KZN farmer living in fear as refugees 'turn on him'
Durban – The owners of Hope Farm in Killarney Valley, KwaZulu-Natal, are living in fear after allegedly being threatened by foreigners who were given refuge on their farm.
"I cannot leave my farm but we have a vehicle that is packed and ready for my family to go whenever there is trouble. We are living in fear because we think that we will be attacked," said Andrew Wartnaby.
In an unfortunate turn of events, Wartnaby, 47, on Friday put his foot down after a breakaway group of 84 people allegedly burnt a tent, cut his fence and refused to accept his help.
In July, Wartnaby and his wife, Rae, took in 139 foreign nationals who had fled their respective homes following a spate of xenophobic attacks earlier this year. The group was left stranded after government closed down the refugee camps in and around Durban.
The family have provided the displaced group with food, shelter, education and other basic necessities over the last five months.
Wartnaby told News24 on Friday that trouble began a few months ago when the couple tried to get the process going to find the foreigners a third country.
"The process was sabotaged and they split themselves into two groups of 84 and 55. The bigger group became militant and they refused to do anything on the farm and they have made it completely unreasonable for us. The other group has continued to work with us."
'They accused me of being a government agent'
Wartnaby said he asked his guests to use resources sparingly, but some ignored his plea.
"The breakaway group want nothing to do with us. On Tuesday this week, Rae and I went to the shops to buy food for the next day.
"We left the food at the back of the van for them to collect and later I realised it never happened. So I went down to the 84 and they told me that the moms wanted to talk to me."
Wartnaby said, all of a sudden, he was surrounded by his guests, who allegedly started threatening him.
"I have never felt threatened until that day. They accused me of being a government agent. They said the farm was part of government’s plot to get them back into their communities."
Wartnaby said the foreigners wanted the police to re-arrest them so that they could "be in the state’s custody".
On Wednesday, a group of children gathered and started chanting that they wanted to leave the farm.
"The parents were screaming that we had ruined their lives and threatened to kill us, but we did not take them seriously. We, however, later called the police."
Wartnaby said he truly believed that the foreign nationals were making a fuss so that the government would put them up in a refugee camp.
At around 02:15 on Thursday morning, the breakaway group started banging on his windows and his wife and children left the property for their own safety.
"I asked them what was wrong and they said that the tent was burning. It hit me then that I had seen them earlier taking in things into the tent, but it never occurred to me that they were going to burn it down.
"They told me that their lives were in danger and that I had failed to protect them."
'I am not going to help them anymore'
Wartnaby said the police were on site on Thursday.
"The children are sleeping on the floor, they don’t want our food, they don’t want water and they are telling everyone that we are abusing them."
On Friday morning, the group turned a sanitation truck away.
Now, Wartnaby said, he said he just wanted the breakaway group to leave his farm.
"They have had an agenda from day one and this is the reason why the government failed to assist them. You cannot turn to me for help, then you threaten my life and that of my family.
"I am not going to help them anymore. The accommodation is burnt and my fence is cut.
"We have done so much for them in the last five months, we know every one of them by name, we have loved and cared for them and this is how they chose to respond.
"If they want to reject our help, then it is fine, but I still don’t regret taking them in."