The family of a deceased Newcastle man, Sipho Mbatha, says while Mbatha had been illegally hunting on a private farm in Normandien in northern KwaZulu-Natal when he was shot and killed in 2011, they are still waiting for justice. The matter is still in court.

Mbatha’s killing has been a source of tension in the rural farming community over allegations that the farmer’s son who shot him, James Geldenhuis, claims he had intended to shoot a dog and not Mbatha.

Eleven dogs were also shot dead in the incident. Geldenhuis handed himself over to police a week later. Mbatha’s death was raised last week at a meeting between Police Minister Bheki Cele, farmers and farm dwellers.

Mbatha’s son, Xolani, says the family has been left traumatised.

“I was deeply hurt by the fact that the white farmer had initially admitted that he shot my father thinking he was shooting a dog, yet I believe he knew there were people hunting. The farmer did not show any remorse about the incident. It clearly shows that some whites farmers still think they are above African people. What made matters worse is that police from Normandien did not arrest the person who shot my father on the day of the incident, the person later handed himself in after a week, the police told us they did not have evidence. I am still puzzled what more evidence police wanted because eleven dogs were shot along with my father.”

Hendrik Jacobs is a livestock and maize farmer on his Ngagane Fort Farm in Normandien. He’s been a victim of livestock theft himself and says that the local police station needs to be better equipped to tackle crime.

“The police must just do their work, equip them well, the unfortunate thing about this whole thing is that political parties are also involved here and they are the ones that are taking this whole situation out of proportion and they put the race card in the situation and then farmers become racist. If you put a race card, everybody’s tempers flare up . Here we stick together and I think we had a very good relationship until the political parties found Normandien.”

Jacobs also believes that unresolved land issue lies at the centre of the ongoing tensions in the area.

“Another major concern is the land issue and it is a sensitive issue but I have dealt with Land Affairs and I’ve had good results with them they are willing to help.  If I phone and say,  I’ve got a land claim here let’s sort it out they are always willing to help.”

Meanwhile, chairperson of the Amajuba Landless People Movement, Somnandi Hadebe, says his earlier allegations of the killing of black people at the hands of white farmers in the area was only a figure of speech. He made the claims in last weeks meeting between Cele and the local farming community.

Hadebe, however, maintains that tensions exist in the area.

“For us farm dwellers we’re are constantly being terrorised. We do not even know the meaning of democracy, if it is around elections time you will see various political parties coming to us, they want our votes. After we have voted they forget about us. It not like only one party to come to us for our votes. There are so many of them but the irony is that we do not see any changes in our lives.”

Geldenhuis remains out on bail. The trial continues at the Newcastle Magistrate’s Court in November.

In the video below, political parties tackle farm muders: