Editorial | A plea for cool heads and rational leadership in Senekal

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Thousands of people gather in Senekal against farm murders where the killers of 21 year old farm manager Brendin Horner appeared in court.
Thousands of people gather in Senekal against farm murders where the killers of 21 year old farm manager Brendin Horner appeared in court.
Photo by Gallo Images/Volksblad/Mlungisi Louw

Events leading up to and since the murder of 21-year-old Brendin Horner in the farming district of Paul Roux in the eastern Free State have inflamed tensions in the region and in broader society.

Horner was the victim of violent crime, a social phenomenon which is affecting far too many South Africans of all walks of life. And it again showed up a broken criminal justice system, exposed societal cleavages and gave a golden opportunity to populists and instigators.

Emotions are again at fever pitch ahead of Friday’s second court appearance of Horner’s alleged murderers at the Magistrate’s Court in Senekal.

WATCH | Police van torched as farmers storm holding cells of Brendin Horner murder accused

The town became a national flashpoint last week after violence erupted when protesters, angry about Horner’s murder and frustrated with the criminal justice system, stormed the court and torched a police vehicle.

Friday’s second court appearance promises to be another fraught affair, with the EFF planning to invade the town and AfriForum set to follow suit, while indications are that locals and farmers from the district plan to stay away.

The right to demonstrate and protest in this country is protected by law. And the anger ignited by Horner’s death is legitimate – his murder is emblematic of the lawlessness which affects many communities across South Africa. But no one has the right to violently inflame tension by using race and populism in the interest of short-term political gain. And there are real suspicions that those organisations planning to travel to Senekal are using it as a staging post for their own narrow political ends.

FACT CHECK | What we know and what we don't know about Brendin Horner's death

South Africans have a common problem, and one which affects us all, regardless of race or political persuasion: poor governance and a broken criminal justice system.

We should direct our frustration and anger at those who have broken government and the system and at those in charge who can, but don’t, fix it. The answer to our problems does not lie in posturing in Senekal, but in sound and rational leadership seeking solutions, not confrontation.

In court on Friday Horner’s alleged murderers will face justice. But outside court, cool heads must prevail. 

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