THE South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) has appealed for calm in Senekal in the Free State amid sporadic clashes between the EFF, Afriforum and local farmers.
Racial tensions are high in Senekal following the death of 21-year-old farm manager, Brendin Horner, who was murdered earlier this month.
Thousands of EFF member marched on Friday morning outside the Senekal Magistrate’s Court ahead of the appearance of two accused persons in the murder of Horner.
Riot police remain on standby as EFF and Afriforum protesters square off in separate protest actions in the remote farming town.
Police Minister Bheki Cele and State Security Minister Ayanda Dlodlo are also attending the court proceedings in Senekal.
“This event has caused high tensions in the area, and resulted in damage to property and violence during the protest by the group aggrieved by the murder of Horner as well as other farm killings,” the SAHRC said on Friday.
“The Commission thus asks for peace and for communities to allow the justice system and legal processes to run its course, unfettered. A peaceful, prosperous nation is dependent on an efficient justice system, which operates independently of community sentiments.”
The commission added that violence and damage to property will not aide in bringing justice in the name of Mr Horner, or any other person who has lost their life to crime.
The farmers, who accuse the government of failing to protect them from violent crime, arrived in pick-up trucks ahead of the court hearing in the central town of Senekal for Horner’s two suspected killers.
The farmers mostly wore khaki shirts and shorts, a few wore military outfits, and at least one was armed. A group on motorbikes sporting long beards drove through Senekal, a trading town surrounded by dry, hilly countryside, some waving flags with crosses on.
“We are getting tired now of all the farm murders,” said Geoffrey Marais, 30, a livestock trader from Delmas, where a woman was strangled to death two weeks ago.
“Enough is enough. They (the government) must start to prioritise these crimes.”
Police separated the two groups with razor wire in one street, but they regrouped and faced off in another area as police helicopters hovered overhead.
The EFF supporters danced, sung and waved golf clubs and wooden sticks, while the white farmers stared them down.
Despite the tensions, there were no reports of violence, and the farmers later left, dismantling several EFF roadblocks and driving out with no confrontation.
The EFF blames South Africa’s problems on what it says is a continued stranglehold of the economy by whites.
Several buses full of EFF supporters drove past the farmers singing “kill the boer (farmer)” out of the window as they headed into town.
“We are not scared of them. We are going to get them on Friday. We are going to face white men face to face,” the EFF’s firebrand leader Julius Malema was quoted as saying in the local press this week.
“I’m here because of white people… taking advantage of us,” said EFF supporter Khaya Langile, who came from the Johannesburg township of Soweto.
Tensions have been heightened by a government plan to expropriate white-owned land without compensation as part of an effort to redress economic inequalities that remain stark a quarter of a century after the end of apartheid.
Roughly 70% of privately-owned farmland in South Africa is owned by whites, who make up less than 9% of the country’s population of 58 million.
(Additional reporting by REUTERS)