Durban - A night away in town and the quick thinking of an employee helped save a Vryheid farmer who had his property invaded by an armed gang on Tuesday morning.

Last week Metzelfontein Farm owner, Gertman Janse van Rensburg, 29, caught a man stealing stock on his farm. It is believed the man was one of the gang who attacked the farm on Tuesday.

Vryheid AfriForum representative Eugene van Aswegen said Janse van Rensburg did not sleep at the farm the night before last, but slept in town.

“This morning (Tuesday), when his people arrived to work at the farm, they were overpowered by the robbers. One of them (the workers) escaped and phoned the farmer,” he said.

Police spokesman Colonel Jay Naicker said police were investigating charges of armed robbery and attempted murder. An inquest had been opened into the killing of a robber.

“Farmworkers were attacked by a group of suspects who asked for the farm owner. They were held at gunpoint and tied up. One of the workers escaped and called for help. The farm watch, together with Vryheid police, responded and a shoot-out ensued. One suspect was fatally shot and one was wounded,” Naicker said.

The four suspects were apprehended with the help of the Vryheid K9 Unit. “Three unlicensed firearms were recovered. All the suspects are aged between 20 and 45,” he said.

They would appear in the Vryheid Magistrate’s Court.

The head of security for the KwaZulu-Natal Agricultural Union, Koos Marais, said loss of life was “always regretted” but he commended the workers’ vigilance.

“Unfortunately, events like this end up in trauma for everyone involved. Robbers need to know that farmers are not soft targets,” he said. The union appreciated the “quick reaction of the SAPS“.

“Vryheid does have its share of farm attacks, but there’s been success in the prevention and follow-up in all the farm attacks in Vryheid.” Dairy farmer Willem Weites was murdered in the area last October.

The Mercury