Chaotic scenes have played out in South Africa’s Free State province, where farmers have taken to the streets after two brutal slayings that have sparked national outrage.
Farmers with “Boer Lives Matter” banners stormed a court in the town of Senekal and fired shots as they tried to force their way into cells holding two murder suspects.
A police riot van was also tipped over and set alight as thousands gathered outside the Senekal Magistrate Court in the Free State overnight.
It was there that murder suspects Sekwetje Isaiah Mahlamba, 32, and Sekola Piet Matlaletsa, 44, were set to appear before a judge.
They are accused of killing 21-year-old farm manager Brendin Horner, who was tied to a pole and tortured before being repeatedly stabbed and then strangled on remote farmland outside the town of Paul Roux on Friday.
In a separate attack 290km away, a female farm manager was sexually assaulted and strangled by two gunmen at her farm.
And, in a third incident, a gang of nine attackers allegedly threatened to rape a farmer’s young children if he didn’t co-operate.
The string of attacks on white farmers has stoked fury and led to tense scenes on the streets of Senekal.
Police spokesman Brig Motantsi Makhele told TimesLive an “unruly group” of farmers stormed the court building and demanded the suspects be handed over to them.
He said the group damaged court property while forcing their way to the cells.
“Two shots were fired from this group but no one was injured,” he said. “Thus far the situation is tense but under control.”
The large group were carrying placards that read “Remember their names” and “Enough is enough”.
Brig Makhele told local media that victim Brendin Horner failed to arrive home after finishing work. He was reported missing and his body found at 6am the next day.
Chantel Kershaw, 44, was ambushed by two armed men as she helped load a lawnmower on to a truck, The Sun reports.
They then held her down and strangled her in the garage of her farm at Delmas, east of Johannesburg, before pistol-whipping her mother, 65-year-old Greta Spiers.
Spiers was restrained as the farm was looted and a maid locked in a bathroom before the offenders fled the scene in the family’s white Chevrolet station wagon.
Local neighbourhood watch farmers forced the stolen vehicle off the road in a high-speed chase after being alerted by Spiers and captured the suspects.
A worker at the farm who was stripped and tied up by the armed raiders was later arrested after the mobile phone numbers of the two arrested men were found in his phone.
The three men appeared before Delmas Magistrate Court charged with armed robbery, theft and murder. They were refused bail and have been remanded in custody for trial.
In the third incident, Paul da Cruz, his wife and four children – three girls and one boy aged between 6 and 18 – were attacked on their farm in Westonaria in Gauteng on Friday morning.
Da Cruz told Netwerk24 his children and his wife were threatened with rape and he wanted them to undergo trauma counselling as soon as possible.
Agricultural strategist Dr Jaco De Villiers has described the latest murders as part of a “war against food production” in the country and said Horner’s murder was “slaughter”.
He told TimesLive: “How do you murder someone and hang him on a pole for everyone to see? This was a clear message to all farmers. Farm killings have to stop right now.”
Dr Jane Buys, safety and risk analyst of Free State Agriculture, told the paper: “The senseless killings cannot be allowed with the brutality in which they are executed.
“It is not clear what the motive for this murder is. There cannot be any justification for killing a person who provides food security. Something has to be done to stop it.”
Pressure group Agri SA said that on average a farm where a farmer is violently attacked will be abandoned for up to five years until someone takes it on and restarts production.
It said that means dozens of workers and dependants losing their livelihoods.
AfriForum spokesman Marius Muller said the farmers need better police protection.
“This is yet another dark day in the history of South Africa for farmers and those with small holdings and the murder of these two farmers was totally unnecessary,” Muller said.
“These were both premeditated and horrific attacks on innocent farmers who look after and care for their workers and whose jobs may now be put in jeopardy by these murders.”
Each day in South Africa an average of 60 people are murdered. An average of 75 farmers are murdered in the country each year.
*story by NZ Herald