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CityPress - - News - ATHANDIWE SABA athandiwe.saba@city­press.co.za

an African­ist Congress (PAC) leader Alton Mphethi has been in­volved in a nasty bat­tle with a fam­ily of farm work­ers who he has tried to boot off his farm in Mpumalanga.

Mphethi – who led the PAC in last year’s elec­tions with a strong land man­i­festo that promised land would be avail­able to the poor at no cost – has al­legedly even par­tially de­mol­ished the Dh­ludlu fam­ily’s mud and cor­ru­gated iron home. The fam­ily has lived on the prop­erty, which is near Ermelo, since the 1940s.

“We ran away that night [when the house was be­ing de­mol­ished], but we can’t leave our home. He wants us gone, but we’ve lived here all our lives,” said Mbongiseni Dh­ludlu.

How­ever, Mphethi, a for­mer MP who leads one of the PAC’s two fac­tions, is com­pletely unashamed about want­ing the Dh­lud­lus off his farm. He told City Press on Fri­day that if gov­ern­ment wanted to take his farm and give it to the fam­ily, that would be fine – but the state would have to buy it from him first.

“But I don’t want them on my farm ... Those peo­ple are an­i­mals who have stolen from me and van­dalised my house,” he said.

Mbongiseni was born on the farm 38 years ago and his grand­fa­ther is buried on the land. His fa­ther, Thomas, was born on the same prop­erty in 1948.

The Dh­lud­lus say their trou­ble be­gan when the PAC leader, who bought the farm about 10 years ago, al­legedly ac­cused them of steal­ing his cook­ing pots, a claim the fam­ily de­nies.

“Last Au­gust, Alton’s brother came to the house and banged on the door, scream­ing that he wanted to search the house be­cause we had stolen their pots. My mother was the only one in the house at the time. She told him that with­out the po­lice and a search war­rant, he was not com­ing into the house,” Mbongiseni said.

But at about 8pm that evening, Mbongiseni went out­side af­ter hear­ing wheels crunch­ing on the gravel. A group of men got out of three bakkies and, be­fore he could ask what was go­ing on, he was at­tacked.

“As soon as I fell, the men pounced on me and started kick­ing me. I was able to get away and get back in­side the house,” he said.

“My fa­ther came out­side to ask the men what was go­ing on. Mphethi came out of the bakkie, grabbed my fa­ther and punched him. He told him that he didn’t care if we called the po­lice be­cause no one would do any­thing to him and he had been telling us to get off his farm,” said Mbongiseni.

His sis­ter, Betty, al­leged that Mphethi also pointed his firearm at their fa­ther, and when their mother tried to in­ter­vene, she was beaten and pushed to the ground. The men then set about de­mol­ish­ing their six-room home, leav­ing only their mother’s bed­room stand­ing.

Mphethi, how­ever, de­nies the fam­ily was beaten. But he ad­mits de­mol­ish­ing their house. “I was there that night and I de­mol­ished their house in front of the po­lice. They have stolen from me. I threw their things on the road. I don’t want them there.

“We did not beat up any­one. All I wanted to do was get in­side the house and find my things, a bed and cor­ru­gated iron sheets. The po­lice ar­rived and I told them what they had stolen. I would never point a gun at any­one, es­pe­cially in front of the po­lice.”

The po­lice, the fam­ily claims, did not take state­ments from them and in­stead sug­gested they should pack up and leave the farm.

The el­derly cou­ple, two of their chil­dren and two grand­chil­dren now sleep in a tent that was given to them by a lo­cal ward coun­cil­lor. They sit around the old wood stove in what used to be their kitchen, which now only has three walls.

“We went to the po­lice sta­tion to open up a case, but the of­fi­cer

CON­TRA­DIC­TORY MES­SAGE A bus in Ermelo on Thurs­day bears the im­age of PAC leader Alton Mphethi, along with the party’s slo­gan stress­ing the im­por­tance of land

PAR­TIAL STRUC­TURE The Dh­ludlu fam­ily in­side the home PAC leader Alton Mphethi par­tially de­mol­ished

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