PAC leader beats family from land

2015-07-27 09:00
The tent and thatch lapa (left) where the Dhludlus now live after former MP Alton Mphethi partially demolished their home (right) in an attempt to get the family off his farm. He also won’t let the Dhludlus bury any more family members on the farm

The tent and thatch lapa (left) where the Dhludlus now live after former MP Alton Mphethi partially demolished their home (right) in an attempt to get the family off his farm. He also won’t let the Dhludlus bury any more family members on the farm P

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Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) leader Alton Mphethi has been involved in a nasty battle with a family of farm workers who he has tried to boot off his farm in Mpumalanga.

Mphethi – who led the PAC in last year’s elections with a strong land manifesto that promised land would be available to the poor at no cost – has allegedly even partially demolished the Dhludlu family’s mud and corrugated iron home. The family has lived on the property, which is near Ermelo, since the 1940s.

“We ran away that night [when the house was being demolished], but we can’t leave our home. He wants us gone, but we’ve lived here all our lives,” said Mbongiseni Dhludlu.

However, Mphethi, a former MP who leads one of the PAC’s two factions, is completely unashamed about wanting the Dhludlus off his farm. He told City Press on Friday that if government wanted to take his farm and give it to the family, that would be fine – but the state would have to buy it from him first.

“But I don’t want them on my farm ... Those people are animals who have stolen from me and vandalised my house,” he said.

Mbongiseni was born on the farm 38 years ago and his grandfather is buried on the land. His father, Thomas, was born on the same property in 1948.

The Dhludlus say their trouble began when the PAC leader, who bought the farm about 10 years ago, allegedly accused them of stealing his cooking pots, a claim the family denies.

Mbongiseni Dhludlu in the kitchen of the house partially demolished by Alton Mphethi 

“Last August, Alton’s brother came to the house and banged on the door, screaming that he wanted to search the house because we had stolen their pots. My mother was the only one in the house at the time. She told him that without the police and a search warrant, he was not coming into the house,” Mbongiseni said.

But at about 8pm that evening, Mbongiseni went outside after hearing wheels crunching on the gravel. A group of men got out of three bakkies and, before he could ask what was going on, he was attacked.

“As soon as I fell, the men pounced on me and started kicking me. I was able to get away and get back inside the house,” he said.

“My father came outside to ask the men what was going on. Mphethi came out of the bakkie, grabbed my father and punched him. He told him that he didn’t care if we called the police because no one would do anything to him and he had been telling us to get off his farm,” said Mbongiseni.

His sister, Betty, alleged that Mphethi also pointed his firearm at their father, and when their mother tried to intervene, she was beaten and pushed to the ground. The men then set about demolishing their six-room home, leaving only their mother’s bedroom standing.

Mphethi, however, denies the family was beaten. But he admits demolishing their house. “I was there that night and I demolished their house in front of the police. They have stolen from me. I threw their things on the road. I don’t want them there.

“We did not beat up anyone. All I wanted to do was get inside the house and find my things, a bed and corrugated iron sheets. The police arrived and I told them what they had stolen. I would never point a gun at anyone, especially in front of the police.”

The police, the family claims, did not take statements from them and instead suggested they should pack up and leave the farm.

The elderly couple, two of their children and two grandchildren now sleep in a tent that was given to them by a local ward councillor. They sit around the old wood stove in what used to be their kitchen, which now only has three walls.

The tent and thatched lapa that is now home to the Dhludhlu family on Alton Mphethi’s farm.

“We went to the police station to open up a case, but the officer told me that we need to wait because Mphethi already has a host of other cases pending against him,” said Mbongiseni.

These include a charge of allegedly murdering his second wife’s lover, for which he is now on trial, and, police sources said, a number of other assault cases.

Ermelo police spokesperson Captain Carla Prinsloo confirmed that the family had laid cases of common assault, pointing of a firearm, malicious damage to property and unlawful eviction against Mphethi last year.

“Unfortunately, the cases have been closed. The case was taken to court, but the senior prosecutor said there was no chance for a successful conviction,” she said.

The PAC manifesto states the party “strongly believes that the land formerly belonged to our ancestors, our forefathers and currently the land belongs to us the descendants of our ancestors. Our people were denied their right to land and its associated benefits and no single individual person should claim to have won our land.”

Despite this, Mphethi told City Press that he bought the farm and no one has a right to it but him.

Mphethi has also allegedly refused to allow the Dhludhlus to bury any more of their family members on the farm.

He was also furious at City Press for interviewing the family on his farm without his permission.

“I am condemning the newspaper for coming to Ermelo without telling me and going on to my farm without even phoning me.”

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