KZN cop booted from community meeting as tempers flare over ‘grave desecrations’
The commander of the Kranskop police station outside Pietermaritzburg was chased out of a meeting between the KwaZulu-Natal agriculture and rural development MEC Themba Mthembu and a community who have accused the local farmer of desecrating ancestral graves.
The Sgedlane community have also accused station commissioner Colonel Caroline Minaar of colluding with Aussicht farm owner Carl Gathmann‚ who they want to be kicked off the farm after last week accusing him of desecrating graves.
They also accused Gathmann of demolishing their homes and preventing them from using pathways on his farms.
Enraged community members retaliated by setting about 30 fires on his maize farm‚ petrol bombing his farm manager’s home and blockading roads with burning debris. Police had to be called in as the protests escalated.
This volatile situation prompted Mthembu to convene a community meeting on Wednesday in a bid to diffuse the situation.
But when Minaar arrived at the meeting‚ members of the community went berserk and chased her out. Several senior provincial police members were also present.
Members of the community said that criminal charges they had laid at the Kranskop police station had been ignored and accused Minaar of being behind that.
Senior KZN police official and former acting provincial commissioner Major General Bheki Langa‚ who also attended the meeting‚ said allegations raised against Minaar would be looked into.
He invited the aggrieved members of the community to approach the Kranskop police commander for help with their grievances against the police.
Mthembu warned the community against their threats of expropriating the farmer’s land without compensation as the government was still dealing with the issue.
“We can’t take a decision here in Sgedlane to expropriate land without compensation. That’s why the government had public hearings so that a decision can be taken by parliament. Before such a decision is taken‚ the law will remain the same. So we must not fool ourselves about that. We need to show leadership to find a solution to the problem we are facing‚” Mthembu told the community.
He said Gathmann had denied all the allegations levelled against him during his meeting with him.
Gathmann told the MEC that if he had desecrated the graves‚ forensic investigators should be called in so that they can investigate whether there were graves on the farm.
He said he could point out where the graves were.
“Secondly‚ he said he was taught that you can’t even live near a grave. He said he also showed the community where they should bury their loved ones. He even said he knows that desecrating graves is a criminal offence and that if he is found to have done he must be arrested‚” said Mthembu.
Gathmann had also denied calling people the k-word as this was a serious criminal offence‚ but agreed that he had prevented them from walking on his property.
“He said‚ ‘Who would allow pathways in his property?’ He agreed that he does not allow people to walk on his property.”
Gathmann also challenged those workers who claimed he had beaten them up to lay criminal charges against him.
He also claimed it was not true that he had denied people grazing land for their livestock and he had also barred people from building their homesteads. But he was‚ however‚ opposed to them building new homesteads.
Mthembu will compile a report‚ which will be tabled before the provincial government‚ for a decision on what is to done about people's concerns.
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