Richmond, KwaZulu-Natal - Three men charged with the murder of a Richmond farming couple and their son abandoned their bail application on Wednesday.
This came as a relief to a large group of protesters and members of the farming community who were at the Richmond Magistrate’s Court in support of the victims.
Zamo Maduna, 19, Siphesihle Ngubane, 20, as well as a 17-year-old who cannot be named because he is a minor, are charged with three counts of murder and house robbery with aggravated circumstances, as well as theft of a motor vehicle and the unlawful possession of firearms and ammunition.
They were expected to apply for bail. However, investigating officer Sergeant Sandile Magubane told the media on Wednesday that the three accused had abandoned their bail application and informed police they intended pleading guilty.
“The accused will attend the Pietermaritzburg High Court this week to prepare their pleas,” Magubane said.
A fourth accused, Njabulo Zuma, has been charged only with the possession of stolen property and the unlawful possession of firearms.
His case has been adjourned to March 19.
Ekard Schutte, 77, his wife Elizabeth, 66, and their 33-year-old son, Lutz, were killed on the night of March 1.
Lutz had arrived from Germany to celebrate his father’s birthday the next day.
The bodies of the murdered couple were found the next day by their other son, Stefan, a Pietermaritzburg businessman, when he arrived at the smallholding for the birthday celebration.
The accused were arrested on March 3.
Maduna was employed as a gardener on the Schutte farm.
Magubane confirmed that on the night of the murders three suspects had approached Ekard on the pretext of buying wood. They allegedly stabbed him repeatedly before entering the house and ransacking it.
His wife and son were not at home, but their arrival disturbed the assailants, who then allegedly turned on them, stabbing Lutz several times.
Elizabeth, who was taken into another room to open the safe, was allegedly stabbed repeatedly.
In an attempt to get rid of evidence, the assailants then set the crime scene alight by pouring petrol in the house and over the mother and son.
The suspects left in Elizabeth’s car, in which they had packed all the stolen items.
Police said they recovered several stolen items from the suspects, including the Schuttes’ firearms, speakers and amplifiers. Their stolen vehicle was also recovered, but it had been burnt.
A large contingent of ANC members protested outside the courthouse yesterday.
They toyi-toyied and carried placards bearing the slogans “Let them rot in jail” and “No bail for farm killers”.
Msizi Mkhize, chairman of the ANC sub-region in Richmond, said the party was against the men being set free, and he expressed his relief at the news the men had decided not to apply for bail.
Cosatu secretary in the region, Samora Ndlovu, said that Richmond was a small community, and when one person was affected by crime, the ripple effects were felt by everyone.
“No one, regardless of race, should ever be subjected to that kind of violence. We are in full support of the family of the victims,” Ndlovu said.
A farmer in the area, who asked not to be named, expressed concern at the high levels of crime in the Richmond area.
“Every day we are hearing of someone being shot, or a business being robbed. Our community lives in terror every single day. We appreciate the work being done by police, but it doesn’t seem to be enough. We are still being targeted,” the farmer said.
A memorial service for the Schuttes was held at the Lutheran Church in Pietermaritzburg on Saturday, and was attended by hundreds of family and friends from across the world.
A spokeswoman for the Schutte family, Karen Lowe, said the emotion and grief was still very “raw” for Stefan and his three siblings, Matthias, Angela and Gerlind.
“We will await the court hearings and trust that justice will take its course,” Lowe said.