South Africa: farm violence, enough is enough; Two recent incidents of white farmers throwing their black workers to lions or driving their pick-up vans over them, have outraged the whole nation, particularly Cosatu, the largest trade union in the country. Gift Sipho Siso reports.

Author:Siso, Gift Sipho
Position:Feature
 
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Cosatu, the South African trade union, has angrily condemned the "outrageous" sentence of a R36,000 fine and a two-year suspended jail term imposed on a white farmer who killed his former black worker by dragging him alongside his pick-up van until he fell under its wheels and had his head crushed.

The farmer, Gert Maritz, an Afrikaner from the Mpumalanga province in eastern South Africa, claimed that he had been drunk at the time of the incident and did not intend to kill his worker. (Afrikaners are Dutch descendants in South Africa and form the bulk of the commercial farming population in the country).

"I merely wanted to show him my disapproval of his habits of not coming to work sometimes after a weekend beer binge. It was unfortunate that he fell under the wheels and got crushed," he claimed.

In passing sentence, Judge Johan Els, presiding in the high court in Nelspruit, said he had taken into account the fact that Maritz had been drunk at the time of the incident.

"I also looked into the fact that after running over his worker, Maritz returned to the scene to inspect the damage he had caused. That alone showed he had remorse for what he had done," the judge, himself an Afrikaner, said.

The facts of the case were that Jotham Mandlazi, of Mozambican origin, had approached his "boss" with the intention of asking him for a cigarette. As he got nearer the pick-up, Maritz grabbed him and drove the pick-up away, dragging him in the process until he fell under the wheels.

Mandlazi's family has since indicated they would sue the farmer for well over R1m for the loss of their breadwinner.

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The sentence was an "outrage", said Cosatu in a statement dripping with sheer anger. The trade union warned that Zimbabwe's farm invasions could look like a Sunday school picnic if the anger swelling among farm workers in South Africa was not urgently addressed.

In fact, the sentence in mid-February outraged the whole nation, especially coming on the heels of the arraignment of another white man, (this time, a construction company owner) who was accused of beating up a troublesome black worker and later feeding him to lions.

The incident happened in the Limpopo province on the northen border with Zimbabwe. Initially thought to be a farmer, Mark Scott-Crossley and three of his black employees--Simon Mathebula, Richard Mathebula, and Robert Mnisi--who used a farm in the small town of Hoedspruit as a base for his contruction company, was...

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