Man slain with panga on Midlands smallholding

By Kailene Pillay Time of article published Jun 8, 2020

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Durban - Entrepreneur and owner of Gunther’s Sausages, Edi Neumeister, was hacked to death with a panga on his smallholding in Balgowan in the KZN Midlands on Saturday.

KwaZulu-Natal Agricultural Union (Kwanalu) chief executive Sandy la Marque said this was the second murder on a smallholding this year, while eight farm attacks had been recorded thus far.

Neumeister, 69, was the owner of Gunther’s Sausages, a popular eatery specialising in Swiss sausages and German beer on the Midlands Meander.

He was in his workshop when a panga-wielding man attacked him.

According to a police source, it is alleged that a man walked on to the farm and demanded cash from Neumeister. The source said the suspect gained easy access on to the smallholding and into the workshop where Neumeister was working.

Neumeister was co-operative with the suspect, but he was dragged into the house and hacked to death.

“There was blood everywhere. It was a brutal attack,” said the source.

Neumeister’s girlfriend managed to escape from the farm and ran to alert security stationed at the nearby Michaelhouse Boarding School, said the source. Speaking to The Mercury from Germany yesterday, Neumeister’s son, Tommy, said he could not believe his father had been murdered on the farm he had built from scratch.

“I worry about him and also call to check on him. I feel as if a part of me is missing that a part of me has been ripped out. I cannot explain what we are going through as a family,” he said.

He described Neumeister as “proud father and grandfather who was known for his jovial and generous personality”.

“My father was born in Austria and came to South Africa in the early ’60s. We lived in Johannesburg but I went to school in KZN. After I finished school, I wanted to return to KZN. Eventually we found this smallholding next to Gunther’s Sausages.

“When Gunther retired in 2009, we took over the business. My father became an icon in the area. It was not just because of the sausages and beer, but he would welcome anyone to sit with him and have a drink. He loved having people around and running the business,” Tommy said.

He said he last spoke to his father last Sunday, which was a routine weekly call for them to catch up.

Tommy said his father loved their Sunday calls as he enjoyed speaking to his 3-year-old grandson.

“We would wish each other well for the week. I cannot believe that this Sunday, instead of speaking to him, I am dealing with his death,” added Tommy.

Emotional and struggling to speak, Tommy said he often read about the farm attacks in South Africa but never imagined they would fall victim to one.

“This needs to stop. I don’t want anyone to ever go through what we are going through right now. More needs to be done to keep farmers and those living on smallholdings safe,” he said.

Tommy said his father’s girlfriend was recovering and did not want her name published in the newspaper.

La Marque said that while every farm attack was analysed, a common thread among all attacks was the low level of security on the properties.

She urged all those living and working on farms and smallholdings to make an effort to join their farm watch and community safety groups.

“Another common thread is the socio-economic circumstances linked to these attacks. With the lockdown lifting, it seems like crime is increasing. There is no doubt that poor socio-economic circumstances are the driving force behind crime in rural areas.

“In this instance, we call on more visible policing to take place. We have a good relationship with police and they have been very good in responding to farm attacks. However, there is always room for improvement,” she said.

DA KZN spokesperson on Agriculture and Rural Development, Chris Pappas, said they had repeatedly called for more action from the provincial government for the protection of KZN’s farming and rural communities.

Among the interventions, Pappas said they suggested the direct subsidising of security initiatives such as farm patrols and farm watches, the utilisation of technology including CCTV cameras and drones to protect rural and hot-spot areas, the subsidising of a citizen band radio network, the introduction and support of rural policing units that worked with local crime prevention initiatives, and the establishment of a provincial rural safety directorate.

KZN Premier Sihle Zikalala strongly condemned the brutal killing of Neumeister.

He called on law-enforcement agencies to work around the clock to ensure that the perpetrators were speedily brought to book.

Zikalala has also requested Transport, Community Safety and Liaison MEC Bheki Ntuli, as well as Agriculture and Rural Development MEC Bongi Sithole-Moloi to work with enforcement agencies to ensure that the safety of rural farming communities was prioritised.

He added that violent crime would not be tolerated and warned that those who committed such acts would be dealt with harshly.

In response to the claims by the DA, spokesperson for the police ministry, Lirandzu Themba, said they reserved comment for now.

The Mercury

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