A group of farm dwellers have appealed to Julius Malema to help them take over a Verulam property.
On Tuesday they were alleged to have attacked farm workers, injuring five. They also cut fences to the property and were seen carrying bottles of petrol.
This follows a stand-off on Monday when the group used burning logs and tyres to blockade the road to the farm, in the Ntokozweni area, north of Durban. Police later dispersed the protesters.
The group said : “We want him (Malema) to come to this farm. We want him to free us from the indignity we are subjected to by these farmers.”
Elders from the group, including 72-year-old Julius Ntombela, claimed they were being ill treated and hoped the EFF leader could help.
Ntombela said: “I have lived here since 1957. The owner then, a white farmer, farmed rice and tea. He later left, leaving another white farmer who branched into sugarcane.
“When that farmer left a long time ago, Indian small-scale farmers took over. They found us here, but now they treat us like dirt. Our homes are surrounded by sugarcane and when they spray pesticides our children get sick because of the pesticides.”
Ntombela said whenever they tried to reason with the farmers they were told to move.
“We hear what Malema says, but this one has been coming for too long. These people are arrogant and they have a nerve to tell us to move out when we complain about the dangers of pesticides to our children as a result of surrounding our houses with sugarcane.
“They are not even owners here, they are leasing the farm. They don’t grow sugarcane close to their homes. We want them out of here because they have shown that they don’t regard us as human beings,” said Ntombela.
The group also claimed that some of their “almost” fully built homes were demolished by the same farmers.
Vuyiswa Mhlakaza, 54, said: “All these children you see here were born here. They are unemployed and uneducated. Their parents worked on this farm and have died on this farm. Where are they supposed to go? These tenants must leave this farm.”
But Yaga Govender, president of the Natal Sugarcane Growers Association president, said on Tuesday morning that the group descended on the farm and attacked workers.
“Five of them have cuts to their heads and have to be taken to hospital. We really need urgent government intervention,” he said.
Govender on Monday claimed there was a third force at play.
“About three months ago a local induna sold plots of land to locals and foreigners for between R450 and R500 per 500 square metres. We have receipts as proof and we have involved law enforcement. Tempers are flaring up because of this land, so land invasion and corruption is at play here. When I engaged these people, they made it clear that they want the farmers out of the land but I told them that it was not going to happen. These farmers also have homes here. We need to sit down and iron things out. There is a third force at play here,” said Govender.
He questioned whether the induna – known only as Ngcobo – had the right to sell private land to people, because the farmers were leasing it from the owner who had since moved to the city.
“As the president of the association I undertake to handle the matter myself until we reach an understanding. We will have to look into the veracity of the allegations. These are the people (protesters) I grew up with on this same farm and have lived with for decades. There has never been conflict between us, hence the need to work speedily to find common ground,” he said.
When contacted, Ngcobo said he could not comment because he was at a Johannesburg hospital.
Vusi Mthethwa, spokesman for Ubumbano Lwezinduna, an organisation representing headmen in the province, said it was illegal for izinduna to sell land even if it were Ingonyama Trust (communally owned) land.
EFF spokesman Mbuyiseni Ndlozi said they were not surprised by the attempted invasion and were also “not shocked by the police acting against the poor people”.