Durban - Police Minister Bheki Cele heeded the growing call for improved policing of the country’s farming precincts when he announced a more “holistic” and improved rural safety strategy this week.
But the reforms would have provided cold comfort for the friends and family of a Northern Natal farming couple who were ambushed and shot dead outside their Normandien home, outside Newcastle, last Saturday.
The bullet-riddled bodies of Glen and Vida Rafferty, 63 and 60 respectively, along with one of their dogs, were found near the entrance of their home.
They were laid to rest on Saturday. According to statistics released by the Rome Research Institute of South Africa, there were 52 farm attacks in August.
Of the 10 deaths recorded during this period, four were in KZN.
The statistics also revealed that four women were raped, including a mother and her and two daughters, aged 15 and 11.
Knives and guns were usually the weapons used, and in one attack, a gun was shoved into the mouth of a 99-year-old woman.
Many who knew the Rafferty couple were still mulling over what the killers’ intentions were as only their vehicle, which was later abandoned, was taken.
Their deaths ramped up calls from community leaders, rights groups and politicians who roundly condemned the country’s latest farm killings, with some calling for more prioritised police focus.
On Saturday, a convoy of hundreds of “concerned Newcastle citizens” went on a round-trip which looped through the city centre and around the Rafferty’s farm to pay respect to the couple and raise awareness about farm killings.
Bob Hoatson, who took part in the procession, said the initiative was not about white farmers: “It was for people from all walks of life who were concerned about farm murders,” said Hoatson.
Ironically, hours before the Rafferty couple were murdered, an estimated 40 000 bikers around the country called for an end to the carnage on farms.
Sporting white crosses, the East Coast Motorcycle Club revved their engines in support of the initiative on a ride from Queen Nandi Drive to Durban’s CBD and then to Amanzimtoti.
Pravesh Ramfol, president of the bike club, said given the rate at which farm murders accelerated, they felt it was appropriate to take a stand.
In a broadcast interview this week, ACDP leader Kenneth Moshoe called for farm murders to be classified as “priority crimes”.
Motivating his call, Moshoe said: “We need food to survive. Food producers help people from all walks of life.
“Therefore, when farmers and their workers are killed, the entire nation should scream.”
Afriforum chief executive Ernst Roets was reported to have said a “crisis situation” had been reached and farm attacks must be investigated by the Hawks and dealt with in a holistic manner.
Christopher Pappas, the DA’S spokesperson on agriculture and rural development, wrote to KZN Premier Sihle Sikalala saying families of all races and income groups were victims.
He asked that “decisive action” be taken before the situation deteriorated.
Pappas suggested 10 ways to alleviate the situation in his letter, including the creation of an interministerial task team and for the SAPS to ramp up intelligence-driven investigations in rural areas.
Zikalala condemned the farm killings, including last week’s double murders.
He called on the SAPS to act swiftly to bring the perpetrators to book and asked citizens to speak out against such criminal activities.
At a legislature sitting on Thursday, Zikalala confirmed that the provincial government would convene a multi-stakeholder meeting to address the issue of farm and rural safety.
Newcastle mayor Nthukuko Mahlaba described the killings as “gruesome atrocity” and said the deaths were a loss to the local community.
Cele visited Normandien on Wednesday and met with members of the Rafferty family and organised community policing and farming structures.
He assured them that there would be a shift in resources to identified areas to enhance safety.
Speaking about the Rafferty deaths, he said: “The report I received indicates that the investigators are following up on strong leads.
“Overall, the police have made significant progress in bringing those allegedly behind similar attacks around KZN northern farming areas to book since last year.
“Seven such attacks took place and police have made arrests in all the cases,” Cele said.
Brutalised survivors live in fear: Here are four tales:
Glen (63) and Vida Rafferty (60) Normandien, Northern KZN, No Arrests
The couple went to dinner with friends last Saturday evening, but as they attempted to enter their home around 10pm, they were shot and killed.
“Why them”, asked the Rafferty’s neighbour, Glen Potgieter, and others in the closely knit community.
Potgieter said Rafferty had been a softly-spoken man who had headed their local farmer’s association for years.
More befuddling for Potgieter was that the attackers only took the couple’s vehicle, which was later abandoned, yet Vida had R10 000 in her handbag.
“They got on well with neighbours and workers. Their deaths has rocked our community and we are now living not knowing when it would be our turn to be killed.”
Potgieter said he knew Rafferty, a cattle farmer, for more than 40 years, 15 of which were as neighbours.
Rafferty owned more than 1 000 cattle and produced beef, said the neighbour.
“He was peaceful man and a devout Christian, and usually led our community prayer meetings.
“We think this might have been a planned attack because their money and guns were not taken” he said.
Edi Neumeister (68) and Margit Riebler (69) Balgowan – KZN Midlands, No arrests
“At night, I can feel the attacker’s hands around my neck and I can hear Edi calling out to me,” said Riebler, reliving the trauma she endures most nights, after she and her partner were attacked on June 6.
Neumeister was overpowered by a lone panga-wielding assailant who hacked him relentlessly. He died a short while later, due largely to the head injuries he sustained during the attack.
The couple were the owners of the nearby German-styled establishment; “Edi’s Bratwurst Sausage Restaurant and B&B”.
Riebler had woken around 7.30am and Neumeister was outside feeding their animals when he was taken by surprise.
“I could hear Edi calling me. It happened so fast and the next thing I knew, the man had me by my throat. “I shouted what do you want! “Money, money…I’ll kill you… money, money,” was the response she got.
Riebler said she didn’t know how Neurmeister got into the kitchen, considering his injuries, and shouted to her.
“When the man heard Edi, he let go of me and went to finish Edi off.
“That’s when I was able to run out of the house, and I stayed there with our dogs, by then the man ran away.”
Barefoot and dressed in pyjamas, Riebler made her way to the local main road and flagged down a female motorist, who drove her away and assisted her with contacting the police.
She said she couldn’t bring herself to view Neurmeister’s body afterwards.
“He had a lot of head injuries. Police told me his fingers were hacked off. I just couldn’t look at Edi like that.
“If he didn’t shout for me, I could have also been killed.”
Riebler said only her ring and a firearm was taken.
She said their establishment remained shut because she didn’t have the heart to go back.
“I’m fine during the day, but at night I feel the man’s hands on my neck and hear Edi shouting, and I think about what I could have done to save him.”
Dr Allen (31) and Isla Still (30) Mooi River, KZN, No Arrests
When three intruders armed with clubs barged into Allen and Isla Still’s home on July 20 their immediate focus was to neutralise the husband.
It was 8pm and the couple had sat down to dinner.
Allen’s attackers thought he was out cold when blood oozed from his body after the beating he endured.
Two men took Isla into their bedroom and trashed the place in search of cash and guns, while their accomplice kept an eye on Allen.
‘The guy guarding me didn’t do a good job and I was able to escape and call for help.”
As Allen ran out, he felt hopeless, wondering how he was going to get rid of the intruders.
He alerted his landlord who lived on the same property and together they went after the men.
The robbers fled with R250 in cash, the couple’s car keys, but not the vehicles.
“It was fairly minor in terms of the theft, but much more significant was the assault, injuries and how scary it all was.”
Allen’s fractured arm is still in a cast, has stitches on his head, and was unable to work for a week.
“I didn’t know if those guys were going to kill me and my wife.
Being powerless in your own home is a hollow feeling. We still fear someone could come barging through again,” he said.
Chantelle (51) and Burgen Thorne (51) Hidcote - KZN Midlands One suspect arrested, but released on bail
The Thorne’s are not farmers even though they raised animals and grew vegetables on their small-holding.
They desired a peaceful country life. But their usual tranquil lifestyle was shattered last September when three attackers smashed a glass door with a rock and gained entry into their home.
Burgen was preparing dinner in the kitchen and Chantelle was setting-up to watch a movie.
Burgen was dropped when he was struck on the head with a rock.
As he tried to getaway, one of the attackers took a knife that Burgen had used in the kitchen and stabbed him three times in his back – he survived the attack, but struggles with his mobility.
While Burgen lay unconscious in a pool of blood, Chantelle ran upstairs and armed herself with a pick-handle and a crowbar, but the men easily dispossessed and beat her to the ground.
“Do you want to die,” one of them said to her.
They repeatedly kicked, punched and dragged her up and down the stairway as they ransacked the house for valuables.
Chantelle said they left emptyhanded as they struggled to drive the couple’s old Isuzu bakkie out of the yard.
“They got nothing, but what they took was our sense of peace and security and they are still at large.
“It was a dreadful experience. Our beloved dog Jack was also injured that dreadful night.
“Fortunately the community and other friends stepped in and raised funds to secure our home. But we live in constant fear.”