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Bail for farmer accused of racist attack

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Van Niekerk had driven over Mosienyane several times with his bakkie after he and a friend tried to leave the farmer’s land

Johannes van Niekerk who is accused of a racist attack on an EFF member. Picture: Soraya Crowie

THE HARTSWATER farmer who allegedly drove over an EFF official was granted bail of R25 000 in the Hartswater Magistrate’s Court on Monday morning.

Petrus Johannes van Niekerk, 63, has been charged with attempted murder, crimen injuria and assault with intent to do grievous bodily harm after he allegedly drove over EFF member, Shimmy Mosienyane, with his bakkie and hurled racial insults at him.

Mosienyane was apparently trying to take a short cut through Van Niekerk’s farm as protesters were fleeing from the police, who had fired stun grenades and rubber bullets, during a service delivery protest last week.

Hartswater magistrate Sarah Dowries noted the State’s objection to granting bail.

She, however, pointed out that despite threats from the community, there had been no evidence of any destruction of Van Niekerk’s property or that his life or safety was in danger, since the incident took place.

“The SAPS are there to ensure the safety of persons and property.”

She indicated that the matter would in all likelihood be referred to the regional court.

“It will be up to the regional court to decide on the guilt or innocence of the accused. There does not appear to be any danger of the accused evading his trial or that he will intimidate or influence witnesses, or that public safety will be undermined.”

Dowries pointed out that there were about 30 community members who were employed on Van Niekerk’s farm.

“These are part of the individuals who are protesting outside the court building. About five households stand to lose their only means of income should Van Niekerk remain in custody.”

During the bail hearing on Wednesday last week, the investigating officer, Sergeant Tebogo Markus, testified that van Niekerk had driven over Mosienyane several times with his bakkie after he and a friend tried to leave the farmer’s land.

“The accused drove to the complainant and his friend. He got out of the bakkie and asked the two men what they were doing on the farm and that he did not want k****** on his farm. He told them to get off.

“The two men had their hands in the air and said that they were just walking to the location. The accused again said that he did not want k****** on his premises. The men then turned around and walked away.

“As they were walking off, the accused got into the vehicle and chased them. The men split up and the accused went after the complainant. The accused tried to hit the complainant several times and eventually managed to hit him.

“The complainant fell to the ground and the accused drove over him with the bakkie. The accused then reversed and again drove over the complainant. He drove to the front and again drove over the complainant. The complainant was lying under the vehicle and tried to get out of from under it,” said Markus.

He stated that Van Niekerk had continued to assault Mosienyane, who pleaded with Van Niekerk to call emergency services.

“The complainant was lying near the driver’s side of the vehicle. The complainant asked the accused to call an ambulance. The accused got out of the bakkie and kicked the complainant in the chest and again said he did not want k****** on his premises.”

Markus said that after the police were dispatched to the scene, they went in search of the accused after Mosienyane was transported to hospital by an ambulance.

He said, however, that they could not find the accused, even days after the incident.

“We went to the home of the accused and found his son. The son told us that his father had left but did not know where to. We enquired about his mother and he said that she had gone to Petrusville. On Sunday, we went to the house about three times. We also called the accused but his phone was off.

“The accused handed himself over to police on Monday and said that his phone was broken,” Markus added.

He also indicated to the court that no case of trespassing was opened by the accused when he handed himself over.

State prosecutor James Dada said that the incident was “unnecessary”.

“This incident happened during service protests and more than 100 people were arrested. The complainant and his friend almost met their untimely death during this time. There has been no evidence of theft or that the accused was under attack. It was an unnecessary attack,” said Dada.

He cautioned the court that should Van Niekerk be released, it may lead to unrest and violence in the community.

“The focus of the community has shifted from the service protests to the incident before the court. This incident has angered the community as it was also a leader of a political party who was involved in the incident. The release of the accused might lead to bloodshed, as is evident from the placards that supporters of the complainant have showcased outside court. There have also been threats that the house of the accused would be burnt down. It is clear that the accused will not be safe if he is released,” Dada said.

Van Niekerk’s legal representative, Sakkie Nel, argued that the threats were not an indication that the community would carry out their plans.

“None of the threats have been carried out. Nobody has attempted to burn the farm; it is only a small number of EFF supporters and not the entire community who are angered by the incident.

“We understand the unhappiness but that has nothing to do with the innocence of a person or whether they should be granted bail,” said Nel.

The matter was postponed until May 30.