Sugarcane farmers around Mandeni are being crippled by land invasions, while local police refuse to arrest those responsible.
In a meeting with DA parliament members Dean Macpherson, shadow mister of police, Dianne Kohler Barnard, leader of provincial legislature, Sizwe Mchunu and other councillors last Saturday, 15 local farmers said they had reached their wit’s end after having battled with illegal invasions and threats for as long as 18 years.
According to the landowners, their title deeds and court interdicts have not made a difference to their situation as Mandeni SAPS refuse to act against the culprits, saying the matter was a civil one and not criminal.
“I went to Mandeni police station to open a case of trespassing and illegal building on my plot. I have in my possession a high court interdict preventing any new buildings from being erected.
“We have been told by a warrant officer that this is a civil matter and that they can only ask the illegal builders to stop trespassing. They will not make any arrests and said we should go to court,” said one farmer.
Farmers report the invasions are affecting production, spreading fear and devaluing their properties. In addition to the lack of action by authorities, Mandeni municipality this year increased their property rates by more than 200 percent.
In a similar case in Etete two months ago, 17 people were arrested by Umhlali SAPS for illegally building shacks on privately-owned farmland. Macpherson said the inconsistencies were simply unacceptable.
Party members visited Mandeni SAPS after their meeting with the farmers, where they were told that the police would not be making any arrests.
“These farmers have owned the land for a long time and some have been struggling with land invasions since 2004 while the police refuse to enforce the law. There’s been invasion after invasion and no government assistance at all. The system has failed farmers who play a significant role in our overall economy.”
Macpherson said reports that some members of Mandeni SAPS had been involved in land invasions and selling land for R20 000 a plot would be investigated.
“We spoke to the officer on duty and he confirmed that they will not be doing anything. We will be escalating this matter.”
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