SENEKAL’S STORM

A mur­der case has be­come a proxy trig­ger in a clash be­tween black and white as racial ten­sion rises

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‘These white Bo­ers are not here be­cause of the farm mur­der; they are here to use this farm mur­der to ad­dress the is­sue of the land. They think they can use this farm mur­der to in­tim­i­date us to stop talk­ing about the land, to move away from de­mand­ing the land…”

These were the words ut­tered by EFF leader Julius Malema out­side the Senekal Mag­is­trates’ Court in the Free State, where a tense racial stand­off took place this week.

“With the re­cent hap­pen­ings in Senekal, it’s clear that, be­yond is­sues of dis­ci­pline and pa­tri­o­tism, the black ma­jor­ity might be in dan­ger, so it’s al­ways im­por­tant to pre­pare your­self for the fu­ture. Af­ter all, the fu­ture re­mains un­known.

“So what we are say­ing is, while govern­ment is still think­ing about it, we should start the process. It’s no se­cret that [white mil­i­tary train­ing] has been hap­pen­ing in the coun­try, but, for an un­known rea­son, it is a huge is­sue when the African youth want to do the same train­ing, and that makes us won­der what it is that those who are do­ing it are plan­ning for,” said Tshepo Ma­zola, an ANC Youth League (ANCYL) leader in Soweto Zone 9, who is back­ing an ini­tia­tive by the struc­ture to start mil­i­tary camps for young peo­ple.

“The com­mu­nity will con­tinue to sup­port those guys and there will be peo­ple there on Tues­day when they ap­pear again for the bail hear­ing,” said lo­cal res­i­dent Thabo Molefe, who was on the streets of Senekal to show sup­port for the two sus­pects – Sek­wetje Isa­iah Mahlamba (32) and Sekola Piet Mat­laletsa (44) – who are ac­cused of mur­der­ing 21-year-old farm man­ager Brendin Horner.

The stand­off be­tween white farm­ers and EFF sup­port­ers at the mur­der trial as well as the an­nounce­ment by the ANCYL that it would of­fer its mem­bers ba­sic mil­i­tary train­ing and teach them how to han­dle guns have sparked fears that the Free State town will be­come a tin­der­box.

THE PRES­I­DENT IS NOWHERE TO BE SEEN

Thousands of EFF mem­bers trav­elled to Senekal, claim­ing that they were there to pro­tect the state, and had been pro­voked af­ter white farm­ers stormed the court last week and over­ran po­lice ve­hi­cles while try­ing to lay their hands on Horner’s al­leged killers.

Re­ports that po­lice turned away armed men who wanted to get into Senekal also height­ened ten­sions.

Dur­ing the bail hear­ing on Fri­day, po­lice of­fi­cers set up ra­zor wire to block off the court and sep­a­rate the farm­ers from the EFF dur­ing sev­eral con­fronta­tions that oc­curred be­tween the hos­tile groups.

Those on the farm­ers’ side gath­ered with plac­ards pro­nounc­ing that they were “gatvol” with farm killings of white peo­ple and that they would pro­tect their land un­til Je­sus Christ re­turns.

The EFF sup­port­ers were out in their num­bers and many were armed with rudi­men­tary weapons, vow­ing to con­front the farm­ers and their guns.

Malema told his sup­port­ers that they should not be con­fused by the white farm­ers, who he claimed were us­ing Horner’s mur­der case to in­tim­i­date oth­ers to move away from the land re­form agenda, which is to ex­pro­pri­ate land with­out com­pen­sa­tion.

The trial, and the gen­eral is­sue of farm mur­ders, has po­larised the town and cre­ated racial hos­til­ity.

A lo­cal res­i­dent, who de­clined to name him­self be­cause he works for govern­ment, said he was happy to see Malema and even hap­pier to see the show of unity among the EFF sup­port­ers who trav­elled from var­i­ous places around the coun­try to be in Senekal.

“We, as black peo­ple, need to stand to­gether and this is what we saw to­day – if we stand to­gether, we can be much stronger. The EFF is show­ing it, but [Pres­i­dent Cyril Ramaphosa] is nowhere to be seen,” the res­i­dent said.

Some lo­cals said crime was not only af­fect­ing the white farm­ers, and there­fore the case should not be taken as a racial at­tack on farm­ers. “What we do not want is for white farm­ers to take this per­son­ally as if they are the only ones who are af­fected by crime,” said one res­i­dent.

The con­fronta­tion came in the wake of ANCYL mem­bers of­fer­ing mil­i­tary train­ing to young peo­ple, de­spite reser­va­tions from within the party.

A re­cruit­ment poster say­ing the camp would of­fer ba­sic mil­i­tary train­ing as well as in­struc­tions in gun han­dling, guer­rilla tac­tics and po­lit­i­cal ed­u­ca­tion cir­cu­lated this week. Last year, an at­tempt by the youth league to es­tab­lish this camp failed, but now mem­bers are say­ing in­for­ma­tion about white farm­ers re­ceiv­ing mil­i­tary train­ing makes it nec­es­sary.

LOTS OF IN­TER­EST

Although the gov­ern­ing party’s youth struc­tures have for the past few years been dis­banded, the Free State’s Fezile Dabi re­gion is tak­ing it on it­self to lead the cam­paign.

Ma­zola and fel­low Jo­han­nes­burg greater re­gion ANCYL leader Bheki Nkutha, who were lead­ing the train­ing ini­tia­tive last Au­gust, said they could not go ahead be­cause of the dis­ap­proval of the party’s lead­er­ship and is­sues with the train­ing venue.

They had wanted to con­tinue with the plan­ning phase of the pro­gramme so that the camp could take place in April this year, but the Covid-19 coro­n­avirus pan­demic de­layed the process.

“I think it’s im­por­tant for me to state that the cur­rent poster do­ing the rounds is from the ANCYL in the Fezile Dabi District in the Free State, but it’s the same pro­gramme we tried to or­gan­ise as the greater Jo­han­nes­burg re­gion last year. We failed to get the venue be­cause its owner claimed that it was no longer avail­able,” said Nkutha.

Both Nkutha and Ma­zola be­lieve that the Senekal protests, where white farm­ers were found to be car­ry­ing guns, were ev­i­dence that black youth needed to un­dergo com­bat train­ing.

Both ANCYL lead­ers state cat­e­gor­i­cally that the aim was not to en­cour­age black young peo­ple to take up arms or in­tim­i­date other sec­tors of the pop­u­la­tion, but was purely for de­fence rea­sons.

Fezile Dabi camp or­gan­iser Andile Mlambo claims that the ini­tia­tive has re­ceived a lot of in­ter­est from young black peo­ple and that about 200 of them have signed up with the youth league.

What we do not want is for white farm­ers to take this per­son­ally as if they are the only ones who are af­fected by crime

He said there was a mis­con­cep­tion re­gard­ing the es­tab­lish­ment of the camp and main­tained that it was pri­mar­ily to en­sure that young peo­ple could pro­tect them­selves when faced with crim­i­nals and in­stances of vi­o­lence against women and chil­dren.

Ac­cord­ing to Mlambo, the camp would also pro­vide good in­tro­duc­tory train­ing for those wish­ing to pur­sue a ca­reer in the SA Po­lice Ser­vice or the SA Na­tional De­fence Force.

“This pro­gramme will not only of­fer ba­sic mil­i­tary train­ing, one of its other key aims is to po­lit­i­cally ed­u­cate young peo­ple and teach them nec­es­sary fun­da­men­tal skills.

“We’re sim­ply look­ing out for our own peo­ple in our own com­mu­ni­ties. We know that crime af­fects all of us. We’re not in­cit­ing war and we’re not in­cit­ing vi­o­lence,” he said.

Lucky Mathonsi, an ANCYL Ekurhu­leni mem­ber, said it was equally as im­por­tant for women to learn to de­fend them­selves.

“We’re not only train­ing peo­ple to use arms, but to pro­tect them­selves against crim­i­nals. We also want to teach them first aid and we’re tar­get­ing mainly women be­cause they’re faced with is­sues of gen­der­based vi­o­lence.

“The mem­bers of the youth league agree that we need this train­ing. I’ve per­son­ally re­ceived mes­sages from them say­ing they want to un­dergo [train­ing]. Our aim is sim­ply to en­sure their safety if they’re at­tacked,” Mathonsi said.

ANC Free State spokesper­son Thabo Meeko said the youth league in the prov­ince had urged the re­gion to aban­don its train­ing camp af­ter con­clud­ing that the gov­ern­ing party’s armed strug­gle was some­thing to be left in the past.

How­ever, Ma­zola said he was all too fa­mil­iar with lead­er­ship dis­tanc­ing it­self from youth pro­grammes, adding that older peo­ple in the ANC had a ten­dency to be “con­ser­va­tive”.

This, he said, was the time for older mem­bers to give young peo­ple a voice.

“It’s high time that we told them to go home and raise their grand­chil­dren, and let us lead this or­gan­i­sa­tion,” Ma­zola said.

BREW­ING RED STORM The EFF trav­elled to the Free State town in their num­bers this week TAK­ING A STAND Senekal po­lice of­fi­cers erected a ra­zor wire fence to sep­a­rate the EFF and the farm­ers

OPEN CALL The poster that was sent out by the ANCYL in Fezile Dabi

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