Violent thugs force monks to close profitable dairy

2009-03-13 00:00

Vicious attacks on monks and priests at the Mariannhill monastery have forced the historic institute to close down its dairy farm.

Brazen criminals, most of whom live in the area and have even received food and clothes from the monastery, have targeted the dairy farm because it does not have proper security.

The farm has been robbed more than 10 times in the past three years, most recently in January.

In the last robbery, Father Konrad Diethei, who ran the dairy, was attacked by a group of armed men at the farm, inside the monastery grounds. The men escaped with R10 000 in cash. They also stole cash and laptops from priests inside the monastery.

Mariannhill monastery was started by Wendelin Pfanner, also known as Father Francis, in 1882. He bought land in Mariannhill and with the help of other monks, built chapels, a children’s home and a hospital.

Monastery spokesman Father Gideon Sibanda said the decision to close the farm was painful and difficult, because it created employment for the community and helped the monastery sustain itself.

He said the recent attack shocked the monastery’s residents, who feared for their lives.

“The farm had become too risky to operate. These criminals would think nothing of killing someone. Human life is far more important than making money,” he said.

Sibanda said they are especially concerned about Diethei, as he was seriously injured during the attacks.

“These criminals are targeting the farm because they know that the security is weak. We have security guards around the monastery, but we need more. Security is expensive and we don’t have the money for this,” he said.

He said it was “disappointing” that the robberies are being committed by the residents of the local community, the very same community the monastery has served for decades.

Sibanda said that the monastery will remain open and that they are working with organisations to ensure that the institute will be safe for tourists and locals.

“These thugs are terrorising the community. I’m disappointed because this is a church and should be respected. We have done so much for the community and this is the thanks we get,” he said.

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