Survivor of cruel farm attack: 'We felt like wild animals being hunted'

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Sebenzile Simane has been sentenced to 173 years in jail.
Sebenzile Simane has been sentenced to 173 years in jail.
Lulama Zenzile

A woman and her family - who survived a horrific farm attack in which she was raped twice, shot in the buttocks and forced to beg for her children's lives to be spared - recounted the horror of their ordeal which resulted in their assailant being sentenced to 173 years in prison.

On Thursday, Sebenzile Simane, a former employee on the family's farm outside Hankey, was handed an effective multiple life sentence by Judge Olav Ronaasen who convicted him on 17 counts in the Eastern Cape High Court in Port Elizabeth on Wednesday.

The charges against him included two of rape, attempted rape, four of attempted murder, and compelling a child to witness a sexual act.

Calling his actions "cruel and barbaric", Judge Ronaasen said Simane, 32, deserved to be severely punished.

At a briefing held by AfriForum on Tuesday, the woman recounted:

"My great-grandfather, grandfather and father were all farmers. I married a farmer whose family have farmed their land for three generations.

"It is with deep sadness that I stand before you today and say that neither of my sons will want to farm in South Africa.

"For 17 years, I had the privilege of raising my three children on a beautiful citrus farm. They swam in the rivers and played in the orchards. They grew up free and fearless as all children should. Little did we know that our every move was being watched. An attack was being maliciously planned.

"Our lives changed in an instant at 8pm on March 23, 2018, when shots were fired directly at my eldest son's head from outside. These shots missed his head by centimetres.

"What followed was four hours of pure hell. I was shot as our attacker fired repeatedly through the doors of our home.

"I can only describe this as feeling like wild animals being hunted. Our attacker shot through the sliding door of our bedroom and gained entry to our home.

"He held the gun to my nine-year-old son's head and threatened to shoot him. I told my little one to be quiet as this man would kill us. All I saw were silent tears rolling down his little cheeks for the next four hours.

"He tied us all up with fencing wire, so tight that our hands lost their circulation.

"He shouted at my children that he was there to kill their father and that he would chop him up in front of them.

"The emotional torture and level of anger that my children endured were persistent and indescribable.

"He repeatedly threatened to shoot my eldest son's feet off and then ordered him to rape me. All we could do was beg him not to.

"He then told my children aged 15, 13 and nine that he was going to rape me in front of them, again I begged and pleaded with him not to expose them to this.

"He forced me to my bedroom and raped me there. There was blood everywhere as I had already been shot. I could do nothing as my hands were tied behind my back.

"He then brought my 13-year-old daughter to the bedroom, undressed her and attempted to rape her. Again, all I could do was beg for mercy so instead he forced my beautiful innocent daughter to watch as he raped me again.

"I cannot describe the anger this man displayed toward us and I knew that if my children had any chance of survival, I had to get this man away from them and the farm. You don't care about yourself, you just don't want your children to die.

"I gave him my bank cards and pin [numbers] and persuaded him to let me drive him to town. He tied me up in my car and locked me in.

"I pleaded with him to let me go as I had started to go into shock from blood loss and needed to get to a hospital or I would die. Finally, at 12:04 he agreed.

"My brave petrified children had managed to phone a neighbour for help.

"For us as parents, the saddest part of this is that we can never give our children their innocence back.

"The children and I will never be able to live on the farm again; the trauma we experienced was too great.

"We now live in the city, away from my husband who visits us on weekends. My husband has barricaded the house with bars and security. How sad it is that he now lives alone in the house where he almost lost his beloved family.

"The first thing our children said to him after the attack was that they were so grateful he was not there as he would definitely be dead.

"This reality, earlier this year, hit me once again when I met 11 ladies who had been in farm attacks. Only two of us still had our husbands alive.

"We are not the only people who have been hurt and traumatised by our attack. Our loyal farmworkers who over the years have become like family are heartbroken, their lives have also been affected and their future is uncertain as we have already sold one farm and are contemplating selling the other. Our family needs to be together again.

"The ripple effect of each and every farm attack not only hurts the farmers, but also each and every South African.

"Who will feed our nation when there are no more farmers to work the land?

"The level of violence and cruelty we experienced is not unique, it is becoming a daily occurrence and is escalating at an alarming rate in South Africa.

"My family and I had no choice in what happened to us that night, we do however have the choice not to let it define us. We choose to live, and we will be eternally grateful to have survived that night. It could have been so different.

"I would like to thank AfriForum for all their support, counselling and for standing by my family during this ordeal.

"Lastly, I would like to appeal to each and every South African to remember the words of Nelson Mandela: 'We can change the world and make it a better place. It is in your hands to make a difference'."

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