Durban - The hate Stefan Schutte feels towards the killers of his mom, dad and younger brother terrifies him. And seeing his family after their throats were cut and their bodies set alight would haunt him forever.
Elderly Richmond couple Ekard, 76, and Elizabeth, 66, and their son, Lutz, 33, were brutally murdered on March 1. It was Stefan, 41, who had come to Springfield Farm to welcome his brother from Germany and to celebrate his father’s birthday, who found them.
On Tuesday, he read out his testimony in aggravation of sentencing in the Pietermaritzburg High Court about the impact the murders had had on his life.
Zamokuhle Maduna, 19, Siphesihle Ngubane, 20, and Lindokuhle Khoza, 18, have been found guilty for the attack which shattered the quiet farming community where the couple were loved and contributing citizens.
Sentencing takes place on Wednesday.
Schutte said he could not come to terms with the fact that he and his parents had known and trusted Maduna, who had orchestrated the killings so he could rob them. Maduna worked for Schutte senior at his sawmill business on the farm. He also worked on weekends for Schutte junior in his garden.
“I can’t believe he could do that. He knew us, we trusted him,” he said, adding that while Maduna was at school, he worked part-time for him and, after finishing school, full-time because he could not find a job. His father had trained Maduna and provided him with free accommodation.
“I feel like I could grieve forever. My life has been destroyed,” he said, his voice wavering.
Schutte has taken over his father’s business which was not doing well. Without assistance, the business would close down and 18 employees would lose their jobs.
It was difficult for him to return to the farm every day. Despite being on medication, Schutte said he was battling to cope. His children had to see a psychologist, who said that they were concerned about the change in their dad’s behaviour.
Medical bills, he said, stood at between R40 000 and R50 000.
At times he wiped away tears. He said his parents and brother were “great people” and that he did not have enough words to describe them. He said his father had taught him everything. “You taught me how to hunt… you have never once lifted your hand to me.”
His father’s hobbies included woodwork and cooking.
His mother, he said, would remain “the queen of all our hearts”. “What a void it is to not have you around.”
She was a bookkeeper and nature lover who was missed by everyone who knew her. He said it must have been terrible for her to watch her son being murdered.
“I can’t understand how life can be so cruel.”
Lutz moved to Germany after finishing school and was “a gentle soul”. He was godfather to Schutte’s boys and brought presents whenever he visited.
“I can only say that he would be amazed to see how many friends and family flew to the country when they heard about his death.”
Schutte said that he hoped and prayed he would never see the killers’ faces again. He had never thought of leaving the country, but would be forced to if he saw them out of prison.
“We will not feel safe… I pray their (his parents and brother’s) lives will be respected and that sentencing will bring about some closure for us.”
Koos Marais of the KwaZulu-Natal Agricultural Union, testified on behalf of the State that there had been three farm murders and 14 attacks in the province this year. From 2001, there had been 126 murders, 659 attacks and 785 incidents involving 966 victims.
He outlined why farmers were seen as soft targets - because of the belief they had money and guns on their farms - and how farm murders were affecting the economy.
State advocate Candy Kander asked that life sentences be imposed on Maduna and Ngubane. Khoza was under 18 at the time and, according to legislation, the highest sentence for offenders aged 14 to 18 was 25 years.
She said the three men came from stable backgrounds and the crime was not committed due to an error in judgement. The savagery was unwarranted and they acted like hardened criminals.
For the men, attorney Zina Anastasiou said that they should receive lesser sentences because they were young, showed remorse and had pleaded guilty