Land feud led to farm death
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.”
Lembethe family spokesperson Teteni Sikhakhane at the spot where Mothi Ngubane was allegedly shot dead by farmer Philip Solomon.