Widow pours out her heart

2014-10-23 00:00

THE widow of murdered Ixopo farmer Peter Hackland yesterday laid bare the heartbreak his death has caused her, their family, the Ixopo farming community and farmworkers who lost their jobs.

“The bullet that was fired in our home changed our lives forever,” Cecile Hackland said in a victim impact statement in the high court.

“We thank God for his life, for the amazing role that he played in our lives. He made us strong and courageous and we salute him today,” she said, her voice cracking with emotion.

“Peter, my husband, my soulmate, my protector, died that day. Charles and Louise [their children] lost their friend and their wise counsellor.”

Told by lawyers representing Hackland’s killers, Nkonsinathi Mngadi (29) and Sifisiso Ngubane (26), that they’d asked them to apologise to her and were sorry for the pain the family had to endure, Hackland replied: “I accept”.

While Mngadi did not testify and apologise personally to Hackland — his lawyer said he “wasn’t brave enough” — Ngubane took the stand and said he was sorry for what the family went through.

However, moments later he added that he still maintains he wasn’t involved in the robbery and murder at Cromleigh farm on May 7 last year.

Judge Thoba Poyo-Dlwati said she intends to pass sentence on October 31.

During her testimony, Hackland urged the court to “listen and hear” her late husband call out when he was shot — not just in pain and anguish, but in his desperation to save their daughter, Louise Hartwig, her elderly mother, Lulu Niewoudt (84) and employee Margaret Fennell, who were inside the house.

“I want you to picture Louise when she was forced to open the safe. She knew the keys that were given to her were not the safe keys. She was also told at gunpoint that they would kill her … I want to focus on her as she knelt next to her father … our staff who ran into the kitchen and their shock and trauma when they saw Peter lying on the floor. They had to tell Louise that her father was dead.”

Louise called the headmaster at the school where Hackland was teaching, who took her home.

“When we arrived at my home and I saw all the cars, I knew Peter must be dead. Then my memory shut off. I have no memory of that afternoon and evening, though I interacted with so many people … Louise tells me that when I got to Peter, my words were ‘His body is still warm’,” she said, choking back tears.

The farmer’s murder resulted in most of the farm’s 70 staff losing their jobs. The farm has since been sold.

A LETTER written by farm worker Ben Dlamini states: “Mr Hackland was like a brother to me. He never took me like a servant. We are all shocked … Those who took his life will get punished by God. My heart is very sad. May God be with you and rest in peace.”

Koos Marais, of the KwaZulu-Natal Agricultural Union’s security desk, said there had been 665 farm attacks and 973 victims of farm attacks in KZN since 2001.

During 2013, 10 farmers were murdered in 47 attacks and thus far this year five farmers were slain in 20 attacks.

Farmers were vulnerable because farms were open spaces and they could not lock the gate.

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