Durban: A home is where memories are made. But the family of a 69-year-old grandmother, who was held at gunpoint at an ancestral farmhouse in Fountainhead, outside eMkhomazi, has relocated. They have had enough of being targeted by criminals.
“The relocation is due to the never-ending attacks, which have put lives at risk,” said Ragi Govender.
She said her mother-in-law, Poomany Govender, had lived in the home for 52 years but January's attack had left her traumatised.
The four-hectare farm was bought by Poomany's grandparents in the 1900s. The property was passed to her son, Devin, 49, in 1995.
Ragini Govender, 47, said: “On that day, my husband was working on the farm, while I went to work. I am an undertaker at LG Funerals. My mother-in-law was alone in the farmhouse. She said she saw three men playing with the dogs outside. My mother-in-law went outside to tell them to leave and she returned inside but they followed her.
“One of them held her at gunpoint. He told her to not make a noise. They then stole items including cellphones, a computer, jewellery, cash and a home theatre system. Before they left, they tied her hands and legs on the chair, while pointing a gun at her.”
She said her mother-in-law was left in a room, while they loaded the stolen goods onto a bakkie and left.
“While the police were questioning my mother-in-law, she passed out for two hours. We had to take her to a doctor. The police returned the following day to complete taking her statement.”
She said a week later, about 50m of copper pipes were stolen from the property. Govender said despite it been five months since the incident, her mother lost consciousness at times.
“She cannot forget what happened and her doctor recently advised her to see a psychologist.”
Govender said, as a result, they decided it was best to move out of their home earlier this month. They found accommodation in the Mkhomazi CBD, about 20km from their farmhouse.
“We still had belongings in the home and soon after we left, someone broke into the property and stole it.”
Govender said leaving the farmhouse was difficult, especially for her mother-in-law and husband.
“This is our ancestral land. My husband did not want to leave but he knew he had to. It really hit him hard. We had to understand and be grateful that God once spared our mother’s life and that life is more valuable than material things. We had no choice.”
She said the farmhouse was peaceful and serene.
“It was once a safe place with fresh air. We were vegetable farmers. We grew dhania, mint, brinjal and any other veggies that are are sold at the Clairwood Market. Both of my children were born there. When my husband and I started farming, we thought their future was secured. It had so many good memories until the crime started.
“The most difficult thing about moving was selling and giving away items. We moved from a 10 room house to a smaller place. My mother-in-law is now living with her daughters in Johannesburg. All my sentimental items were boxed and stored at my late parent’s residence. However, for the losses that I have incurred in these few months, I don’t feel the need to go back. I am safe and stress-free at our new home.”
Govender said her husband still worked at the farm with their three employees during the day.
Daniel Naidoo, a local ward councillor, said a meeting was convened with farmers and the police in May. He said the farmers spoke of their concerns.
“They believe these are organised criminal activities,” said Naidoo.
“The community is concerned about the response time of law enforcement whenever they report a crime. There is little done about cases of criminal charges, which were opened previously. They are disturbed that nothing has been solved. It’s worrying because livestock is also targeted.”
Naidoo said the police assured the farmers that they would work closely with the community and increase their visibility and patrols. He said officials from the eThekwini Municipality were expected to visit and engage with the community this weekend.
Colonel Thembeka Mbele, a provincial police spokesperson, said a case of robbery was opened at eMkhomazi police station.