How bullying farmer stays out of jail

KICKED ALL OVER: Thembi Ndlovu alleges that her employer assaulted her. 03/12/08. Pic. Vathiswa Ruselo. © Sowetan.\n
KICKED ALL OVER: Thembi Ndlovu alleges that her employer assaulted her. 03/12/08. Pic. Vathiswa Ruselo. © Sowetan.\n

Cecil Motsepe

Cecil Motsepe

A farmer accused of terrorising a black community can get away with it because he allegedly is friends with the only magistrate in town.

Derick James Steyn of the farm Kuitersrus Welverdiend in Meyerton in the Vaal was arrested for allegedly assaulting his domestic worker, Thembi Ndlovu.

Ndlovu's only crime was to quit the job.

"I left Steyn's farm because he made me wipe his mother each time she soiled herself," Ndlovu said. "He followed me to another farm where I was visiting my sister and assaulted me."

Ndlovu locked herself up in a small office.

"He threatened to shoot me if I did not open," she said. "As soon as I let him in he smashed my phone saying I was trying to call my black kaffir mother.

"He continued to hit me with his fists and kicked me all over my body."

The 45-year-old farmer was arrested and charged with assault with intent to cause grievous bodily harm.

Despite having two previous convictions for the same offence, Steyn, who is said to be a close associate of magistrate Marius Serfontein, was released without a formal bail hearing.

Sowetan has established that the magistrate also owns a farm in the area and that Steyn does some work for him.

This angered Ndlovu's lawyer, Godfrey Machimana, who has lodged an application for the case to be moved to the Vereeniging magistrate's court.

The application was granted yesterday.

"I got information that the magistrate and the accused are friends," Machimana said. "Since Steyn has previous convictions the current charge automatically becomes a schedule 7 offence, thus being a serious offence.

So he should not have been released without a formal bail inquiry.

"My only interest is to show that most of the farm killings result from the abuse labourers suffer at the hands of farmers and the protection the same farmers enjoy from our courts and police," he said.

Sowetan is in possession of SAP69 records showing that in 2000 Steyn faced two cases of assault. He was convicted of one and acquitted on the other.

This was hardly two years after being found guilty in assault and reckless and negligent driving cases.

Meyerton police spokesman Constable Makgauta Serathi said the police were aware of the relationship between Steyn and the magistrate.

She said in 2005 they opened a case of defeating the ends of justice against the magistrate. The case was subsequently withdrawn.

Now the Magistrate's Commission intends investigating all the allegations against Serfontein.

Steyn said: "You people are clever, ja ! Bring all that information to court and it will be investigated. I think you are talking kak ."