Sipho Mabena

By Sipho Mabena

Premium Journalist


Mkhondo on edge following killing of two black farm dwellers

'How many more black people must die and maimed just because they are black and poor?' Treasure Thabede of the Mkhondo Justice for Economic Development has asked.


 

Racial tensions have gripped the farming community of Mkhondo in Mpumalanga following the killing of two farm dwellers.

This as the provincial government admits that the largely farming community was plagued by endemic racism and allegations that white farmers terrorised black people.

The provincial government also confirmed that complaints that no action was taken against farmers, despite such cases piling at local police stations, were legitimate.

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“How many more black people must die and maimed just because they are black and poor? What angers most is that we know of many such cases that go nowhere because perpetrator are white and rich. It ends today…we have to do something about the terror inflicted on poor and defenceless people by racists,” resident Sipho Ndinisa said.

According to Mkhondo Justice for Economic Development, the four farmers arrested in connection with the double murder have been terrorising black people.

Chairperson Treasure Thabede said they were concerned with the passiveness and leniency in criminal cases against white farmers, particularly in Mkhondo.

He said they had no hope for justice and that back in 2013, the community marched to Piet Retief Magistrate Court to raise their grievances.

“There are several cases with prima facie evidence of white farmers who have tortured and murdered farm workers…nothing has happened to them,” says Thabede.

He said the common justification of attacks on black people because “white farmers are also getting killed” was reckless, irresponsible and will cause a civil war.

“It means white farmers are in a revengeful mode. Therefore, does it mean black people must also adopt the same mechanism, and start killing any white people? We also want to put it clear that any failure by the justice system to deal with these murders, will only result in a civil war, as we have been witnessing many farm owners getting away with murder,” Thabede charged.

On Monday Orchard Klingenberg, 53, Danie Malan, 39, Cornelius Greyling, 25, and Ignatius Steinberg, 31, appeared before the Piet Retief Magistrate’s Court on two counts of murder each and one of assault with intent to inflict grievous bodily.

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The matter was postponed for further investigation and the four are expected to make a formal bail application during their next court appearance next Monday.

According to police spokesperson Colonel Donald Mdhluli, brothers Mgcini Coko, 36, and Zenzele Coko, 39, and another person went to the farm owner to seek employment as seasonal workers but were told to leave.

As they were leaving, they noticed one of them was left behind so they returned to look for him but allegedly found that he was kept at the farm.

Police said a scuffle is said to have ensued when the brothers demanded that he be released but instead shots allegedly rang out and the brothers lay dead on the dirt road moments later.

Premier Refilwe Mtsweni-Tsipane and community safety, security and liaison MEC Vusi Shongwe on Monday met with the deputy provincial police commissioner, General Thulani Phahla, to raise these concerns.

Shongwe said in some cases it appears that police inaction was rife in the area and some were paid to turn a blind eye.

“This is one but many of similar incidents that happen in the area where farm workers and dwellers are victimised by their employers [farm owners]. You can do your own investigations and you will find that racism is rife here,” he said.

What the premier says

Mtsweni-Tsipane confirmed that attacks on black farm workers and dwellers was rife in the area of Mkhondo and surrounding farming communities.

“It shows that there is victimisations and abuse of people who work on the white-owned farms. They report cases but complain that their cases are not followed up appropriately. We had a meeting with General Phahla about this matter,” she said.

Mtsweni-Tsipane said lawlessness would not be tolerated and that, working with police, they would ensure that these cases were followed through.

“We are not going to fold out hands and let this situation continue. Whatever happened does not warrant a loss of life…the situation is currently tense here in Mkhondo and people believe they must take law unto their own hands out of frustration. We are against that and we have discussed this with the community that we should let the police do their work,” she said.

The premier said they were disturbed by the recent double murder and she visited the bereaved family to express their condolences yesterday.

What Transvaal Agricultural Union (TLU SA) says

Transvaal Agricultural Union (TLU SA) has warned against using race to respond to issues of safety and using emotions to respond to challenges that the country was currently grappling with.

TLU SA general manager Bennie van Zyl said facts about what really transpired on Friday were yet to come out and that until then, it was dangerous to comment on this incident.

“The law has to take its course and the truth will hopefully come out…what we know now is pure hearsay. One needs to be careful to comment without facts,” he said.

Van Zyl said there were lots tensions in the farming communities across the country, particularly as a result of farm murders, theft and illegal occupation of farms.

“There are lot of things that currently create a lot of tension in the rural areas all over the country and this is a big problem. I hope that [police] will get information and clarify this matter.

“Once people start bringing emotions to the table at this stage, both side can do that, but there will not be a positive outcome. It is important that all role players take time and get the information so that we can with the facts” he said.

Van Zyl lamented that politicians and role players within the governing party were trying to make up for their failures to grow the economy, create jobs and maintain law and order.

“They want to make it a race issue, racism is everywhere…but I cannot think of a better working relationship between a farmer and worker. They depend on each other,” he said.

siphom@citizen.co.za

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