No regrets for Cato Ridge family ordered to stop housing refugees

2015-08-03 18:24
Children play at the refugee camp in Chatsworth. (Matthew Middleton, City Press)

Children play at the refugee camp in Chatsworth. (Matthew Middleton, City Press)

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Durban - The Cato Ridge couple who opened their 20-hectare farm to 143 foreign nationals say they have no regrets about helping the homeless refugees.

The couple, who live in Hope Farm in Killarney Valley in KwaZulu-Natal, were told to evict their guests by September 6.

On Monday, Andrew Wartnaby, 47, met with the Community Policing Forum, officials from Home Affairs, the Mkhambathini and Msunduzi Municipality, the South African Council of Churches, Doctors Without Borders and the Department of Social Development. At the meeting, Wartnaby said it was again reiterated that foreigners must leave or his family would "face the music".

"We attended a meeting on July 20 and I was told that I have contravened a land-usage by-law. We are strictly zoned as agricultural land and that is all we are permitted to do."

When asked whether he felt his help had been rejected, Wartnaby said they had "no regrets".

"Given a second chance, we would have done nothing different.

"Our goal from the very beginning was about helping them. It was never about us. The goal was finding them a more permanent home. We don’t need the lawyers spending their energy on other things. We were told that they must leave by the deadline, or we will face the music."

Wartnaby said the officials did not elaborate on what would happen if the foreigners were not evicted.

"We just know that we are in trouble," he said.

Wartnaby said it hurt to be parting ways with his guests, because they had become part of the family.

"The Bible says if someone is hungry, feed them, if they need clothes, clothe them and if they need shelter, help them. We are now stuck, but our hope and prayer is that they find a home before it gets ugly."

Wartnaby said he asked the officials what would happen if the refugees don’t leave by the respective date.

"We have not received anything in writing, nor a summons from the court saying that we should evict them. We asked what will happen on September 7 [if] the foreigners are still here, but there was no answer. From our side, we have done everything we could. We've always said from the beginning that this was a temporary solution until they find alternative accommodation," said Wartnaby.

Doctors Without Borders field communications manager Ryan Fortune said the family had been threatened with "some obscure by-law".

"We will continue to provide relief to the people on the farm for as long as they need... The government is insisting that they be reintegrated back into their communities, but they have been communicating with those people [refugees] and they have told them that they want to come to the farm. I think for these people reintegration is not an option. They are scared, they slept in the cold with their children and some of them come from war torn countries."

Read more on:    durban  |  xenophobia
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