Kids held in dispute over land rights

Mary Papayya

Mary Papayya

Land and farm-dweller rights movement, the Association for Rural Advancement (Afra), yesterday expressed shock over the arrest of three children by a farmer in Mooi River in KwaZulu-Natal on Monday.

The three girls, aged 5, 15 and 17, were loaded into a police vehicle with their father and taken to the local station.

The family said the father and his children were held at the station for more than five hours and eventually charges against the toddler were dropped and only the older two girls were charged with trespassing.

The incident happened on the V Ranch farm where the farmer and labour tenants are embroiled in a bitter four-year-old land dispute.

Farm owner Willem Verhoef said he had no choice but to call on police to assist in the matter.

He said the police had decided to arrest the children after they refused instructions not to pass through a short cut on his farm. The farm houses 130 Brahman cows with newly born calves.

Afra director Lisa Del Grande said the action by the farmer and police must be condemned.

"Such conduct must be viewed as criminal or at the very least socially unacceptable and be condemned."

Family spokesman Gcino Shabalala said the farmer has cut their water, impounded their cattle and on several occasions locked them out of the property.

Police spokesman Henry Budhram confirmed the incident.

"Yes I can confirm that the farmer's story is the same according to our records. Police did ask the parents not to let the children pass through the area for fear of injury by the parent cows," said Budhram.

He added that the matter will go to court next month.