Employers of murdered farmworker distance themselves from his killing, express sadness over his death

2018-01-09 21:24
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Johannesburg – The employers of a Tarlton farmworker who was shot dead at the weekend have distanced themselves from his murder and expressed sadness at his death.

Aron Mutavhatsindi, who worked as a tractor driver at Bartlet Poultry Farm in Tarlton, Krugersdorp, on the West Rand, was shot and killed by a security officer on Saturday, allegedly after he drove the farm's tractor to the Matshelapad informal settlement.

The farm's general manager, Peter Bartlet, said on Tuesday the company's staff and owners were deeply saddened by the incident and vowed to work with the police to assist them with their investigation.

He said the company had been in contact with Mutavhatsindi's family, through his brother and uncle.

He made it clear that none of the business owners, managers or employees were involved in Mutavhatsindi's killing.

The company said it had assisted Mutavhatsindi's family by facilitating the prompt payment of his funeral benefits in terms of a pension fund.

Suspect in court

According to Bartlet, the security officer was employed by a company contracted to provide basic security-related services including access control, biosecurity and patrolling. He said the security company acted independently and privately.

On Monday, News24 reported that Mutavhatsindi was allegedly shot and killed by his employer, a farm owner, on January 6. This was confirmed by Gauteng police spokesperson Captain Kay Makhubela.

However, National Prosecuting Authority spokesperson Phindi Mjonondwane later confirmed on Monday that a security officer appeared in the Krugersdorp Magistrate's Court on Monday for Mutavhatsindi's murder. 

READ: Police investigate conflicting statements following death of farm worker

In a statement sent out by Tarlton police spokesperson Constable Lucky Matome on Monday said at the time of the incident Mutavhatsindi had been driving a tractor from the farm to his home in Matshelapad and was followed by security officers. 

Matome said the shooting took place in an open field near the informal settlement.

"The victim was allegedly followed up until Matshelapad were he was shot at by the security officer. The victim suffered a gunshot wound [to] his head."

Belief that incident was 'racially motivated'

The officer later handed himself over to police.

Gauteng MEC for economic development and agriculture Lebogang Maile and Mogale City Mayor Naga Patrick Lipudi visited Mutavhatsindi's family on Tuesday morning.

During the visit, Maile told journalists that he was tempted to believe that the incident was "racially motivated".

He said the manner in which the incident occurred was an indication that the alleged killer was "hell-bent" on committing the crime.

"He did not even ask any questions, he just took out his firearm and shot the deceased," Maile said. 

Maile added there was also an allegation that the suspect has a previous case of assault against him in Rustenburg, North West.

"We still need to verify that with the police," he said.

He said he was "disgusted" by the incident. 

"Whatever the reasons, it is not justifiable, it remains disgusting [and] senseless and we condemn it in the strongest possible terms. We are also going to make sure that justice is served," said Maile.

Call for police role to be probed

The role of the police at the time of the incident would also be investigated, he added. 

According to Maile, a police officer had prevented an ambulance from accessing the scene, leading to the death of Mutavhatsindi.

He said the 43-year-old did not die immediately after the shooting. 

"When paramedics did not arrive, the nephew said he loaded him in his car and drove him to the hospital. On their way, they met paramedics who put him on a stretcher and at that time he died."

If that version was true, action needed to be taken, he said.

Gauteng police spokesperson Brigadier Mathapelo Peters said police would not be drawn into commenting on what she said seemed like "hearsay".

"We have not officially received a complaint nor is there any case opened with the police in relation to what you purport was uttered by MEC Maile.

"Having said that, anyone who might have witnessed or have knowledge of the said incident is encouraged to come forward and submit a statement to the police for further investigation."

READ: Agri SA lambasts police for inaccurate reporting on farm worker murder

Agricultural organisation AgriSA, has lashed out at the police for reporting inaccurate details to the media around the incident.

AgriSA president Dan Kriek said Gauteng and Tarlton police had tarnished the image of farmers by initially reporting to the media that Mutavhatsindi had been shot by a farmer.

"The police and the media have an enormous responsibility to ensure that crime-related incidents and the identity of the guilty parties are correctly reported," Kriek said in a statement.

Read more on:    crime

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