Cross in memory of slayed farmers torched as “message to farmers”

A cross erected in memory of slayed farmers was torched in Brits on Monday following an altercation between protesting farm workers and members of a security company at a nearby farm.

Nick Motloung

Nick Motloung, a journalist at Madibeng FM and the Madibeng Insider, set the cross on the R511 in Brits alight by throwing a burning tyre at it. “It is a message to farmers that enough is enough,” he told Kormorant.

This followed  the protest by farm workers at Langplaas Farm on Monday morning which Motloung said he attended. Between 150 and 200 workers gathered at around 08:00, allegedly because of a loan dispute. PPS Security was present and owner, Quintin Dunn, alleged that farm workers tried to take a security officer’s firearm. Rubber bullets were fired. According to Dunn, this was done in self-defense. Six people were wounded. Police spokesperson Col Amanda Funani confirmed that six cases of attempted murder were opened following the incident.

Shortly after the protest, Motloung torched the cross located elsewhere in the Brits area. An unidentified woman filmed him and the video circulated on social media. “Farmers must get the message. I was there when the cross was erected and I support the farmers, but some farmers are two-faced and must stop treating their workers badly and shooting them,” he told Kormorant.

In an interview with Kormorant, Motloung accused the owner of Langplaas of being racist and ordering the security forces to shoot. Asked why he torched the cross, which had nothing to do with the protest, he said that “it was just a message”. “I have nothing against farmers, but they must respect their workers.”

Langplaas owner, Gert van Rensburg, confirmed that farm workers staged a protest on Monday. He explained that it followed after a misunderstanding about a new salary payment system. “The salaries for September were concluded on 2 October and the workers were paid for the two days in October as well. The end of October salaries excluded the two days’ salaries paid the previous month,” Gert van Rensburg Junior said to Kormorant. “On Monday morning when farm workers turned threatening and started pelting stones at staff members, we called in security. An altercation between the workers and security officers followed whereby one worker attempted to take firearms from a security officer,” he said.

Kormorant asked the South African National Editor’s Forum for comment on the cross torching incident.  Executive Director, Kate Skinner, gave her personal view. “My view – It is a difficult situation. Usually journalists do their activism through their reporting, through meticulously covering events. Also, giving voice to the voiceless. Generally journalists don’t get involved in direct activism. However on a personal level it is easy to understand the passion and wanting to take a stand.”

She added that, according to a number of SANEF’s members, Motloung had acted within the scope of his right to freedom of expression.

The Tswana words spoken in the video below translates directly into “racism is not finished in South Africa”.

Also see: Two wounded after protesting workers get violent