Attacks on farms, which often result in the murder of farm owners, had nothing to do with the victims’ race, Deputy Agriculture Minister Bheki Cele has said.
“We are urging everybody, starting with the media and everybody – take the race issue out of farm murders. The people who are being killed are farmers,” Cele told reporters in Pretoria today.
“Whether they are white, black, yellow, green or purple, we have seen farmers coming under attack and we treat it as such. On our territory of farming, we do take it seriously. We would like to see everybody de-racialising it.”
Cele said that the agriculture department had a limited role in combating farm murders.
“Agriculture cannot say we will arrest those who kill the farmers. We wish we could, but we can’t. We cannot say we will shoot them,” he said.
“There has to be good communication between the farms and the farm workers. There is need for quick movement and response by the police stations around the farms.”
Cele said he was very pleased with how police in Estcourt, KwaZulu-Natal, responded after Malcolm “Stick” Green (69) was murdered on his farm by four intruders on January 5.
On Sunday, police arrested three people for murder and attempted murder following a farm attack on an elderly couple in Lindley, Muldersdrift, Gauteng. Charles Henderson (60) and his wife Jenny were ambushed by a group of men who assaulted them with knives and firearms on Thursday night.
They were tied up while the robbers ransacked the house. Jenny Henderson managed to untie herself and summon help. Charles died after being hit over the head with a wooden pole and a brick.
Police spokesperson Lieutenant-Colonel Lungelo Dlamini said police were looking for another three people.
Today, Agriculture Minister Senzeni Zokwana said the attack on farmers was a worrying trend. At the briefing in Pretoria, Zokwana said he was not prepared to outline a strategy to combat farm attacks.
“We didn’t come with specifications. Remember, some of the specifications of dealing with this lies with the department of police. We will be meeting with them to look at measures which are proactive,” he said.
“We need to create a forum in which farmers, farm workers and the community around the farms can work as a team. We need to harmonise the farming communities. We have started to work with other departments.”
Two people were arrested on Monday for the murder of an elderly couple a farm near Bainsvlei, Bloemfontein. The bodies of the couple, named by Beeld as Toon (72) and Rienie Swanepoel (70) of the farm Waaikraal, were dumped in a wooded area on the property. They had been shot.
Free State police spokesperson Captain Harry Nagel said a third suspect, aged 19, was later arrested at Kelly’s View. He was found in possession of a stolen television set and firearm.
Also in the Free State, the body of 68-year-old Martie Bester was found in her burnt house on the farm Erfbloem, near Theunissen.
“Four firearms are missing from the safe. The victim’s Toyota Hilux was found burnt in the vicinity of the farm,” Nagel said.
A postmortem would be conducted to determine the cause of her death.
Civil rights group AfriForum said these killings brought the number of farm murders in the country to seven since the start of the year.