Farmer now faces murder charge

Frank Maponya

Frank Maponya

The Limpopo farmer on whose farm a hunter was found dead at the weekend will apply for bail next week on a new charge of murder.

The body of Ntsako Mkhari was found on Saturday on Vygeboom farm, owned by Johan Andrien van Niekerk.

Van Niekerk was initially charged with kidnapping and released on bail of R10000.

Magistrate MJ Mukwevho yesterday ruled that the kidnapping charge would now be replaced with a murder charge following the discovery of Mkhari's body.

Van Niekerk, 69, appeared in the Gravelotte periodical court with his co-accused, 22-year-old Gert Janse van Vuuren.

Van Vuuren, a supervisor at Grootfontein farm, which is next to Van Niekerk's, faces a charge of defeating the ends of justice for failing to inform the police about the alleged crime. He allegedly shot four of Mkhari's hunting dogs.

Addressing a packed court yesterday, Mukwevho said: "The court has agreed with the defence counsel to withdraw kidnapping charges against you. Do you agree to that?" he asked Van Niekerk.

Van Niekerk responded by nodding his head.

The magistrate also ruled that the bail money of R10000 paid by Van Niekerk be returned to him when he appears again on Tuesday in the Phalaborwa magistrates' court, where both accused will apply for bail. The two were yesterday remanded in custody.

The little dorpie of Gravelotte, outside Phalaborwa, was a hive of activity yesterday when scores of people descended on it to hold pickets outside the courtroom in support of the Mkhari family. Only a handful of farmers, including relatives of the suspects, came to court.

Members of the South African Communist Partywere also present. SACP provincial deputy secretary Jack Matlala praised the police for their handling of the matter.