Stellenbosch farm murder: WC govt demands set up of rural safety unit after killing

2019-06-03 21:57
Louiesenhof farm where Stefan Smit died (Jenni Evans)

Louiesenhof farm where Stefan Smit died (Jenni Evans)

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The Western Cape government is calling for the establishment of a rural safety unit and safety summit after Stellenbosch farmer Stefan Smit, 62, was shot and killed in his home on Sunday night.

"As we sit here, our hearts are bleeding," said Agriculture MEC Ivan Meyer at a media briefing on Monday morning. 

"I've recently been to Bonnievale [after vintner Tool Wessels and his wife Liezel] were killed [in May]. 

"I don't think we can sit back when there is an attack on farmers. I am deeply concerned about the impact on the economy and about safety in rural areas."

Meyer said that he, Safety MEC Albert Fritz and Stellenbosch Mayor Gesie van Deventer had met earlier on Monday and had decided on an immediate course of action. 

This includes meetings with the province's police commissioner, Lieutenant General Khombinkosi Jula, Police Minister Bheki Cele and the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA). 

The meetings will be held to establish why there is no rural safety initiative in the Western Cape, despite nine years of promises, as there is in KwaZulu-Natal, and to ask the police and the NPA why some cases do not make it to court.

Meyer said the Department of  Agriculture had decided to oppose any bail applications related to farm murders. 

He added that the police were investigating Smit's murder and that there was no link to the sale of Watergang, next to Louiesenhof, which Smit's family owned via a trust. 

Watergang was occupied last year by backyarders from nearby Kayamandi who renamed it Azania. Following an application for an interdict to remove them, the municipality eventually bought the land from the owners at R45 710 000.

"The funds used to purchase this property comes from a provincial Department of Human Settlements grant.

In a statement after the press conference Van Deventer said

Van Deventer said at the press conference she wanted to focus on the murder, and not discuss the land issue then, but issued a statement on it later.

"The property is currently in the process of being transferred to the municipality," she stated.

"We would like to reiterate the fact that we condemn the senseless killing of Mr Stefan Smit in the strongest possible terms and we send our heartfelt condolences to the Smit family and the broader Stellenbosch agricultural community."

'It is very painful for us' 

At the press conference, Fritz said that people should not get the impression that his department was jumping just because a farmer was killed. He added that he had just come from Uitsig, where a 12-year-old boy was gunned down. He had also visited Avian Park in Worcester at the weekend, where a 14-year-old girl was killed.

Fritz promised to provide more support to neighbourhood watches and farm safety initiatives as well as increasing patrols on highways following attacks on major national routes.

Meyer said that he would have to check the data on farm murders because he felt that they were escalating as the narrative on land without compensation grew.

"I am concerned, together with Mr Fritz, about the brutality of the cases. We cannot make any statements that will fuel violence. 

"We see that these things have escalated after the announcement of expropriation without compensation."

Community leader Widas Wanana said Smit’s murder had shocked Azania’s residents. "It is very painful for us. We have sent our condolences to his family. What are they going to do without him?"

Police spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Andre Traut said the police were investigating a house robbery and murder in connection with the killing, which happened at around 18:50. 

"Four armed suspects entered the victim’s house through an unlocked door and shot and killed him," added Traut.

"His wife and a family friend, who were present at the time of the incident, survived the attack. The suspects fled with personal belongings and have not yet been arrested."The police are asking anybody who has information about the case to contact Crime Stop on 08600 10111.

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Read more on:    cape town  |  farm murders  |  crime
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