Farmworker beaten and dragged behind quad bike, court hears

A State witness and friend of murdered farmworker Adam Pieterse told the Western Cape High Court sitting in Vredendal on Tuesday how Pieterse's lifeless body was dragged along a gravel path at a Lutzville farm while tied to a quad bike. 

Frans "Boetie" Klaase, a grape farm worker, said he was then tasked with digging the grave where Pieterse's body was buried.

He said he had used the alleged murder weapon to dig into the red earth behind the vineyard that belonged to the father of accused Martin Visser.

This after Visser had allegedly stormed into Pieterse's farmhouse earlier that night in February 2015, armed with a spade.

Klaase – a former employee of Visser's father who sometimes worked for the accused and is now in witness protection – said he and a friend, Patrick "Oom Grom" Klein, had been drinking "bompies" (one-litre cartons of wine) which they had bought on credit from Visser earlier.

They had been having a conversation in Pieterse's living room while he cooked when Visser allegedly stormed into the house and started beating "Mannetjie Dukvreet", as Pieterse was known, in reference to his big appetite.

'Mannetjie later became quiet'

Visser sold groceries and alcohol on credit, which had to be paid by Friday, when the workers received their wages.

Klaase alleged that Visser had entered the house armed with the spade and repeatedly hit Pieterse with it as they sat in the room. Visser allegedly said Pieterse still owed him money.

He couldn't recall the exact date of the murder, but insisted it was at harvest time.

"Mannetjie asked why he was hitting him and ran to [another] room. [The accused] followed him and hit him further. We could hear it, and Mannetjie later became quiet," Klaase testified in Afrikaans.

He and Klein stayed in the living room after Visser allegedly warned them: "Julle hoerkinders, sit daarso [You bastards, sit there.]"

Klaase said Visser dragged Pieterse from the room, threw him over his shoulder before pushing him through the kitchen's back window.

Corpse buried 'where they dump sheep skins and kill old dogs'

"[Visser] said, 'Julle twee hoerkinders, druk sy voete [You two bastards, push his feet]'," he told Judge Nathan Erasmus.

The two men complied.

"We went outside and he tied Mannetjie with a rope to his quad bike and threatened us to come sit on it. We got onto the front grill."

Klaase said Pieterse's feet had been tied and he lay on his stomach when the quad bike started dragging him.

A short distance later, Visser allegedly retrieved Pieterse's body and put in on the back grill.

He pointed to an aerial map of the farms surrounding Dassieshoek, owned by the accused, and showed the route they drove to get to the back of the vineyards of De Hoek.

"He said we must make Mannetjie's grave behind the bush, where they dump the sheep skins and kill the old dogs," Klaase testified.

"I couldn't see if Mannetjie was still alive."

Death threat

He said he started digging, but the red sand was dry and the hole kept collapsing.

Klein helped him, Klaase testified, and they managed to excavate a makeshift grave less than a metre deep.

"Martin came and threw [Pieterse] in the hole. He said: 'Julle twee hoerkinders, maak hom toe [You two bastards, cover the grave]'. So we did."

They packed stones and bushes on it to cover the disturbed ground before leaving with Visser on the quad bike, he testified.

"He said if we speak about Mannetjie's death, he would kill us too."

They were dropped off at a nearby canal and returned to Pieterse's house to retrieve their wine before going home.

Body found three weeks later

"We kept quiet. We didn't discuss it," Klaase said.

Other locals had noticed that Pieterse was missing, but he and Klein had kept mum.

Pieterse's decomposing body was found three weeks later.

Two days after the discovery, police questioned him, and he gave a statement that Martin had asked him, before Mannetjie's disappearance, if he had seen "daai hoerkind, Mannetjie [that bastard, Mannetjie]" because he "wil hom sommer vrek maak [wants to kill him]".

He confirmed he knew his friend was dead and who had killed him but decided not to tell the police.

"I was scared he could come to us and kill us that way too," Klaase said.

'I don't feel safe here'

A year and a half later, in September 2016, police again approached him.

He was asked if he had been involved in Pieterse's death.

"I said yes, and I was willing to speak," he told the court.

He and Klein were picked up the following day and he told authorities his version of events.

"I told them everything."

He was taken to Cape Town where he was advised about the witness protection programme. He accepted the assistance "because I don't feel safe here".

Prosecutor Christenus van der Vijver said there had been rumours that the investigating officer had told him what to say, and Klaase insisted the statement had been in his own words.

Klaase can't read well, and the statement was read back to him, he said.

"He didn't tell me anything. I decided to tell the truth of Mannetjie's death."

He said he and his friends had drunk two bompies, but that he had not been inebriated.

"It takes a good couple of bompies before I get drunk. I could stand on my feet," Klaase asserted.

The trial continues.

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