Murdered farmer's wife under heavy guard at Stellenbosch memorial

14 June 2019 - 15:28 By Aron Hyman
Murdered Stellenbosch farmer Stefan Smit with his wife Zuhena.
Murdered Stellenbosch farmer Stefan Smit with his wife Zuhena.
Image: Supplied

Stefan Smit is the seventh friend Pieter Haasbroek has lost to murder, but what pained him most was that he was a “good and a kind man”.

Fighting tears as he spoke at Smit’s memorial service in Stellenbosch on Friday, Haasbroek said: “I am glad that the pastor didn’t say this was the will of the Lord. It was in each of these cases the will of the murderer.”

Four bodyguards for Smit’s wife, Zuhena, were positioned strategically in the Moederkerk Dutch Reformed Church, eyeing mourners from their vantage points. Outside, another guarded the side entrance.

Although the church was near capacity, all the pews on the right flank were kept empty, save for right in front where a bodyguard occupied the pew next to Zuhena’s.

Shortly before Smit’s murder on Sunday, June 2, Haasbroek said he and his friend spoke about possible alternatives to SA, out of desperation about the perils of farming in the country.

First on a list of “best places to live” which Haasbroek found on the internet was Iceland, but for two farmers from sunny SA, that was not an option.

Then there was New Zealand, but Haasbroek had been there and told Smit it was boring.

“Next was Uruguay. I said that was a good place. The farming is good. And the people are precious. The president has given up luxuries and lives in a humble abode,” he said.

Then the former University of Pretoria political economics lecturer directed his ire at President Cyril Ramaphosa, who he said had fuelled a threatening situation towards property owners with talk about expropriation without compensation.

“That was when the threats started. They threatened to burn [Smit’s] house down with him inside,” said Haasbroek.

Stefan Smit as he appeared on the order of service for his memorial in Stellenbosch on June 14 2019.
Stefan Smit as he appeared on the order of service for his memorial in Stellenbosch on June 14 2019.
Image: Supplied

“He was a good man and a kind man. That is why it is so sad that great Stefan, the good and the kind man, was threatened and robbed.”

His closing remarks hung in the air for a while: “Be wary of the evil in your community. Stand together. Help each other.”

Haasbroek knew about the R200,000 which vanished from Smit’s safe a few weeks before his murder, and said the theft was orchestrated to happen “when his door was coincidentally open”.

He told the Sunday Times last week that Smit was a safety-conscious man and had recently hired a heavily armed security service to protect him, including a guard who had access to the house.

The guard did not respond when four men in balaclavas men entered the house, tied up him, Zuhena and a Swiss guest, then shot Smit three times before leaving with some jewellery.

The money was allegedly stolen after he hired the security company when an isolated section of his farm was occupied by land grabbers from Khayamandi, who formed the new Azania informal settlement.

The land grabbers told the Sunday Times that they agreed that the Stellenbosch municipality should not have paid R45m for the 60ha they occupied.

But their leader, Madisi Wanana, said their intentions were never to harm Smit.

Presiding over Friday’s service, Prof Daniël Louw spoke to the mostly conservative congregation about dignity in SA and its centrality to peace.

“Fourteen people were killed in the streets of Delft last weekend. Death creeps in through the windows. There is no dignity left in SA,” said Louw.

“Kindness, caring, and compassion can change the world. It is my prayer that Stefan Smit’s death will change Stellenbosch forever.”