NATIONAL NEWS - Police Minister Bheki Cele has said there is a need to “fix” human relations in the farming community of Normandien near Newcastle in KwaZulu-Natal, where farming couple Glen and Vida Rafferty were recently murdered.
A suspect is expected to appear in court on Monday in connection with the murder of the Raffertys.
Cele was on Monday speaking at the rural safety imbizo hosted by the police ministry in Normandien.
The Imbizo comes off the back of Cele’s first visit to the area on 2 September, following the Rafferty murders who were shot dead at the gate to their farmhouse. Cele met with organised community, policing and farming structures who raised their concerns around safety in the area.
Cele called on the police in the area to work on, and follow up on, all cases opened at the local police station without favour or racial bias.
The police minister said even if the entire South African National Defence Force and the country’s police were deployed to the farming community, safety in the area would not be increased without human relations being fixed.
Cele said the accounts by community members who spoke at the imbizo about their experiences “are painful”.
One community member said there was a need for white people, white farmers, to view black people as equals and to teach their children to do the same and that they should respect black people.
Cele tasked police commissioner Lieutenant-General Khehla Sitole to “send” a team to the Normandien Police Station to deal with cases registered there.
The rural safety imbizo comes after KwaZulu-Natal Premier Sihle Zikalala’s Saturday engagement with the local community.
Following his engagement, Zikalala called for calm in the area amid tensions in the farming community.
During Zikalala’s engagement, the police were accused of taking sides in their investigations of crime within the farming community.
“We will continue to work with the SAPS to address issues of policing and monitor the functioning of the police in the area. We would like to see farmers and farm residents working together to address the issue of access to basic services,” said Zikalala.
The killing of farmers is a serious worry for the provincial government, Zikalala said, adding that there was a need to find “last solutions” to the issue.
Apart from the recent farm killing in Normandien, the premier also pointed to an incident three years ago in the same area when tensions between farm owner Lawrence Hoatson and farmworkers reached a boiling point.
This resulted in four farmworkers being shot and injured while protesting at the farm gate. The tensions were further aggravated when Hoatson impounded a herd of 300 cattle belonging to the local community under the charge of grazing.
Zikalala said farm murders were an indication of unresolved and deep-seated issues around land ownership and land poverty as well as the country’s racist past.