Two residents from the Dr Pixley Ka Isaka Seme Local Municipality situated in the Gert SibandeDistrict of Mpumalanga (Piet Retief) were reportedly killed by a farmer on Friday, 9 April 2021. Five suspects for arrested for the murder.
This article has been updated (on 10 April) to include information pertaining to the arrest of four suspects, and again on 19 April to include the Piet Retief protests and bail application.
Two killed in Piet Retief: What we know
Two ‘brutally killed by farm owners’
As reported by Volksrust Online Radio, the incident took place at Ward 10 Pampoen Farm on Friday. The victims have been identified as Mgcini Coka and Zenzele Coka.
“Mgcini Coka and Zenzele Coka have been brutally killed by farm owners where they were trying to rescue other members of the community who came to look for a job”.
Volksrust Online Radio (VOR) explains that residents seeking employment “were beaten as the farmer stated he does not need people of this area to work for him”.
According to VOR, Mgcini and Zenzele were “gunned down”. Photos from the scene can be viewed here. Do note: These images are graphic, viewer discretion is advised.
Update: Murder suspects arrested
According to Maroela Media, four suspects were arrested for the murders. A spokesperson reportedly told Maroela Media that the two victims were part of a peaceful protest against the abuse of farmworkers on the farm.
In addition, Mpumalanga police spokesperson Colonel Donald Mdhluli confirmed that four suspects have been arrested in connection with the murder. They will appear in court on Monday.
Details leading up to incident unclear
Several residents have said on social media that Volksrust Radio didn’t “present the real story”. One netizen, Dawid Booysen, accused Volkrust Online Radio of “swiping [sic] up people with wrong info”.
Booysen told another commenter that they were “being led to believe fake news”, adding, “it will come out and you will see.” One netizen shared a screenshot with the following information:
“You want the real story? Happened not far from us. Guys was [sic] busy loading cattle they had stolen. When members of rural safety approached them they opened fire. Guys from rural safety returned fire, resulted in the death of 2 and possible wounding of another. Suspects flees [sic] currently BOLO on them”.
In response to the screenshot, another Facebook user, who claims to have known the victims personally, said: “These are lies. You people are just protecting yourselves. These are lies and besides the whites in that area killed our livestock, were they killed? No! So don’t come at me with this comment”.
Update: Protests as accused apply for bail
Tensions rose and a standoff ensued between members of the South African Police Service (SAPS) and protesting residents outside the Piet Retief Magistrate’s Court on Monday, 19 April 2021.
Tear gas was used to disperse crowds outside the courthouse. This follows after five men accused of murdering two men made their second appearance.
The Piet Retief Magistrate’s Court postponed the bail application of the five men accused to Tuesday, 20 April 2021. Read more here.
Reaction to Piet Retief killings on social media
“Like flies [laughing emojis]. You kill your own like its [sic] a national sport… Every day on social media news feeds you read about it…”
Another netizen, Louis Johannes Pretorius said: (comment copied verbatim):
“they whant to rob and kill becous they are [expletive] sleg open your eyes whent to look for work on a farm plaeeees this time thy where stop befour killing kidz and old poepel how menny black poeple are getting rap murderd kidz is it the white poeple as well open yours eyes get rid of the ………….that arnt human and start beleving in a better SA for all of us i will also hunt doun anny one that whants to hurt my fammely black white [racial slur] indian no matter what the race so think what you want ther are more black poeple killing black poeple what do you say to thar its not about race its about humannety”.