EC farmers seek private protection

Private security guards will be brought into farming communities in the Eastern Cape amid a surge in criminal attacks and an outcry from farmers that police are not doing enough.

LUCKY TO BE ALIVE: Igoda area farmer Basil Peinke at the electric fence where robbers dropped some coins while trying to scale the perimeter prior to an attack Picture: MARK ANDREWS

Agri-Eastern Cape chairman Douglas Stern said yesterday: “We have decided to now be vigilant and organise our own private security and protect ourselves as a collective. We know police are stretched and cannot be visible in all the areas where there are farms.”

He said farming communities would also start forming “visible patrols” because crime syndicates were targeting farmers in remote areas.

Mvusiwekhaya Sicwetsha, spokesman for the provincial department of rural development and agrarian reform, urged farmers not to go it alone.

“We should all work together to eradicate this violence occurring in the rural and farming communities of our country,” Sicwetsha said.

Stern said attacks were happening weekly. Farms had been attacked near East London, in the Great Kei, Stutterheim and Aliwal North.

On Friday, 47-year-old Great Kei farmer Jason Winrow was gunned down at his Blue Water farm.

His Toyota Hilux bakkie, a cellphone and his wallet were stolen.

In another incident last week near Cove Rock west of East London, 66-year old pineapple farmer Basil Peinke and his wife were threatened with guns and knives when four men stormed into their farmhouse and robbed them of cash, computers, cellphones and clothes.

East London police spokeswoman Warrant Officer Hazel Mqala said police were investigating.

Stern said Stutterheim farmer Robbie Blaine had been attacked recently.

“When Robbie heard his dogs barking he went outside to see what was happening. When he left the house he was confronted by a group of men armed with knives.

“Fortunately when they attempted to bind Robbie they did a poor job and he was able to break loose and flee to his farmworkers to get help.

“This surge in attacks is of great concern. The cause of these attacks is economic. It is often items which can be resold that are stolen.

“In Mr Winrow’s case there was most likely a false belief that he would be carrying the money that he made from delivering chickens.

“To prevent these attacks, we need to work with the police to create a visual presence which will scare off attackers.”

A Dispatch team yesterday visited Peinke’s farm, where he said they thought they were going to die.

“I came home at around 5.15pm. It was still light outside. They must have slipped in behind me before the gate closed without me noticing.

“As I was about to get in the shower I heard my doorbell ring. I thought it was my son, but when I opened the door there were two men with pistols. One of them put his gun in my mouth.”

Two more men were armed with knives.

“They told me not to do anything but I grabbed them and shouted for my wife, so they pushed me down and hit me with a bat.

“Then they went to get my wife and told me if I didn’t do what they wanted they were going to kill her.

“I softened as soon as I saw my wife in danger.

“I don’t care what happens to me but I couldn’t stand my family getting hurt. The gun was fully cocked and the hammer all the way back the entire time, that gun could have gone off at any moment.”

Peinke’s wife is suffering from a life-threatening illness and had returned from hospital the day before.

“I told them to take whatever they wanted and my wife started praying, she prayed loudly the whole time.

“They kept shouting that they wanted money and guns, so I opened my safes and told them to take everything, I even let them know there were keys in the vehicles outside.

“They seemed very professional. They all wore latex gloves and balaclavas except one who didn’t seem to care about hiding his face. That man was the most violent and seemed to really want to hurt me.”

The couple were tied up in the children’s room and threatened with death if they tried to escape.

Peinke said: “I wasn’t tied very well, it was almost like they wanted me to run or try something stupid.

“As I started to loosen the knot the door opened and one of them started demanding that I come with him to open the electric gate.

“I didn’t want to leave my wife so I showed him that I could open the gate [with a remote] from the room, thankfully he was OK with this.”

The group eventually fled with a .22 pistol, four laptops, a cellphone and a substantial sum of money.

By ASANDA NINI and TYLER RIDDIN – DispatchLIVE

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