Protesters have warned white farmers who stormed a court building and damaged public property in the Free State that they would be “given war if they wanted it”.
IN WHAT has the potential to turn into a full-blown racial clash, angry protesters have warned white farmers who stormed a court building and damaged public property in the Free State that they would be “given war if they wanted it”.
The protesters at a march organised by the ANC Youth League (ANCYL) in the eastern Free State town of Senekal accused the farmers of using crime as an excuse to undermine a democratically elected government.
Speaking outside the Senekal police station, Free State ANCYL activist Sizophila Mkhize said the farmers who took part in the violent protest in the town this week were undermining the ANC government.
“Damaging government property is crime and that is not a way to solve a case. It’s not a way to solve the crime or show the anger. White people, by the way, have killed our people in numbers. Some of the people that have been killed never made it to the statistics or made it to the media.
“We are not condoning the killing of the farm manager, but we are saying that the killing that happened cannot be an excuse for white people to do what they did on Tuesday,” Mkhize said.
“If they want war, we are going to give them war. They killed our people and we have not forgotten. They killed Solomon Mahlangu, Chris Hani – a lot of our people. It’s just that we chose peace over violence.”
Mkhize denied that she was inciting violence, saying “we are responding to the violence that has been incited by white people”.
Free State ANCYL secretary Reagan Booysen agreed.
“What happened this week has shown us that white people are still at war and don’t believe that we are now living in a democratic South Africa. So we have to teach them a lesson and must send them to jail. What these people have done has undermined the elected government and it is upon our shoulders as the young people of the ANC to defend our government,” said Booysen.
This came after the farmers held a march outside the Senekal Magistrate’s Court this week over the killing of local farm manager Brendin Horner.
The farmers demanded that the police hand over the two suspects to them.
The protesters were seen in video footage storming the court building, damaging public property and trying to overturn a police Nyala while the suspects were inside.
They tipped over a police vehicle, climbed on top of it, and set it alight in full view of the police.
Once inside the court, the protesters overturned furniture and threw files around, according to police sources and security guards. Three gunshots were also fired inside the court building.
One of the march organisers read out a memorandum which demanded the resignation of Police Minister Bheki Cele and an “end to farm killings”, among other things.
Another group of farmers marched to the Union Buildings yesterday under the banner of “Unite Against Farm Murders”, calling for an end to the “senseless” killings of farmers.
This was despite the latest crime stats showing that farm murders in the country accounted for 48 of the 21 325 cases in the 2019/20 financial year.
EFF president Julius Malema has joined the fray and has urged party members to “attack” in defence of “our democracy and property”, saying President Cyril Ramaphosa was “scared to respond decisively”.
The DA said on Thursday it will refer Malema and EFF MP Nazier Paulsen to Parliament’s ethics committee over their recent social media posts which appear to incite violence.
Meanwhile BLF president Andile Mngxitama has called on Ramaphosa to guarantee the safety and right to fair trial of the two murder suspects, adding that “when whites murder blacks, they are assumed to be innocent until proven otherwise”.
Interim DA leader John Steenhuisen said the violence at the Senekal protest was unhelpful because “the mission should be to bring the perpetrators to justice” rather than “tear each other apart”.
Racial tensions and fear were apparent in Senekal this week as residents spoke in hushed tones to reporters about the situation in the area.
Most of the people who agreed to speak anonymously said that while the community was utterly disgusted by Horner’s brutal murder, it did not justify the subsequent “intimidation” by white farmers.
“Seeing how guns were randomly carried and hearing the K-word hurled at us was very upsetting. I don’t think the trauma can easily be forgotten,” said a local resident.
“The manner in which the streets were closed, with no place for us to walk and seeing some street hawkers close their businesses due to the intimidation was proof of how the SAPS is still very selective in how they deal with us. If that amount of chaos was caused by a group of black people, we would be visiting some of them in hospital with rubber bullet wounds and a large number would be in jail as we speak.”
Moselantja Dibakwane, another resident, concurred. “It’s like black people have no rights. I mainly blame the police because they knew a day before that the group was planning to come demonstrate. Why didn’t they prepare themselves? Now we are worried that a similar situation might happen next week again because these people are armed. We are left naked against them,” Dibakwane said.
Free State provincial police spokesperson Brigadier Motantsi Makhele declined to comment on allegations that the police treated black and white protesters differently.
He said the police had arrested a 52-year-old farmer on charges of malicious damage to property and public violence, in connection with the “violent eruption” in Senekal.
Cele’s spokesperson, Lirandzu Themba, said the minister wanted more arrests because “he does believe that this was not a lone act that seeks to undermine the rule of law”.
Justice Minister Ronald Lamola called on law enforcement agencies “to ensure that the rule of law is maintained”. He added that the Senekal incident was “an inexcusable assault on the rule of law and the criminal justice system”.
Dr Theo de Jager, the executive board chairperson of the Southern African Agri Initiative (SAAI), said what happened in Senekal was a spontaneous march against farm killings and the lack of action by the law enforcement agencies.
“First of all, they wanted to show that they share in the pain with the family and the community that lost the boy. Secondly, I think it was a display of the disappointment in the system coupled with the raw anger and frustration in the frequency of these cases, and thirdly I think people feel that they can no longer sit and watch as these happen. So they mobilised to be a part of it,” De Jager added.
“The demonstration in Senekal was not an organised one, but a large number of farmers came from all parts of the province and as far as Namibia.”
Political analyst Dr Somadoda Fikeni believes that what transpired in Senekal was a sign of a weak State and law enforcement agencies.
“It is possible that these farm groupings realised that the law is weak, and it has been weaker when it comes to white because people feel that they will sue.
“This situation when left unattended, it only benefits the extreme right wing or left wing forces which relish any conflictual environment taken away from social cohesion. That is the tragedy of all these situations when you leave people desperate for a long time,” added Fikeni.