A crowd of 350 farmers, farmworkers and others from the rural community protested outside the Himeville Magistrate’s Court on Tuesday, as three men appeared for the grisly murder of timber contractor Daniel Knight last week.
The protest was held just a day after another KwaZulu-Natal farmer was murdered on his Vryheid dairy farm, The Witness reported.
Willem Weites, 78, was killed while trying to rescue his daughter, who was being held at knife-point
His son, Frederik Weites, 50, said a white car came to the dairy store with men carrying a bucket as people often do when they come to buy milk.
Weites said the three black men got out of the car and grabbed his sister Everlien, 49, after asking where her father was.
“They held a knife to her neck and when my father tried to intervene, they just shot him in the head and chest and he died on the spot,” he said.
He said they then dragged his sister to the main house threatening to rape her. They thus forced his mother to hand over keys to the safe.
They tied up both women, took an undisclosed sum of money and drove off in his father’s bakkie, he said.
Another attacker tied up farm workers and took their cellphones.
The bakkie was later recovered about eight kilometres away as in most farm attacks.
“We are devastated. I mean why do you need to kill people for money when you can take the money and leave them alive?” Frederik asked. Weites had often helped local blacks grind their maize at his mill.
Police spokesperson Captain Thulani Zwane said Ngome SAPS were investigating charges of murder and “business robbery”. No arrests had been made, he said.
In Himeville, Tsepiso Sthembiso Ramanyane, 20, Bonginkosi Eric Nyawose, 33, both from Bulwer, and Thabo Dlamini, 22, from Himeville, appeared for the murder of Knight and robbery with aggravating circumstances for taking property of Knight’s valued at R651 000.
While white farmers fear the escalating farm attacks, black workers fear that 300 households who had family members working for Knight may be hit by job losses following his murder.
Knight’s murder was particularly brutal. He was struck on the head with a heavy hammer while his partner, her eyelids forced open, was made to watch.
Graham Acutt, a dairy farmer, said: “This affects the community more than it affects the farmers; more families in the community will lose jobs because of some individuals that want quick cash. This picketing shows everyone that we are sick and tired of criminals that attack us.”
Sue Acutt asked: “Why did they want her to watch them doing this? Later, they even tried to suffocate her using a plastic glove as they covered her face with it. They left her thinking she had also died after she passed out.”
Vice-chairperson of the Vryheid Agricultural Chamber Horst Hellberg, referring to Weites’ death, said it was with shock “that we had to hear of another farm murder, this time one of our senior farmers”.
“It is unacceptable that farm murders are getting out of control again and government is not treating it as a priority.”
He suggested the government would address these issues more seriously only once there was not enough food to put on the nation’s tables.
KwaZulu-Natal Agricultural Union (KwaNalu) security desk Koos Marais said they were disturbed by the latest callous murder.
Dr Johan Burger of the South African Institute for Security Studies said in 2012, 63 farm murders were recorded. This year up to September there had been 54 farm murders recorded already.
“The brutality with which these murders are carried out makes us believe that there is something behind these attacks,” he said.
He said it was interesting to note that last year 39 farmers were killed and of those only three were black farmers.