Stellenbosch in shock after well known wine farmer shot and killed in attack

2019-06-03 09:34
Gun. (Photo: Getty/Gallo Images)

Gun. (Photo: Getty/Gallo Images)

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WATCH: Stellenbosch land invaders take their fight to court

2018-08-21 16:03

A group of people currently residing on land owned by the trustees of Louiesenhof Wines in Stellenbosch gathered outside the Western Cape High Court on Tuesday to protest against a second eviction order. Watch.WATCH

Stefan Smit, 62, owner of the wine farm Louiesenhof on the outskirts of Stellenbosch, was shot and killed in his house on Sunday night.

Louiesenhof was the subject of a land occupation in August 2018, when hundreds of residents of nearby Kayamandi and surrounds started erecting informal housing and shacks on the property.

Smit interdicted further occupation of his property and authorities evicted the illegal occupiers shortly thereafter. The occupation occurred during the heightened national debate over the expropriation of land without compensation. 

WATCH: Shacks going back up on Stellenbosch farm after evictions

Piet Carinus, chairperson of the Stellenbosch agriculture union, confirmed the murder and said the community was shocked by Smit's death. Information is still sketchy, but it is believed that four men entered Smit's home wearing balaclavas and shot him. It doesn't appear as if robbery was the prime motive.

"There is shock and disbelief among farmers in the district. I don't know what to say. We're shocked. The impact on the community will be huge. It again emphasises the fact that farmers are responsible for their own safety, the authorities won't be able to keep us safe," Carinus said.

He added that, since his farm had been occupied, Smit has increased security and had extra guards on the property. He had also received threats.

'Up in arms'

Another wine farmer in the district told News24 that the murder would rattle the community and that it followed some other high-profile murders and attacks in recent times, including the killing of well known strawberry farmer Jeffrey Zetler last year.

"We don't know what the motive is, but Smit was resisting the illegal occupation of his land. It was a matter of principle to him. It is shocking and we're up in arms," the farmer, who didn't want to be indentified, said.

Carinus said the impact of Smit's murder would be felt far and wide.

"We are concerned about the impact this murder will have on the community, on the industry and on property values. Smit was busy negotiating with the Stellenbosch municipality to sell the land to them, but it needs to happen at a market-related price. If the value of his property drops, then why not the value of his neighbour's property, and his neighbour," Carinus said.

Despite the court interdict preventing the erection of further illegal settlements on Louiesenhof, more and more people have taken to claiming plots on the farm, Carinus said.

"And the municipality is too afraid to act against the occupiers," he added.

Government's commitment

Agri Western Cape chief executive Jannie Strydom said President Cyril Ramaphosa needed to explain to producers why they should remain in the country if the safety of farmers and their workers could not be guaranteed.

Ramaphosa visited Stellenbosch farmers in April, shortly before the election, and assured them of government's commitment to rural safety.

Police confirmed a man had been killed on a Stellenbosch farm. 

"The circumstances surrounding a house robbery and a murder are being investigated, following an incident last night at around 18:50 on a farm in the Stellenbosch area where a 62-year old man was fatally wounded.

"Four armed suspects entered the victim's house through an unlocked door and shot and killed him.

"His wife and a family friend who were present at the time of the incident both survived the attack. The suspects fled with personal belongings and are yet to be arrested," Lieutenant Colonel André Traut said.

EFF national spokesperson Mbuyiseni Ndlozi, responding to a query from News24, said the murder of Smit must be subjected to police investigation. "[The] perpetrators must therefore be arrested and face the full might of our law," he said. "Having said so, it is critical to understand that as EFF we support all land occupations by landless people as long as the question of land reform has not been addressed by the state and colonial beneficiaries of the land. This is a historic fact that majority of black people have only managed to access land in post-colonial times through land occupation," Ndlozi added.

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