Stop the slaughter - farm attack protesters

2013-10-23 10:32
Community members protest outside the Himeville Magistrate's Court, where three suspects appeared in connection with a recent farm murder. (Paul Welch, The Witness)

Community members protest outside the Himeville Magistrate's Court, where three suspects appeared in connection with a recent farm murder. (Paul Welch, The Witness)

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Pietermaritzburg - “We have had enough.”

That was the message from a crowd of about 350 people protesting outside the Himeville Magistrate’s Court on Tuesday, as three men appeared for the grisly murder of timber contractor Daniel Knight last week.

But as the crowd of farmers, farmworkers and others from the rural community protested, news came that another KwaZulu-Natal farmer had been murdered.

Vryheid murder

Willem Weites, 78, was slain while trying to rescue his daughter, who was being held at knife-point on Monday on his Vryheid dairy farm.

Speaking to The Witness on Tuesday, his son, Frederik Weites, 50, said a white car came to the dairy store with men carrying a bucket, a usual occurrence as people come wanting to buy milk.

Weites said the three men who got out of the car had asked his sister Everlien, 49, where her father was, and then grabbed her.

“They held a knife to her neck and when my father tried to intervene, they just shot him in the head and chest and he died on the spot,” he said.

He said they then dragged his sister to the main house while threatening to rape her. They had found his mother and demanded keys to the safe.

They tied up both women, took an undisclosed sum of money and drove off in his father’s bakkie, he said.

Another attacker tied up farm workers and took their cellphones.

The bakkie was later recovered about eight kilometres away.

“We are devastated. I mean why do you need to kill people for money when you can take the money and leave them alive?” Frederik asked.

“The community is saddened and wants to know why they killed such a helpful man,” he said, adding his father had helped locals grind their maize at his mill.

Police spokesperson Captain Thulani Zwane said Ngome SAPS were investigating charges of murder and business robbery. No arrests had been made, he said.

Himeville protest

Meanwhile, in Himeville, Tsepiso Sthembiso Ramanyane, 20, Bonginkosi Eric Nyawose, 33, both from Bulwer, and Thabo Dlamini, 22, from Himeville, appeared for the murder of Knight and robbery with aggravating circumstances for taking property of Knight’s valued at R651 000.

The court was packed with locals who wanted to see the suspects for themselves. Others waved placards in protest outside. Traffic came to a standstill in the small town at the foot of the Drakensberg.

Protesters sang struggle songs. “God said do not kill, so why do you kill?” their placards read. “Murderers must rot in jail” and “No bail for hammer murderers”.

A protester, Nombuso Phungula, told The Witness: “We are all victims of crime as these people also attack us in our villages.”

While farmers fear the escalating farm attacks, others fear that 300 households who had family members working for Knight may be hit by job losses following his murder.

As the police van carrying the accused arrived at court, locals rushed to the van, hoping to catch a glimpse of their faces.

Knight’s murder was particularly brutal. He was struck on the head with a heavy hammer while his partner, her eyelids forced open, was made to watch.

Graham Acutt, a dairy farmer, said: “This affects the community more than it affects the farmers; more families in the community will lose jobs because of some individuals that want quick cash. This picketing shows everyone that we are sick and tired of criminals that attack us.”

Sue Acutt asked: “Why did they want her to watch them doing this? Later, they even tried to suffocate her using a plastic glove as they covered her face with it. They left her thinking she had also died after she passed out.”

Ramanyane and Nyawose applied for legal aid while Dlamini said he would be represented by a private attorney. They will be back in court on Wednesday.

Farm murders 'getting out of control'

Vice-chairperson of the Vryheid Agricultural Chamber Horst Hellberg, referring to Weites’ death, said it was with shock “that we had to hear of another farm murder, this time one of our senior farmers”.

“It is unacceptable that farm murders are getting out of control again and government is not treating it as a priority.”

He suggested the government would address these issues more seriously only once there was not enough food to put on the nation’s tables.

KwaZulu-Natal Agricultural Union (KwaNalu) security desk Koos Marais said they were disturbed by the latest callous murder.

He called on government to take drastic steps to address these attacks and killings.

“A murder at 09:00 [like Weites’s] indicates a total disregard and fearlessness of the law,” said Marais.

He said a message must be sent to would-be criminals that their deeds would not be tolerated. “We expect swift police investigation and arrests,” said Marais.

Dr Johan Burger of the South African Institute for Security Studies said in 2012, 63 farm murders were recorded. This year up to September there had been 54 farm murders recorded already.

“The brutality with which these murders are carried out makes us believe that there is something behind these attacks,” he said.

He said it was interesting to note that last year 39 farmers were killed and of those three were black farmers.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  farm attacks

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