Farmer flees property before protesters set it alight

14 May 2018 - 12:42 By Jeff Wicks
A farmhouse that was burnt by the community in Eshowe.
A farmhouse that was burnt by the community in Eshowe.
Image: Jeff Wicks

An eShowe farmer‚ fearing for his life‚ managed to flee his home just hours before it was overrun by a mob of rioters on Sunday night.

The true extent of a night of unrest‚ vandalism and looting was revealed as the sun rose over the farming community in northern KwaZulu-Natal on Monday morning.

The Gratton Farm‚ on the fringes of the township of Umlalazi‚ was torched‚ with the farmer’s home razed by fire and a workshop vandalised.

The protest action follows the March slaying of subsistence fisherman Siphamandla Xulu‚ shot and killed by a security guard while gathering bait on a farm adjacent to his home.

It is understood that the community from which Xulu hails is frustrated by the slow pace of the prosecution of security guard Walter Magwaza‚ the man alleged to have pulled the trigger. Magwaza is awaiting trial and is in custody‚ having abandoned an earlier bid for bail.

Farmer Donald Saint is believed to have fled his property on which he has farmed for about a decade‚ on Sunday afternoon before the attack. He didn't want to comment when contacted by TimesLIVE.

Another farmer‚ who spoke on condition of anonymity‚ said that criminality was at the core of the farm attack. “People must call it what it is. This farmer had nothing to do with the man who was shot and now his home is reduced to nothing.”

“This is the action of criminals who wanted to loot and take what they could‚” he added.

Police spokesperson Captain Nqobile Gwala confirmed that the home had been set ablaze by the crowd‚ who also stole a bakkie which had been parked on the farm.

Craig Hambury-King‚ chair of the eShowe-Entumeni Farmers’ Association‚ could not be reached for comment.

On Monday the situation remained tense‚ with a crowd amassing at the entrance to the township on the R66 as a strong police contingent looked on.

Members of the mob verbally threatened TimesLIVE photographer Thuli Dlamini with death‚ in the presence of police.

Rumblings of a fresh wave of attacks on farms in the region had swirled on social media last week. In a recording‚ leaked to TimesLIVE‚ two men discuss the imminent attack. The origin of the recording could not be established at the time of publishing.

“They want to use their old tactics. They burnt the sugar canes and a farm. It seems they want to do the same thing again and burn sugar cane crops‚ but this time burn houses. I am not sure which houses or crops they want to burn‚” a voice says in isiZulu.

Police had confirmed they were aware of plans to attack farms last week.

The attacks mirrored those in the days after Xulu was killed‚ when roads were barricaded and cane plantations and farm houses were torched by rioters in retaliation for Xulu’s death.