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ZZ2 denies flattening graves to plant avocado trees

One of the directors, Phil van Zyl, said he had never flattened any graves and that he respects the dead

Giant fresh produce company ZZ2 has slammed the families who accused it of flattening more than 80 graves and has called on them to show proof of burial sites.

At least eight families who are among many who were forcefully removed from Mooketsi and Modjadjiskloof farms in Limpopo opened a criminal case three years ago against the biggest tomato producer in SA for allegedly destroying 85 graves of their relatives to make way for the farming of avocado trees.

One of the directors, Phil van Zyl, said he had never flattened any graves and that he respects the dead.

“I have never destroyed any graves and I call on all those families to show me a proof of gravesite. It is not true that I grew my avocados on top of people’s graves. I respect dead people,” he said.

Van Zyl said some of the people claiming to have graves can’t even point out where they are.

“They are busy defaming my name. If I did something wrong why am I not being arrested?”

The disgruntled families including Motolla, Maganye, Ramaselele, Mawasha, Matsepane, Ramakgwakgwa, Masenamela and Marobela last week wrote a letter to various government institutions for intervention.

In a letter, the families accuse the police of failing to give them feedback on their investigation since the case was opened at Modjadjiskloof police station in 2019.

Simon Motolla, who signed off the letter, said in 2017 a farmer and one of the family members started conniving and subsequently began damaging the graves.

“This incident happened immediately after the farmer offered one of our family members livestock using divide and rule strategy. Cases were opened against the farmer and the said family member with Modjadjiskloof police and crime scenes were visited and areas affected were cordoned off for the archaeologist to pinpoint the sites,” he said.

Van Zyl has denied that he once offered someone livestock in exchange of destruction of graves.

Motolla further added in the letter that they have received no feedback from the police about their case.

“The farmer is currently reaping avocados planted on our relatives’ graves and no-one is saying anything about these cases,” he said.

Police spokesperson Brig Motlafela Mojapelo didn’t respond at the time of going to print on what happened to the investigations.

Wilson Maganye who relocated to Relela village told Sowetan at least 10 of his family graves,  including of his parents, have been flattened.

“There are avocado trees everywhere and you can’t even point out the graves. We are not even allowed to enter the farms as security demands a proof of a grave. My parents died long time ago and where will one obtain a proof of death just to satisfy a farmer?” asked Maganye.

Klaas Ramaselele said his family has five graves on the farm.

“Police have failed us, at least they should have the courage to inform us how far their investigation is.  We need to find the remains of our loved ones and rebury them so their souls can rest in peace,” he said.

Matome Marobela said the families are planning a meeting with the farmer next month in order to settle this matter.

“We feel undermined and now it becomes an insult when someone says there were no graves. We were born and raised on those farms we know what we are talking about,” he said.

–Sowetan

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