Lamola condemns Senekal violence as #FeesMustFall activist says he was jailed for less

07 October 2020 - 11:17
Justice and police ministers Ronald Lamola and Bheki Cele have condemned the violence that unfolded at the Senekal court in the Free State.
Justice and police ministers Ronald Lamola and Bheki Cele have condemned the violence that unfolded at the Senekal court in the Free State.
Image: Supplied

The chaos that unfolded outside the Senekal magistrate’s court in the Free State on Tuesday after the appearance of two men implicated in the brutal murder of farm manager Brendin Horner has become a subject of scrutiny.

Farmers who had attended the court proceedings stormed the court building — damaging the property as they demanded that the two suspects, Sekwetje Isaiah Mahlamba and Sekola Piet Matlaletsa, be handed over to them. The disgruntled group also overturned a police vehicle and set it alight.

Justice minister Ronald Lamola condemned the incident, describing it as “anarchic violence”.

“Beyond the obvious trail of destruction of public property, yesterday’s actions are an inexcusable assault on the rule of law and the criminal justice system,” read a statement from Lamola’s office.  

He said the actions of the protesters undermined the rule of law and damaged the justice system which was meant to serve them.

“If such attacks against the rule of law are allowed to go unchecked, our society will run the risk of descending into anarchy. It is in the interest of everyone to ensure that respect for the rule of law is defended and upheld,” Lamola said.

FeesMustFall activist Bonginkosi Khanyile, who spent time behind bars after the student protests in 2016, claimed there was a measure of double standards in the police's approach towards the Senekal protesters.

He was jailed after being found guilty of disturbing the public peace‚ using a dangerous weapon — a slingshot — to stone police and ignoring their pleas to disperse.

“I was sent to six months imprisonment and [was] sentenced to additional three years house arrest which finishes in the year 2022. [This was] for using a slingshot during #FeesMustFall protest. Imagine if I did what these white people are doing. I was going to be given a life sentence,” Khanyile said on his Twitter account, sharing a video of the Senekal farmers in action.

Political analyst Ralph Mathekga told TimesLIVE that the incidents that unfolded at the courthouse displayed the inequalities of SA.

Normal protesters don't go to protests with guns.
Ralph Mathekga

“Unfortunately, the SAPS is not covering itself because in terms of the manner in which it [carries out its duties], they usually show heavy-handedness when it comes to protesters from the vulnerable social groups,” Mathekga said.

“When they are not from a not-so-vulnerable social group, we see the police not being heavy-handed.

“People are calling for heavy-handedness but when a police van is burnt in Alexandra, because it is the poor, nobody calls for police heavy-handedness because there is a bit of empathy.

“This issue is showing us as who we are as South Africans. We just cannot deal with an issue. We are always looking at other factors and explanations and it becomes a question of race.

“But normal protesters don't go to protest with guns,” added Mathekga, alleging that some of the farmers who had gathered at the court were armed.

He said it was good that the police had exercised restraint because being confrontational with a group of allegedly armed people could have resulted in “a bloodbath”. 

He advised that after this incident, police should investigate and arrest those who had committed violent acts.

“But the idea that the police should have confronted them and shot at them — that would have not been good at all,” Mathekga said.

In a statement, police minister Bheki Cele said he had learnt “with shock and disgust” about the incident of arson and vandalism.

He called on the police to arrest the perpetrators, saying no criminal behaviour would be tolerated.

“While we all condemn the gruesome killing of this young man in Paul Roux, absolutely no-one has the right to take the law into their own hands — no matter what the situation is. This type of lawlessness can't be justified nor taken lightly,” Cele said.

He questioned why the protesters had directed their wrath at police.

“There is no logic when these protesters burn a police van, which is the same resource that is meant to assist them. It is also baffling why the anger of this community is being directed towards the police, when arrests have been made by the police and the suspects are before the courts.”

TimesLIVE

Farm manager Brendin Horner's body was found tied to a farm gate after he was killed by unknown attackers on October 2 2020. The death has outraged agricultural leaders and community members from Senekal and surrounding areas who demanded justice.

PODCAST | Survivors recount their farm attack experiences

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