Johannesburg - Bail granted to Sekola Piet Matlaletsa, one of the accused in the murder of farm manager, 21-year-old, Brendin Horner, has been met with mixed feelings from the farming community.
Sekwetje Isaiah Mahlamba (32) and Matlaletsa (44) had this week appeared for a bail hearing at the Senekal Magistrate’s Court in the Free State town that was last week a scene of confrontation between members of the EFF, farmers and some right-wing Afrikaner organisations armed with guns.
The police stood as a buffer between the warring factions and prevented physical confrontation.
According to the president of the World Agricultural Organisation (WAO) Dr Theo de Jager, there was a great expectation that there would be no bail granted to the accused especially given the drama with 52-year-old Andre Pienaar who is facing charges of inciting a mob and damage to property after farmers went on the rampage in Senekal.
“There are four things at play here. The application of that Pienaar guy, the judge referred to the farmers and he is not a farmer. None of those guys were farmers. The farmers say ‘don’t brand us’ and the judge should have made sure of his facts,” he said adding that this is not a farmers’ thing.
“But the general feeling among the farmers is that there should be equality before the law. It is extremely important that though we dispute everything else, everybody else must be able to trust the integrity of the law,” he said.
De Jager also stressed that farmers are calling for the courts to make sure that when they grant bail, they do not perpetuate the threat in rural safety.
He said an atmosphere of unity has been forged between the rest of the farmers across South Africa in the light of the Senekal incidents.
“It was the bail applications that brought farmers together than ever before. I have been involved in organised agriculture for 20 years now and never before have I seen the legitimate voice of black farmers such as the African Farmers’ Association of South Africa (Afasa), coming to a place like Senekal and addressing a crowd of predominantly white farmers, promoting the taking care of each other and not allowing us as farmers to be polarised as the farming community,” he said. “I really went away from Senekal quite excited about the voice of black farmers that came through and the unity that has been forged. This crisis has forged a new unity,” he said.
The secretary-general of Afasa Nakana Masoka, who has been a farmer for 24 years, confirmed that there is now a solidification of unity among farmers.
“Our going to Senekel when everyone was mobilising was to say we sympathise with the Horner family as farmers and we would like the death of Horner to be seen as a death of a farmer and not a white farmer because the attacks on farmers are not race based.
“The theft of livestock on farms is not race based, so firstly we need not racialise this man’s death. A crime has been committed and it is a crime against a farmer.
“We need not to politicise the plight of farmers. The fact that farmers, both black and white, are being attacked and killed is not meant to score cheap political points. For us it is a very serious matter, a life and death matter to us and our families.”
Masoka was also recently a victim of stock theft when 17 of his cattle were stolen in Kroonstad, Free State, alongside numerous other attacks on black farmers that he believes are not getting the same amount of publicity.
“In the beginning of this year, a black woman farmer was attacked in the southern parts of Bloemfontein, in the Thabo Mofutsanyana District, Mr Motaung was killed this year and in the Free State, there are four cases that are in the court.
“Two black farmers and two white farmers were attacked. So that is where we are failing, where we fail to identify all attacks as equally important and give an impression that only white farmers are being attacked.
“If the police do not not hold hands with farmer organisations to improve security in the rural areas, we are opening up for these vigilante groups to formulate and consolidate themselves,” he said.