Community wreaks havoc after farmer plans to dig up graveyard to grow mielies

07 August 2018 - 13:24
By Yasantha Naidoo And Suthentira Govender
Angry community members set fires and  blockaded roads because a farmer planned to grade a burial site to plant mielies.
Image: SA Police Service via Twitter Angry community members set fires and blockaded roads because a farmer planned to grade a burial site to plant mielies.

Furious members of the Kranskop community in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands have blockaded roads and set fire to crops after discovering that a farmer was planning to dig up tombstones to plant mielies.

SAPS spokesman Colonel Thembeka Mbele confirmed the protest on Tuesday morning.

"There is protest action taking place in Kranskop‚ which started at about 3am. About 300 protesters have blocked the road‚ complaining about a farmer who has graded the cemetery in the Aussicht farm. The road is closed as bottles were broken and placed on the road‚” she said.

“Public order police‚ road traffic inspectorate and Greytown police members are at the scene monitoring the situation and clearing the road."

Mbele said there were no injuries or damages but farmworkers and some employees were hard at work putting out about 20 fires on the farm.

Owner Carl Gathmann said he‚ his family and staff came under attack on Monday night. "There was arson‚ a break-in and the crops were set alight. We are safe for now‚" he said.

Aussicht farm is believed to be the largest producer of broccoli‚ cauliflower and cabbage in the province. The 800-hectare farm was established by Carl’s father about 55 years ago.

Local councillor Mbangiseni Yengwa said members of the community set logs on fire after learning that the farmer was planning to grade a graveyard where their family members were buried.

"People are very angry about this. They have burnt logs and they have even tried to burn the farmer's house.

"The local inkosi is trying to calm the community‚ but there does not seem to be a solution. According to tradition‚ you cannot interfere with a gravesite. It's just disrespectful‚" he said.

Yengwa said tension between the farmer and the community had been brewing for some time. "There is a long list of issues. He is supposed to meet with the inkosi this morning.

"I think what angered the community is seeing the graders. He was planning to plough the land to grow mielies."

Gathmann said he would issue a statement at a later stage about the cause of the protest.