Kimberley - As news broke of an attack on a well-known Kimberley businessman, Piet Els, 87, and his partner Magrietha “Rikkie” Alsemgeest, 67, on his farm just outside Kimberley on Wednesday, residents expressed their shock and disbelief at the violent incident, with many describing it as senseless and barbaric.
Els and Alsemgeest were admitted to the high care unit at Mediclinic Gariep on Wednesday after they were brutally assaulted by four unknown men.
According to Alsemgeest, who spoke from her hospital bed on Wednesday, the attackers fled with firearms, Krugerrands, jewellery and cellphones.
The provincial chairperson of the ANC, Zamani Saul, on Wednesday extended his sympathy to the victims and their families.
“Farm attacks are very jeopardising to the country,” Saul said.
“As a party, we want to extend our sympathy to the family and wish the speedy recovery of Els and Alsemgeest. We call on the police to act swiftly and arrest the perpetrators.”
The DA provincial chairperson and chief whip of the provincial caucus, Harold McGluwa, called for stringent measures to be implemented for the protection of rural communities.
“We continue to witness a decline in the safety of the rural Northern Cape. It is critical that more needs to be done to address crime in our Province and in our country,” said McGluwa.
“Well co-ordinated and urgent efforts by the SAPS are urgently required if the police are ever to take back their hold on crime. We need more police officers, better training and additional vehicles in the vast Northern Cape.
“To ensure the safety of all farming communities, government also needs to establish specialised rural safety units within the SAPS, deploy specialised rural reaction units to clearly identify rural crime ‘hot spots’ on a rotating basis, improve rural crime intelligence gathering and create an SAPS rural intelligence centre that will improve the gathering and analysing of rural crime information and thus better inform crime prevention initiatives.
“The DA cannot tolerate a situation whereby people residing in the Northern Cape must live in a constant state of fear. Every person deserves to feel safe and protected in South Africa, including those people living in rural areas.
“The DA extends our sympathy to the Els family for a full and speedy recovery of their loved ones,” added McGluwa.
The provincial chairperson of the Freedom Front Plus, Wynand Boshoff, cautioned politicians against stoking racial tensions.
“While the Northern Cape has perceived itself rather free from the scourge of farm attacks, this high-profile incident has shocked everyone to reality,” said Boshoff.
“The question persists whether this is a crime against a wealthy person or whether it was politically motivated.
“I would not venture to say that this and other attacks are centrally orchestrated but irresponsible slants against landowners, which were several times directed against Els personally, certainly create an explosive situation.
“This always raises the question of whether we are dealing with a ‘normal’ crime or a politically-motivated one. In this case, Mr Els’ status as a prominent landowner near Kimberly must be taken into account.
“Over the last few months, politicians in the Sol Plaatje municipal council repeatedly referred to Mr Els in the context of expropriation without compensation as a way of getting hold of land for low-cost housing developments.
“The particulars of the attack are not known, and it is regrettable that politicians may have possibly paved the way for such attacks by making irresponsible statements.
“Politicians should refrain from cultivating soil to hate crime. We also call on the law to take its course to determine the real motive behind this specific crime.”
Agri Northern Cape general manager, Henning Myburgh, said that the attack on farmers could not solely be blamed on racism.
“We extend our sympathies to the loved ones of both victims as they were both brutally attacked. Any attack of this nature, whether on a farm or in the communities, taints the image of the Northern Cape. Crime in the Province is a problem as it is a continuous matter that we need to root out,” said Myburgh.
“Farmers are prone to be attacked as they are staying alone and far from where they can reach help easily. Research has shown that such attacks are not due to racism but rather because farmers are easy targets as they are staying alone.
“The increase in attacks in the Province is worrisome.
“The Northern Cape had a lower number of attacks than the Free State and North West.”
Myburgh added that they are working hand-in-hand with law enforcement agencies to curb such incidents.
“We are working with the police to fight the situation and also to educate people on how to protect themselves,” said Henning.
Alsemgeest’s business partner at Kimberley Clothing also indicated that she was extremely shocked by the incident.
As the news spread on social media on Wednesday, members of the public also expressed their shock and disgust at the incident.
“It is very sad what happened,” one resident said. “I hope they get better and that the people who did this are caught”.
Another person said: “I’m just glad that they are alive but the psychological scars will take forever to heal, keeping both in my prayers, I’m truly saddened.”
“No one deserves that to happen to them,” was another comment received, while many said that it was “unnecessary to perform such cruel, barbaric and violent acts, especially on an elderly, defenceless couple”.
The Sol Plaatje Municipality on Wednesday also condemned the brutal attack on Els.
“As a city we will work with the police so that those responsible will be brought to book. This is not only for him but for all those who have recently been attacked. We wish him a speedy recovery,” spokesperson Sello Matsie said.
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