Ac­cused in con­tro­ver­sial farm killing granted bail

The Sunday Independent - - News - NKULULEKO NENE Check­point

AF­TER more than two decades of democ­racy in South Africa, peo­ple of dif­fer­ent races and classes still have to 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 an al­ter­ca­tion over a burial on a farm in the KwaZu­luNatal Mid­lands.

The mur­der of Jef­frey Mothi Ngubane, 30, on De­cem­ber 30 last year, sparked racial ten­sions in the Otto’s Bluff area and fears of re­tal­ia­tory vi­o­lence.

Solomon was ar­rested by po­lice on the day he shot and killed Ngubane on Craig Farm, which has since been sold to cover the le­gal fees of his trial and R50 000 bail which was granted this week.

A few days af­ter his ar­rest, Solomon’s part­ner, Marie Louise Bucher, was at­tacked in the farm­house and in­jured.

The Solomon fam­ily has for gen­er­a­tions farmed at Otto’s Bluff.

A re­cent e.tv 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 was lay­ing to rest an elder brother, Jab­u­lani, when Solomon tried to stop the funeral, lead­ing to the fa­tal al­ter­ca­tion with Ngubane. Sib­ling Mondli 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.”

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 the Pi­eter­mar­itzburg High Court about Solomon’s ail­ing health.

Ad­vo­cate Ger­hard van der Walt said Solomon was be­ing kept in soli­tary con­fine­ment in Pi­eter­mar­itzburg 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 was not a flight risk. He could now af­ford to pay R50 000 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 said his younger brother had been mo­lested and threat­ened by pris­on­ers.

“This is what led to him be­ing kept in soli­tary con­fine­ment.”

When con­tacted for com­ment, the Lem­bethe fam­ily, who still live on Craig Farm, were un­aware Solomon was 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 was also 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 shot Ngubane at­tend­ing a funeral,” he said.

PIC­TURE: NKULULEKO NENE

SUP­PORT: Stanley and Guy Solomon at the Pi­eter­mar­itzburg High Court where their brother Phillip was granted bail.

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