Zuma, government officials held in contempt of court
Lindi van Rooyen

Free State Agriculture (FSA) is holding 14 parties in contempt of court, including President Jacob Zuma, ministers for the department of agriculture, the department of public works, the department of home affairs, the Free State premier and the police. FSA is holding various government officials in contempt of court for failing to secure the province’s border with Lesotho.

A judgement was handed down in June 2010 by the High Court which ordered that the fence between the two countries be repaired and maintained, the border patrol road be restored and that the border be patrolled. At the time of going to print, only a few metres of fencing had been erected by farmers, who have not yet been reimbursed for the costs they incurred, as per the agreement.

No patrol roads have been repaired and as such no patrols can take place.Equipment to help the police patrol the road has also not been supplied, despite being part of the court order. This includes spotlights, 4x4 vehicles, quad bikes and 14 containers which will serve as static observation points.

Although these containers have been provided, they have never been occupied or used by members of the police to safeguard the border. Patrolling the border is vital because any attempts to fence the border fail as the fencing is taken down overnight, said Cobus Breytenbach, chairperson of FSA’s safety and security committee.

“The failure to repair the border road has had disastrous implications, including theft and arson committed by Lesotho residents.” Breytenbach said that the 14 respondents “have wilfully and in bad faith failed to comply with the court order.”

“There has been a suggestion from the state attorney that budgetary constraints have been, in part, to blame for some of the delays. This is unacceptable. The respondents signed the settlement agreement and consented to it being made a court order, knowing full well that there would be budgetary implications to the order.”

He added that during the many years that it has taken for the government to secure the border, FSA and its members have constantly been victims of crime. “They had to endure these crimes, while at the same time attempting in good faith to engage with the government.”

Bernard Maree, district municipality representative for FSA in the Wepener district, said the problem on the border is worse than one might think and crime is rampant. “The farmers are moedeloos. We just finished erecting 8km of fencing along the border, but it has already been taken down and is now lying in a heap.”

Maree said that if there is no political will to secure the border, then it will never happen. There needs to be discussions between South Africa and Lesotho to curb the crime because the problem is coming from Lesotho.” He added that monthly meetings between FSA and members of Lesotho’s government prove fruitless and for the past four months Lesotho has been absent from the meetings.

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Tags: government, FSA, crime
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