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Free State farmers eye court over Lesotho border situation

30 November -0001, Mail and Guardian

Bloemfontein:  The rights of about 300 Free State farmers along the Lesotho border to a "functional society" will be tested in court, Free State Agriculture said on Wednesday. Free State Agriculture's president, Louw Steytler, said the organisation had given its lawyers the go-ahead to draw up legal papers to take nine government departments to court over the Lesotho border situation.

"We will go to the Free State High Court to see what the courts have to say on the border situation."

Free State Agriculture has threatened the government with court action for the past three years because of the deteriorating crime situation along the province's border with Lesotho.

"The [border] farmer's ability to produce is gone. Their land is worthless due to the situation," Steytler told journalists in Bloemfontein.

The farmers' body said those affected included black and white farmers as well as various upcoming farmers along the border, and their immediate neighbours.

Steytler said the organisation and its lawyers felt that the government (nine government departments) had had ample time to find solutions to address the crime and infrastructural challenges in the region.

"With the litigation we aim to force government to do its job along the Lesotho border," Steytler said.

The farmers want the government to repair and maintain the border fence and road, and want the country's security forces to patrol the border.

Steytler said the farmers' requests were "reasonable" in terms of national and international laws, and in line with the Constitution.

He said the legal action should not be seen as a fight between the country's farmers and their government, but rather an attempt to get a functional society along the border. -- Sapa

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