to approve the building of the home.
“We are confused about why the farmer was not arrested because he tarnished our dignity. We blame the police for siding with a farmer. We want the farmer to be arrested and forced to compensate the family,” he said.
Mnguni said the farmer was influenced by another family residing on the farm not to allow the Mnguni’s to commence with the building. “The other family despised the Mnguni’s so much they influenced the farmer to kick them off his property,” said Mnguni.
However, Uys dismissed the fact they had approved of the family building their house on the farm. He said during several meetings held last year, in the presence of police and the community, the Mnguni family said they would stop building on their land. But to the farmers' surprise, the family added more illegal structures. He said they had exhausted proper channels, including reporting twice to a local police station. “We have legal documents of the ownership of the land. We also have two cases registered at the police station against the family for trespassing,” he said.
“Other community members residing on a farm also do not approve of the family building on the farm. They can’t build there, it is not their land and they know it too,” said Uys. He said the farm used to produce fruits decades ago but was transformed into a game reserve with giraffes, zebras, impalas, nyalas and elephants.
KZN Department of Rural Development and Land Reform spokesperson Sipho Dlamini said the farmer had no order to demolish the house. Dlamini said he was told there was an informal agreement from the farmers' parents to the Mnguni family to build a house on their land.
“We will assist to facilitate peace between the concerned parties because the matter has divided the community with those siding with farmers while others support the family. But this is an isolated incident in the area,” said Dlamini.
KwaZulu-Natal police spokesperson Captain Nqobile Gwala confirmed that charges of malicious damage to property, trespassing, assault on a police officer and attempted murder were opened at Gluckstadt SAPS for investigation.
She said a case of attempted murder is investigated by the IPID.