Farmer, 'squatters' at loggerheads over threats of eviction

2016-07-15 11:21

Durban – Residents who claim to have lived on a farm in the South Coast for decades say they have been intimidated and threatened by the owner of the property.

Claims of violence and intimidation surfaced at a farm Bense Farm in Oatlands, Margate on Wednesday after the farm owner, Rudi Bense allegedly shot and killed four pigs while trying to evict 12 residents.

According to Bense, there was “just that one woman” living on his farm, but soon there were more people.

“There was one person that I knew about there. Now suddenly there are shacks all over the place that popped up recently. People are squatting on my land. They work for other farms in the area and living in my farm. This is what I hear from my neighbours. That woman is charging rent to people living on my land.”

Bense said he had not known “so many people had been staying there”.

(Kaveel Singh, News24)

“It was not easily visible there before. I didn’t see all of them there. With bad finances we are looking for more land to service our bonds. We’ve got to find a lot more land and that’s arable land they are on.”

Bense said he offered the residents land adjacent to where residents currently live.

“They could quite easily use land next to where they are. I asked them to move out last week to be there when I spoke to them. They said they would move in a week but I gave them two weeks because it would take too long. I am trying with them.”

Residents, who the pigs belong to, say that after decades of living on the farm, Bense suddenly demanded they move out.

Speaking to News24, resident at the farm for over 30 years Ruth Ramnath whose father also lived on the farm said she was troubled at the farmer’s behaviour.

“This guy had an agreement with my father. When my dad passed away in 2008 he has no problem with us staying here. Now he is saying we must move because he wants to plant nuts where we live. I have nowhere to go. I feel bad.”

Another resident, 75-year-old Vimbele Khoza emotionally expressed her sadness at the debacle.

“I am so old and I have no place to go. I cannot walk and now I have to take everything and go.”

Dignity and respect

ANC regional executive member and director of the Port Shepstone Human Rights Centre Selvan Chetty said he was horrified at how people were treated.

“We are horrified this man can treat our people with such disrespect. We have laws in this country. In order for him to evict anyone he needs a court order. Ms Khoza is here for over a decade. It is as simple as him needing to follow the law.”

Chetty added that he felt people were being evicted and bullied because they were black.

“I personally feel that he has no respect for black people. If these were white people he would not have bullied them. Four pigs were shot by this man. He is stealing from poor people. We will not stand for that.”

Chetty said the farmer also allegedly set a dog loose on one of the pigs.

“He also set loose a dog on a pig. There are young children here. If the dog can attack a pig it can attack a child.”

He further said he did not want farmers to feel they were targeted.

“The farmer also has rights. We simply want due process to be followed and for his behaviour to be more respectful.”

Chetty said he was seeking a court interdict against the farmer. He added that the department of land affairs had been notified.

Housing is a government problem

Bense said he felt housing was a government issue.

“This is a government problem. The government is promising them land and housing and they are expecting me to deliver. The whole country is burning because of this exact thing. They expect me to try to service a bond. I must give my land to help the government deliver. I am quite annoyed.”

When asked about the pigs, Bense claimed his farm had a feral pig problem. He did however concede to shooting a pig but denied the residents version of events.

“I shot one pig and it wasn’t close to their area. My workers and I were working in my macadamia nut plantation and that was around a week and a half to two weeks ago.”

He added that one of his dogs did attack a pig, but that he had pulled the dog off the pig without killing it.

Bense also denied knowing Khoza, saying he only knows “about the one woman”. He added that his family owned the farm for over a century.

Police spokesperson Colonel Thulani Zwane said authorities were investigating a case of cruelty to animals.

“It is alleged by the complainant that they were informed that the owner of the farm wanted them off the farm…The suspect arrived at the farm today (Wednesday) and shot four pigs. No arrests were made, and investigations are continuing.”

Read more on:    durban

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