Louisenhof farm along the R304 near Stellenbosch. Farm owner Stefan Smit was killed during a robbery. File photo: Henk Kruger African News Agency (ANA).
Cape Town - Farming organisations blamed “lawlessness” for the murder of Louisenhof Wine farm owner Stefan Smit in Stellenbosch.

Christo van der Rheede, Agri SA deputy executive director, said: “The agriculture sector is angry and disturbed by the continuous killings of farmers and farmworkers.”

He said Agri SA was appealing for effective measures to be put in place “to stop the culture of lawlessness that is affecting everyone from the Cape Flats to truckers on the highways to farmers, and farmworkers”.

Bennie van Zyl, general manager of the Transvaal Agricultural Union of SA said: “The lawlessness is an unacceptable situation. There is runaway crime everywhere, in townships, cities and farms.”

Agriculture MEC Ivan Meyer said, “An attack on a farmer or an agri worker is an attack on our rural economy and we must put a stop to this.

“We must defend our rural economy against crime and lawlessness.”

Police reported that Smit was killed in his house on Sunday by a group of home invaders.

Western Cape police spokesperson Andre Traut said four suspects ambushed the farmer, his wife and a friend while they were having supper at around 6.50pm. “The suspects shot the farmer and tied up his wife and the friend. They fled with personal belongings, a handbag and cellphones.”

Smit was a member of VinPro, the company that regulates the production of wine in the Western Cape.

VinPro chairperson Anton Smuts said: “Farm attacks are on the rise and now increasingly affecting the South African wine industry. We call on President Cyril Ramaphosa to take a strong stance against this country-wide attack on the agricultural sector and take action to improve safety.”

Smuts urged the wine farming community to be vigilant with regard to their own security and work together by becoming involved in policing or safety initiatives.

Echoing this call, Christo van der Rheede urged more farmers to join up with Agri SA’s safety structures saying that they had set up a National Rural Safety Strategy, which aimed to collaborate with the police, to combat crime.

Van Zyl said: “The government needs to stand up for farmers, as their silence on the issue of farm murders might begin to seem like they are condoning the killings.”

Smit gave an interview to the New York Times in March, in which he spoke about the threat of land grabs on his property. The wine farmer had complained about how citizens from a nearby township had begun erecting shacks on his farm.

He told the publication, “I have received threats before, where they said they would burn me alive.”

Smit eventually got a court interdict against the squatters.

Following the killing, Meyer, Community Safety MEC Albert Fritz and the executive mayor of Stellenbosch Municipality, Gesie Deventer, and other role-players such as Agri Western Cape, the Stellenbosch Landbou Genootskap and the Devon Valley Farmer’s Association met and issued a call for the establishment of a specialised SAPS rural safety unit, the creation of a rural intelligence centre and engaging the National Prosecuting Authority to prioritise serious cases.

The meeting also resolved that a meeting should be convened by Premier Alan Winde on Thursday with the executive of Agri Western Cape.

Cape Argus