The South African Farmers Development Association (SAFDA) have called upon a Mpumalanga magistrate’s court to deny bail to the five men accused of killing two brothers during a scuffle with farmers.
SAFDA are among the many groups who are set to protest outside the court in Mkhondo (previously Piet Retief) for a second consecutive day. This, as the accused hope that their bail hearing will be concluded today, 11 days after the death of Zenzele and Mgcini Coka.
Yesterday, the police used stun grenades to disperse protestors who tried to access the court via the barbed wire blocking them. Daniel Malan, Othard Klingenberg, Cornelius Greyling, Ignatius Steinberg and Zenzele Yende pleaded for their release, indicating that they would also plead not guilty.
‘SAFDA deeply disturbed’
“We shall be calling upon the courts to deny bail in this case,” said Dr Siyabonga Madlala, the executive chairperson of SAFDA. The association, who predominantly represents black sugar farmers, have also visited the bereaved Coka family at their home.
Madlala added, “Black lives matter. Farmworkers’ lives matter. The accused needs to be taught a lesson from their actions. As an organisation that was formed to help black growers, we are deeply disturbed by this incident.”
‘Echoes of Coligny injustice’
All of the accused are Mkhondo farmers except for Yende, a foreman, who was arrested on Wednesday, 14 April. Charges against the accused include murder, attempted murder kidnapping and defeating the ends of justice.
“I cannot tell the honourable court who fired any of the fatal shots,” said Greyling yesterday. “I did not fire any shot at that time and I therefore emphatically deny that I was involved in the killing of any of the deceased.”
The death of the Coka brothers have caused a national outcry. The town of Mkhondo remain at a knife’s edge. Yesterday, many businesses and schools were closed as protestors descended on the town. At least two police vehicles were damaged and property destroyed.
Meanwhile Dr Frans Cronjé, chief executive of the Institute of Race Relations, said, “The case may have echoes of the Coligny injustice when two farm employees were wrongly convicted of murder in part because of a racially charged, malevolent and inept police investigation that saw flawed evidence presented and accepted by a court. The Coligny injustice was only set right on appeal.”
Last week, Mpumalanga Agriculture said from their understanding the incident resulted from an alleged illegal march by members of a neighbouring community. The lives of workers, management and the farm owner were allegedly in danger.
To Mpumalanga Agriculture’s knowledge, a farm owner apparently sent out a distress signal to neighbours. A scuffle reportedly broke out during which a worker was shot and killed and a protestor fatally wounded. Also, a farmer suffered a fractured skull, and several other Mkhondo farmers were seriously injured.