Racial tensions rise in S Africa over farm killing

SENEKAL (AP) – A tense standoff between white farmers and Black activists gripped the South African town of Senekal on Friday, as two men accused of killing a white farm manager were to appear in court.

More than 100 police patrolled the area in front of the courthouse in the Free State province and used barbed wire to separate the rival groups.

Sekwetjie Mahlamba and Sekola Matlaletsa appeared in the magistrate’s court on charges of killing Brendin Horner, 21, on October 1. Their request for bail was postponed until October 20.

About 250 white farmers gathered to protest the killing, charging that police do not adequately protect white farmers. In an earlier court hearing last week, a group of white farmers stormed the court and burned a police vehicle.

The country’s leftist opposition party, the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), mobilised about 1,000 of its supporters to challenge the white farmers in front of the court. They sang songs and shouted slogans calling for South Africa’s land to be returned to Black residents. Many were dressed in the EFF party’s red uniforms and berets.

EFF leader Julius Malema who came to Senekal on Friday was expected to speak to his supporters after the court hearing.

While most white farmers and organisations representing them have called for farm killings to be made a priority crime, the government insists that white farmers are not being targetted, saying the violence is a result of South Africa’s relatively high crime rate.

South Africa has one of the highest crime statistics in the world, with a murder rate of just over 58 deaths a day.

Members of the Economic Freedom Fighters protest outside the magistrate’s court in Senekal. PHOTO: AP