Four Mkhondo farmers accused of killing brothers to remain behind bars
The four men implicated in the murder of two alleged job seekers in the Mkhondo area near Piet Retief appeared in the local magistrate’s court on Monday.
Orchard Klingenberg, 53, Danie Malan, 39, Cornelius Greyling, 25, and Ignatius Steinberg were arrested last Friday and were expected to spend yet another week behind bars.
“The case is postponed for further investigation to April 19 and the suspects are expected to make a formal bail application during their next court appearance,” said Col Donald Mdhluli.
The group appeared amid protests from political organisations and civil society, who were calling for them to be denied bail.
The two men who they allegedly shot at the farm of one of the accused have since been identified.
“The victims who were unfortunately murdered are Mgcini Coko, 36, and Zenzele Coko, 39. Reports indicate that the two were brothers,” Mdhluli added.
In a statement, Mdhluli said the brothers were part of a group who had gone to the farm to ask for seasonal work.
“It is said that the farm owner informed these men that they are not welcome on his premises. It is said that those who came to ask for employment then decided to leave the farm, but later realised that one of them was left behind. They then went back only to find that he was kept at the farm by the suspects.
“It is said that as the men demanded that they let him go, a scuffle broke out where two men were reportedly shot and died at the scene. Three other men sustained serious injuries,” Mdhluli said.
The incident happened last Friday.
Pictures of the lifeless bodies of the two men lying on the ground just metres apart from each other were circulated online last week. The four farmers were arrested just hours after the incident and two guns were confiscated from them.
“The men are facing two counts of murder ... They are alleged to have also assaulted another man hence a third count of assault with intent to inflict grievous bodily harm has been added against them,” said Mdhluli.
Mpumalanga premier Refilwe Mtshweni-Tsipane and the province's community safety MEC, Vusi Shongwe, visited the family of the two deceased men on Monday.
Mtshweni-Tsipane expressed concern that this was not an isolated incident, adding that there was a pending case, particularly against Greyling. She explained that Greyling was allegedly involved in an incident where another person was fatally assaulted at the farm.
Commenting on last week's incident, Mtshweni-Tsipane said the two men, who were simply looking for jobs, did not have to die.
“We are saying enough is enough. This thing of white farmers mobilising themselves so swiftly with the [intent] of taking away the lives of people, we are condemning it,” she said.
She added that there were several similar cases that were on the court roll in the Gert Sibande region involving farmers and community workers. Mtshweni-Tsipane called for police action to ensure that the cases made it before the courts.