Eshowe farm owner still calculating cost of damage by angry protestors

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DURBAN, March 17 (ANA) – The owner of an Eshowe sugarcane farm that was almost entirely destroyed after angry protesters set fire to the crop and buildings is still calculating the cost of the damage.

Dr Fikile Qoboshiyane, who also practises as an ophthalmologist in Durban’s central business district, told African News Agency (ANA) on Friday evening, that while the farm was insured he and his farm manager still needed to assess the total damage.

Nearly all of the sugarcane on his 225ha farm as well as workshops, cottages, staff quarters and the main farmhouse were burnt to the ground on Wednesday evening and Thursday morning.

Qoboshiyane’s farm was one of three farms targeted by the protesters.

The riot was reportedly sparked after 29-year-old Spamandla Xulu was shot and killed by a farm-watch security guard on Qoboshiyane’s farm. It is alleged that Xulu and another man had been fishing illegally at a farm’s dam and refused to leave when asked to do so.

This led to an altercation and the fatal shooting. The other man was unharmed.

By Thursday morning, approximately 300 residents had taken part in the arson attacks and  barricaded the R66 with burning tyres and rubble. This road links Eshowe to Melmoth and Vryheid.

The South African Police Service (SAPS) reported that calm had been restored to the community on Friday morning with police keeping a close eye on the area.

“Nearly my entire crop was destroyed by the fire as were the homes on the property,” said Qoboshiyane.

Having owned the farm since 2004, he said he spent all of Friday speaking to the Umlalazi Municipality, his farm manager and the police in Eshowe.

“Thankfully no one was staying in the house when it was set alight,” said Qoboshiyane.

He said it is likely the burning of the farm will have an effect on employment however he said it was too early to confirm.

The sugarcane harvesting season, which often absorbs large amounts of temporary labour in the rural areas of KwaZulu-Natal, is expected to open in April and end December.

“We are just busy trying to manage the situation. The local municipality informed us they would communicate with the family of the deceased,” said Qoboshiyane.

The security guard accused of fatally shooting Xulu is in police custody for murder and will spend the weekend in a local correctional facility.

His employer is Durban-based V1 Security which provides farm watch guarding services to the commercial farmers in the area.

A V1 company manager, Nathaniel Zwane, who answered the telephone of his employer Nelson Mhlongo, said a statement would likely be released on Monday. He said Mhlongo was currently out of the country.

“At this point we have no information except to say our guard is still in custody. We should know more by Monday after we do our own investigation,” said Zwane.

ANA