Farm couple’s ride of terror

2015-05-04 06:21
(The Witness)

(The Witness)

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Pietermaritzburg - Opportunistic robbers abducted a Weenen resident and his wife, took them on a terror ride and then returned their keys and gave them directions on how to get home.

Major Thulani Zwane said the robbers broke into the couple’s home, stole firearms and other items and then demanded that the husband — who works for citrus exporters Sun Valley Estates — let them into the safe.

When he explained that there was no safe in the house and that he and his wife had no money, the robbers tied them up, blindfolded them and bundled them into their own car.

The robbers then travelled to Ladysmith where they stopped the car, released the couple and, ­according to a member of the Weenen Farmers’ Association, returned their keys and gave them directions on how to get home.

“It could have ended very badly, it’s a miracle that it didn’t,” added the man, who asked not to be named.

The robbery took place as police officers were dealing with a service delivery protest on the R74 Greytown/Muden Road last Thursday.

Around 350 protesters, meanwhile, gouged a shallow channel in the road and created a ­roadblock with burning wood, tyres and stones. A small sign at the site revealed that they were demanding RDP homes and roads.

The protest turned ugly a few hours later when a local farmer arrived to turn off one of his pumps, which was near the roadblock. He was reportedly stoned by some of those involved.

Zwane confirmed that a case of public violence had been opened at Weenen police station ­following the stoning incident, but that no arrests have yet been made.

The service delivery protests continued last Friday. Some of the protesters moved to the opposite side of the town, blocking off the road into Weenen, from Colenso. Among those trapped by the blockade was an ambulance from the KwaZulu-Natal Emergency Medical Rescue Service, which was transporting a patient to hospital.

The Farmers’ Association told The Witness that last week’s service delivery protest was the second one in a year. Last year members of the community took part in a peaceful march, which ended with a memorandum being handed to the Department of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta).

The association believes that if the government does not do something soon to help the local community, the situation will only get worse.

Koos Marais, from the security desk of ­KwaNalu, condemned the protests and called on the government to take immediate steps to resolve the situation, which he said had been simmering for a year.

“What we cannot understand is that there have been disruptions on the R74 for the past four years that cannot seem to be resolved by the government. The government needs to ­address this,” Marais said.

“All businesses in the area are suffering losses as a result of these protests, not just farmers. It is totally unacceptable as we rely on our food producers.

“We cannot understand how a small group of people can hold a whole community to ransom.”

While condemning the attack on one of its members and the robbery and hijacking in the town, the Weenen Farmers’ Association had some sympathy with the protesters.

“Service delivery in this area is non-existent,” a member of the association said. “When a bridge was washed away in a freak storm in January, we phoned the municipality the following day to request a meeting to deal with the situation. To date we have hand no response from them.

“We understand the people’s frustration and that they want electricity, running water and homes. The whole of the Weenen and Muden area is tired of empty promises. Government slackness is causing all of this … Because we are off the beaten track we are forgotten.”

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  crime  |  farm attacks

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