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Durban - KwaZulu-Natal farmers will not be victims any longer. That’s the word from several farmers in the Midlands and surrounding areas on Wednesday after the brutal murders of two farmers in the space of a week.
Last Thursday, Dan Knight, 56, was bludgeoned to death at his Underberg farm by five gun-and-hammer-wielding men while his terrified partner, Beth Butcher, was forced to look on.
Then, on Monday, 78-year-old Willem Wietes was shot dead at his farm stall in Ngoje, near Vryheid.
Three men arrived at the shop under the pretext of wanting to buy milk. They held a knife to the throat of Wietes’s 49-year-old daughter, Everlien, who was at the counter.
They shot Wietes before tying up Everlien and her mother and making off with cellphones and money.
Three suspects have been arrested for Knight’s murder and appeared in the Himeville Magistrate’s Court on Tuesday.
Wietes’s killers are still at large. He was the ninth farmer to be killed in the province this year.
Midlands dairy farmer, Jacques Botha, told the Daily News on Wednesday that he was shocked and angered by the murders and determined to protect his family and property. “These criminals want a war, we will give them a war. We will not lie down and be targeted any longer,” Botha said.
Rosetta farmer, Daniel Spiers, said he would not hesitate to shoot if he believed he or his family was threatened.
“Our peace of mind has been shattered. We constantly live in fear of attacks, looking over our shoulders. I will protect my family from these ruthless criminals even if it’s the last thing I do,” Spiers said.
The KZN Agricultural Union’s Koos Marais expressed shock at the recent killings, saying they were worried about police visibility in rural areas.
“It appears farmers are easy targets. The criminals know the movements of the farmers, their families and their workers. Police service on the ground level needs to be stepped up,” Marais said.
He urged farmers not to take the law into their own hands, but to be vigilant of their surroundings, secure their properties and report any suspicious activity to the police. Other farm incidents this year include:
* May 7: Peter Hackland, 61, of Cromleigh Farm in Carisbrook, Ixopo, was shot dead by two men inside his farmhouse.
* May 25: Dave Maratos, 65, was farm-sitting at Brydom Farm, in Greytown, when he was stabbed by unknown men. He died at the scene.
* July 28: George Fakude, 46, a Wartburg farm manager, was killed in an ambush in sugar cane fields.
* August 11: Newcastle farmer Timothy Green, 44, was killed at his Mellon Green Farm near Chelmsford Dam after he disturbed a burglary at his home.
* September 27: Eston sugar cane farmer Micky Hampson, 69, was killed by unidentified men on his farm.
* October 9: Eugene van der Merwe, 61, was beaten to death on Sunnyside Farm, Ixopo.
* October 17: Daniel Knight.
* October 21: Willem Wietes shot dead.