KZN Premier engages with farmers, farm dwellers in Newcastle amid tensions

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The KwaZulu-Natal premier Sihle Zikalala says there’s a lack of trust between farm dwellers and government in Newcastle, north of KwaZulu-Natal. Zikalala was speaking during a visit to the Normandien farming community in Newcastle.

The area has been in the spotlight following the escalating tensions between the farmers and farm dwellers.

Farm residents and workers came out in numbers to listen to the Premier and to air their grievances. Tensions between farm owners and farm workers in the area rose to the fore last year following the murder of the farmers Glen and Vida Rafferty.

Last year a task team involving farm owners and the farm workers was put together by government in a bid to quell the tensions.

Zikalala says they have noticed that farm dwellers do not trust government officials.

“We don’t trust each other. In some places there 7s trust between government and people. I font blame you for not trusting us because your issue is complicated. It also has a long history without being resolved. Our plea is that we should try to work together and trust each other.”

Zikalala says the government is looking into the allegations of human rights abuses raised by the farm workers during a heated meeting last year. These include the illegal confiscation of their livestock by farm owners.

“Let us fight discrimination and oppression of black people. We followed up the St Lucia incident until the end. We will follow up on the incident of the cows that were impounded until the end. We will have to directly communicate with affected families and explain to them what the Constitutional Court said. And then see how we can use options that were set down by the Constitutional Court.”

However, the farm workers are not convinced. “It should be clear that people who are a problem to Mathimbane people is Normandien Farms PTY Ltd. They are in Pietermaritzburg, in Mkhondeni. Those are people who impounded Mathimbane livestock, 360 cows. When you’re addressing,  you were afraid to tell people that those farmers have used those cattle,’ explains one farmer.

Another one asks, “What do you want us to do for our issues to be resolved? Do you want us to resolve the issues? Are you waiting for someone to be killed or injured before you intervene? The law does not take its course. What should we do now?”

The government says the meetings will be held quarterly to ensure that all parties are kept abreast of the progress made.