David Rattray: Times of London suggests he wasn't just the victim of a simple robbery





It was a brutal murder, even by the standards of South Africa. The world-famous historian and storyteller David Rattray, a friend of Prince Charles, is shot at close range in his home. The police, the family and the government insist the motive is robbery — but there is new evidence that much darker forces are at work....

Most white farmers in the region fear that land is the real reason that he was killed. The ANC government, sensing its popularity declining among the poorest blacks, is accelerating its land-redistribution programme. Within seven years, almost a third of the high- yield white farming land must be handed to black ownership. As was the case in Zimbabwe, the process is fraught with the potential for corruption and political score-settling. Blacks have been encouraged to make claims if they can provide evidence that their ancestors were pushed off land now owned by whites. Recently, a vast claim was formally listed in the Dundee area of KwaZulu-Natal, threatening dozens of landowners across 50,000 acres, including the Rattray land at Fugitives’ Drift. A listed farm is blighted: it cannot be sold; loans cannot be taken out against the capital value of the property for fear it will be expropriated. No capital work is done, no fences built, no outbuildings repaired. De Wet says the spectre of land redistribution has subverted the established rural order, leading to mutual suspicion and loathing. “When ? they [the local Zulus] hear a claim has been opposed,” he explains, “they kill a farmer.” Since South Africa’s first democratic elections in ?1994, in De Wet’s region, a 50-mile square expanse around the town of Dundee, there ? have been 53 serious farm attacks: 10 farmers have been killed, and several of their wives and daughters raped. Against this background, it is dangerous to pick fights with Zulus on the ?land issue, as it is so closely tied up with their historical identity and sense of grievance that the white man took their grazing areas. “With Africans around here, you’re dealing with ancestors and issues unintelligible to us,” explains a local landowner, who declined to be named. “It’s a boiling cauldron here on the land issue. I said to Rattray, ‘Be careful – you’ve made a lot of enemies.’ But he wouldn’t listen.” ...

With Zimbabwe slipping deeper into the mire by the week, there is no appetite in South Africa to ?dig too deeply into the implications of land redistribution. The press, which is generally owned by companies tightly locked into South Africa’s political-business elite, has shown no desire to test the botched-robbery theory. Nobody can know for sure the real reason why Rattray was killed. In public he brushed off the land claims against his life’s work at Fugitives’ Drift. De Wet, who strongly feels that Rattray was assassinated, probably for reasons of land, recalled him saying that the ANC would be crazy to take his land away. “He’d say, ‘I’ll go to the courts, I’ll go to government ministers, I’ll go to Prince Charles.’” But in his heart, he probably knew that would not have saved him. Across the Limpopo, fear of the economic consequences of white land seizures has done nothing to curb Robert Mugabe’s zeal in destroying Zimbabwe’s economy in the name of correcting historical injustices.

It is not hard to see why Nicky should prefer the world to think of David’s death as a botched robbery. She is fighting to keep the business going, and she has lost not just her husband, but also the lodge’s main selling point. Rob Caskie is doing his best to keep the flame alight. Immediately after the murder, he said he was sure his friend had been assassinated, and confirmed that to The Sunday Times by telephone. But in person, and after Nicky’s stern intervention, he declined to speak at all about the circumstances of the murder. Any suggestion that Fugitives’ Drift is blighted by land claims or Zulu resentments could be fatal to the business. ...


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