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KZN farmer and wife ambushed, shot dead

Suspects ransacked house, destroyed cameras before fleeing in victims’ vehicle

The Mercury

31 Aug 2020

LYSE COMINS lyse.comins@inl.co.za

A PROMINENT KwaZulu-Natal farmer and his wife were brutally killed on their farm in Normandien on Saturday night.

Police forensic investigators combed the crime scene yesterday after the local Farm Watch manager and neighbours discovered the grisly scene. The bodies of crop and livestock farmer Glen Rafferty and his wife, Vida, were found near the front door of their farmhouse in the early hours of the morning. Their dog was also killed.

KZN police spokesperson Captain Nqobile Gwala said Normandien SAPS were investigating charges of murder. She said the police had been alerted to the murders at about 6am.

“It is alleged that a 63-year-old man and his 60-year-old wife were fatally shot by unknown suspects while at a farm in Normandien. Their dog was also shot dead. The suspects ransacked the house and cameras were destroyed. The suspects fled the scene with their vehicle. The vehicle was later found abandoned at Elandslaagte area,” Gwala said.

Chess Security Farm Watch manager Dana Geel said Rafferty and Vida had last been seen in their vehicle on security cameras in Newcastle at about 9.15pm when they left town after a social visit to travel 45km to their farm. He said the couple were ambushed when they got home.

“The people were there waiting for them – they were already in the house and had ransacked it. It didn’t look like anything else was taken except for a laptop, at this stage,” he said.

Geel said the couple had driven into the property and it appeared that they had been shot near the “stoep”, where he discovered their bodies at about 5.25am. He added that the couple’s surviving dogs, a St Bernard, two Australian cattle dogs and a Jack Russell, appeared to be traumatised.

“When I arrived there, I took my torch and walked towards the door where I could see the body of a woman and could see something was wrong. Both of them had been shot and one of their dogs, an Australian cattle dog, had been shot and was lying next to Rafferty’s body,” Geel said.

Geel said he called one of the couple’s sons to the scene and neighbours who were alerted via the Farm Watch network also arrived.

He said the couple were “very kind people”.

“They would not harm anybody. They were just peaceful people,” Geel said.

KZN Agricultural Union (Kwanalu) chairperson Sandy la Marque said she was devastated when she got the news as Rafferty was a “strong” leader and a former board member of the union and a board member of the Normandien Farmers’ Association.

“It is a real personal blow because I knew him personally, and it’s a shock to the agricultural sector because we need leadership in our country at the moment,” La Marque said.

“He was such an upstanding member of the community and he has been taken from us.

“He was a real gentleman. I used to deal with him often. He always considered other people and their views when dealing with issues,” she said.

La Marque said the union was “deeply concerned” about the increase in attacks and murders on farms since lockdown regulations had eased.

According to Kwanalu’s statistics, there had been five murders of commercial farmers this year compared with two during the whole of last year.

She said the data did not include attacks and murders of people living on smallholdings and in other rural dwellings.

“We call on all relevant stakeholders and leadership to take a far more proactive stance on assisting the farming sector with the challenges that exist.

We really need the top echelons of government, and especially President Cyril Ramaphosa, to take firm, decisive action. The police in our province have been very good and have prioritised farm attacks and murders, but we need much higher leadership and control,” she said.

The murders came just hours after KZN motorcyclist clubs rallied with thousands of bikers around the country in a national protest against farm attacks and murders.

East Coast Motorcycle Club president Pravesh Ramfol said club members had driven from Nandi Drive to eManzimtoti bearing white crosses symbolising love and peace on their helmets and bikes to show their solidarity with farmers.

In Cathkin Park in the Central Drakensberg, owner of The Nest Hotel, Stuart Longmore, said he had organised a rally via Winterton and Bergville to the top of Oliviershoek Pass to plead with the government to do more to curb farm murders.

KZN Premier Sihle Zikalala yesterday strongly condemned the “senseless murders” and called for the police to work around the clock to bring the perpetrators to book.

Zikalala said the farming couple had been admired by the local community for their contribution to the betterment of the lives of others.

“Farm killings remain a serious concern in the province. We condemn these murders in the strongest terms possible. The ongoing killing of farmers goes against the spirit of ubuntu. It is an indictment on the significant contribution made by the farming community in the upliftment of our rural people,” Zikalala said.

He called on all citizens to stand up against the killings of farmers and to protect farmers from criminal elements.