Farm worker recounts fear while watching his friend being beaten

Martin Visser, accused of murder, assault with intent to inflict grievous bodily harm and assault. (Tammy Petersen, News24)
Martin Visser, accused of murder, assault with intent to inflict grievous bodily harm and assault. (Tammy Petersen, News24)

Two farm workers sat on their haunches and watched silently as a farmer beat their colleague, Adam "Mannetjie Dukvreet" Pieterse, to a pulp, but they were too scared to intervene, the Western Cape High Court has heard.

Farm worker Frans "Boetie" Klaase was testifying in the High Court, sitting in Vredendal, in the trial of farmer Martin Visser on Thursday.

He told the court that he and Patrick "Oom Grom" Klein feared that, if they attempted to intervene, Visser would "come for [us]".

"Martin could turn around and hurt us because we wanted to defend Mannetjie," Klaase insisted.

"We were scared he could hit us dead like he hit Mannetjie."

He claimed he "could do nothing" and that both of them remained sitting while the attack took place.

"We said nothing. It wasn't our business."

He said Visser had told them: "Julle hoerkinders, julle hoef nie wegtehardloop nie" (You bastards, you don't need to run away)

He testified that he had not heard Visser's quad bike pull up outside Pieterse's home that night in February 2015 as they had been having a noisy conversation and had been drinking wine from a mug, while their friend cooked on a coal fire.

'Hit him dead'

Klaase said the entrance door had been ajar when Visser entered, and that he immediately took a spade and started hitting Pieterse.

When the farm worker tried to escape to the bedroom, Visser had told him he would "slaan [hom] vrek" (hit him dead), Klaase claimed.

Defence attorney Asghar Mia said Klaase's statement said: "Maar hoekom slaan jy my nou?" (Why are you hitting me now?)

Klaase responded that he had forgotten the specified detail.

He also said Visser had attacked Pieterse because he didn't want to drop an assault case that he had made against the farmer.

Mia said this too had not been mentioned in his police statement, as he told police Visser had said Pieterse owed him money.

The accused, who runs Dassieshoek farm, sold groceries and alcohol on credit, which had to be paid when workers received their wages.

Klaase said he had also forgotten about the debt claim, and Mia responded that every time his testimony differed from his statement, he claimed to have forgotten.

But Klaase said he was "not making it up". Mia replied that he was forgetful because he was not being honest.

"This is the truth," Klaase insisted.

Klaase also said that Visser had dragged Pieterse out of the bedroom after "he went quiet" before throwing the farm worker over his shoulder.

'Pushing the body through the window'

Mia said he hadn't mentioned in his statement that Pieterse had been dragged.

Klaase claimed the person who had taken down his police statement had been in a hurry as it had been getting late, which is why he hadn't given all the finer details.

Mia said, according to Klaase's statement, Visser had asked him and Klein to help him push Pieterse's body through the window and the two had complied.

Klaase, however, then alleged that Visser had threatened them into helping him, despite this not being specified in his version to police.

He later admitted that he had chosen not to intervene because he and Klein had not been in any danger.

He said he complied with Visser's instructions to go around to the back of the house and sat on the grill of the quad bike while Visser allegedly tied Pieterse's feet and dragged him with the four-wheeler. While the farmer had not threatened them, he was still afraid, Klaase said.

Visser had allegedly driven without switching on the lights of the quad bike, Klaase testified, but they could see the route by the moonlight.

'Covering the makeshift grave with stones'

Behind the vineyards of a nearby farm, De Hoek, which belongs to Visser's father, Klaase said Visser instructed them to dig the grave.

Klaase has limited use of his left hand after being injured in a fight with a farm worker.

Mia pointed out he could not do any hard work due to the nerve damage, and Klaase agreed.

"But the earth there isn't hard."

Visser had helped them to cover the makeshift grave with stones, Klaase said.

Klaase said he had not spoken to Visser, who had allegedly warned them that he would kill them if they spoke about what happened.

Klaase - who is in the witness protection programme -  originally said he only drank two "bompies" (one litre cartons of wine), but admitted it was almost four litres when he added in Pieterse's and neighbour John Sikala's contribution.

Earlier, Mia had asked Klaase why there were discrepancies in his testimony, such as whether a neighbour had been drinking with them at Pieterse's house the night of the murder.

Klaase said he had been disorientated as he had not taken his tablets for his condition, which was not disclosed in court.

He said his medication had run out.

"When my head gets dizzy I speak other things."

Pieterse was murdered in February 2015 and was discovered by police three weeks later after farm workers apparently saw Visser at the spot and noticed flies buzzing around the disturbed earth. Pieterse's body had been in an advanced stage of decomposition, which affected the confirmation of the cause of his death.

Visser has pleaded not guilty to charges of murder, assault with intent to inflict grievous bodily harm, and four charges of common assault of three other people.

The matter resumes on Friday.

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For only R75 per month, you have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today.
Subscribe to News24
Lockdown For
Voting Booth
As a child or as an adult, have you ever been a victim of bullying?
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
Yes, at school
52% - 581 votes
Yes, at work
17% - 196 votes
No, I've never experienced this
31% - 346 votes
Brent Crude
All Share
Top 40
Financial 15
Industrial 25
Resource 10
All JSE data delayed by at least 15 minutes Iress logo