Bail for Mid­lands farmer

Sunday Tribune - - FRONT PAGE - NKU­L­ULEKO NENE

AFTER more than two decades of democ­racy in South Africa peo­ple of dif­fer­ent race and class still have learn to talk to each other, say the elder broth­ers of Phillip Solomon - a 66-year old white farmer who is on trial for mur­der­ing a man dur­ing a dis­pute over a burial on a Kwazulu-natal mid­lands farm late last year.

Solomon was re­leased on R50000 bail this week fol­low­ing the in­tro­duc­tion of new ev­i­dence in the Pi­eter­mar­itzburg High Court about his ail­ing health. Both the de­fence and the state agreed on strin­gent bail con­di­tions which have not been pub­licly dis­closed by the court for pub­lic safety rea­sons.

Solomon is ac­cused of mur­der­ing Jeffrey Mothi Ngubane, 30, on Craig Farm in Otto’s Bluff, which he has since sold to cover his le­gal costs.

Solomon was ar­rested by po­lice on the day he shot and killed Ngubane at the grave of a labour ten­ant on his farm.

He had after­wards locked him­self in the farm­house. A few days after his ar­rest, Solomon’s part­ner, Marie Louise Bucher, was at­tacked on Solomon’s farm house and se­ri­ously in­jured.

The Solomon fam­ily has for gen­er­a­tions farmed in the Otto’s Bluff area.

A re­cent ETV Check­point doc­u­men­tary on the Otto’s Bluff farm mur­der warned that the area had be­come “a fes­ter­ing fron­tier with farm­ers and work­ers liv­ing in in­creas­ing dishar­mony”.

The doc­u­men­tary shed light on the his­tory of Solomon’s re­la­tion­ship with the Lem­bethe fam­ily who have lived and worked on Craig Farm all their lives and have oc­cu­pa­tional rights.

The fam­ily were lay­ing to rest an elder brother, Jab­u­lani, when Solomon had tried to stop the fu­neral, lead­ing to the fa­tal al­ter­ca­tion with Ngubane.

Sib­ling Mondli, a Lem­bethe rel­a­tive, said Ngubane lived on the prop­erty and did odd jobs for Solomon, who was nick­named Ma­hewu after a fer­mented sorghum drink.

“Mothi was very close to Ma­hewu. They were friends and Ma­hewu knew the life that Mothi lived. We thought be­cause they are friends, he wouldn’t do any­thing to him.”

Of Ngubane, Mondli said: “Mothi was try­ing to rea­son with him and the rest of us stepped back. But, in­cred­i­bly, Solomon fired at Mothi.”

At Solomon’s first court ap­pear­ance, hun­dreds of res­i­dents wear­ing ANC and IFP T-shirts protested, de­mand­ing jus­tice and ex­pro­pri­a­tion of land from white farm­ers.

After an ap­pli­ca­tion ex­tend­ing over sev­eral weeks, Solomon was de­nied bail by Mag­is­trate Fik­ile Lu­vuno on the grounds that it would not be in the in­ter­est of jus­tice.

But this week, his lawyers pre­sented new ev­i­dence in court about Solomon’s ail­ing health.

Ad­vo­cate Ger­hard van der Walt said Solomon was be­ing kept in soli­tary con­fine­ment in Pi­eter­mar­tizburg New Prison, where his health had se­ri­ously de­te­ri­o­rated. He was also be­ing de­nied food brought by his fam­ily, said Van der Walt.

He said Solomon, who was not a flight risk, could now af­ford to pay the R50000 bail after hav­ing sold his farm to cover his fees.

Grant­ing bail, Judge Jac­que­line Hen­riques said she was sat­is­fied with sub­mis­sions from both the de­fence and State pros­e­cu­tor, ad­vo­cate Mbon­geni Mthembu, that Solomon was ail­ing in prison.

Hen­riques said the State and de­fence had agreed on strin­gent bail con­di­tions, which she opted not to dis­close in court for pub­lic safety rea­sons.

“It is very, very sad.” said Guy Solomon. “With good com­mu­ni­ca­tion it could have been eas­ily avoided. Care­less­ness, which led to con­flict, has landed my brother in jail.”

“We are very up­set over what hap­pened, but the emo­tions were stirred by pol­i­tics,” said Stan­ley, the el­dest in the fam­ily. “We have spo­ken to the Lem­bethes to make peace. Now re­la­tions are fine.”

Stan­ley Solomon said his younger brother had been mo­lested and threat­ened by pris­on­ers. “This is what led to him be­ing kept in soli­tary con­fine­ment.”

Con­tacted for com­ment, the Lem­bethe fam­ily, who still live on Craig Farm, were un­aware Solomon was now out on bail. Khosi Lem­bethe said she was scared.

“I fear for my life be­cause I stay alone in the house. I wish some­one could make me un­der­stand why he was granted bail.”

Gcino Sha­bal­ala, KZN chair­per­son of the Land­less Peo­ple’s Move­ment, said he, too, was not sat­is­fied with the de­ci­sion. “We farm dwellers want to feel pro­tected the same way as oth­ers.

“The fam­ily’s dig­nity was eroded the mo­ment Solomon pulled out the firearm to shoot Ngubane, who was at­tend­ing a rel­a­tive’s fu­neral,” he said.

PIC­TURE: NKU­L­ULEKO NENE

Stan­ley and Guy Solomon at the Pi­eter­mar­itzburg High Court where their brother Phillip ‘Ma­hewu’ Solomon was granted bail on Thurs­day.

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