South Africa’s President Ramaphosa rejects claims of ‘ethnic cleansing’ after spate of deadly attacks on white farmers that sparked furious protests

  • South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa rejected claims of ‘ethnic cleansing’ 
  • Comes after white farmers stormed a courthouse on Wednesday during the hearing of two black suspects 
  • 3,000 demonstrators rallied in Senekal, Free State, on Tuesday as Sekwetje Isaiah Mahlamba, 32, and Sekola Piet Matlaletsa, 44, appeared in court
  • Men are charged with brutal murder of farm manager Brendin Horner, 21
  • ‘Boer Lives Matter’ protesters forced their way into cells to try and seize them 

South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa has called for calm, rejecting claims by pressure groups representing the country’s white minority that a spike in deadly attacks on farms was ‘ethnic cleansing’.

His appeal on Monday came after a group of mainly white farmers stormed a courthouse on Wednesday during the hearing of two black suspects accused of killing a 22-year-old farm manager.

The lead instigator of the rioters, Andre Pienaar, 52, was subsequently jailed and charged with terrorism on Friday.

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Demonstrators hold ‘Boer Lives Matter’ banners in front of an overturned police van outside the court in Senekal, Free State, on Tuesday

The police truck after it was set alight by the demonstrators on Tuesday afternoon

South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa, pictured, has called for calm, rejecting claims by pressure groups representing the country’s white minority that a spike in deadly attacks on farms was ‘ethnic cleansing’ (File image) 

Ramaphosa, in his weekly newsletter to the nation, strongly refuted claims that farm attacks were racially motivated.

He instead characterised the attacks as a sad reminder that the country was still recovering from its dark past under the apartheid regime, which ended in the early 1990s.

‘We would be naive to assume that race relations in farming communities have been harmonious since the advent of democracy,’ Ramaphosa wrote.

‘Unless this is addressed in an open and honest manner, unless we are prepared to engage in dialogue, this will remain a festering wound that threatens social cohesion.’

After condemning the murder of the young farm manager in the Free State province last month, Ramaphosa said the spectacle of white farmers storming a court to attack two black suspects ‘opened up wounds that go back many generations.’

The incident showed ‘just how easily the tinderbox of race hatred can be ignited,’ he said.

Footage purportedly taken inside the holding cells of the court show guards attempting to restrain furious protesters

The president asked all South Africans to resist any attempts to use crime on farms to mobilise communities along racial lines.

He also pointed out that the vast majority of victims of violent crime in South Africa are black and poor.

‘The claim that violent crime on farms is part of an orchestrated campaign by blacks to drive white farmers off their land is simply not borne out by fact,’ Ramaphosa said.

‘Killings on farms are not ethnic cleansing,’ he added.

‘They are not genocidal. They are acts of criminality and must be treated as such.’

White farmers and their supporters have staged protests across the country in recent months against an increase in assaults and killings on rural farms.

Such attacks had dropped drastically during the first few months of the country’s coronavirus lockdown due to restricted movement, but from June the assaults spiked, according to farmers.

AfriForum, a pressure group that defends the interests of the country’s nine-percent white population, told AFP that 292 such attacks had been recorded this year, including 38 murders inclusive of all races.

South Africa has a high murder rate – in the 12 months up to April, police statistics show 21,325 murders, an average of 58 per day. 

Farmers with ‘Boer Lives Matter’ banners stormed a South African court last Wednesday and fired shots as they tried to force their way into cells holding two murder suspects.

Thousands of protesters thronged outside the Senekal Magistrate’s Court in the Free State last week as Sekwetje Isaiah Mahlamba, 32, and Sekola Piet Matlaletsa, 44, appeared before a judge.

The men are accused of torturing 21-year-old farm manager Brendin Horner, whose lifeless body was found covered in blood and tied to a post on remote farmland outside the town of Paul Roux on Friday.

Following the latest in a string of attacks on white farmers, up to 3,000 descended on Senekal, with one group turning violent and forcing their way into the holding cells.

A police van outside the court was overturned and set alight and the court building itself was also damaged.  

21-year-old farm manager Brendin Horner who was murdered on a farm near the town of Paul Roux in Free State on Friday

Demonstrators are seen flooding through the main entrance of the court on Tuesday during chaotic scenes where the guards struggled to maintain order

More than 3,000 have descended on Senekal, a small town in eastern Free State which is around 20 miles from Paul Roux where Horner was found dead on Saturday morning

Police spokesperson Brig Motantsi Makhele told TimesLive: ‘Two shots were fired from this group but no-one was injured.’

He added: ‘Thus far the situation is tense but under control.’ 

Hundreds of cars and tractors are lining the streets of the little town with farmers travelling from across the country to demand justice for Horner.

Videos outside the court show police officers firing stun grenades to disperse the furious demonstrators. 

Mahlamba and Matlaletsa’s court matter was postponed until October 16.

Horner’s girlfriend Lenize Taljaard raised the alarm on Friday evening after the young farm worker failed to return home. 

His blood-soaked corpse was found by his father Robbie and a colleague Jaco Kleingeld at 6am the following day.

He had been cut multiple times and a knife was found not far from the pole to which his torturers had strung him to.   

Gilly Scheepers who owns the farm where Horner was murdered told TimesLive: ‘He was so excited that day, that he was working a year for us, and on that special day he died. His family is taking his death extremely hard.’ 

Agricultural strategist Dr Jaco De Villiers has described the latest murder as part of a ‘war against food production’ in the country and said that his murder was ‘slaughter’. 

Hundreds of demonstrators packed the streets of Senekal last week to demand justice for Horner

The burning police van outside the court (left) and a demonstrator stands on the overturned vehicle (right)

Hundreds of cars line the streets of the little town of Senekal in the Free State on Tuesday to demonstrate outside the court holding the suspected murderers of Brendin Horner

Following the latest in a string of attacks on white farmers, up to 3,000 descended on Senekal last week, with a small number turning violent and forcing their way into the holding cells

Brendin Horner’s girlfriend Lenize Taljaard raised the alarm on Friday night after Horner failed to return home

He told the paper: ‘How do you murder someone and hang him on a pole for everyone to see? This was a clear message to all farmers. Farm killings have to stop right now.’



Daniel Brand, 82, his wife Hybrecht, 73, and their daughter Elizabeth, 53, were kidnapped and driven away in their own cars from their rural home near Hartswater in the Northern Province on July 26.

Their bodies were found two days later. 

The home was ransacked, with some cash and jewellery stolen.


British Falklands War hero was shot dead while protecting his partner during an armed raid on their farm near Lanseria.

Former Royal Navy sailor Julian Stobbs, 59, was shot in the head and chest after four robbers broke into his home as he slept on July 3.


Eduard Neumeister, 67, who was born in Austria, was hit with ‘dozens of blows’ from a bush knife at his property in Balgowan, 70 miles outside Durban in June.

The frenzied attack happened as Eduard – known locally as Edi – went to feed his dogs and prepare for breakfast at the Bratwurst Sausage Restaurant and B&B that he ran with partner Margit Riebler, 62. 

Horner’s death came just two days after another ruthless murder of a white farmer just 180 miles away in Delmas east of Johannesburg.

Divorcee Chantel Kershaw, 44, was ambushed by two armed black men while helping to a load a lawnmower onto a truck on Wednesday.

Kershaw’s underwear was ripped off and stuffed into her mouth and she was strangled to death inside her garage.  

Her distraught mother Greta Spiers, 65, was bludgeoned over the head with a pistol and she, along with a maid, was restrained as the farm was looted.

The two men fled in the family’s white Chevrolet station wagon but were chased down by neighbourhood watch farmers who forced the stolen vehicle off the road.

The neighbourhood watch, who had been alerted by Kershaw’s mother, captured the suspects and handed them over to police.

A farm hand who was stripped and tied up by the raiders was later arrested after the cell phone numbers of the two suspects were found in his phone.

The three men appeared before Delmas Magistrates Court charged with armed robbery, theft and murder and were refused bail and have been remanded in custody. 

Dr Jane Buys, safety and risk analyst of Free State Agriculture, told TimesLIVE: ‘The senseless killings cannot be allowed with the brutality in which they are executed.

‘It is not clear what the motive for this murder is. There cannot be any justification for killing a person who provides food security. Something has to be done to stop it’.

Pressure group Agri SA said that on average a farm where a farmer is violently attacked will be abandoned for up to five years until someone takes it on and restarts production.

They said that means dozens of workers and dependants losing their livelihoods.

AfriForum spokesman Marius Muller who speaks for the civil rights group protecting minority groups in South Africa said that the farmers need better police protection.

He said: ‘This is yet another dark day in the history of South Africa for farmers and those with small holdings and the murder of these two farmers was totally unnecessary.

‘These were both premeditated and horrific attacks on innocent farmers who look after and care for their workers and whose jobs may now be put in jeopardy by these murders’.

Each day in South Africa an average of 60 people are murdered but although the number of farmers killed averages 75 a year their deaths are horrific and brutal.

Their killers often use hot irons, power tools and boiling water to torture their victims and rape the female members in the house before finally murdering their victims.  

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