Mweetwa orders SA farmer to reimburse Simoonga peasant farmers money paid for cattle that strayed in his farm

A SOUTH African farmer Charl Marais has been ordered to reimburse Simonga villagers money they paid him as a condition to release their cattle that strayed on his farm.

And Muke village headman Joseph Makaya of Simonga west of Livingstone has accused Marais, the proprietor of Zampa Farms, of demolishing a school and a New Apostolic Church apart from charging villagers K100 per cattle that strays on to his farm.

Meanwhile, a Given Muteba says Marais wants to enslave Simonga villagers.

A widow, Rosina Lubinda, narrated how she has been forced to pay the farmer for her cattle to be released on several occasions.

The visibly annoyed Southern Province minister Cornelius Mweetwa, who was in the company of Livingstone mayor Constance Muleabai, told off Marais for saying that he was being coerced and being dragged before a Kangaroo court.

“I am here on delegated authority of the President. I haven’t come in any other capacity other than being sent by the President so you can’t say you are being coerced when there are issues with the community you live in…as government we have come to hear both sides of the story so that we don’t just hear from the people and make a decision without hearing from you. We have called you so that you hear for yourself so I don’t understand to hear that you are being coerced, you are not being coerced,” he said.

“These people have alleged that when animals stray into your farm through a potion that is not fenced, you have built a kraal where you then quarantine those animals and for each animal to be released, one has to pay K100 to be released, the same way at police people pay
admission of guilt. And one lady here has proceeded to allege that on one occasion, her animals were quarantined for two days and you made her pay K200 per animal…say someone has 15 animals meaning that person has to pay K1500 and when they fail to pay you have told these people that for you to release these animals you say ‘give an animal and I will give you change’. One man confessed here that he had 14 animals that you quarantined and he had to slaughter one animal to raise money to pay you so that you could release those animals. So I just wanted to find out the side of your story,” Mweetwa prompted him.

Marais responded that “Honourable minister, I have no comment at this stage, until my legal representation is present. I feel I am being dragged before a kangaroo court here” to which Mweetwa responded, “This not a Kangaroo court, this is government.”

Marais, however, indicated that the people were making allegations and noise.

“Whatever I say they are going to make noise, I can’t deal with it, let us just wait for another day,” he said.

But Mweetwa said that there was no noise as he just wanted to find out if part of the farm was not fenced off and that Marais quarantines animals and charges poor villagers K100 per animal that strays into his farm.

“Yes or no?” Mweetwa asked.

Cpt Robert Mukengami (Rtd) who said he is the administrator of the farm at this point tried to chip in but was hushed by Mweetwa who told him that, “You are not party to this discussion Mr Mukengami because of the way you behave.”

“I am the administrator, we have started fencing, but because it is a big farm, you can’t finish, that is what I wanted to say,” Mukengami said.

Mweetwa asked as to when fencing would be completed as Marais responded “As soon as resources permit.”
Mukengami said, “We should, both of us, take reasonability; we should live as a family, if an animal goes astray.”

Mweetwa insisted that the farm is surrounded by traditional land and villagers do not herd the animals in dry season.

Marais asked, “what if these free range cattle walk on a main road and are bashed by a bus which kills 56 people; what do you say?”

Mweetwa responded that that was for the law that governs road usage and asked Marais of any law that says when animals stray into an unfenced farm the owners must be charged and Mukengami answered that there is an Act.

“Are you charging a K100 for each animal quarantined,” Mweetwa asked as both Marais and Mukengami responded in the affirmative.

Mweetwa said, “It is good that you are saying that you are making progress in trying to fencing your property, but take note that you are surrounded by villagers who let their animals graze in a traditional way and that is why villagers also fence off their gardens of whatever description to deter animals eating those crops.”

“Let us end on this note, today is October 22, as government we are giving you one month to pay back the money you have made these people pay you since January 2021 to date because it has been an illegal enterprise. If you had fenced your farm completely and these people’s animals are breaking through your fence then there arises your right to charge the owners of the animals for breaking through your barrier to graze your crops. In the next one month, I will be coming back to make sure that you have refunded these people,” he said.

Mweetwa was shown a payment slip of Franck Nyambe who paid K1,500 and still owed Zampa Farms K600 for his 21 animals that were detained by Marais after they strayed into his farm.

He advised the villagers to maintain peace and also the councillor to quickly notify the government when a problem arises.

“I expect a better attitude next time when I come. I come in the name of the President and you can’t behave in such a way that I am still addressing the people trying to pacify them and you (Marais) say I am leaving. This behaviour should not be promoted. We are a government of laws,” Mweetwa said as Marais said “understood.”

Earlier, Mweetwa told Marais that if Mukengami had been misleading him, he was no longer in a position to do so.

“This government is a government of laws, not partisan politics of cadres taking advantage or business people taking advantage of farmers to be able to benefit themselves and not the majority. We are not such a government and we will not tolerate such behaviour. I respect you Mr Mukengami as a senior citizen of this country and as a politician (UNIP national chairperson), you are the last person I expect to disrespect me in this manner, that when I come as minister you want to shield this man that he can’t talk to me. Let it be the last time,” he said.

“These people have issues that they want resolved. If you have been paid and eating alone, eat quietly, don’t eat on behalf of these people’s suffering. We are not here for jokes…these people have been complaining and I am told that you even visited the mayor. So if you did visit the mayor it means there are challenges here, so we have come here so that we can amicably resolve this matter. Therefore, let us respect each other,” the annoyed Mweetwa said.

He told Marais that he should have engaged the people before he bought the land to find out their concerns.

“I am told this matter was in court, therefore, I cannot just come here and say we are proceeding this way. We shall follow through procedure to know if there is anything that we need to make a decision about,” Mweetwa said.

Peter Munyama, the UPND area ward councillor for Simonga, said the villagers were displaced and since then they have not been relocated.

He also said working conditions at the farm are pathetic.

Given Muteba said on August 11 Marais detained 11 herds of his cattle and refused to release them.

“Aba makuwa bakaza ku panga business (these men came here for business) and now they want to make us their slaves as Zambians; first he chased us, today people don’t live in harmony anymore because of this man. So we ask, did he come for business or to trouble us? We are asking for help,” he said.

David Muyanga said villagers’ cattle drink water from the Zambezi River, south of the farm, and sometimes they stray into his farm.

“Just yesterday 14 of my animals were caught in his farm and to paym him, I was forced to slaughter one to raise money to pay him. We are just asking him to fence off his farm instead of leaving it like a tavern,” he said.

Rosina Lubinda said she was a widow and was forced to pay a ransom for her animals that were detained by Marais on Saturday.

“I have been paying this farmer on several occasions for animals that stray into his farm. When I ask him what I should do, he says ‘give a cow I will give you change’. We are tired of this white man, we are paying a rich man, but other white men such as Cray don’t do what he
does, but he is charging us. We voted to be liberated in our country, please help us,” she said.

Ethel Nyambe accused Marais of demolishing a preschool after the court granted him the farm.
“I personally paid K300 for my animals…if you go and see where we stay, it is pathetic, he demolished a school where health personnel used to do outreach programmes,” she said.

Muke village headman Joseph Makaya said Marais came into the area in 2005 and all was fine until 2017 when he acquired the village through a court order.

“This village was founded in 1968, I wonder why for 52 years we were not victimised. I am also shocked that a school, my house and New Apostolic Church were demolished,” said Makaya.

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