Senekal residents fear 'civil war' as Brendin Horner accused set to appear again

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Two suspects will appear for the alleged murder of Free State farm manager Brendin Horner.
Two suspects will appear for the alleged murder of Free State farm manager Brendin Horner.
PHOTO: Facebook/Brendin Horner
  • Different political parties and organisations are expected to descend on the small town of Senekal in the eastern Free State to protest on Friday. 
  • This coincides with the second court appearance of the two men accused of murdering farm manager Brendin Horner on a farm in Paul Roux. 
  • Residents fear racial tensions will boil over and lead to violence.

The court appearance on Friday of two men accused of murdering 21-year-old Brendin Horner on a farm in the eastern Free State, has instilled a sense of fear and trepidation among those who call Senekal home.

Sekwetje Mahlamba, 32, and Sekola Matlaletsa, 44, were expected to make their second appearance in the Senekal Magistrate's Court on Friday, as protesters from different political parties and organisations descend on the small town.

Their previous court appearance on 6 October ended in chaos as a small group of protesters stormed the court buildings in an attempt to get to the accused.

During the fracas, gunshots were fired, a police vehicle was overturned and allegedly set alight, and damage to court property was reported.

Andre Pienaar, a local Senekal resident, had since been arrested for public violence and incitement to violence.

While the murder of Horner incensed farmers, farming communities and different organisations, the unrest at the court angered the likes of the EFF and the ANC Youth League.

READ | Farm murder protests: Is a second 'Battle of Senekal' looming?

The racial tension ante had since been upped by different groups speaking about the murder and subsequent unrest, both of which had become highly politicised.

Residents in Senekal and neighbouring small towns, including Paul Roux, where Horner was found murdered, fear that racial tensions might boil over and lead to violent clashes.

"It is so easy for something to go wrong," one resident, who did not want to be named, told News24.

"We are dealing with human beings. It would be terrible if an idiot on either side does something stupid like pull a gun."

READ | Brendin Horner - A young man who would go out of his way to help anyone in need

The man said he was terrified that something would happen, believing that all groups involved should be fighting against criminality and not one another.

People gathered at prayer meeting in Senekal
People at the Senekal showgrounds in the Free State praying for peace ahead of the court appearance of the two men accused of murdering Brendin Horner.
News24 PHOTO: Alex Mitchley/News24

"Address the problems and not change it into a racial or political thing," he added.

Scared

Another group of residents said they were scared about the court case and did not want anything violent to happen in their small town.

One woman added that crime in the area affected both black and white people and it had never been a political issues, let alone racial.

Several farmers in the area, both black and white, echoed the same sentiment and refused to go to court on Friday as they would not be drawn into the spat.

Scenes outside the Senekal court
Scenes outside the Senekal court during the previous appearance.
Netwerk24 PHOTO: Cheréne Pienaar/Netwerk24

Farmers maintained that criminality was the issue at hand and not race. This had been repeated by several farmers, including Herkie Viljoen, Jess de Klerk, Richard Mashinini and Selena Mosai, since Horner's murder.

READ | Malema adamant EFF will be at Senekal court on Friday when Brendin Horner suspects appear again

On Wednesday, a group of black and white pastors prayed for unity ahead of the court case and collectively said there was no need for civil war, especially not in the eastern Free State.

Pastor John Mathuhle told media that a civil war would not be allowed to be started in Senekal.

He said many locals were intimidated and concerned about their safety after recent events.

"The killing of Brendin brought up a lot of emotions," Mathuhle said.

"We don't condone what happened on Tuesday, but this should not, and is not about race," he added.

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