'Grazing land leased for personal gain'

Getrude Makhafola

Getrude Makhafola

Villagers in Gamotlatla, Swartruggens in North West, are furious over what they call the "exploitation and robbery of their livelihood" by white cattle farmers.

They also accuse their queen, Kgosigadi Mmadibone Serobatse, of ignoring their plight and letting the farmers do as they wish on their ancestral land.

According to Oupa Monwametsi, one of the villagers, it all started when the queen started leasing land to farmer Willie Meyer.

Monwametsi said that the money from the lease was used by the queen for her own purposes instead of being placed into the nation's trust account.

"The problem started in 1991 when she was appointed queen of Gamotlatla. As the saying goes a king is a king because of the nation, but she does her own thing and lets the Afrikaners occupy our land without consulting with us," said Monwametsi.

A group of complainants who call themselves Baipelaetsi - complainants - also claim they have been losing their cattle to the white farmers since last year.

They say that when their cattle cross over into the white farmers' grazing land, they are confiscated and auctioned.

"If you do not have the money to pay for the safe return of the cattle you automatically lose them," said Motlhasa Magano, another villager.

According to Magano numerous letters have been sent to the queen's lekgotla and the traditional leadership directorate in Rustenburg, but no help has been forthcoming.

Samuel Makgutle, one of the Baipelaetsi, said he paid R600 but got back only two cows out of the 10 he had lost. Martha Serobatse said she had had to pay R100 each for her three cows.

So far the group say they have lost 20 cows and that the white farmer is presently holding four of them.

Tribal council secretary Moilwa Ramatlotlo said Sowetan should not attempt to contact the queen for comment.

Emmanuel Ditsi, of the communications department in the directorate of traditional leadership, acknowledged that they had received letters of complaint from the Baipelaetsi and that their grievances would be looked into.