Man accused of assault of guard fled SA before

Groenewald left country after murdering two men

Pieter Groenewald appear at Groblersdal magistrate's court in Limpopo.
Pieter Groenewald appear at Groblersdal magistrate's court in Limpopo.

One of the two men accused of setting their dog on a worker had previously skipped the country for 10 years while out on bail for the murder of two men.

Pieter Groenewald, 63, a former SA Defence Force colonel, appeared in the Groblersdal magistrate’s court in Limpopo alongside Stephan Greef, 27, his stepson, on charges of assault on their employee Veneruru Kavari.

In his bail application affidavit read in court by their lawyer Johan van Wyk on Wednesday, Groenewald said he was not a flight risk and would surrender his passport to the state.

Sowetan has established from court records of Groenewald’s 1990 murder case that he fled the country after he was accused of the execution-style murders of Simon Koba, 28, and Prince Makena, 30, and injured Xavier Lekgoate in a road rage incident.

On Wednesday, the state revealed that Groenewald has previous convictions on two counts of murder and one of attempted murder. He was convicted in 2002, more than decade after he had been on the run and living in Portugal after his escape from the country.

He was sentenced to 20 years by the Pretoria Regional Court for the double murders and attempted murder.

According to court records, Groenewald was arrested three days after the 1990 shooting incident and was granted bail before he fled the country with the assistance of his commander.

The court papers revealed that the commander gave him $10,000 (about R187,000) and two passports, and they both fled to Portugal, where Groenewald lived for 10 years and started a new life at the age of 29. Attempts by the SA government to have him extradited failed.

While in Portugal, Groenewald was arrested for being in illegal possession of surveillance equipment and in 2000 he returned to SA and was arrested for the 1990 crime.

In 2005 after serving three years of his sentence, then SA president Thabo Mbeki granted him Groenewald a six-month amnesty and he was eligible for parole by September 2009. However, the department of correctional services (DCS) objected to the parole, and in 2010 the Pretoria High Court ordered that he be released.

Department spokesperson Singabakho Nxumalo confirmed that Groenewald’s parole expired in March 2022, meaning he had been a free man for nearly two years before he was accused of assaulting his employee last month.

Nxumalo said: “Inmate Hendrick Groenewald was previously sentenced to 19 years for murder by the Pretoria regional court on 19/03/2003. “He was later admitted at Middelburg community corrections under Witbank management area as a parolee from 22/01/2010 until his sentence expired on 18/03/2022. “He was no longer under the system of community corrections when he committed his current crime."

Motivating during his bail application this week for the assault charge, Groenewald submitted an affidavit in which he claimed he was not a flight risk and that he had about 80 employees in his business, Wildlife Investigation and Protection Services (Wips) in Kwaggafontein, Mpumalanga. The company specialises in anti-animal poaching surveillance and security supplies.

Sowetan has learned that Groenewald is the son of the late Tienie Groenewald, a former highly decorated chief director of the SADF intelligence unit. The two ran Wips together.

Court records revealed that on the night of the murder in 1990, Groenewald had been a passenger in Brian Chester-Browne’s vehicle. They were driving from a shooting range in Cullinan, 30km east of Pretoria, when they came across Koba, Makena and Lekgoate, who were in a Nissan vehicle headed in the opposite direction near Mamelodi.

According to the documents, the occupants of the Nissan accused Groenewald and Chester-Browne of throwing a stone towards their car, forcing them to stop. Groenewald was the only man armed and he asked the occupants of the Nissan if they knew of the Wit Wolwe (White Wolves) – an ultra-right and white supremist terrorist group that operated in Tshwane in the 1980s.

He then started shooting at the three men, instantly killing both Koba and Makena while Lekgoate hid in the bushes bleeding. Groenewald and his friend fled the scene and did not report the incident to the police.

According to the court documents, once Groenewald got home, he called his commander and informed him about the incident and he then shaved his full beard in an attempt to disguise himself. However, Lekgoate would later recognise him in an police identity parade a week after the shooting.

In the current assault case, it’s alleged that Greef accused Kavari, a security guard, of being drunk while on duty at work and this escalated into an argument.

It is alleged that Greef and Groenewald then assaulted Kavari and set one of their dogs on him. Their first court appearance was marred with violence as a group of white men waving old South African flags clashed with the police outside court.

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