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Protest turns violent, police vehicle torched

Angry farmers vowed to avenge Horner’s murder

The Mercury

7 Oct 2020

IOL AND KAREN SINGH

ANGRY protesters, calling for an end to farm attacks, pushed a police van on its side and then set it alight outside Senekal Magistrate’s Court yesterday. | Facebook

VIOLENCE erupted outside the Senekal Magistrate’s Court, where hundreds of farmers and residents had gathered in the Free State town, in a show of support for the family of Brendin Horner.

The 22-year-old farm manager had been savagely beaten and his body tied to a pole on a farm near Paul Roux, just outside Bethlehem, last Friday.

Yesterday, as the two suspects in the case appeared in court, an angry crowd vowed to avenge Horner’s murder themselves.

The incident came after the national police commissioner, General Khehla John Sitole, Agri SA, TLU SA, and AfriForum met to discuss farm attacks and stock theft on Monday.

The accused in Horner’s murder, Sekwetje Mahlamba and Sekola Matlaletsa, were arrested the day after the murder. Their case has been adjourned to October 16 and they were remanded in custody.

In the fracas yesterday, two gunshots were fired, court property was destroyed and a police vehicle was overturned and set alight by angry farmers, who believe the government is not doing enough to protect them.

According to police spokesperson Brigadier Motantsi Makhele, a group of farmers stormed the court building shortly after the two suspects were remanded in custody.

Makhele said police had to call in reinforcements to help restore calm.

In a joint statement regarding Monday’s meeting issued by the police, the agricultural associations and AfriForum, Sitole reaffirmed the police commitment to prioritise crimes in rural areas.

The establishment of the national and local Joint Rural Safety Command Centres was also agreed upon, with personnel and resources – including helicopters and drones – to be used to fight these crimes.

“The implementation of stabilisation interventions in hotspot areas is critical to ensuring an effective proactive approach”, said Sitole.

Other areas to be looked at was resourcing police stations at the border, improving intelligence, and the establishment of cross-border liaison committees.

It was also agreed in the meeting that a customised community policing approach was necessary.

The establishment of community-based mounted units, like the Royal Reserve Police Service, as well as the Tourism Reservists, was recommended.

Sandy la Marque, chief executive of the KwaZulu-Natal Agricultural Union (Kwanalu), said the union was pleased to hear of the meeting’s positive results.

“Kwanalu is a standing member of the Provincial Joint Rural Safety Command Centre and is pleased to note the concerns of our Kwanalu members are being addressed.”

La Marque said the National Rural Safety Strategy outlines the functions required to address rural safety.

“On a daily basis, we are dealing with horrific and devastating crimes, which have a severe impact. It is critical that all stakeholders, including government, are fully committed to ensure that farmers, their labour and rural communities are protected, and can ensure food security in a safe and secure environment,” she said.

In a memorandum handed over by Kwanalu to the provincial commissioner last month, the union – together with the rural and farming communities of KZN– committed themselves to the revised National Rural Safety Strategy (NRSS).

“Farming and rural communities commit themselves to collaborate with the SAPS, primarily through involvement in maintaining joint patrols, awareness campaigns, visits to farms, as well as mobilisation and support during rural and farm attacks, to apprehend offenders as quickly as possible,” said the memorandum.