Farmer’s history of racist attacks

2011-10-29 16:09

The Limpopo grape farmer ­accused of shooting and killing one of four boys he found fishing on his farm has a history of racist attacks against farmworkers.

In fact, Pieter Swart faced fresh charges of assaulting three of his workers just two days before the ­fatal shooting.

According to police, Swart’s ­history of assault complaints date back to 2008 and include:
» Paying an admission of guilt fine after being charged with ­malicious damage to property in connection with an attack on the car of a black man he found driving across his farm. He had said he asked the man why he was on his property and then started assaulting him before he replied.

» In 2009, he was charged with assault after allegedly beating up one of his workers. Colonel Veritia Masingi said when she sent police to attend to the case, Swart “chased them away, saying he did not want black people on his farm. He is rude and hates black people.”

» Aron Thobejane from the Food and Allied Workers’ Union said that he had been summoned to Swart’s farm more than five times this year by workers claiming abuse.

In the latest complaint, the workers accused the Groblersdal farmer of assaulting them with a sharp object while brandishing a gun because they refused to start working an hour earlier.

But the three workers, who are Zimbabwean or Mozambican nationals, returned the following day and withdrew the case without ­furnishing any reasons.

Masingi said an assault case was opened on Sunday, October 16, two days before Swart allegedly shot and killed Gift Mbangeni (14) and injured Lucky Zitha (16).

The other two boys escaped ­unhurt.

Thobejane said in a meeting with the union, held after the three workers withdrew their complaints, Swart admitted to the assault and promised not to do so again. He added he wouldn’t force his workers to start work at 5am.

Said Masingi: “On Sunday last week, he tried to force his workers to go on duty. When they refused, he went home and returned in a bad temper wielding a shotgun. He then started assaulting them. The three opened a case on Sunday, but by Monday they withdrew it.”

The 57-year-old owner of Swart Boerdery is feared by many in the area, and has been ­described by farmworkers and ­local police officers as “rude” and “short-tempered”, showing little respect for the rights of his ­workers.

Swart could not be reached for comment.

His wife, who identified herself only as Mrs Swart, repeatedly ­answered his phone and said he was “not available”.

She later added: “He is busy on the phone. Talk to my lawyer. Thank you.”

Limpopo police spokesperson Ronel Otto said Swart fired in the direction of the boys after they spotted him and ran away.

After shooting Gift, he took him to hospital, where the boy was ­certified dead.

Swart was released on R5 000 bail after being charged with ­murder and attempted murder.

The case has been postponed for December 12.

Thobejane said the union planned to march when Swart ­appeared again in court because it was unhappy with the manner in which he was granted bail.

Farmworker rights group Nkuzi Development Association said the shooting was a step back for nation building.

Both the Transvaal ­Agricultural Union and Afrikaner group AfriForum condemned the shootings.

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