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Farming bodies raise concern after attack on elderly woman on a KZN farm

Yellow and black SAPS crime scene tape on grass.

File Picture: Keran Ducasse

Published Jul 25, 2023

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Durban - Police are searching for a gang that assaulted an elderly woman during an armed robbery at a farm in Dalton in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands on Sunday.

KZN police spokesperson Constable Thenjiswa Ngcobo said it was alleged that five armed men entered a business premises, held a worker at gunpoint and fled with an undisclosed amount of cash. Ngcobo added that reports indicated that the owner of the property was assaulted by the suspects, and was subsequently taken to hospital.

The incident comes as life sentences were handed down on Monday to two men who killed a farm manager, his wife and father-in-law in December 2020 in Bishopstowe.

Lizo Madukane and Thembelani Majola were sentenced in the Pietermaritzburg

High Court. They were found guilty of the murders of Daniel de Bruin, 58, his wife Glynis de Bruin, 60, and his father-in-law Colin Schwegman, 84, on December 14, 2020.

The court heard that the incident happened after a labour dispute.

In handing down the sentence, Judge Nontuthuzelo Mlaba said: “Due to your dissatisfaction about not being eligible for Christmas bonuses, you attacked and killed the farm manager, who had nothing to do with the determination of working conditions.

“He, too, was an employee, just like you two. You did not stop there, you killed his wife and his father-in-law. They, too, had nothing to do with payment of bonuses. You deprived them of their right to life. No words can describe what you did,” Judge Mlaba said.

Kwanalu CEO Sandy la Marque said on Monday that the impact on a rural and farming community was severe when someone was attacked or murdered.

“There may be disinvestment, employment is affected, and it impacts on the production of agricultural products.”

La Marque added that Kwanalu encouraged all its members to implement sound safety and security arrangements.

“Kwanalu is concerned with the lack of visible policing, the failure to uphold law and order in many instances, the severe degradation of many SAPS vehicles, stations and other diminishing resources.”

Uys van der Westhuijzen, the Agri SA Centre of Excellence chairperson, said that farm attacks resulted in loss of lives, injuries and trauma for the victims and their families.

“Ensuring the safety and security of all citizens, including farmers and farmworkers, is a fundamental responsibility of any government. Agriculture plays a vital role in South Africa’s economy and food production. Attacks on farmers and farmworkers can disrupt agricultural activities, potentially leading to a decrease in food production and affecting food security in the country.”

He added that farm attacks could deter investments in the agricultural sector.

“Furthermore, the destruction of property and theft of assets can have severe financial consequences. A 2018 Agri SA crime survey estimated the total costs related to agriculture crime in 2017 and found that significant direct costs of R5.45 billion, and about R2.28bn indirect costs resulted, bringing the total costs to more than R7.7bn.”

He said the government had established specialised police units such as the Stock Theft and Endangered Species Unit to deal with rural crime, and community policing initiatives and efforts to improve intelligence gathering and co-ordination were being promoted.

“However, challenges remain, and Agri SA argues that more needs to be done to adequately protect farmers and farmworkers.”

THE MERCURY