Rural NGO says they victimise black farm dwellers

Canaan Mdletshe

Canaan Mdletshe

The KwaZulu-Natal land rights and agrarian reform non-governmental organisation, the Association for Rural Advancement (Afra), has called for the removal of all white magistrates and judges from courts where farm-related cases are heard.

The call comes after the recent decision of the Mooi River magistrates' court to withdraw charges against a white farmer, Willem Verhoef.

Verhoef was facing a charge of assault, three charges of damage to property and one of pointing a firearm.

It was alleged that in May Verhoef shot and killed livestock and dogs that belonged to three families who live on his farm in Mooi River in the KwaZulu-Natal midlands.

The families said Verhoef did not want their livestock to graze on his farm.

The families laid charges against him. After six months the Mooi River magistrates' court withdrew them because of insufficient evidence.

Sifiso Kunene of Afra said unless white magistrates were removed from the courts, farm dwellers would be victimised.

He said: "How could a court reach such a decision after dead dogs and goats were there and were seen. We even called the SPCA to witness the scene.

"Now the court makes this ruling. This is unacceptable. Something has to be done."

Kunene said because most of the magistrates and judges who dealt with farm-related cases were farm owners themselves, they were unlikely to find against one of their own.