Marauding impi destroys five fields of fresh mealies
Eight man have been charged for destroying five fields of maize at Mganwini near Luve on Christmas Eve in a family feud that has gone terribly sour.
Fononoza Vilakati claims to be a victim of the attack for reclaiming the fields that rightfully belong to his family after these had been in use by the attackers for several years.
Ironically, there had been no arrests and Fononoza fears that he might even be tempted to protect himself from his cousins or launch a counterattack to destroy their fields if no arrests are made.
However, Chief Police Information and Communications Officer Superintendent Khulani Mamba says charges have been laid on the eight attackers and police were awaiting for an evaluation of the extent of the damage from experts from the ministry of agriculture before further action could be taken such as taking the matter to court.
The experts were expected to have conducted the evaluation by the afternoon of Thursday.
It was early on Christmas Eve, at around 6am, that Fononoza received a call from Mliba police that he was needed for a reunion meeting to iron out differences with relatives. However ,when he was preparing to heed to the police summons, the group of eight or so men armed with bush knives and slashers passed by his gate in a very threatening mood towards the fields further down. Fononoza proceeded to Mliba but on arrival he was told his cousins had left to look for something to eat in the nearby shops. However , Fononoza told the cops that he doubted their explanation because he had seen them in a rather weird mood taking the direction of the disputed fields when he was coming to the station. The police allegedly made another call and were told that Fononoza’s siblings were still enjoying a dose of sour porridge, incwancwa. Time passed and they were not returning to the station and then Fononoza decided to return to his home but on the turn at the roadside to his home he met a neighbour who advised him that he and his cousins were playing dangerous games of destroying such promising maize plants at a time when not only Swaziland but the whole world was wailing about hunger. His fears were confirmed that indeed his cousins were armed to destroy his entire crop in the disputed fields.
Fononoza then returned to the station to record a statement detailing the extent of the damage but said he was told no immediate action would be taken until there was a professional evaluation of the extent of the damage, leaving him wondering what that meant because already an offence had been committed yet the culprits were left to roam freely in a threatening mood to strike again. Also because under normal circumstance it is the courts that commission an evaluation to establish the degree of damage such as sending a victim to the doctors to evaluate the degree of injury while on the other hand police effect an arrest.
Back at Mganwini Fononoza says he has already reported to local traditional structures who are awaiting the completion of the course of justice which involves the courts before taking up the matter traditionally especially because by Swazi Law and Custom, which governs coexistence on Swazi nation land, even an evicted person is allowed their harvest before being sent away from an area. The destruction of food crops and dwelling structures is a very serious offence that borders on inhumanity.
While the accused side could not be reached for comment as they were reported away save for an elderly woman tending the fields. Fononoza says until Thursday there had been no further attacks on his property which he inherited from his father Skafu. When Skafu passed on the fields were looked after by the attackers who however this year they were approached that since Fononoza had come of age he was reclaiming them. All along the attacking cousin’s father had been responsible for the property of his brother Skafu with the sole responsibility of handing them back to his children each time they wanted to make use of them.
Fononoza’s attackers are said to be reckoned with in the area and are boastful that no one can arrest them since they have also taken back large tracts of land from other relatives. They have also taken advantage of the lacklustre traditional control in Kutsimleni in that there is no reigning chief since the death of Maloyi over 40 years ago. The weak structures lack effectiveness in trying cases of illegal resettlement of people on others’ properties and the usurping of fields belonging to weaker households. To add salt to injury in the case of Fononoza is that his mansion of insurmountable size nearing completion and nothing comparable to it for miles around, a landmark that has sparked envy and jealousy among cousins who spent their lifetime in South Africa to return home to construct hovels that are no match even to Fononoza’s tools shed.
DESTRUCTION:Fononoza Vilakati interviewed by Ackel Zwane.