/ 7 September 2008

KZN farmers, land claimants bury the hatchet

Members of the Landless People's Movement in KwaZulu-Natal and a group of farmers have decided to stop quarrelling with each other.

Members of the Landless People’s Movement in KwaZulu-Natal and a group of farmers have decided to stop quarrelling with each other and will instead approach the government jointly for their problems to be solved, a facilitator in the process said on Saturday.

”These are people who have in the past faced each other with sticks and guns,” said Dutch Reformed Church reverend Schalk Scott. ”For the first time in my life I saw a change of attitude,” he added.

Scott explained that black landless residents in the area were frustrated because their expectations of owning land after the 1994 democratic elections had not been met.

At the same time, white farmers whose land had been flagged for a claim could not secure bank loans, could not plant anything and were in a limbo, he said. They were also accused of trying to evict people.

Hostility between the two parties was high, he said.

Scott said that he had not had much interaction with the black residents of the area, but then he met a local Landless People’s Movement leader, Mongaliso Khubeka, at a KwaZulu-Natal Council of Churches function.

The relationship had been uneasy at first, but after a while they believed they could facilitate some kind of agreement between the disagreeing parties.

Scott said a meeting was arranged for the movement and the Agricultural District Union of Northern KwaZulu-Natal in Newcastle on Friday night.

”They realised that the problem is they don’t know each other,” said Scott.

After some discussion, they also decided that the stumbling block was the system of land reform and not each other, he said. They decided to work together to solve their problems and to ensure food for the people.

In future any approaches to the Agriculture and Land Affairs Department will be done jointly, and they have also formed a joint committee to resolve disputes that arise within the community.

Neither a representative of the LPM nor the agricultural organisation was immediately available to comment, but, said Scott: ”We owe each other peace.” — Sapa