In front of Fanie Botha’s (69) house in Witrivier, Mpumalanga, there is a “For Sale” sign. This is the same house in which he and his late wife, Annemarie (65), would live after his retirement.
“I don’t want to stay here anymore, there is nothing here for me anymore,” says Botha as he points to the sign.
Upon entering the house, Botha points to the framed photo on the wall of “his Ammie” and tells with sadness in his eyes that this photo was taken an hour before her death. According to Botha, he wants to remember Annemarie like this: Always with a smile on her face. “But the last image I have of her bloody body remains in my head,” he says.
Botha has up 24 April 2021 came across the bodies of Annemarie and her mentally disabled son, Ruan Brits (36), in a farmhouse on Valley Farm near Mbombela. Botha worked on this farm as a farm manager.
That day is still stuck in Botha’s head and when he talks about Annemarie and Ruan, tears well up in his eyes.
Along with the sadness, Botha also experiences great frustration with the police’s investigation which seems to be at a standstill.
According to Botha, he does not get any feedback from the police about the matter; no one has been questioned in two years’ time and there is still outstanding evidence that has not been collected.
“It’s as if the murders never happened.”
On Friday evening (23 April 2021) a sail and lawnmower were stolen from the Botha family’s yard. There was also tampering with the door of the outer room.
Botha fixed this door the next day (24 April 2021) and also replaced the locks of the farmhouse. He drove just before 16:00 to patrol the farm. Annemarie also left the house in the afternoon to go to a birthday celebration.
Ruan stayed behind on the farm. He visited the couple on the farm some weekends. During the week, he lives in Wenakker, a facility for disabled adults, in Lydenburg.
Botha came home just before 18:00 and saw Annemarie’s car in front of the house. He went into the house, where he then saw that the house was almost turned upside down.
He found Annemarie and Ruan’s bloody bodies in the living room. Ruan’s body was lying on top of Annemarie’s.
“I could see they were dead. After eight years on the border, I knew what death looked, smelled and tasted like.”
Botha ran out of the house and called the security guards of the farm on a two-way radio, but got no answer. He then went to his manager’s house – which is located on the same farm.
“It was strange to me that the guards did not react.”
According to Botha, he cannot remember everything.
“Everything was a blur to me, as if I was in another world. I just remember I was so furious that they had to admit me to the hospital to get my blood pressure down.”
There were probably between eight and ten men in the house. Annemarie and Ruan were both stabbed more than 30 times with a sharp object.
“There must also have been a stallion’s struggle, because Ammie’s nails were broken.”
Botha’s theory is that the men watched the family’s movements and when he and Annemarie drove, they took their chance to break into the farmhouse. They may have cut wires to gain access to the premises.
“If I had arrived a few minutes earlier, I wouldn’t be here today either.”
Some of the stolen goods were found along the road and in the fields. A signal from Botha’s stolen mobile phone was observed shortly after the attack near the Rob Ferreira Hospital in Mbombela.
Botha showed Rhewal a box on which there are clear fingerprints, of which the police apparently did not even take prints.
“I don’t even believe they took DNA at the scene.”
According to Botha, the autopsy reports were only completed a year and two months later.
a Reward of R100 000 was offered after the murders for any information that could help to catch the killers.
The security group Bossies Community Justice has been involved in the investigation from the outset and according to the operational chief, Albert Gryvensteinthey do everything in their power to get answers.
“The investigation is quiet, we get nothing from the police,” Gryvenstein admitted to Rhewal.
Rhewal has made inquiries to the police about how the case is progressing, but has also received no response.
Botha said his hands felt cut off. Apart from being left at the mercy of the police, he also cannot afford the services of a private detective.
“I already told myself to stop fighting and that revenge belongs to the Lord, but they hurt me just as much that day. I can’t just sit and watch them get away with it.”
Botha tries to make sense of the brutal murders of his loved ones, which Gryvenstein described as the “worst farm murder scene he had ever witnessed”.
“They didn’t deserve it. At one stage I asked: Where was the Lord? He then promises in the Bible that He will not even let your foot hit a stone,” says Botha.
After the murders, Botha no longer wanted to live in the farmhouse, nor could he move into his town house because the tenants’ (at that stage) contract would only expire at the end of August. Originally, Botha would have retired as farm manager only then and gone to live in the village house with Annemarie.
He lived with relatives for a while, but during that time contracted Covid-19 and could no longer live there because those relatives were high-risk cases.
“Then I slept in my car for about two weeks and lived on canned food – like in the army.”
Botha’s daughters booked him a place to stay in guest houses and he went to live with them for a while until he could move into the village house.
Botha and Annemarie were married for 18 years, of which they lived on the Valley Farms farm for the past two and a half years.
Annemarie was a teacher at the Calvary Christian School in Mbombela.
“She was a good Christian person who did no harm to anyone. She could play the most beautiful piano and cook the most delicious food.”
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