South African town braces for racial violence over farm killings

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A South African town braced for racial violence today as black protesters armed with golf clubs and cricket bats clashed with white farmers in vans outside a court where two black men are accused of killing a farmer.

The murder of Brendin Horner has led to riots in the town of Senekal where waving white protesters stormed the courthouse, fired shots and set a police car on fire last week.

Today, hundreds of black protesters linked to the economic freedom fighters movement – which supports white land redistribution – gathered outside the courthouse with stones thrown despite efforts to keep calm.

Local media said black protesters were wielding golf clubs, hockey sticks and cricket bats ahead of the two murder suspects’ second court appearance today.

Farmers, who accuse the government of failing to protect them from violent crime, arrived in pickup trucks, some in military gear and others waving “Boer Lives Matter” banners during today’s confrontation.

Black protesters linked to the economic freedom fighters movement protest outside the Senekal court today, with a man in front holding what looks like a golf club

Whites in military uniforms separated from black protesters with razor wire as small town braces for racial violence after latest farm murder in South Africa

Whites in military uniforms separated from black protesters with razor wire as small town braces for racial violence after latest farm murder in South Africa

A showdown between supporters of economic freedom fighters in their red berets (left) and farmers from the AfriForum group (right) in the streets of Senekal today

A showdown between supporters of economic freedom fighters in their red berets (left) and farmers from the AfriForum group (right) in the streets of Senekal today

The small town has been placed in the international spotlight after protesting white farmers barged into the hearing last week.

One of the murder suspects had been arrested 16 times before his last detention for Horner’s murder, Police Minister Bheki Cele said.

Cele visited the town on Tuesday, meeting the family of the murdered farmer.

The leader of the freedom fighters, Julius Malema, had warned that he would mobilize supporters to descend on Senekal ahead of today’s bail hearing.

“We’re going to face white men face to face,” Malema said in Johannesburg two days after tweeting a photo of a gun.

Dressed in their red shirts and berets, the Freedom Fighters held a march in which hundreds participated today, while many white farmers arrived in khaki shirts and shorts, some in military attire.

Police separated the two groups with barbed wire on one street, but they regrouped and clashed in another area as police helicopters hovered over their heads.

According to News24, some farmers said, “We don’t want war, but what should we do, run away? We are not cowards. We are here to show who and what we are. “

The media outlet said some of the black protesters threatened violence despite efforts by the marshals “working very, very hard to control their supporters.”

A protester wearing a balaclava mask joins supporters of the Economic Freedom Fighters in their signature red outfits as they march through Senekal today

A protester wearing a balaclava mask joins supporters of the Economic Freedom Fighters in their signature red outfits as they march through Senekal today

White protesters stand near barbed wire with a man holding a 'Boer Lives Matter' sign, a reference to the white population who own most of South Africa's farmland

White protesters stand near barbed wire with a man holding a ‘Boer Lives Matter’ sign, a reference to the white population who own most of South Africa’s farmland

Last week: Police truck after being set on fire by white protesters who stormed a courthouse when murder suspects first appeared

Last week: Police truck after being set on fire by white protesters who stormed a courthouse when murder suspects first appeared

President Cyril Ramaphosa on Monday urged people not to use murder to ignite racial tensions, saying it “shows how easily the powder keg of racial hatred can be ignited.”

“We must resist any attempt to use farm crime to mobilize communities along racial lines,” he said.

Farm killings are an explosive problem in South Africa, where most private farmland is owned by whites 26 years after apartheid ended.

White activist groups promote the idea that they are the victims of a “white genocide”, but Ramaphosa this week insisted that “the farm killings are not ethnic cleansing”.

“They are not genocidal. These are acts of criminality, ”Ramaphosa said.

But Afriforum, a group representing Afrikaners who own most of the private farmland – said Ramaphosa’s words “have failed to resolve this crisis.”

“Part of the farm killing crisis is that senior politicians, also within the ruling party, willingly romanticize violence against farmers in their statements,” said Ernst Roets, director of Afriforum.

Brendin Horner, agricultural director, 21, murdered on a farm near the town of Paul Roux in the Free State

Brendin Horner, agricultural director, 21, murdered on a farm near the town of Paul Roux in the Free State

South Africa has the fifth highest murder rate in the world and white farmers make up only a tiny fraction of the total.

The government is preparing to expropriate land owned by whites without compensation, as part of an effort to redress economic inequalities.

The alleged instigator of last week’s court riots, businessman Andre Pienaar, is in custody on charges of public violence, attempted murder and incitement to hatred.

He also faces a possible terrorism charge, according to the prosecution.

John Mathuhle, a town pastor, said what was supposed to be a “peaceful” farmers’ protest outside the courthouse last week “did not quite end well.”

“So because of that we had a lot of racial tension,” he said.

“We just pray for peace. Civil war will not start in Senekal and that is what we are here to say, no to civil war, no to racism, no to agricultural killings.

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