Malema lawyer in court over farm shoot­ing

The Star Early Edition - - FRONT PAGE - STAFF RE­PORTERS

EFF leader Julius Malema’s lawyer, ad­vo­cate Tumi Mokoena, was last night ne­go­ti­at­ing his re­lease from prison af­ter be­ing ar­rested for al­legedly shoot­ing and in­jur­ing four peo­ple at a Lim­popo farm.

The shoot­ing hap­pened yes­ter­day at Zebe­diela Cit­rus Farm out­side Polok­wane, which Mokoena had gone to visit in or­der to rep­re­sent five work­ers who had salary dis­putes with man­age­ment.

In what seemed an ironic twist, how­ever, a group of work­ers armed with stones and sticks al­legedly con­fronted Mokoena, ac­cus­ing him of fail­ing to pay work­ers while he him­self had been part of the farm’s man­age­ment last year.

The farm is owned by the Bjwat­ladi Com­mu­nal Prop­erty As­so­ci­a­tion (BCPA), a group of land resti­tu­tion ben­e­fi­cia­ries. Mokoena joined the farm as a man­ager last year af­ter he suc­cess­fully rep­re­sented the BCPA against Boys Group, a strate­gic part­ner that was run­ning the farm since the land was re­turned to the com­mu­nity.

Mokoena al­legedly stopped be­ing part of the man­age­ment when re­la­tions with the own­ers soured late last year, say sources.

The group of work­ers ac­cused Mokoena of in­creas­ing the salaries of a few work­ers while ne­glect­ing the rest. They al­legedly de­manded an ex­pla­na­tion on their Unem­ploy­ment In­sur­ance Fund and tax de­duc­tions dur­ing his ten­ure.

One of the work­ers, Jonas Ral­ibana, al­leged that their re­la­tions with Mokoena soured af­ter about 1 500 of them were not paid their salaries late last year.

“We were not paid our salaries in Novem­ber and De­cem­ber, un­til we were res­cued by the new man­agers,” said Ral­ibana, adding that he had been work­ing on the farm for the past five years.

Oth­ers ac­cused Mokoena of try­ing to push for “ab­nor­mal salary in­creases”, which was “hurt­ing be­cause pro­duc­tion on the farm had stalled”.

Mable Led­waba, lo­cal chair­per­son of the Food and Al­lied Work­ers Union, said Mokoena was fight­ing to sus­tain ab­nor­mal salary in­creases not dis­cussed with the union. A few work­ers’ salaries in­creased from R6 000 to R20 000.

Things turned nasty when work­ers de­manded that Mokoena va­cate the farm and al­legedly started charg­ing at him while he was in the of­fices. As he was try­ing to leave, the work­ers blocked his way. It was then that he al­legedly shot at the em­ploy­ees, in­jur­ing four.

The farm man­ager, a Mr Swanepoel, con­firmed that he was sched­uled to meet with Mokoena yes­ter­day over work­ers’ salary is­sues.

“It was in con­nec­tion with the pay re­duced to nor­mal pay.”

He added that a group of work­ers were against Mokoena’s pres­ence on the prop­erty. “They said they don’t want Mokoena on the farm. The next mo­ment, I heard gun­shots and peo­ple were run­ning out­side the of­fice, and Mokoena was run­ning with a gun in his hands,” said Swanepoel.

Ac­cord­ing to Lim­popo po­lice spokesper­son Lieu­tenant-Colonel Moat­she Ngoepe, Mokoena had pro­duced a firearm and shot four pro­test­ers be­fore flee­ing the scene in his ve­hi­cle.

“The in­jured em­ploy­ees were taken to hos­pi­tal with gun­shot wounds af­ter re­ceiv­ing first aid from the lo­cal clinic,” said Ngoepe, adding that one of the work­ers sus­tained a se­ri­ous gun­shot wound.

Mokoena was due to ap­pear in the Le­bowak­gomo Mag­is­trate’s Court, op­er­at­ing in the Thabamoopo district, to­day.

AP­PEARS TO­DAY: Julius Malema’s lawyer, Tumi Mokoena.

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