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

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  • Violent scenes broke out at the Senekal Magistrate's Court when a group of farmers apparently wanted to take the law into their own hands.
  • Police say a group of Free State farmers allegedly fired two shots, overturned and set alight a police vehicle, and damaged the court property while forcing their way to the holding cells.
  • They allegedly wanted to personally avenge the death of 21-year-old farm manager Brendin Horner.

Violent scenes broke out at the Senekal Magistrate's Court when a group of angry farmers apparently wanted to take the law into their own hands.

At least two shots were fired, a police vehicle overturned and set alight, and court property was damaged by angry Free State farmers, who forced their way to the holding cells, Free State police spokesperson Brigadier Motantsi Makhele said on Tuesday.

READ | Brendin Horner murder: Two men arrested after Free State farm manager killed, tied to pole

The group allegedly wanted to personally avenge the death of 21-year-old farm manager Brendin Horner.

Horner's body was found hanging from a pole on Friday in an open field in Paul Roux.

The farmers had gathered outside the court ahead of the appearance of Sekwetje Isaiah Mahlamba, 32, and Sekola Piet Matlaletsa, 44, who were arrested for Horner's murder.

Addressing farmers outside the court building, local farmer Jess De Klerk said the farmers were demanding that the accused be denied bail.

"We demand that no bail be granted to all farm attacks and violent criminals," De Klerk said in a video recorded by Netwerk24.

Botha said they were demanding that a national task team be set up to investigate stock theft within seven days.

"We demand that the investigations of the involvement of the police members in stock theft including senior officers in this cluster. We demand President Cyril Ramaphosa acknowledge farm attacks and murders as a national problem and apologise for demanding and denying its existence.

"We demand that farm murders and attacks are prioritised as a national priority crime. We demand that Ramaphosa publicly state that farmers didn't steal any land," he added.

De Klerk said they demanded Ramaphosa to fire Police Minister Bheki Cele.

"We demand that Cele apologises and stop condoning farm attacks and threatening our farmers."

In a written reply to a parliamentary question last month, Cele had said farm attacks and murder would not be classified as a priority crime.

A torched police van outside the court.
Chris Van Beljon

This was because farm attacks usually refer to incidents classified as aggravated robbery on a farm or dwelling, he said.Cele further explained that farm attacks were often associated with violence against victims, which ranges from common assault, attempted murder and rape.

READ | Cele: Farm murders not a priority crime, but police doing all it can to prevent attacks

De Klerk also said farmers in the area also wanted politicians to be held accountable for "condoning and calling for attacks on farmers".

"We demand that Treasury rather use the money earmarked for the bailout of [state-owned entities] and rather fund the police properly. Everybody asked when is enough enough? We, everybody, say today enough is enough," said De Klerk.

Brigadier Makhele said the case against the accused had been postponed to 16 October.

Makhele said that, soon after Mahlamba and Matlaletsa were taken in custody, an unruly group of farmers had stormed the court building.

"They demanded that the suspects be handed over to them. They damaged the court property while forcing their way to the court cells. A police van parked outside the court building was also overturned and burned. The police deployments are trying to get the situation under control while other reinforcement is on the way."

"Thus far, the situation is tense, but under control. Two shots were fired from this group and no one was injured," Makhele said.

Netwerk24 reported that shots went off around the court building, but it was unclear who had fired them.

The website also reported that stun grenades were fired.

Tense scenes outside court.
Chris Van Beljon

While the events in Senekal unfolded, Cele appeared before the National Assembly's Portfolio Committee on Police with the police's top brass.

At the start of the meeting he expressed concern about what appeared to be a slight increase in crime in the farming community.

"We have been active in the farming community," he said.

In reference to Horner's murder, Cele said: "We've lost a young man in the Free State in the most brutal way."

"Most of the people have been arrested, but we would have like to have been better at prevention."

After taking questions from FF Plus leader Pieter Groenewald, Cele said: "I want to assure you, we take these issues of farm murder very seriously."

AfriForum supporters outside court.
Reint Dykema, AfriForum

Brigadier Makhele also told News24 that during the attack, court furniture inside including chairs of the court and doors to the court cells was damaged.

Asked whether anyone had been arrested in connection of the vandalism of public property and the discharging of firearms, he said "not yet".

"There is a detectives team working on public violence and malicious damage to property cases which were registered after this incident," he added.

Editor's Note: News24 has updated the headline to this article. In the original article it was mentioned that 'armed' farmers stormed the court, based on comment from the Free State SAPS. Farming organisations are disputing this, saying it was police who fired shots inside the courtroom. The origin of the shots that were fired is in dispute and News24 will provide further information once there is more clarity.

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