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‘We want to occupy the land,’ says EFF’s Malema at Senekal farm murder protest

Economic Freedom Fighter leader Julius Malema said outside the Senekal magistrate’s court on Friday that the EFF members were protesting there because they want black people to own land in South Africa. 

“Let me tell you why we are here. These white boers are not here because of the farm murders, they are here to use this farm murder to address the issue of the land,” said Malema. “They think they can use this farm murder to intimidate us. Stop [us] talking about the land and move away from demanding the land.”   

Other groups were also protesting on the streets of Senekal in the eastern Free State on Friday, where racial tensions had flared last week during the first appearance of two men arrested in connection with the murder of Brendan Horner. Protesters vandalised court property and set a police van alight.

The  21-year-old farm manager was murdered on 2 October. He was attacked, stabbed and tied to a gate 400m from his home on a farm in the Paul Roux area. 

The two accused, Sekwetje Isaiah Mahlamba, 32, and Sekola Piet Matlaletsa, 44, are residents of Takalatse in Fateng-Tse-Ntsho township in Paul Roux. They have denied any involvement in the murder and their bail application has been postponed to Tuesday. 

Outside the court, lobby group AfriForum also staged a “peaceful protest action against farm terror”. 

AfriForum chief executive Kallie Kriel said in a statement on Thursday that the organisation has the right to be furious about murders such as that of Horner. “AfriForum believes that it is important that the fair cause of claiming action against farm murders is not polluted by those who want to bring the fight against farm murders into disfavour.” 

The EFF staged their protest to protect the state institutions from “white terrorists”. Malema said his party will never stop talking about the land.  “We want to move onto the land, we want to occupy the land, we want to produce food for ourselves. We don’t want white farmers’ food — we have capacity to produce food for ourselves.” 

The party wants equality, which will happen when black people own land, banks and mines, he added.

Police visibility was heightened. One person was arrested after being found in possession of an illegal firearm at a roadblock just outside Senekal early on Friday morning.

Police Minister Bheki Cele, who was at the court, said that what is happening in Senekal “is not a picnic”.

The South African Human Right Commission has called for peace, saying that “the constitutional right to protest be exercised within the ambit of the Constitution and the law. The commission insists that the heightened tensions based on race and social status are of no benefit to the social cohesion that South Africa’s peace and stability are dependent on.”

In a video posted on the Democratic Alliance’s Twitter page, the party’s leader, John Steenhuisen, said scenes in Senekal should be “a wake-up call for all of us”.

He said the DA has heard the pleas and plights of the farmers, and they are working hard to ensure they can improve safety and security in rural areas for farmers, farm workers and other members of these communities.  

“Now it’s the time for us to unite and come together. There is no left or right, there is only up and down and if we are going to beat the scourge of farm attacks and violence in our rural areas, we need to unite together and face these criminals head on,” he said.

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Tshegofatso Mathe
Tshegofatso Mathe
Tshegofatso Mathe is a financial trainee journalist at the Mail & Guardian.

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