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Lamola and Cele condemn Senekal violence

Tankiso Makhetha Investigative reporter
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

Arrests are expected to be made by Free State police following a violent protest that broke out in the Senekal magistrate’s court on Tuesday.

Brig Motantsi Makhele said on Wednesday that police were gathering evidence and going through video footage of the protest in which shots were fired and a police vehicle was torched.

“We have not made any arrests as yet because we are busy with investigations. We are going through the video footage that surfaced to see if we can identify some of the culprits,” Makhele said.

Violence erupted when hundreds of farmers and residents stormed into court after the two men alleged to have murdered farm manager Brendin Horner were charged.

Sekwetje Mahlamba and Sekola Matlaletsa allegedly murdered Horner after they assaulted him and tied him with a rope around his neck to a pole at a farm in Paul Roux on Friday.

National Prosecuting Authority spokesperson Phaladi Shuping said the pair face charges of murder and robbery. “They will appear again on October 16 for a bail application,” Shuping said.

Justice and correctional services minister Ronald Lamola has condemned “in the strongest possible terms the anarchic violence” by protesters at the Senekal magistrate's court  on Tuesday.

“The disturbing scenes of members of the public storming a court and damaging property have no place in a free and democratic SA. Beyond the obvious trail of destruction of public property, [Tuesday's] actions are an inexcusable assault on the rule of law and the criminal justice system. We want to urge members of the community, however aggrieved they might be, to allow the court and the justice system to run their course,” his spokesperson Chrispin Phiri said.

Lamola said: “We urge the law enforcement authorities to ensure that the rule of law is maintained and an important part of that is to ensure that those responsible for undermining the administration of justice and the destruction of public property are brought to book.

“The right to hold or participate in protest action is a constitutional right; however, no right is unlimited and with this right comes the responsibility to exercise the right to protest in a lawful manner. Protesters may not damage private or public property or act in a manner that infringes on the rights or the safety of others.

“In their attempt to storm into the court, the protesters' actions in Senekal  were an attempt to undermine the rule of law and damage the very same justice system that ought to protect society. 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. However strongly communities may feel about issues, we simply cannot allow individuals to take the law into their own hands,” Lamola said.

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.

EFF leader Julius Malema slammed the response by police after the protest by farmers turned violent. In a statement released by the party, Malema said the “pathetic cowardice” displayed by officers outside the court illustrated the biased racial tolerance in which protesting black people are met with rubber bullets and teargas while white people in similar situations are allowed to do so with no consequence.

“These individuals, arrogant as a result of this ANC-led government which suffers from low self-esteem and a fear of whiteness, committed these violent acts knowing very well no force would be shown against them because of the colour of their skin,” Malema said.

“Unlike the countless times where we have seen law enforcement use force against black people who protest peacefully for genuine issues, the white men who terrorised police outside a court of law operated with impunity.”

Police minister Bheki Cele labelled the events that unfolded as lawlessness.

“This type of lawlessness cannot be justified nor taken lightly. There is no logic when protesters burn a police van which is the same resource which is meant to assist them,” Cele said.

He said the protesters' anger towards police was confusing because arrests in the matter have been made.

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