It was a day of tension as angry white farmers and angrier Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) supporters faced off against each other in the formerly sleepy town of Senekal in the Free State yesterday, while the murder suspects of Brendin Horner from the nearby town of Paul Roux applied for bail.
Having learnt somewhat from their mistakes a week ago, there were more police officers, while razor wire blocked off the court and separated the farmers from the EFF. Both parties soon realised they were free to wander, and police narrowly prevented several scuffles turning into all-out war as the two groups came nose to nose with each other.
“Thank God it was peaceful,” Jaco Mathee, a farmer from Bethlehem said. “We are grateful no one was harmed today, no matter the colour of their skin.”
Political analyst Ralph Mathekga said yesterday the reality of the Senekal matter was about the failing justice system. “The sad part is both groups there are equally victims of the very same system,” he said.
“Had it not been for the failing justice system those groups would not be there today.”
That the matter was gaining a racial tone was “just the paraphernalia of South African politics”.
“At the core of it, it is the justice system failing the people. It is just unfortunate that groups are turning against each other.”
Sensitive and shocking details emerged from the bail application hearing of the two suspects, such as witness accounts of the suspects allegedly boasting about the “assault on a white man” at a tavern in Paul Roux and the discovery of bloody trousers in an old freezer in a shack.
Police Minister Bheki Cele, State Security Minister Ayanda Dlodlo, EFF leader Julius Malema and two other EFF members, Marshall Dlamini and Floyd Shivambu, were in the gallery. Sekwetje Mahlamba and his co-accused, Sekola Matlaletsa, were arrested this month.
Mahlamba denied knowing his co-accused and said the bloody clothes found in his shack were from a traditional festival where he slaughtered a sheep. He also insisted he spent the fatal night of Horner’s murder with his girlfriend. The state rejected his claims with affidavits from both the host of the traditional festival and his girlfriend proving otherwise. He, however, indicated he would plead not guilty as he did not know about the murder.
The investigating officer, Captain Gerhard Myburgh, testified about the gruesome details surrounding Horner’s death. The post-mortem indicated Horner had injuries to his face and had stab wounds to his head, shoulder, arm and in the knees. The cause of death was strangulation. Horner also had an abrasion to his right thigh, which indicated that he may have been dragged.
Cele said while a person was arrested for carrying an unlicensed firearm, pictures circulating on social media showing what looked like a trunk with guns being found by police in Senekal were not true, and probably old images.
He said there were about 300 ANC Youth League members, 2,500 EFF members and about 500 to 600 farmers.
– firstname.lastname@example.org; additional reporting by News24 Wire