Is ANC-uMvoti councillor above the law?

2009-10-29 00:00

DESPITE admitting that he torched a truck worth R2 million last week after it allegedly drove on to his farm, ANC heavyweight at uMvoti (Greytown) council Philani Godfrey Mavundla remains a free man, having neither been charged, nor arrested seven days after the incident.

At a press conference yesterday, Mavundla admitted to burning the truck, saying it was just retribution after his neighbour Richard Cyrus killed 12 of his trained dogs. Cyrus is not the owner of the truck.

He said he reported the matter to the police and is now waiting on them to take any action they deem necessary.

“As far as I am aware, there is a case opened, but we are still waiting on the decision by the public prosecutor,” Mavundla said.

He said tensions between him and Cyrus have been simmering since the farmer moved to the area three years ago.

Mavundla said because his farm has a problem with pigs and monkeys damaging his sugar cane, he acquired dogs to deal with the pigs. He said four weeks ago, the dogs were chasing a pig when they wandered on to Cyrus’s land, and Cyrus shot all 12 dogs.

“These were not hunting dogs; they are trained to deal with pigs, so they were not threatening any animals on his farm. And besides, this is a timber farm, not a game reserve, so any animals that are there are there naturally.

“One of the dogs had seen a pig on the farm and gave chase and wandered into the farmer’s property. The farmer shot it and because these dogs are attracted by the sound of the gunshot, they all went down there and he shot them all.”

He said because the dogs wandered on to Cyrus’s land, he did not pursue the matter.

On burning the farmer’s truck, Mavundla said it was trespassing on his property and destroying his crops.

“I came here on Wednesday night and found three timber trucks driving over my sugar cane. I asked the driver why he was driving over my sugar cane and they told me that they were instructed by the farmer to do so.”

Mavundla said he was fed up with the situation, so he set fire to the truck and went to the police to report the matter. “It’s time for the courts to decide whether it’s right to be harassed by this farmer or not.”

Cyrus denied having ever instructed the drivers at all, saying that the drivers were contracted to NCT, which hired the trucks after he sold the timber to them. “NCT organised the transport. I did not even know who they were.”

Cyrus admitted shooting Mavundla’s dogs and said they were definitely hunting on his property. They had seriously wounded two reedbuck, one of which he had destroyed for humane reasons. He said in a previous case, a man hunting with Mavundla on his farm paid a R5 000 admission of guilt fine for illegal poaching.

Cyrus said as the dogs were being shot, there was other shooting coming from a plantation on his farm. “At that point, I decided it was time to get out of there. I did not want to get involved in a gun battle.”

According to the Nature Conservation Ordinance, property owners are allowed to shoot dogs found hunting on their farms.

Cyrus said he found it “alarming” that Mavundla led journalists on to his property without his knowledge. Mavundla showed journalists the corpses of the dogs, which still lie where they were shot.

POLICE yesterday gave a brief reply to a list of questions posed to them by The Witness. They remain adamant that Mavundla will not be arrested just yet. Police spokesman Senior Superintendent Henry Budhram replied only that “a case of malicious damage to property is being investigated against Mr Mavundla”.

“At this stage, the investigation is pending and on finalisation the matter will be placed before the SPP [senior public prosecutor] for further instructions,” said Budhram.

Legal sources have questioned why police are delaying bringing Mavundla to court.

“There is ample prima facie evidence against him. What are these delay tactics about?” asked an attorney who asked not to be named.

Deon Schaup, attorney for truck owner Jan Fourie, told The Witness that police have not yet approached any of the witnesses, including the man from NCT who witnessed the entire incident.

He said he has prepared a whole batch of witness statements that he will present to the police next week.

Other sources from Greytown said no one wants to arrest Mavundla because police were “too bl***y scared of him”.

“No one is prepared to go to court to testify against him. They are seen as high profile people. The cops are kissing the ground he walks on.”

Koos Marais, who heads the security desk at the KwaZulu-Natal Agricultural Union, said no one is above the law.

“No one can take the law into their own hands. We expect the SAPS to bring the case before the court.”

 

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