Thu Oct 27 09:10:41 SAST 2016

Family nightmare is finally over

By Bruce Fraser | Mar 16, 2010 | COMMENTS [ 0 ]

YESTERDAY afternoon, Gaby Burgmer and her family went back to Heia Safari Ranch where her father Franz Richter is buried.

They visited his grave and lit a candle. Later, they would open a few bottles of champagne and give thanks that the nightmare they had endured for more than two years was over.

Richter's wife (by African rites) Celiwe Mbokazi and the three men who killed her father had just been jailed for life.

The relief started on March 4 when the four were convicted. Burgmer, her daughter Bianca and brother Alex are glad the trial is over.

"She got what she deserved," she said yesterday. "I'm relieved and thrilled that justice has been done. Life has been a nightmare since my father was killed, but now I have found closure. The support from community members, who were mostly my father's employees, has been amazing."

Burgmer spoke to Sowetan on the morning after Judge Piet Meyer had found Mbokazi - along with Johnson Chirwa, Dumisani Xulu and Gilbert Mosadi - guilty of the cold-blooded murder.

Born in Romania in 1927, Richter was orphaned at the age of five. After finishing school, he was conscripted into the army and served his country in World War II.

Spotting an advert for miners in South Africa, Richter applied and was one of 80 selected.

He began a new life at Crown Mines with his wife Hedwig, two daughters and a son.

For four years he toiled 3km underground ... doing a job he didn't enjoy. He loved Africa ... the beauty of the animals, the people, the weather.

He had a dream - to own a farm. Richter bought the land in 1970 and set about building a lodge that is a world-class destination.

The Heia Safari Ranch was the realisation of that dream. Yet it would also be the place he would be brutally murdered on November 28 2007.

He had a fascination for Zulu culture - he spoke it fluently - and built a Zulu village on the property in 1987.

"From that moment to 3.45pm on Thursday (March 4, when the four were convicted), it has been a nightmare from hell," said Burgmer. "When word spread that my father had been killed, the response from the community was amazing. Everyone rallied around.

"My mother died in 1983 and is buried on the estate, and it was my dad's wish to have his remains laid next to hers."

In court, Mbokazi was regularly referred to as his wife or common-law wife. His daughter disagrees.

"Listen, the story was always out there and I confronted my father on numerous occasions. He denied anything was going on. She was his housekeeper. There is no marriage documentation."

Which doesn't exactly explain why someone would leave a worker R1million in his will. The issue of the "adopted" children also appears to be an uncomfortable subject for Burgmer.

"There was never, ever any adoption," she said.

"My father knew what it was like to go hungry and have no parents. The money (R500000) is in a trust for them and the interest generated from that we send every month to KwaZulu-Natal to care for them. Until they are 18, they will be looked after. That is what he would have wanted.

"Because she (Mbokazi) has blood on her hands whatever was bequeathed to her will fall away."


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