eMkhondo murders: Farmers, please do not assault cattle thieves, Mpumalanga police beg

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  • Mpumalanga police have called on farmers in eMkhondo to refrain from assaulting alleged cattle thieves. 
  • Eight people appeared in the Piet Retief Magistrate's Court on Thursday for the kidnapping, murder and attempted murder of three people. 
  • The trio was allegedly assaulted after they were suspected of stock theft. 

Mpumalanga police have called on farmers in eMkhondo to refrain from assaulting alleged cattle thieves. 

This after eight people appeared in the Piet Retief Magistrate's Court on Thursday for the alleged kidnapping, murder and attempted murder of Sifiso Joseph Twala, his brother, Christopher Sthembiso Twala, and Musa France Nene on a farm in August 2020.

The trio was allegedly assaulted after they were suspected of stock theft on Pampoenkraal farm, which is more than an hour's drive from eMkhondo. 

READ | eMkhondo murders: 'Cops tried to force us to implicate white farmers,' accused tells court

Outside the court, police spokesperson Brigadier Leonard Hlathi said the police in the area have set up structures with the farming community to address cattle theft in the area. 

"That is where we're preaching a gospel that if ever they do find a suspect within their farming areas, they must not assault these people, but they must bring them before the police so that we can process them through the courts," Hlathi added.

SAPS Mpumalanga spokesperson brigadier Leonard Hlathi.
News24 James de Villiers

Three of the accused - Werner Potgieter, Cornelius Greyling and Zenzele Yende - were previously arrested for allegedly murdering brothers Mgcini and Zenzele Coka who were gunned down during an altercation on Pampoenkraal farm on 9 April 2021.

Survivor hit with sjamboks and stones 

Charge sheets showed Sifiso Twala and Nene were murdered after they were handcuffed with cable ties and locked in a vehicle, while Christopher - who survived - was allegedly repeatedly punched, kicked and hit with sjamboks and stones.

Raising his eyebrows, Hlathi said: "So what has happened here, the allegations that we've got, this is not how we're supposed to function. These are not the structures that we've got.

"And this is not what they've been taught by us. We are teaching them to say, 'Let us work in harmony'. If ever you arrest a person, do not lay a hand on that person, but call the police so that they can do their work."

Stock theft has been flagged as a major issue facing farmers across South Africa, costing them an estimated R900 million annually.

Many had to introduce additional security on farms due to the growing concern.

Addressing the concerns of farmers in Bethlehem, the Free State, in November 2020, Police Minister Bheki Cele said stock theft should be considered as "economic sabotage".

READ | Stock theft is economic sabotage - not a petty crime, Cele tells Free State farmers

"I saw the stock theft figures. It's hell," he added.

Dogs being poisoned on a regular basis

An eMkhondo community crime watch organiser, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of intimidation, said stock theft had been exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The woman, who also works for a major farm in the area, said farmers also faced an uphill battle with cross-border crime, with a number of bakkies being stolen and driven over the border to Swaziland, where "they are lost forever". 

community Crime Watch organiser
eMkhondo community Crime Watch organiser in her office in eMkhondo
News24 James de Villiers

"We are a community held hostage by fear. Our dogs are poisoned on a regular basis: on one day, the dogs of three houses in a row would be poisoned; the batteries of our gates our being stolen," she added.

"What are we supposed to do?" 

READ | eMkhondo murders: Death of 2 friends not an 'isolated incident' - farm worker leader

She said crime particularly increased during the hours that the local municipality was load shedded by Eskom for failing to pay outstanding bills.

Racial tensions have also been rising since the arrest of five men for allegedly murdering the Coka brothers in April, she added.

"At the last appearance of the accused in the Coka brothers' matter, someone in town posted something on Facebook criticising the protest, and the protesters went and found him at his workplace.

"Since then, everyone is afraid to say anything." 

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