Durban - A Winterton farmer was found dead in his wheelchair with strangulation marks on his neck last Saturday. Neil McKay, 46, of Skietrif Farm in the Midlands was described as a humble and hardworking man who was completely independent.
Colin Autrum, owner of Drak Fencing, said McKay sold vegetables he grew and chickens he reared on a small farm to survive.
Autrum said it was possible that a criminal had information and took advantage of McKay because he lived on his own.
He been confined to a wheelchair after he survived a shooting when he was 20 years old.
“The incident had placed him on a wheelchair ever since. His attack was not an isolated incident. There is so much that needs to be done to protect farmers because there is so much lawlessness. My phone rings every morning to report either housebreakings, stolen vehicles or livestock theft,” said Autrum.
He said the rise of crime on farms had prompted farmers to request his services to fence their family homes. Farm attacks were a complicated issue with police’s hands full – with very few resources to catch criminals.
“Police are demoralised with not enough cars to chase criminals. With no resources to fight crime, police patrols become limited. Even after arresting bad guys they get out of jail quickly, sometimes with no convictions. Victims have lost faith in the police system to the extent that they do not report crime except when it is for insurance purposes,” he said.
Autrum claimed most farmers preferred enlisting the services of the most expensive private security for safety of their families and livestock.
KwaZulu-Natal Agricultural Union (Kwanalu) spokesperson Sandy La Marque said the organisation was concerned with the level of violence on farms. She said Kwanalu was committed to finding solutions. It has created a security desk with resources, to address land issues and rural development, including economic reform.
She said Kwanalu officials had been to the home of McKay to offer support to his mother.
“What is of utmost concern is the level of violence. We had a disabled man on a wheelchair, someone who posed no threat but was murdered for cash. We really need the police and leaders in the province to stand up against crime,” she said.
La Marque said without farmers there would be a shortage of food and jobs would dry out. She also said there was no evidence produced in court that a sour relationship between a farm dweller and farmer was the cause of violent attacks. She said both black and white farmers have become victims of crime due to lawlessness.
“There is a disregard for law and order. More must be done by the government, politicians, leaders, to address the crime that is taking place in our rural areas. We need less politics and theatrics and more genuine action,” said La Marque.
She was referring to the murder of Glen and Vida Rafferty and their dog.
DA MP Alf Lees from Uthukela district said it was not a racial issue because both black and white farmers were killed. He said police needed to bolster farm patrols to prevent stock theft and violent attacks on farmers.
Lees described McKay as a gentle and friendly man of peace who apparently refused to carry or even own a gun, while living alone on a farm where his now deceased father allowed his beloved son to cultivate from a wheelchair.
“The murderer(s) apparently attacked Neil in his office in the farm shed immediately after the farm manager and staff left for their homes on Friday evening. It appears they were watching and attacked defenceless Neil once he was alone. They cleaned out the safe first, then they apparently dragged Neil to his room where they brutally strangled him to death,” said Lees.
He said McKay’s dogs clearly did their best to defend him and were savagely cut up but, judging by the blood at the scene, it appears the dogs were successful in injuring those who killed him.
Police spokesperson Captain Nqobile Gwala said police were investigating McKay’s murder and no arrest had been made.