SIMMERING tensions between a farmer and surrounding community came to a head with charges of attempted murder laid against Peter Channing, whom a local father accused of “shooting his children from a helicopter”.
Channing, who has had a tumultuous relationship with the neighbouring Nonjana community since he moved to the area several years ago, dismissed as nonsense the allegation that he shot at young children who were herding cattle.
Parents of the children involved have, however, opened an attempted murder case against Channing, despite the fact that none of the children were injured.
These charges are the latest chapter in a saga of unsavoury incidents between Channing and the community.
Earlier this year, Channing and the community were called to a dispute resolution meeting at the Muden Police station after tensions between them threatened to escalate into violence.
The community had accused Channing of impounding their cattle without cause and charging the rural communities large amounts of money to release the cattle.
Channing on the other hand accused the community members of removing his fence and driving their cattle onto his land, overgrazing his farm and destroying the vegetation.
In the latest incident, Channing apparently shot at the boys who were herding cattle near his farm.
The father of the boys, Maki Dlamini, said because his boys are not old enough to attend school, they are herding cattle.
He said last month his boys, along with other men, were heading cattle when Channing flew over them with his helicopter.
“The plane frightened the cattle and they fled to his farm, and because that area has no fence the cattle went in and he impounded them.”
He said Channing also started firing shots at the children.
“Our children were nearly injured during that incident and we realise that we could actually lose them because of him and that is why we decided to lay a charge with the police hoping that they might be able to do something about it.”
Dlamini said about 22 cattle were impounded by Channing and he had to pay R200 for each animal to be released. “I paid about R4 400 for the cattle to be released.
“That was money meant for my children and now I do not know what to do.”
He said ever since Channing moved into the area, they have had problems with him.
“The situation is now getting dangerous; his relationship with the community has always been bad and we do not know what he actually wants from us.”
Channing, who at first said he did not want to comment, later described the allegations as nonsense.
He said there had been no shooting there and said witnesses at the scene would testify to that.
He said the community members were again trying to make a big deal out of nothing.
Channing said attempts to resolve the standoff between him and the community had failed and the relations had continued to deteriorate.
“The dispute resolution did not work and the people are still up to their nonsense and I am still impounding cattle every day.
“During that day we impounded 80 cattle and now the people are just looking for excuses,” he said.
Vincent Mdunge of the SAPF confirmed that two separate cases of attempted murder had been opened against Channing, but could not elaborate on the details.