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Isolation makes farmers vulnerable: court

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Copy of IOL forensic police at crime scene

Independent Newspapers

File photo: Bongiwe Mchunu

Pietermaritzburg - There have been 780 farm attacks in Kwa-Zulu-Natal since 2001, 126 of which involved murders.

This was testimony of Kwanalu security desk manager Koos Marais at the Pietermaritzburg High Court on Thursday.

Marais revealed that according to his statistics, which were verified by the SAPS, there were 57 attacks reported last year, with 10 of these being murders. This year, in January and February alone, nine attacks were reported, with three of these involving murders.

“These attacks usually involve robbery,” Marais said, adding that farms were more vulnerable to criminals, who perceived them to be easy targets, being isolated from the police.

“It takes the SAPS longer to respond to these areas and it is not easy to fortify these premises because they are open spaces with easy access and volumes of people passing through on a daily basis,” said Marais.

He concluded that the increase in farm attacks had resulted in the migration of farmers and their families, which had a direct impact on food production and employment loss. “These attacks sabotage the government’s plan for agricultural development and the economy of this country,” Marais said.

He was testifying in aggravation of sentence in the case of Jabulani Ngobese, who was earlier convicted of the murder of popular Eston farmer Mick Hampson.

Acting Judge Louis Barnard found Ngobese guilty of Hampson’s murder, as well as the attempted murder of his son Murray and robbery with aggravating circumstances.

His accomplice, Siboniso Mtolo, pleaded guilty to Hampson’s murder last week and was sentenced to life behind bars.

Hampson, 69, was shot dead on September 27 when he and his son confronted two men trespassing on their farm.

According to Murray Hampson, who testified during the trial, he and his father were talking to a group of workers when they noticed two suspicious-looking men walking on their property.

Hampson instructed them to get onto the back of his bakkie and drove them towards his farmhouse to call the police.

Murray, who was armed with a shotgun, was sitting in the back of the bakkie with the men when they wrestled it out of his hands and shot Hampson. The men then fled into the sugarcane plantation.

Hampson died on the scene.

Judge Barnard said Ngobese had admitted to entering Hampson’s farm with his accomplice, Mtolo, to steal a vehicle, when they were confronted by the father and son.

“Without your help, Mtolo would not have been able to dispossess Murray of the shotgun,” he said.

Judge Barnard did not find Ngobese a credible witness. “You are clearly an intelligent person, and you tailored your evidence as the case progressed. Your version – that you were a reluctant participant – is so improbable, it can safely be accepted as false,” he said.

Ngobese was to be sentenced on Friday.

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