Warwick Antony Dorning, 55, of the farm Adamshurst near Howick’s Mpophomeni area, was shot and killed in his home at about 20:00 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 onto 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, 85-year-old Noo, who lives in a wing of the main house.
Disturbed by phone
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 cell phones 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.”
KwaZulu-Natal police director, Phindile Radebe, said the motive for the attack is unknown but “robbery cannot be ruled out”.
No arrests yet
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 had 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 were expected to visit the Dorning family to convey their condolences.
KwaZulu-Natal Agricultural Union (Kwanalu) CEO, Sandy La Marque, said the union noted “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.”