Community braces for revenge by white farmers over murder

Reports by Canaan Mdletshe

Reports by Canaan Mdletshe

The black community living in and around the farm in Eshowe, on the KwaZulu-Natal north coast, where a farm manager was killed, are taking threats of revenge by neighbouring farmers seriously.

Tensions are running high at New Venture Farm, just three weeks after the killing of farm manager Kenneth Eva, who was clubbed to death by an angry mob after a heated land dispute between him and the community.

When Sowetan visited the area on Wednesday, most of the residents expressed concern for their safety.

They said they feared revenge and would vacate their homes.

S'bahle Gumede, chairman of the local development committee, said they were thinking of sleeping in the bush after threats by some farmers to avenge Eva's murder.

Gumede said they had left their homes after the killing, but returned when the situation seemed normal, but now it had become tense again.

"We are very scared and we don't know what's going to happen now. Some farm owners have threatened to avenge Eva's killing and we are afraid," she said.

She said the threat arose after the police, who had been camping on the farm, informed one of the farmersthat they would be going back to their respective police stations.

"Tomorrow [Thursday] there won't be any police here and we don't know how are we going to live. The last time we actually saw them moving around and about was on Tuesday morning.

"We have not seen them since then and we are afraid the farmers might attack us," said Gumede.

She said that she was one of the people on the farmers' wanted list. When she'd gone into town to buy groceries, police had had to escort her.

Another resident, who did not want to be named, said they were also armed and would defend themselves if they were attacked.

He said they would continue camping in the bush at night, in case they were attacked.

Gumede said what had made them even more angry was the fact that one of the farmers had interfered with the graves of their dead relatives who were buried on his farm.

This particular farmer is reported to have fired his entire workforce of 60, saying he would only take them back once police had arrestedthe culprits.

On Wednesday, a meeting was called for local councillors and the farmers to talk about the situation.

Mzikayifani Ngobese, a local councillor, described the meeting as "a step in the right direction".

Donald Leitch, a farmer in the area, confirmed that the meeting had been held.

It had been called by the Melmoth-Eshowe Farmers' Association to "get to the bottom of the matter".