THE MURDER AT PAUL ROUX, FREE STATE, SOUTH AFRICA : On the evening of Thursday, 01 October 2020, Brendin Horner was murdered at the gates of De Rots, the farm near Paul Roux, Eastern Free State , South Africa, where he was employed as a farm manager. Two suspects, Sekwetje Isaiah Mahlamba and Sekola Piet Matlaletsa, were arrested on 03 October 2020 for the gruesome murder of the young farmer. One of the accused, Piet Matlaletsa, has already been granted bail in the amount of R5 000.00 by the magistrate’s court on the grounds that there is not enough evidence at this stage linking him with the commission of the crime. Brendin was only 21 years of age at the time of his murder, a young and hard working farmer with a bright future ahead of him. Although the suspects have denied liability for the murder, the state prosecutor has told the court that the accused had boosted to their friends at a local tavern in Fateng tse Ntsho township near Paul Roux, about attacking a white man shortly after the murder. The clothes of one of the accused were found with blood stains and were seized by the police. Clothes belonging to the second accused were found to have been freshly washed.
THE PLIGHT OF WHITE FARMERS IN SOUTH AFRICA: White farmers are under siege in South Africa to say the least. The murder of Brendin Horner once again focused the spotlight on their plight in South Africa. They appear to be disproportionately targeted by criminal elements taking the number of white farmers into account. All measures that the farmers are taking on their own to beef up security on farms appear to be ineffective against the criminal gangs. The criminals can easily disguise themselves as bona fide farm workers and pounce when the farmer least expect it. The farmers also do not have adequate resources to take complete security precautions.The murders are taking place all over the country and at such an alarming rate that the government and the police appear to be clueless on how to tackle the scourge. Speaking on SAFM, Free State MEC for Agriculture, Mr William Bulwana, said that since the police have acknowledged that they do not have adequate resources to curb farm attacks, he has discussed the security situation with the farmers and they agreed to re-introduce the commando system, where the farmers themselves form patrol units, to supplement the services provided by the police. The farmers or Boers, as they prefer to be called. have been using the commando system to defend themselves since their arrival in South Africa about 370 years ago. They used the system with great success during the Anglo-Boer War of 1899-1902. The commandos consists of a local militia with a right to bear arms and can be mobilised within minutes when the security of the local area required them to do so. The commandos are headed by a commandant, who reports to a general responsible for four commandos, who in turn reports to the General of the Defence Force, the SANDF, who reports to the head of state. The commandos at local level are deployed under the supervision of the local police. The commandos were abolished in 2003 and replaced with the police forums which were designed to be inclusive of black and white citizens. However, the farmers have not fully benefited from the police forums as these are more suited for urban deployment. The farmers still believe that the commandos were a much better organised system for the rural areas. Since the abolition of the commandos, attacks on farmers have sky-rocketed with many of them resulting in the torture, rape and murder of the victims.
THE MOTIVES FOR THE MURDERS: In the majority of the farm attacks, the victims are white and the perpetrators are black men between the ages of 18 and 56 which raises the question as to what the psychology of the murderers is. There are instances where black farm workers have also been attacked. In the Brendin Horner case, the two accused are said to have boosted about attacking a white man on a farm the next day at a tavern. The farmers believe that the attackers were part of a stock theft syndicate and Brendin may have surprised them in the act. In nearly all of the cases, robbery is a motive for the attack. However, there are some farmers who believe that the attacks may be politically motivated as in some cases, the attackers would break into a farm house and when they find the owners absent, they wait for them to return and attack them. Most farms are isolated and it takes a while before any help can arrive even when the farmers were able to raise the alarm during an attack.
REACTION BY ORGANISED AGRICULTURE: Organisations representing farmers, such as Afriforum, have said that this is genocide and have called on the international community to intervene on behalf of the farmers as the South African government appears to be having no political will to tackle the problem. The problem appears to be exacerbated by the rhetoric of political parties and organisations to the left of the political spectrum who appear to be using hate language against the farmers and linking the attack on farmers with the with the issue of land redistribution in South Africa.These parties may appear to be supportive of the perpetrators of the crimes as when the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) organised a march into Senekal during the appearance of the two accused in court with the aim of opposing the protesting farmers in that town.This appears to be leaving the government paralysed because they cannot prioritize farm murders when there are other forms of crime that are also out of control. The government in turn, has accused these organisations of unnecessarily stirring up problems for South Africa.
Paul Roux, FREE STATE: Paul Roux was established as a poskoets (post coach) station and officially proclaimed on 09 May 1909 and was named after a well-known Dutch Reformed Church leader- Reverend Paul Roux, with the first church being built at the height of the First World War in May 1914 and only completed in October 1917. The first school in Paul Roux was established on 08 October 1912 with 52 pupils and Mr HJJ van Rensburg as its principal. Former state President, PW Botha, was born on the farm Telegraaf in Paul Roux on 12 January 1916. He started school in Paul Roux and proceeded to Bethlehem where he matriculated. Other famous residents of Paul Roux include artists, Peter van Reenen, Anton Grove’, Wiets van Rensburg, Hanli de Lange, Namma Brits, Josaia Mosias, Rosemarie Schutze and Edward van der Berg. The magistrates’ court for Paul Roux is situated at Senekal.
THE CONSEQUENCES OF THE FARM ATTACKS: When the commando system was still in place until 2003, there were virtually no farm murders. Which goes to show that the system was effective in curbing the farm attacks. Whoever came up with the idea of disbanding the system clearly had no vision on the subject of farm attacks. As a result of the farm attacks, young people who were considering farming as a career have abandoned their plans as they feel that the risks are too high. This resulted in the number of commercial farmers declining from 120 000 in 1997 to about 30 000, today putting the country at risk for food shortages. It is time that South Africans unite in support of the farmers and take a stand against criminals. Those who choose to support the criminals are an embarrassment to this beautiful country. The truth is that South Africa needs its farmers to keep on working the land and support the economy.
Whatever the situation is, it appears that the re-introduction of the commando system, as it was done in the Free State, is the answer for the farmers. Dr Theo de Jager, President of the International Farmers’ Association addressed the farmers in Senekal. He said to them that: ” We are on our own. We can expect no assistance from the government.” These are very strong words indeed, but probably true. The police minister, General Bheki Cele, also visited the farming community in Senekal. He promised that his department will take drastic action against criminal elements terrorising the farming community. Perhaps it is time that South Africa look at the re-introduction of the death penalty to try and confront violent crime. It may have been an error of judgment to abolish it as we did then.