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Brits - Farmers need to have firearms, the Brits Magistrate's Court heard on Wednesday.

"It is within the rights of farmers to possess firearms to protect themselves. Farmers need to be armed, they are attacked and killed," defence attorney Jeff Moyo said.

Moyo is presenting argument in the opposed bail application of Matthew Benson, 24, charged with the murder of Tebogo Ndlovu, 24, and attempted murder of two of Ndlovu's friends of Majakaneng near Brits on August 2.

The three allegedly went to the farm in Mooinooi near Brits to steal scrap metal, when Benson spotted them, chased them away and fired at them, hitting Ndlovu in the leg.

Ndlovu's friends picked him up and tried to run away with him, but left him as he was too heavy for them and ran away.

Moyo told the court Benson was not in possession of a firearm but has a pellet gun.

"Witnesses went to the farm to steal. It was within his right to have the BB gun [pellet gun], to threaten people stealing on the farm," he told the court.

He said the investigating officer Lieutenant Colonel Isaac Tlhapi testified that the two surviving men told the police they saw an unknown white man shooting at them with a long rifle while they were running away, and not a 9mm pistol.

"The evidence in court is that of a long rifle and not a 9mm pistol that was used. Look at the accused, he is young, energetic and flexible, there is no way they could not outrun him," he said after requesting Benson to stand up in the accused box.

He said it was in the interest of justice to grant Benson bail as the case against him was weak and the court would have no reasons to deny him bail.

He said the issue of public unrest was irrelevant, referring the court to the case of State against Pieter Doorewaard and Phillip Schutte in Coligny.  The two are accused of killing Matlhomola Mosweu, 16, but were granted bail.

"In the Coligny case it was a clear murder, unlike in this case where we do not have the deceased. The court in Coligny granted bail even when the community was toyi-toying and singing revolutionary songs outside the court.  The court [Coligny] ruled that it was in the interest of justice to grant bail and not to be held at ransom by the protesting crowd."

He said it was not only the court that must teach the general public how the law was applied but, political leaders must also help.

"In the Coligny matter, North  West premier Supra Mahumapelo told the community that the law must respected..."

He told the court Benson was willing to pay R2 000 bail, which his father would pay.

Prosecutor Cassius Mona, was expected to present the State's argument in opposing the bail application.

The matter continues.

African News Agency