An intense day in court was fuelled by the blazing heat, a packed courtroom and a very tense atmosphere, as the community had been led to believe that the man who shot a tractor driver in Tarlton on Saturday, 6 January, did so because of a racial issue, Krugersdorp News reports.
In Room C at the Krugersdorp Magistrates’ Court, the accused stood alongside his advocate, Deon Pool, who read the accused’s account of what happened on that fateful day to the court.
However, before he was able to start, an EFF member had to be forcefully removed from the gallery for making noises and yelling remarks at the magistrate.
In the affidavit, the accused, a security officer who owns the security company involved in the incident, mentioned that the deceased had allegedly previously caused trouble at the farm where he was employed.
He claimed that on Wednesday, 3 January, the farmworker went to the farm and broke into the shed where the tractor stood.
He allegedly damaged property inside the shed before he was approached by other security officers on site. He then allegedly slapped one of the officers in the face. On searching the employee’s belongings, the security officers allegedly found a bag containing a number of stones and a container of glue in his pocket.
To them it appeared that these items had been used to inhale the fumes given off by the glue. The security officer also claimed that employee had acted erratically, and seemed to be under the influence of something.
The employee was subsequently taken to the police station to ‘sleep it off’, but the police allegedly refused to detain him in a cell because they “needed to keep the cells open for more serious perpetrators”.
The security officers then allegedly took him to a four-way stop in Tarlton, where they dropped him off.
The accused also claimed that on Saturday, 6 January, his office received a call that the employee was back at the farm, and had taken the tractor without the permission of the owner. He had allegedly driven over a security gate to get off the farm.
The accused claimed further that the employee then drove from the farm towards his home in Tarlton, “swerving over the road and speeding”.
While in pursuit, the two security vehicles, one carrying the accused, and the second transporting other officers, allegedly tried to get the employee to stop. However, according to the accused’s affidavit, the employee swerved in front of them, trying to push them off the road and drive over their vehicle.
He claimed further that the man hit a child while driving, tried to drive over a cyclist and was headed straight into a crowd of people and clearly had no intention of stopping.
He also claimed that he called the owner of the tractor to ask permission to shoot the tractor’s tyres to stop it. The owner allegedly granted permission. He claims he fired six shots at the tyres but the tractor kept on moving.
Allegedly fearing for the safety of the community, the accused then fired two more shots in a final attempt to stop the tractor thief. A bullet hit the thief in the head and the tractor came to a standstill a few hundred metres further.
The accused said he stayed on site with a police officer, but after the community overturned one of their vehicles, slashed its tyres and threatened him and his team, he decided to leave the scene and go to the Tarlton Police Station, where he was arrested.
The State was then given a chance to give its version of the events.
The state agreed that the employee had taken the tractor from the farm, driven it towards to his home and was chased by the security officer.
However, the State tried to have the offence classified as a Schedule 6 offence, saying it was premeditated murder, not just culpable homicide. This claim was dismissed later, because the magistrate said there was no evidence to suggest that the killing was premeditated, as the accused had asked permission to fire at the wheels of the tractor, thus showing his intent to disable it rather than kill the driver.
The State then asked why, if the accused was so worried the thief would drive over someone, he discharged his weapon eight times, knowing that he might shoot a civilian?
The State also questioned whether a child was actually run over by the tractor, as no such docket was opened at the police station.
The State also attributed the actions of the accused to racism, saying that a great deal of racial tension was apparent in the recent behaviour of the farmers in the area.
After the magistrate had heard both statements, he made a decision – one that did not please the gallery.
Also read: EFF furious when Magistrate rules out racism
He carefully explained to the gallery why he could not attribute this particular case to racism. Firstly, he defined racism as ‘acts aimed specifically at one’s culture, language, or skin colour, among others’. Then he said the accused was called to the scene because a tractor had been removed from the property without the owner’s permission. He said the accused had not planned to shoot at that particular person because of his race or culture.
The magistrate confirmed that the accused had acted in a criminal manner because the thief had had the right to be taken to the police station and stand a fair trial if he had indeed stolen the tractor.
Despite the elaborate explanation, one of the EFF members started yelling at the magistrate, saying that he was being racist, and supporting the accused.
The gallery then erupted and started chanting, yelling and dancing, despite the heat, packed room and obvious rules made by the magistrate.
The magistrate then left the court, the accused was escorted to the cells below and the chanting crowd was asked to leave the room. Chaos reigned for about 10 minutes, and then silence descended on the courtroom.
There was finally room for the media to sit down and listen to the magistrate. The person who first yelled racist remarks at the magistrate returned, but was again told to leave the room because of her misconduct. She refused and the police grabbed her, pulled her outside and kept the doors closed for the remainder of the hearing.
The magistrate returned and briefly continued from where he left off. He reminded both the Defence and the State that this was a bail hearing, and matters such as evidence, motive, ballistics, post-mortem reports and whether it was culpable homicide or premeditated murder would be dealt with later, during the actual trial.
The accused was then granted bail under certain conditions, and a reappearance date was set, namely, Friday, 13 April.
Outside the court, members of the EFF, ANC, PAC and others were still chanting and pointing at the journalists while yelling “Kill the boer, kill the farmer” and “Die boer se m**r”.
Their leaders spoke to the media, saying that the colonialists should be eradicated and that they are disgusted by this act. They also said that the magistrate was unfair, biased and racist towards them.
The dire heat of the situation and the emotions of the gallery members were finally cooled by an unexpected, but very welcome, shower of rain.