‘We want him gone’

Kranskop community members were up in arms on Wednesday demanding that the farmer on whose farm graves were allegedly disturbed must leave the area.

The angry community of eSgedlane, Kranskop, were speaking during a meeting with the MEC for Agriculture and Rural Development, Themba Mthembu, acting provincial police commissioner Major-General Bheki Langa, Umzinyathi District Mayor Petros Ngubane, the local Chief Zakhele Sithole and other officials from different local departments and local leadership.

The community last week blocked the R74 road and set fire to plantations in the area after reports that graves were dug up on the farm of Kranskop farmer Carl Gathmann.

He previously denied that graves were dug up on his farm.

Mthembu said he sympathised with the community but said he has seen that the actual issue there was that they wanted to reclaim the land, to which the community members agreed with cheers. “The land issue is national and that is why the government has been going around holding hearings addressing the expropriation without compensation matter. I am not the president and cannot resolve this matter overnight,” he said.

Mthembu said his department would be working with Land Restitution to find the records of the land claims in the area and would continue to report back to the community.

MEC Mthembu said Wednesday’s meeting was to hear the community’s concerns and help them come up with solutions to resolve the ongoing dispute.

During the meeting, community members called for Gathmann, and other neighbouring white farmers, to leave the area. “We want him gone today,” said community member Phumlani Ndlovu.

Bongani Sithole, also a community member, tried to convince the other people to give the government departments handling the matter three months to get Gathmann and other white farmers in the area to leave, but the crowd said they wanted him gone by “sunset yesterday”.

“We will handle the land ourselves; it is the land of our forefathers after all,” said Sithole.

The community has raised a number of other complaints against Gathmann, which he has also denied.

Mthembu said he had a brief meeting with Gathmann Wednesday before meeting with the community where he had denied most of the allegations against him.

One of the issues that was raised by the community concerns the station commander at the Kranskop police station, who they alleged is a close friend of Gathmann.

The crowd demanded that the station commander leave the meeting on Wednesday, which she did.

Langa advised all those with complaints against her to give statements to a senior police official, who was also at the event, so that they can investigate.

“It would be reckless to think we have calmed the people. What we are doing is telling them that we live in a country with laws and they need to trust government to take matter seriously and come up with solutions. We will speak to all stakeholders, including Gathmann. But the security of everybody is each person’s responsibility but particularly the police,” said Mthembu.

The Witness was unable to reach Gathmann for further comment on Wednesday.