An Eastern Cape farming couple – Takayina April, 66, and his wife Nontembiso April, 56 – was shot dead on their Draaifontein farm last Friday in front of their horrified teenage son.
According to a joint statement from two farming associations and a civic organisation, the incident happened amid a long-standing land dispute in the area which the couple was actively trying to resolve.
In a joint statement this week, the Cala University Students Association (Calusa), Siyazakha Land and Development Forum as well as the Inyanda National Land Movement called on the police to speedily bring the perpetrators to book.
“In the immediate term, we call upon the law enforcement agencies not to only investigate this heinous murder of the April couple, but to also provide protection to the remaining family members and other farm dwellers who are struggling for their land rights.
“We also call upon the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform to assist the family members and farm dwellers in similar positions to gain undisturbed land rights to the land they utilise on the farm.
“As Calusa and associated civil society organisations, we promise to honour the lives of the April family by carrying on with the struggle for land justice, equality and dignity that they were part of,” the group said in a statement.
It added the couple was gunned down by two unmasked men while working in their garden on Friday morning.
Eastern Cape police spokesperson Colonel Sibongile Soci said the motive for the killings was unknown and they would not speculate on it.
“According to information at the police’s disposal, two unknown men entered the farm pretending to be looking for their sheep. While the owner of the farm was responding to one of the suspects, [he] drew a firearm and started shooting. Both the husband and wife, 66 and 56, respectively, were fatally wounded and the suspects fled on foot,” added Soci.
He said the police were investigating two murder cases.
The farm is part of a cluster referred to as Beestekraal farms in the Sakhisizwe municipal area.
Calusa said in a statement the couple was shot in front of their 19-year-old son, who ran and sought assistance at a neighbouring farm.
It is not known what the motive for the shooting was.
The group added nothing was taken from the farm, fuelling speculation that it was a hit.
“Indications are that this was not robbery given that nothing was taken from the family house. All that we can say is that the April family and other farm dwellers in the area were and are engaged in ongoing battles for their rights to land they have lived on for decades and where their dead are buried. Mrs April in particular has been a formidable activist in the struggle for democratic governance and equitable access to land for all throughout South Africa,” it added.