10 November 2017 Read: 21188
Dindinnie is a 500 hectare farm of which 120 hectare is dedicated to mango production in the Ofcolaco area. The farm is owned by the Makhutswi Communal Property Association (CPA) and leased to Beerseun Boerdery, under contract with the CPA, since 2016. The beneficiaries of the trust include some 841 households of which the majority are from the Sekhororo community and 9 families from Cailies village. The farm produces green mangos which is used for the wholesale production of atchar.
It employs local labourers, with Beerseun Boerdery taking on the role of mentor to the small-scale upcoming farmers. The farm was praised by agricultural media as one of the few success stories to have come out of land claims in Limpopo following its almost immediate prosperity.
But that changed drastically this past weekend. Kobus De Beer, of Beerseun Boerdery, received word on Friday afternoon that the Cailies village community members were planning on looting the mango plantations that following Tuesday. They believed the land belonged to them and by default, the mangos produced there were the community’s property. Security companies were placed on alert and the local SAPS were informed.
Sunday, November 5th
That morning the first reports came in. A group of close on a hundred community members had arrived at the farm armed with bags and escorted by bakkies. They broke through the boundary fence and entered the plantation where they began stripping the trees of their fruit. Bakkie-loads of mangos were being transported off the farm and delivered to various atchar producers in neighbouring Nkowankowa and Lenyenye, before returning for the next load. Within a matter of hours, a substantial amount of mangos had been illegally harvested as more and more community members flooded into the plantation.
Ofcolaco CPF and private security companies rushed to the scene in an attempt to bring the situation under control and prevent further losses. Beerseun Boerdery’s own private security patrol was also on the scene. The SAPS dispatched four vehicles to the scene. The situation took a turn for the worse when the looters became agitated and violent, throwing rocks at the police and security officers. Three vehicles belonging to K9 Security were severely damaged by the rocks and forced to retreat off the scene.
“When the rocks started flying, the police officers pulled back to a safe distance leaving us directly in the line of fire as tried to make our way out of the plantations,” explained one of the private security officers. “We opted to pull out of the situation to avoid any injuries to our personnel or the looters.”
As night fell, the looting subsided somewhat and law enforcement maintained a presence at the scene to ensure the safety of the residents on neighbouring farms and prevent further looting and damage to property. The looters sent word that they would return that following morning.
Videos and images of the incident made their way onto social media and soon panic spread through the Facebook community like wildfire. The uninformed social media commentators alleged that the Dindini incident was the first of the Zimbabwe-style land grabs, not understanding the background and events that led up to the incident.
Monday, November 6th
Bulletin drove to the plantation that morning to gain clarity on the situation and joined up with the Ofcolaco CPF and farm security personnel. By 08:00 a large group of looters had returned. This time with more bakkies, some even towing trailers.
Police officers from the Public Order Policing (POP) unit were dispatched to the scene and joined the private security personnel as they entered the plantation to meet the looters head on and try and bring an end to the drama. The site of the police vehicles approaching seemed again to agitate the looters who started yelling at the police to leave.
The tension was tangible as the group merged in the centre of the plantation and started moving threateningly towards where the six police officers, and security officers, were standing. The main instigator of the group, a man by the name of Leon Pahasha, a former employee of the farm, was pointed out to the police and called one side to discuss the possible options of ending the looting. He instructed his hundred-strong group of followers to remain calm and stand down while he spoke to the police.
Phasha alleged that he was acting under instruction of one, Daniel Matlou, who was also present. Daniel is the son of the original lessee of the farm, Salomon Matlou. A few minutes later, Kobus De Beer joined the meeting in the plantation to try and solve the matter. During the ensuing talks, Phasha inexplicably gave the order to his followers to move into the plantation and loot as many mangos as they can, which they did amid shouts of victory.
“It is pointless to try and remove these people now, the damage has already been done and to interfere now will only escalate the matter and could result in people getting hurt, which is not at all what we want,” said De Beer.
The security companies and CPF units stood down and left the farm while the police remained at the scene. On our way off the property Bulletin saw police reinforcements arrive. “We are now going to remove these people by force,” one of the officers said. An hour later we saw a police convoy escourting around five bakkies, loaded with mangos, off the farm. They had detained a group of the looters and were on their way to have them processed at the police station.
Word of the arrests reached the community and soon the situation flared up again with some of the looters setting fire to a tractor on the property and burning large logs in the middle of the entrance way. Police and security officers once again moved in. Some arrests were made, finally bringing to an end the two-day siege.
Official totals could not be confirmed at the time of going to print but De Beer did confirm that they had lost their harvest for the year.
At the time of going to print it was still not clear how many looters were arrested or what they would be charged with nor when they would appear in court. They were however released on R500 bail with strict conditions that they not return to the farm. Bulletin did receive information that the incident was not being taken lightly by the SAPS who had escalated the matter to their top brass in Polokwane. An official statement will be issued shortly.