Court backs ‘intimidated’ farmer in land dispute

2014-01-13 00:00

A LAND dispute in Howick has reached fever pitch, with the Howick Magistrate’s Court granting a farmer a protection order against people he says are threatening him.

Last Thursday, farmers’ organisation AfriForum obtained a court order aimed at protecting Howick farmer Peter Train from harassment by the Msomi family, who he says are “land grabbers”.

Train said he’s had to contend with intimidation and threats from the Msomi family, who are trying to force him off his land, for more than seven years.

He said he had done everything possible to make peace with them. “There have been different offers, including financial compensation and land, and they have rejected them all. They need to tell us what they want. This experience has been very traumatic for me and my wife.”

Train said the Msomi family had been warned by the authorities in the past not to interfere with his family, but had disregarded those warnings. “They show up here with men carrying weapons. How is a 63-year-old man to defend himself against a group of men?”

However, Mbhele Msomi told a different story. He said Train was trying to force the Msomis off their land after the family rebuffed his offer for them and other community members to move away.

“I am not grabbing any land. I was here long before him; his father found me here. I am the ninth generation of my family to live here.

“He [Train] offered people money to move elsewhere — I refused. This has become a nightmare with him trying to force me off the land, but I cannot move; my family’s graves are all here. If the courts force me to move, they should tell me where I should go,” he said.

Msomi denied intimidating Train. “We were fixing a fence and a bridge that he broke down recently, and the police came to arrest us, saying we were threatening him. Since he got that order, I cannot get to my cattle because the path passes next to his house and I will be arrested,” he said.

Chris Fourie, the community co-ordinator for AfriForum in KwaZulu-Natal, hailed the court order issued in terms of the Protection from Harassment Act of 2011 as a “victory for farmers”.

He said if anyone violates the court order, the police will be compelled to take action.

“This is a major victory for Train, but also for farmers across the country. This verdict sets a precedent in terms of which farmers are protected against illegal acts by land grabbers, and in terms of which their ownership rights can be protected,” said Ian Cameron, head of community safety at AfriForum.

Train and the Msomis will be back in court on January 23, to attend a criminal case in which the Trains laid charges of trespassing and malicious injury to property.

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