An emotional outburst by a community member who told President Cyril Ramaphosa that her family’s ancestral land in Mpumalanga had been taken from them by a farmer in 2002, has ruffled the feathers of organised agriculture in the province.
During a recent Presidential Imbizo at Carolina, Nqobile Motsweni recalled how a farmer allegedly forced her family to share their land with zebras, ostriches and springbok.
Motsweni alleged that despite their efforts to get the matter heard in court, justice has not been served. She told president Ramaphosa that her family “had a target on their backs” and that the man has threatened to kill them. She said she had scars to show how much they have suffered living on their own land.
Meanwhile Mpumalanga Agriculture, a body representing the agricultural sector in the province, said they have taken note of the allegations of maltreatment and view it in a very serious light.
“It is of great concern to Mpumalanga Agriculture that abuses be rooted out,” says Robert Davel, general manager of Mpumalanga Agriculture.
“However, it is of equal importance that such allegations be properly scrutinised. Reckless and unjustified allegations and condemnations only makes constructive cooperation, to deal with common challenges in the sector, more difficult.”
Bheki Cele vows to follow up
Taking the podium at the imbizo, Motsweni told Ramaphosa and some of his cabinet ministers how they lived at Pigsty Farm since the 1800s, Sowetan Live reported.
“In 2002 a white farmer who was our neighbour came with a gun and pointed it at my grandfather who was already old at that stage.
“He told my grandfather … that he was now taking over the farm because he will not be sharing a farm with a k*****,” according to the news report.
Motsweni said that their cows were taken away from them and killed with poison, while the goats they had were burnt.
It is also alleged that Motsweni and her family had been allocated four hectares of their own land by the perpetrator. Motsweni told President Ramaphosa that she had been told by the man that he was establishing a zoo and that they were part of it.
“When we open cases against him he goes and he has tea with the prosecutors and the magistrates. When the time comes to hear the case, we were told that this is no PEP store and we should not tell the court what to do because it is throwing the case out.”
“I told myself this is the last time that I am raising the matter because I can die any time because we have a target on our backs. When we bump into him he takes out a gun and tells you that he will kill you,” she told the room.
Police minister Bheki Cele and other officials is reported to have taken the name of the farmer, the case number and further details of the family’s ordeal.
Responding later, Cele told Ramaphosa the police would be following up on the matter, and justice minister Ronald Lamola said he had noted the complaint against the courts.
Caution against rushed judgement
According to Mpumalanga agriculture they support any investigation into the veracity of the claims and stand ready to assist in any way they can.
“We do, however, strongly caution against a rush to judgement until all the details have been confirmed. It is of the utmost importance that both public debate and any action be undertaken with regard to verified facts,” Davel said.
He pointed out that sustainable agricultural production was difficult and required harmonious relationships between the various stakeholders. “Abusive and extra-legal conduct have no place in the industry. We do not condone that which cannot be condoned,” Davel said.
Mpumalanga agriculture placed on record that production units in the sector were subject to the law and undergo inspection. It said that for many of its producers, access to markets depends on maintaining ethical business and labour standards.
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