Senekal farmers give govt 3 weeks to come up with rural safety plan

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The minister visited the Paul Roux and Bethlehem areas in the wake of the murder of a 21-year-old farmer earlier this month.

Police Minister Bheki Cele speaking to the leadership of farmers in Free State at Mitz Agricultural Union Hall. Picture: Abigail Javier/EWN

SENEKAL – Farmers in the Free State on Tuesday gave Police Minister Bheki Cele three weeks to come up with a solution to stop the violence in the area, warning that he could expect more violence if he failed.

Cele visited the Paul Roux and Bethlehem areas in the wake of the murder of a 21-year-old farmer earlier this month. Brendan Horner’s body was found tied to a pole with a rope around his neck.

Violence erupted in the Senekal community last week with farmers going on the rampage demanding suspects arrested for the murder be handed over.

A group of farmers gathered inside the Mitz Agricultural Union hall just outside Bloemfontein.

Cele addressed the group saying safety in farming was one of government’s priorities.

“Yes, the rural safety plan is there and all that, but we are working on the specifics of this area, the challenges with policing, and what will be done,” Cele said.

The minister promised to have a solid plan of action in three weeks, but Herkie Viljoen – who is one of the leaders in the area – warned Cele.

“You tell the people that you sent here, the knives are going to be out, the knives are going to be out. We will give them everything that we know so that they can properly investigate what is going on,” he said.

The two men accused of killing Horner were expected to appear in court on Friday.

FARMERS FEEL ‘ABANDONED’ BY GOVT

Meanwhile, farmers in Senekal said they felt abandoned by government with many believing they only had two choices – either retaliate when it comes to criminals or die at their hands.

“I’m begging for the last time to help us as government,” said Herkie Smit.

Another farmer, Daneman Smit, said as a farmer in South Africa, one had limited options.

“You have the choice of just simply leaving it. We are seeing more and more farms along the border with Lesotho that don’t have residents anymore who have left,” he said.

WATCH: We do our best, we ask that you do too – Senekal farmers plea for help from Cele



PROTESTS PLANNED FOR FRIDAY

At the same time, State Security Minister Ayanda Dlodlo on Wednesday said government and law enforcement agencies were prepared to deal with any possible violence in Senekal on Friday.

Two men are expected to appear in court on Friday in connection with the murder.

EFF leader Julius Malema on Tuesday called on his supporters to travel to Senekal to protest outside court, while lobby group AfriForum also planned to stage a demonstration against farm murders that same day.

Dlodlo said now was not the time to score cheap political points.

“We need to exercise some type of restraint because the tit for tat issues are not going to help us. We are trying our very best to ensure that we quell the simmering tensions that have arisen in that part of the country. There is much more we can do together rather than individually,” the minister said.

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