The Cala University Students Association (CALUSA), Siyazakha Land and Development Forum as well as Inyanda National Land Movement mourn the brutal and senseless murder of Mrs Nontembiso (56) and Mr Takayina April (66).

They were gunned down by two unmasked men while working in their garden on the morning of Friday 4 December 2020 on the Draaifontein Farm. This farm is part of a cluster of farms referred to as Beestekraal farms in the Sakhisizwe municipal area, Eastern Cape. The murderers approached Mr and Mrs April pretending to be looking for lost sheep and, without warning, drew guns and fatally shot them in full view of the family’s 19-year old son who ran and sought assistance in a neighbouring farm.

It is not known what the motive for the shooting was. Indications are that this was not robbery given that nothing was taken from the family house. All that we can say is that the April family and other farm dwellers in the area were and are engaged in ongoing battles for their rights to land they have lived on for decades and where their dead are buried.

Mrs April in particular has been a formidable activist in the struggle for democratic governance and equitable access to land for all throughout South Africa. She and her colleagues are victims of a failed post-1994 land reform programme which marginalises farm dwellers and gives land to elite black African farmers who are hostile to farm dwellers and continuously threaten them with evictions.

It is this injustice and unfair practice on the part of both the government and the new black African farmers that the April family and other farm dwellers were/are opposed to. They have been involved in court battles with these African farmers. Some of the rights they fought for included their right to bury members of their family alongside their relatives and to successfully block the closure of a primary school in their area.

Early in 2020, Mrs April was part of a delegation of farm dwellers who demanded farmland from the Department of Agriculture, Rural Development and Land Reform. The demand for farmland was/is an indication of farm dwellers’ determination to use land to sustain themselves and be self-reliant.

Regrettably, nothing has, at the time of the murders, come out of the promise by the department’s official to assist the farm dwellers to get land. The official has thus failed the farm dwellers and denied them their right to use land to improve their livelihoods. To rub salt to the wound, Mr Beta, the farm owner on whose land the April family resides is refusing to allow the burial of the members on the farm. This is despite the fact that the Aprils have lived on the land since the late 1990s.

But this refusal is not going to intimidate and silence farm dwellers in their struggles for their land rights. Neither are they going to be intimidated by hitmen and their handlers.

The struggle against the violation of the farm dwellers’ rights continues unabated.

In the immediate term, we call upon the law enforcement agencies not to only investigate this heinous murder of the April couple, but to also provide protection to the remaining family members and other farm dwellers who are struggling for their land rights.

We also call upon the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform to assist the family members and farm dwellers in similar positions to gain undisturbed land rights to the land they utilise on the farm.

As CALUSA and associated civil society organisations, we promise to honour the lives of the April family by carrying on with the struggle for land justice, equality and dignity that they were part of.

CONTACT PERSONS: Dr Fani Ncapayi – 082 440 6067

Mrs Nomvuzo Nopote – 083 505 7819


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