Fodder burnt in land dispute

2008-04-14 00:00

TENSIONS have mounted to a new high at the troubled V-Ranch farm outside Mooi River.

On Friday night, some farm property was torched, allegedly by some of the farm dwellers and land claimants, who later also threatened other workers on the farm.

According to farm owner Willem Verhoef, the culprits burned a large quantity of his winter fodder.

He alleges that they also broke into his staff quarters, threatening to pour petrol and set his workers alight, if they continued working on the farm.

The incident is the latest in the long feud between Verhoef and some of the farm dwellers who have instituted a claim on his farm.

Last year, the farm dwellers were enraged when Verhoef laid charges against three siblings, aged between four and 17 years old, for “trespassing”, after they went through his farm on their way from school.

Verhoef said he was not surprised by the latest incident, saying they have become a common occurrence.

“They have poisoned my cows and cut my fences more than 23 times. They have even blocked access to the farm so that I can’t get in and all this has been happening for the past three years. Enough is enough now. They are trying to chase me away like they did to the previous owner, and they are doing it Zimbabwe-style.”

He said the tenants were offered 36 hectares (about 10% of the total farmland) by the previous owner.

However, on the day of signing the agreement, they refused the deal, saying they wanted more land.

“When I bought over the farm, I offered 60 hectares to the tenants. Six families signed and of those, two have died. Obviously there are families left, but what more must I do?”

Robin Barnsley, the president of the KwaZulu-Natal Agricultural Union (Kwanalu), said the union is concerned about the recent developments.

“I travel extensively and farmers are not opposed to land reform. Many have made offers to sell, but the provincial land reform office and the Land Affairs Department fail to facilitate the process. This is not a political problem, but a delivery problem and the frustrations are shared by both the claimants and farmers,” he said.

The tenants have also accused Verhoef of threatening them with firearms, and shooting and killing their dogs and livestock.

Verhoef said he will only consider selling the farm if he gets a fair offer.

sphumem@witness.co.za

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