Hundreds come out to support Land Party leader charged with damage to property

2019-06-07 12:49

About 300 people walked and sang to the court house in Stellenbosch to support Land Party leader Gcobani Ndzongana on Friday, as his trial for alleged damage to property, amid ongoing demands for land, continues. 

Police monitored as the group from Kayamandi sang in Bird Avenue and carried a large banner which read "#HandsOff GcobaniNdzongana". 

Another poster read: "Our land was stolen by whites bring back our land". 

The Regional Court's main trellidor was locked to limit access, due to the small courtroom where the case was being heard.

At times, supporters rushed the gate and sang loudly so that they could be heard down the corridors, and then retreated to join the others gathered in the garden.

Police and other law enforcement authorities were monitoring.

The case emanated from an alleged illegal occupation of a tract of land in Zwelihle, Hermanus, last year. The occupants told the municipality that they would build their own houses, and just wanted utilities to be provided. 

Attempts by the Red Ants to evict them led to widespread clashes with police and the arrests of large numbers of people. A police officer was also shot and seriously wounded when his firearm was stolen.

Resigned from EFF

Police Minister Bheki Cele's attempt at calming the situation during a visit to the area was aborted when a mass meeting went awry and officials were hastily blue-lighted out.

READ: AS IT HAPPENED: 'Cele will be back in Hermanus' - police minister's office

Speaking on the sidelines of the case, Ndzongana, a former EFF member, said he had resigned from the Department of Correctional Services to focus on campaigning for the Land Party. 

According to The Village News in Hermanus, in the May 8 elections, in Overstrand in the Overberg district, the Land Party came third with 11%, behind the DA (58.98%) and ANC (20.96%). 

Ndzongana's trial relates to his alleged role in breaking down a fence which separated the Hermanus suburbs of Zwelihle and Sandbaai. 

The protesters interviewed by News24 during the unrest in Zwelihle said that backyarders were tired of living in poor conditions and wanted houses. They also drew attention to the shared outside ablutions they had to use.

In Hermanus, the owners of a large tract of land, called Schulphoek, next to Zwelihle had agreed to sell it to the municipality. It had been earmarked for an upscale sea-facing housing estate.

Landowners jittery

The alleged occupations and requirements for more land for housing have left many landowners jittery, with some feeling that they will be targeted by criminals to free up land, while Parliament works through a commitment towards expropriation of land without compensation.

READ: Land Expropriation: Amending the Constitution left to Sixth Parliament

Some lobby groups are linking land occupations and crimes on farms with an alleged plot against minorities and white people.

Stellenbosch itself was this week shocked by the murder of vintner Stefan Smit who had been caught up in attempts to evict hundreds of people who had built shacks on a portion of family trust-owned land Watergang. 

The occupants renamed the area of land Azania, and it has since been bought by the Stellenbosch municipality. It is in the transfer phase. 

Police spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel André Traut said that the post-mortem had been completed on Smit's body. 

His murder, and a robbery in Klapmuts and Owlsrest, in the Stellenbosch region, were still being investigated. 

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