Hundreds of armed black protesters face off with white farmers as South African town over farm murder case that prompted violence last week
Killing of white farmer Brendin Horner has led to riots in small town of Senekal in South Africa’s eastern Free State
21-year-old farm manager Brendin Horner was murdered on a farm near the town of Paul Roux in Free State on Oct 1, allegedly by two black men
The suspects, Sekwetje Isiah Mahlamba, 32, and Sekola Piet Matlaletsa, 44, have been arrested for the murder and arraigned in court on murder charges
Local white farmers, who allege that the government has failed to protect them from violent crime, stormed the court premises last week when the suspects made their first appearance demanding the men be handed over
Responding, Black protesters turned out Friday as the suspects made a second court appearance, armed with golf clubs and cricket bats
Farm murders are an explosive racial issue 26 years after the end of apartheid
Black protesters linked to the Economic Freedom Fighters movement which supports redistributing of land which is mostly owned by the from white population, gathered outside the courthouse Friday
The trial continues
A South African town recently in the news for the wanton murder of a local farmer faced another wave racial violence Friday as black protesters armed with golf clubs and cricket bats faced off with white farmers in pick-up trucks outside a court where two black men are accused of killing a farmer.
The murder of Brendin Horner who is white by two allegedly by two black men has led to riots in the town of Senekal where white protesters stormed the courthouse, fired shots and set fire to a police car last week.
The 21-year-old farm manager was murdered on a farm near the town of Paul Roux in Free State.
The magistrate postponed bail for the the two murder suspects, who were arrested after allegedly boasted about assaulting a white man on a farm at local watering holes.
On Friday hundreds of black protesters linked to the Economic Freedom Fighters movement – a movement that supports redistributing of land which is mostly owned by the from white population – gathered outside the courthouse with some hurling rocks despite efforts by law enforcement to maintain the peace.
The black protesters were seen brandishing golf clubs, hockey sticks and cricket bats ahead of the second appearance of the pair of murder suspects in court Friday.
On the opposing side, the farmers, who allege that the government has failed to protect them from violent crime, arrived in pick-up trucks, dressed in military style outfits, with some waving ‘Boer Lives Matter’ banners at today’s stand-off.
The White group of protesters mostly in military style uniform were kept apart from the black protesters with freshly erected razor wire as the small town braced for racial violence during the murder trial of the two suspects in South Africa’s latest race tinged farm killing.
The small South African town has been thrust into an international spotlight after the protesting white farmers burst into the court hearing last week.
Brendin Horner was killed on the night of Thursday Oct, 1. His body was discovered the next morning. The autopsy report found that Horner was strangled to death. He also had stab wounds on his arm, shoulder and hands.
The two male murder suspects, Sekwetje Isiah Mahlamba, 32, and Sekola Piet Matlaletsa, 44, made their appearance at the Senekal magistrate court Friday morning where they applied for bail amid heavy police presence.
One witness told authorities he saw Mahlamba and Sekola Matlaletsa, coming from the direction of the farm where Horner was killed, early the next morning, Friday Oct 2.
Later that same Friday both men were at a local bar in Paul Roux, where Mahlamba boasted about assaulting a white farmer, another witness said.
A third witness claims Matlaletsa told him about the assault and gave details. The details matched the assault on Horner, leading to the arrest of the suspects.
One of the murder suspects had been arrested 16 times before his latest detention over Horner’s killing, police minister Bheki Cele said.
At the bail hearing Mahlamba, who pled not guilty claimed that blood police found on his pants came from sheep he slaughtered during a festival, last month.
He had spent the night of the murder with his girlfriend and the first time he heard of the murder was when police arrested him, Mahlamba said in court.
However, another witness said that the suspect did not attend the festival as he claimed. The girlfriend in an affidavit submitted to the court denied that the suspect spent the night with her.
Leading to Friday’s bail hearing, Freedom Fighters leader Julius Malema had warned that he would mobilize supporters to descend on Senekal ahead of Friday’s bail hearing.
‘We are going to face white men face-to- face,’ Malema said in Johannesburg two days after he tweeted a picture of a rifle.
Wearing their trademark red shirts and berets, the Freedom Fighters staged a march attended by hundreds Friday while many white farmers arrived wearing khaki shirts and shorts, with some in military outfits.
‘We must strike fear in the hearts of racists, they must never be comfortable in our democracy,’ said a tweet from the Freedom Fighters’ account.
Police separated the two groups with razor wire in one street, but they regrouped and faced off in another area as police helicopters hovered overhead.
According to News24, some of the farmers said: ‘We don’t want a war, but what should we do, run away?
‘We aren’t cowards. We are here to show who and what we are.’
The outlet reported that some of the EFF protesters were threatening violence despite the efforts of marshals ‘working very, very hard to control their supporters’.
White protesters stand near the barbed wire with one man holding a ‘Boer Lives Matter’ placard, a reference to the white population which owns most of South Africa’s farmland
President Cyril Ramaphosa on Monday urged people not to use the killing to inflame racial tensions, saying it ‘shows how easily the tinderbox of race hatred can be ignited’.
‘We must resist any attempts to use crime on farms to mobilize communities along racial lines,’ he said.
Farm killings are an explosive issue in South Africa, where most private farmland is owned by white people 26 years after the end of apartheid.
White activist groups promote the idea that they are victims of a ‘white genocide’, but Ramaphosa insisted this week that ‘killings on farm are not ethnic cleansing’.
‘They are not genocidal. They are acts of criminality,’ Ramaphosa said.
But Afriforum, a group representing Afrikaners who own most private farm land – said that Ramaphosa’s words ‘failed to resolve this crisis’.
‘Part of the farm murder crisis is that senior politicians, also in the governing party, readily romanticize violence against farmers in their utterances,’ Afriforum head Ernst Roets said.
South Africa has the world’s fifth-highest murder rate and white farmers account for only a tiny fraction of the total.
The government is preparing to expropriate white-owned land without compensation, as part of an effort to redress economic inequalities.
The alleged instigator of last week’s court rioting, businessman Andre Pienaar, is in custody facing charges of public violence, attempted murder and incitement.
He also faces a possible charge of terrorism, according to the prosecuting authority.
John Mathuhle, a pastor in the town, said what was meant to be a ‘peaceful’ protest by the farmers outside the courthouse last week ‘didn’t really end well’.
‘So as a result of that we had a lot of racial tension,’ he said.
‘We just pray for peace. Civil war will not start in Senekal and that is what we are here to say, no to civil war, no to racism, no to farm killings.’