White South African farmer who spoke out about land grabs murdered weeks after another vocal white landowner was beaten to death – Wine farmer Stefan Smit, 62, was shot dead in his home as he ate dinner with his family
Vocal critic of white South Africa’s land reallocation program was “eating dinner with [family] and friends when four masked men came into the house, and shot him” around 7 p.m. on Sunday
Wine farmer Stefan Smit, 62, had been openly critical of threat of land grabs on his property in Western Cape, SA
Smit, 62, who spoke out about land grabs was assassinated just weeks after white landowner was beaten to death
Annette Kennealy, 51, a farmer activist from South Africa’s Limpopo province was beaten to death with a hammer and iron rod in late May
Latest victim Smit, the owner of an estate in Western Cape, the country’s most famous wine region, previously complained about how citizens from a township invaded his land
His wife and a family friend survived the attack
72 percent of land in SA is owned by white people, who make up just nine percent of the population, a situation the govt is seeking to address with a controversial new land reform policy which is expected to run into legal headwinds
The country’s parliament by a vote of voted 209-91 in December, passed a constitutional amendment to allow land to be expropriated without compensation in some circumstances
Victim: Wine farmerStefan Smit, 62, [photo], had been openly critical of the threat of land grabs on his property
A South African wine merchant who spoke out against attacks on white farmers was found dead after being shot on Sunday night while dining with family and friends. Stefan Smit, 62, had been openly critical of the threat of land grabs on his property, a large estate in Stellenbosch, Western Cape, South Africa. It was a murder seemingly fueled by a land dispute in the country’s most famous wine region, created when a squat straddling Smit’s Louisenhof Estate was set up, expanding into a vast settlement. The farmer had previously complained about how citizens from a nearby township had begun erecting shacks at the back of his farm, culminating in his having to obtain an injunction to deter further encroachment on his property.
Smit was killed when four men entered his vineyard through an unlocked back door and shot him dead, while eating dinner. His wife and a family friend managed to survive the attack. The late farmer’s friend Pieter Haasbroek, said: “The [family] were busy eating dinner with friends when four masked men came into the house. They shot Smit dead. What we feared came true.”
The killers fled with personal belongings. It was too soon to say whether the killing was related to a running dispute over land or was a random criminal act, according to police spokesperson Lt. Col. Andre Traut. The dispute over land has been ongoing and increasingly fractious, but police said it was too early to tell if Smit’s death was connected to that or a random murder.
Killed: Stefan Smit [right], with friends at his Louisenhoff vineyard outside of Stellenbosch, in the Western Cape province of South Africa
Smit’s family has owned and operated the Louisenhof Wine Estate in Western Cape, South Africa, for generations
The same dispute saw the recent murder of Annette Kennealy, 51, a farmer activist from Limpopo province who was beaten to death with a hammer and iron rod in late May.
The apparent targeted murder of Smit, a prominent white farmer whose family has grown grapes for generations, immediately drew strong reactions from groups representing white farmers and white-minority rights. South Africa’s ruling party, the African National Congress, has denounced the violence against farmers, but farming groups still accuse the party of not doing enough to stop it. The deaths of Smit and Kennealy’s comes as South Africa’s government, led by president Cyril Ramaphosa, forges ahead with plans to alter the country’s constitution to permit land to be seized from farmers without having to compensate them.
Annette Kennealy, 51, a farmer activist from Limpopo province was beaten to death with a hammer and iron rod. One of her male employees has been arrested in connection with the murder
The victims, both white farm owners, were vocal opponents of the proposed land reform policy. The ripple effect of the new government posture was seen last August, when people from a nearby black township flooded Smit’s land, building shacks on it to the point where he ‘couldn’t breathe.’ Zola Ndlasi, the township leader who organized the occupation of Smit’s land, said there are 2,000 shacks there now. ‘I’m not happy,’ Ndlasi said about the Smit’s death. ‘He’s a human being. No one is allowed to kill anybody. ‘ President Ramaphosa has said that his much-focused-on land reform is necessary to compensate for the ‘historical imbalance’ caused by apartheid and colonialism. Under Section 25 of the old constitution, citizens were granted the right to property which could be expropriated – but only upon payment of compensation.
The power of government to seize land was also limited, meaning that the majority of farmland remained in white hands – despite the majority of South Africa’s population being black. According to a 2017 census, 72 percent of land was owned by white people, who made up just nine percent of the population. However, in December last year parliament voted 209-91 to amend the constitution to say that land could be expropriated without anything being paid in certain circumstances.