Durban - Seven men have been arrested in connection with the hot-iron torture and murder of a man at his farm in the small town of Winterton in KwaZulu-Natal’s Drakensberg area.
The victims, Mohamed Shafee Engar, 67, a maize miller, and his wife Razia, 56, were beaten and tortured with a hot clothes iron by five robbers at their farm, Noodhulp, on the night of December 5.
Six of the arrests were made in the Ladysmith area, and the last was a worker on the victim’s farm.
Engar, who was also stabbed during the two-hour ordeal, died the following evening in hospital.
Razia suffered burns to her legs and a stab wound to her back.
Farm worker Fortunate Hlongwane was shot twice during the attack, which began at about 10.30pm, and is recovering in Grey’s Hospital.
The arrests were largely as a result of the perseverance of a private security company, whose chief executive said his “A-team” had carried out the three-day operation - without pay - to help stem the tide of violence and crime in the area.
This was the second attack on the family in eight months.
On February 14, Valentine’s Day, eight robbers had stormed the house, shooting Engar in the chest.
The bullet exited through his back, missing his heart and spine by a few millimetres.
The attackers pistol-whipped the domestic worker and assaulted members of the family before leaving with jewellery, cash, Mandela coins and Kruger rands.
Winterton police and Magma Investigations made the arrests in connection with the latest incident at the weekend and on Monday after following up on tip-offs received by the company.
Magma chief executive Shaheen Suleiman said a team he had assembled had begun its investigations in Ladysmith before travelling to Ekuvukeni, about 80km north-east of Ladysmith, where they arrested four men.
Investigators seized four 9mm pistols with the serial numbers removed, several rounds of ammunition, jewellery, clothing and bedding belonging to the Engars.
The team then proceeded to Ezakheni, south-east of Ladysmith, where they arrested two men who were also in possession of clothing and items belonging to the Engar family.
On Monday, they arrested the seventh suspect, a worker on Engar’s farm.
Suleiman told the Daily News on Monday that the Engar family had contacted him and asked if he could help with the investigations.
“I readily agreed and got my A-team of seven members together. Early on Saturday morning we set our task into motion, determined to make arrests in this gruesome and torturous murder in which family members were subjected to being burnt with a hot clothes iron,” he said.
“We swung into action on Saturday midday as we went on the prowl in Ladysmith, organising our informers.
“Saturday proved fruitless, then on Sunday news leaked through that some of the suspects were in Ekuvukeni, where we set about arresting two members of the gang,” Suleiman said.
“This led us to Ezakheni, another 80km away, where we camped for the night and more arrests followed.
“On Monday morning, part of our mission was accomplished as we made the last arrest on the farm Noodhulp.”
Said Suleiman: “Winterton police gave us their full support and helped us a great deal.
“I am here to stem the tide of violence and crime. I don’t get paid for the many hours that my team and I put in.”
Engar’s son, Ahmed Engar, praised the investigators.
“My family are really grateful to Shaheen Suleiman, who spent… from Saturday morning until Monday midday going systematically through some rough terrain in effecting the arrests,” said Ahmed.
“We are now hoping justice will take its course and justice will be done.”
Ahmed said the attackers had first shot Hlongwane in the stomach and legs, then moved on to torture his parents.
“My father was beaten in the head repeatedly and they burnt him together with my mother, with a hot iron, before ransacking the house. They took all the valuables, money and a motor vehicle, which was later recovered,” he said.
He said his father, who had lived in the area for 20 years, was a generous man who had given mealie meal to schools in Estcourt every month as an act of charity.
“My father taught me a lot of things. He was a hard worker for a man his age. We are going to miss him a lot,” he said.
Ahmed said his mother was recovering at home although she needed to go to the hospital every few days for the bandages to be changed.