Houses vacated by Indian-origin farmers now occupied mostly by their workers.

Durban - The title deeds to land owned by Indian-origin farmers in Inanda, near Verulam, on the KwaZulu-Natal North Coast does not authorise their ownership of the land.

This was re-iterated by the traditional leader of the Qadi tribe of the area, Chief MB Ngcobo, at a second meeting with the farmers at the Inanda police station last week.

The chief held a first meeting with the farmers at the police station a fortnight ago.

The meeting had been organised by the station following complaints of intimidation and harassment of the farmers.

This time around the chief wanted to inspect the title deeds for himself. Twenty two Indian farmers were present with their title deeds.

After inspecting a few of the title deeds, Ngcobo again told the farmershe did not recognise the title deeds because “the land belongs to me”.

“I want you to negotiate with me in order to continue to use the land,” he told the farmers.

Ngcobo informed the farmers that they should meet with him within two weeks to enter into an agreement with him.

When one of the farmers asked why only Indian-origin farmers were being ordered to produce their title deeds, the chief said all farmers had been invited.

“All farmers were invited but it's not a matter of urgency,” he told them.

The chairperson of the Umdloti Farmers’ Association, Willy Naicker, said they now wanted the government to intervene to resolve the situation.

“We pay rates for the properties to the municipality,” he said.

“The municipality must now tell us what is the legal situation? We have been staying and farming in Inanda for nearly 100 years since our forefathers and mothers finished their indentures on the sugar and tea estates in the late 1890s.

“Although most of the people have now moved out because of fears for their safety, we still, however, own the land and continue with farming, mainly sugar and vegetables.”

They had been told to stop all farming activities and indunas were going around the area asking their workers to stop all work.

“This is our livelihood and we provide work for more than 1000 people. Now all food production has been dealt a blow in this area and the livelihood of hundreds of families have been affected.”

Their land was being marked into plots and sold for R30000 and R40000. Those claiming to have bought plots were excavating the land and starting to build dwellings.

“We didn't steal the land. Why must we be victimised?,” asked Naicker.

When contacted, Ngcobo said farmers were not being forced to meet him.

“The land belongs to the Qadi tribe and I am the leader. I want the land back,” he said.

“I don't know who they bought the land from. That's their problem. I don't know what they are going to do. I only want my land back.”

A spokesperson in the eThekwini Municipality's communications department, Princess Nkabane, said they were checking the legality of the land with the city's Real Estate department.

“The matter is being investigated. We will revert once we have collated all the details,” said Nkabane.