Land issues ‘behind farm murder’

2007-12-22 00:00

Tensions relating to land reform issues may have provided the perpetrators with the excuse they needed to murder elderly Estcourt farmer Dave Greene (70) on Thursday evening.

That’s according to a statement from KwaZulu-Natal Agricultural Union (Kwanalu) president Robin Barnsley and CEO Sandy la Marque after Greene’s murder.

Greene was a beef farmer and served on the Kwanalu board for many years. He was gunned down at point-blank range at his farm, Rensburgspruit, outside Estcourt.

The farm is part of the Gongolo Wildlife Reserve project, which has been plagued with land claim problems.

Gongolo executive officer Nick Green, speaking from Paris to Weekend Witness yesterday, confirmed that there are land claims on part of Greene’s property.

Kwanalu demanded that the authorities deal with problems relating to the expectations of land claimants and the “seeming culture of entitlement, which, underpinned by a lack of a strong value system in our society, is leading to significant tensions in rural communities”.

The union is “incensed to note the brutal, senseless and seemingly calculated murder” of yet another local farmer, it said.

It also expressed concern about ongoing allegations of “so-called atrocities” on commercial farms.

The allegations are one-sided and the MEC for Agriculture and Environment Affairs, Mtholephi Mthimkhulu, has “publicly acknowledged that it is a tiny minority of the farming community who are guilty of such conduct,” the union said.

Barnsley said Kwanalu has details of blatant threats by supposed land claimants to land-owners, including those of murder and assault, of persistent damage to livestock and property, of barring access to land-owners’ properties, and of using traditional spiritual methods of intimidating landowners.

Barnsley said Kwanalu recently spoke to a senior Land Affairs official asking that the department exercises its duties in an “even-handed and pragmatic fashion” to ensure that tensions in rural areas arising from the slow pace of land reform are effectively managed to create mutually acceptable and sustainable solutions.

A manhunt was launched for the suspect on Thursday night, but yesterday police said no arrests have been reported.

Estcourt Farmers’ Association vice-chairman John Moor also condemned Greene’s murder and said Greene had “no axe to grind”.

He said this was the second time in the past two months that a farmer in the area was the victim of an armed robbery.

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