Top official killed

2009-11-09 00:00

OPENING a door to let out the family dog has cost the life of a well-known former senior government official and farmer.

Warwick Antony Dorning (55) of the farm Adamshurst near Howick, Mpophomeni area, was shot and killed in his home at about 8pm on Saturday. His wife, Dawn, was not injured. Dorning recently took early retirement from his post as chief of staff in the Office of the Premier.

Peter Miller, former Finance MEC and a long-time associate and family friend, said two armed men entered the house through a bedroom door on to the verandah that was open for the dog. Dawn Dorning was in the room and screamed when the two burst in. Dorning, who was in the kitchen getting a bedtime snack, ran to the bedroom where he was shot in the head as he entered, “stone dead, in cold blood, without warning,” said Miller.

The men threatened Dawn and demanded money before moving into the house where they also threatened Dorning’s mother, Noo (85), who lives in a wing of the main house. Evidence found by police suggests that the men had started to remove the plasma TV when they were disturbed by a phone call from Dorning’s sister, Nicola Nielsen. She lives in a cottage on the property with her partner, Patrick Sinclair. They had heard the single shot, and they phoned the main house.

The men fled on foot, taking Dorning’s wallet, two cellphones and, according to police, a DSTV decoder and a video player. The police were called and they found a 9 mm cartridge and a spent bullet on the scene. A case of house robbery and murder has been opened.

Miller said Dorning’s death was “a totally unnecessary killing. He worked for me for most of his career. He served the new South Africa in a very high capacity with distinction for about 15 years. He was a really generous and warm-hearted person. The staff members on his farm are distraught.

“He was a highly educated man and an accomplished historian. Much of his PhD thesis, which covered recent South African history, including the bush war, is still classified. A kind and good man has been wantonly killed when he still had so much to offer.”

The Dornings had developed and expanded an indigenous plant nursery and coffee shop on the farm, which overlooks Midmar Dam from the Underberg Road. The nursery sells a wide variety of indigenous plants, including trees, shrubs, bulbs, succulents and ground-covers. Miller said: “They were looking forward to managing a thriving business, giving employment to many. Dorning himself, using his consummate writing skills, intended to continue to write speeches and other research material on a contract basis.” The coffee shop, Country Café, is run by Nielsen and Sinclair.

KwaZulu-Natal Police Director, Phindile Radebe, said the motive for the attack is unknown but “robbery cannot be ruled out”. The Pietermaritzburg organised crime unit is investigating the case and no arrests have been made.

A statement from the office of the KZN MEC for Agriculture, Environmental Affairs and Rural Development, Lydia Johnson, said “The department strongly condemns this barbaric act and appeals to all those who have information to help the police in the apprehension of the perpetrators.

“We are very saddened by the great loss of one of our commercial farmers who made an immense contribution to ensuring food security for our people and building our economy. The death of one farmer is one too many.”

MEC Johnson and other senior officials in the department are expected to visit the Dorning family to convey their condolences.

KwaZulu-Natal Agricultural Union (Kwanalu) CEO Sandy La Marque said the union notes “with shock, anger and regret the callous murder of Dr Dorning. He was a well-respected resident.

“Kwanalu cannot but note the escalation in criminal violence against rural properties recently.

“While noting that much comment has been made about rights violations against farm workers, we as an organisation are gravely concerned with the violation of basic human rights of all residents on farms, particularly, at this time, farmers and landowners.

“We note the prompt reaction by the police services and trust that the justice system will bring the perpetrators to book promptly. It behoves the political and agricultural leadership of our country, working together, to ensure that conditions of safety are improved in the agricultural sector to ensure food security and the cost-effective production of food and fibre for our nation.”

Dorning is survived by his wife Dawn, his widowed mother and three sisters. Funeral details will follow as soon as possible, Miller said.


1988: joined the former Natal Provincial Administration as a communication officer. Served as public relations officer (PRO) to two administrators before being appointed head of the administration’s communications component in 1991.

1994: appointed to PRO Local Government and Housing MEC Peter Miller.

2000: Manager of policy and planning in budget office in Department of Finance.

2004: Manager: municipal finance in budget office.

•Also worked as general manager for inter-government relations in the provincial treasury and head of ministry in the Office of the then Finance and Economic Development MEC Zweli Mkhize.

2009: Chief of staff in the Office of the Premier. Held rank of chief director.

July 2009: retired.

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