Fury over ‘desecrated’ graves digs up memories of suffering

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Fury over ‘desecrated’ graves digs up memories of suffering

New protest stirs memories of the day a KZN farmer arrived on homesteader's doorstep with a bulldozer

Journalist

Ncamisile Buthelezi’s memory of hardship and suffering after she was evicted by a farmer who bulldozed her homestead in rural Sgedlane in Kranskop in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands, was relived when tensions flared in the region following allegations that the same man had dug up graves to plant mealies.
Clutching a copy of a Grade 8 textbook, Isizulu Sethu published by Shuter & Shooter in 2013, in which an article published in a local Zulu newspaper highlighted how Buthelezi, 60, was forcefully removed by Aussicht farmer Carl Gathmann from her homestead in 2010, she told Times Select how the protest brought back memories of her former landlord.
She claimed Gathmann was acting in collaboration with the local police who came to her homestead, where she had been living since the age of 12, with his security guards to bulldoze her home.
The mother of eight said that while she was rebuilding her home she was confronted by Gathmann who told her to leave because she had been evicted. She claimed he and several others returned, armed with guns. Fearing for her life, she approached the uMvoti Municipality for help and they gave her a tent.This story was published in the Zulu bi-weekly  Ilanga newspaper in 2012 and was subsequently captured in one of the chapters of the Zulu home-language book IsiZulu Sethu, which is used in schools.Buthelezi later moved to a settlement adjacent to the farm.
Gathmann’s farm was the target of protests by the Kranskop community last Monday night following rumours that he had ordered graves on the farm to be dug up to make way for a new crop. Furious residents petrol-bombed his farm manager's home, set about 30 fires on the farm, and blockaded the roads with burning debris. Police had to be called in as the protest spilled over on Tuesday and angry crowds, Buthelezi among them, gathered on the road.
However, Gathmann said the gravesites were not excavated but merely raked to clean them of bush wood and briar.
He said that as a commercial farmer he wasn’t “so disrespectful of others that I would intentionally desecrate their graves, and so stupidly imprudent that I could think I would do such a thing and get away with it”.Gathmann said he had helped residents by providing them with drinking water for two-and-a-half years, and that he had an “excellent” working relationship with his workforce.
He didn’t respond to queries about Buthelezi’s eviction.On Friday, KZN MEC for agriculture and rural development Themba Mthembu visited the farm and condemned the alleged desecration of about 50 graves.
He said a team comprising the national Department of Land Reform and Rural Development, the police and the Human Rights Commission would return to the property to resolve the conflict and other issues raised, including unfair labour practices and unresolved land claims.
 “We are worried that since the intensification of the debate on expropriation of land without compensation these incidents are increasing. As you know, we had similar incidents around Vryheid, we had similar incidents in Cramond and many other areas. That’s why, as government, we need to take drastic measures to curb these horrific deeds, of which we last saw during apartheid years.”
A meeting is scheduled for Wednesday.

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