Land feud led to farm death

Weekend Argus (Sunday Edition) - - NEWS - NKULULEKO NENE

A PATCH of land on a farm in Cra­mond in the KwaZu­luNatal Mid­lands, over­look­ing Al­bert Falls Dam, is home to the Lem­bethe fam­ily, who have been sub­sis­tence farm­ing there for gen­er­a­tions.

But their bu­colic life­style was rocked last week when the farmer who owns the land they live on (Otto’s Bluff Farm) killed one of their rel­a­tives.

Philip “Ma­hewu” Solomon, 66, al­legedly shot Mothi Ngubane, 30, re­peat­edly, after ar­gu­ing with fam­ily mem­bers who were bury­ing a rel­a­tive. Solomon did not want the burial to go ahead.

He was ar­rested and ap­peared in the New Hanover Mag­is­trate’s Court this week. He is in New Prison in Pi­eter­mar­itzburg and will likely make a bail ap­pli­ca­tion at his next ap­pear­ance on Tues­day.

The Lem­bethes prob­lems with him go back to 2000 when they al­lege he stopped them from bury­ing an­other rel­a­tive on the farm. Other farm­ers and neigh­bours are also at odds with Solomon, who is feared in the area.

One res­i­dent, who asked not to be named, said he was a “nut case” and was al­ways armed with guns, knives and a panga.

“He is mad. I do not know how many peo­ple he has at­tacked pre­vi­ously. Solomon owns five firearms, two ri­fles, two shot­guns and a pis­tol.”

Last Satur­day, the Lem­bethes had just low­ered the body of Jab­u­lani Lem­bethe into a grave near their home when Solomon stormed up and tried to stop the fu­neral.

Ngubane pleaded with him to go home, say­ing: “Nkosana, hamba (Prince, please go back).”

Solomon shouted: “Phu­mani lana ham­bani (Get out of here),” be­fore fir­ing re­peat­edly at Ngubane, who died in­stantly.

Lem­bethe fam­ily spokesper­son Teteni Sikhakhane said: “We con­tin­ued putting soil in the grave with tears rolling down our faces and Ngubane’s body ly­ing in a pool of blood nearby. We waited six hours be­fore po­lice re­moved his body.”

A po­lice K9 unit ar­rived min­utes after the shoot­ing and ar­rested Solomon.

Sikhakhane claimed Ngubane’s death would have been avoided had com­mis­sioned of­fi­cers been at the fu­neral, as the fam­ily had re­quested. “Po­lice promised to at­tend be­cause Solomon had threat­ened to stop the fu­neral, but they never showed up,” he claimed.

He said Solomon came to Otto’s Bluff Farm in the early 90s by which time the Lem­bethes had been liv­ing on the farm for gen­er­a­tions. But when Sikhakhane’s moth­erin-law died in 2000, Solomon pre­vented them from bury­ing her at the fam­ily home­stead and they had to make her grave at a rel­a­tive’s home 5km away.

Sikhakhane said that soon after he started liv­ing on the farm, Solomon pre­vented the fam­ily from ex­tend­ing their home and do­ing sub­sis­tence farm­ing, as they had done for years.

“We are still trau­ma­tised... If he is re­leased it will be the end of our fam­ily,” Sikhakhane said.

How­ever, Cap­tain Gay Ebrahim, of Um­gun­gundlovu north clus­ter unit, said the po­lice did not prom­ise to at­tend the fu­neral.

“At no stage did the po­lice re­ceive any in­for­ma­tion about Philip Solomon be­ing a threat to the fam­ily,” Ebrahim said.

The owners of neigh­bour­ing Kwela Lodge, Rene and Bir­git Oeg­ger, said Solomon had ac­cused them sev­eral times of the theft of his bull. He also al­legedly made numer­ous death threats.

Rene said: “He does not care about his an­i­mals. In the more than nine years we have lived here, we and other neigh­bours have seen his an­i­mals on the road, en­dan­ger­ing the lives of mo­torists.

Bir­git said: “We felt sorry for the bull, as we are animal lovers, and that’s why we cared for it at our place, as well as for safety rea­sons. We told our neigh­bours and in­formed Solomon the bull was on our prop­erty.”

PIC­TURE: NKULULEKO NENE

Lem­bethe fam­ily spokesper­son Teteni Sikhakhane at the spot where Mothi Ngubane was al­legedly shot dead by farmer Philip Solomon.

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