30 May 2000

South Africa: Land Committee Lobbies For Commandos To Be Disbanded

Wakkerstroom — The National Land Committee (NLC) urged government on Monday to immediately disband the controversial army commando unit of accused of torturing farm workers in southern Mpumalanga, African Eye News Service (South Africa) reports.

The demand follows the arrest of two Wakkerstroom commando members on allegations of shooting a 50-year-old farm worker last week.

The arrest is the latest in a string of charges ranging from kidnapping to murder against commando members who allegedly serve as "enforcers" for local farmers.

NLC land rights co-ordinator Andile Mngxitama said on Monday the arrests proved that Wakkerstroom farm workers could not rely on the State for protection and in fact had to live in fear of its military.

"State weapons and other resources appear to be used to torture and murder labourers here. Things have gone too far and it's now time for the national departments of defense, justice, safety and security to urgently suspend all those implicated," Mngxitama said.

Mandla Lukhele, 50, from Dirkiesdorp is still recovering from a gun wound to his head at the Pretoria Academic Hospital after commando members Bongani Thusi, 35, and Nathi Nkosi, 39, allegedly shot him on May 15.

Police spokeswoman, Sibongile Nkosi, confirmed on Monday that Thusi and Nkosi allegedly shot Lukhele after he managed to win court order preventing a farmer from evicting him from his family home.

Both alleged gunmen were released on R5 000 in the Wakkerstroom magistrate's court, when their case was postponed to June 6.

Full-time SANDF officer in Ermelo and commander of the unit, Colonel Anton Kritzinger, was not available for comment on Monday.

The Mpumalanga safety and security departments is meanwhile investigating roughly 20 separate charges by farm workers that farmers in the Wakkerstroom, Volksrust, and Ermelo areas used the part-time commando members to evict, assault and even murder them.

The department however refuses to comment saying it will jeopardise its investigation.

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