Free State agriculture MEC William Bulwane has strongly condemned acts of violence and vandalism that transpired in Senekal on Tuesday, following the murder of young farmer Brandon Horner.
Horner’s body was found last Friday tied to a pole in an open space on the De Rots farm.
Emotions ran high outside the Senekal magistrate’s court on Tuesday morning, where two men linked to the murder of Horner were appearing.
Sekwetje Isaiah Mahlamba, 32, and Sekola Piet Matlaletsa, 44, made a brief appearance in court. The two were arrested by Senekal detectives on Saturday at Fateng tse Ntho in Paul Roux.
Police spokesperson Brigadier Motantsi Makhele said the two males were suspected stock thieves.
“It is suspected that the deceased could have spotted them on that fateful day. According to reports, police received a call from other farmers reporting the attack at DeRots farm. Upon their arrival, police found Horner, who was declared dead on the scene, with injuries to his head and face,” he noted.
A knife was found at the scene and the victim’s Toyota Hilux was later found abandoned, with bloodstains inside.
The matter was postponed to October 16 for a formal bail application.
Makhele said after court proceedings an unruly group of farmers stormed the court building and demanded that the suspects be handed over to them. They allegedly wanted to avenge the death of 22-year-old Horner.
The group reportedly damaged court property while forcing their way to the cells.
A police van parked outside the court was also overturned and burnt.
Meanwhile, tributes have continued to pour in for Horner, who has been described as a hard-working young farmer who would “not harm a fly”, according to those who knew him.
“In my eyes, Brendin was a top class guy, he was amazing,” Gillie Scheepers, owner of Bloukruin bouldery, where Horner worked, told The Citizen.
MEC Bulwane also passed his sincere condolences to Horner’s family, colleagues, and friends following his brutal murder.
The MEC however said the rule of law still needed to be respected and this was not the case on Tuesday.
He indicated Horner was active in the agricultural sector and had a bright future ahead of him.
“His life was taken while he was on a path of becoming instrumental in the sector.”
The senseless killing of farmers, not only in the Free State but across the country, was a problem that needed to be confronted with vigour, he added.
At least two shots were fired. A police vehicle was overturned and set alight by the angry farmers, who forced their way to the holding cells, Free State police spokesperson Brigadier Motantsi Makhele said.
Court property was also damaged during the demonstration.
AfriForum’s head of policy and action Ernst Roets said the organisation considers the attack an act of terror, adding the solution to farm murders was two-pronged.
“The message of farm murders must be spread to the ends of the earth and taken to the council chambers of the United Nations to ensure that the international community takes note,” Roets said.
“The second part of the solution, which is even more important, is for people to realise that the government will not solve the crisis. Communities must rather become the solution themselves by joining community safety structures to enable them to look after their safety,” he said.
Roets added those who were outside the Senekal Magistrate’s Court expressed sympathy and compassion, but they were also furious about the situation in the country.
“The fury that the people expressed is the consequence of the cruelty of a problem that simply persists, coupled with government’s lackadaisical attitude toward farm murders,” he claimed.
However, Bulwane said Roets’ remarks were unfortunate and misguided.
“To believe what occurred in Senekal Magistrate Court is an expression of fury and its justifiable is not right. There’s no justification for violent anger and anarchic behaviour that leads to forced entry, property destruction, torching and destroying police vehicles,” the MEC said.
“These are pure criminal deeds that are unlawful and undermine the police service and justice systems,” he added.
“These are acts of criminality and look like barbaric behaviour with nothing close to law-abiding citizens. All perpetrators should be brought to book and account for their deeds,” he stressed.
Bulwane commended those who were peaceful and disciplined, saying their behaviour showed confidence in the country’s justice system.
So far, one person has been arrested and he is expected to appear in court today (Fri).
Makhele said the 52-year-old Senekal resident, who farms in Marquard, was in custody.
According to Makhele, the apprehension comes on the back of an investigation aimed at bringing those responsible for the vandalism and arson to book.
Police minister Bheki Cele said, “While we all condemn the gruesome killing of this young man in Paul Roux, absolutely no one has the right to take the law into their own hands – no matter what the situation is. This type of lawlessness can’t be justified nor taken lightly.
“There is no logic when protestors burn a police van, which is the same resource that is meant to assist them,” he pointed out.
The minister called for more arrests to be made.