A group of former farm workers warned the owner of this farm in the Piet Retief area, Mpumalanga, a month before the sensational Pampoenkraal incident, that they were going to drive his workers away.
The defense argued in the High Court in Middelburg on Wednesday that the group of former workers warned Cornelius Greyling: If he hires seasonal workers from outside the area, they will stop these workers from performing their work. The farm is in a trust, of which Greyling and Werner Potgieter are trustees.
This is the same group of men who on 9 April 2021 chased away the farm workers on the farm, after which a major confrontation broke out between them and the farm owners, as well as farmers from neighboring farms. Two brothers, Mgcini Amos Coka and Zenzele Coka, were shot dead on the same day.
Potgieter and Greyling stand trial together with Daniel Malan, Othard Klingenberg, Ignatius Steynberg, Zenzele Patrick Yende and Andries Pienaar for the murder of the brothers.
The trial began on Monday.
Adv. Jaap Cilliers, on behalf of the defence, argued during cross-examination of the state witness, Siyabonga Hlatshwayo, that the group of former farm workers went to Pampoenkraal on the Friday in question with the aim “to take the law into their own hands”.
Cilliers’ statement is following a video which Tuesday was shown in court. In it, Hlatshwayo, Alex Zondo, Sphamandla Hlatshwayo and Mzwandile Hlatshwayo can be seen arriving at the farm with sticks on the day of the incident.
Hlatshwayo testified that they were there to negotiate work. Apparently they were unhappy because people were hired from outside, while they were unemployed. The group apparently wanted to “negotiate” with Greyling about this because they had been employed as seasonal workers on the farm in previous years, according to the testimony.
However, after they arrived at the farm, some of the other farm workers indicated that Greyling was not there. The group of disgruntled people then chased away the workers – who were employed on the farm at that stage – Hlatshwayo testified.
It came to light during the interrogation that the group had already met with Greyling on the same issue in March (a month before the incident) and had issued warnings to the farmer.
New information that emerged during Hlatshwayo’s testimony also shows that the day before the incident (Thursday, 7 April 2021) the group was on the farm to tell the current workers to stop their work.
“So, when the workers and Mr. Greyling does not heed your requests, you decide to confront them on Friday with the same request, but this time with big sticks in hand?” Cilliers asked in court.
“You knew the workers didn’t listen to you on Thursday and that’s why you have to act more convincingly on Friday? You had to find another way to get them off the farm and that is to not give them a choice to leave.”
Hlatshwayo testified that the group of men hoped that “Greyling will be convinced if they force his workers off the site”.
‘You are lying’
During cross-examination, Cilliers pointed out to Hlatshwayo that the group of former workers could have followed a different route than confronting the farm workers about the situation.
“Why didn’t you tell Mr. Didn’t Greyling call from the farm?” Cilliers asked Hlatshwayo.
To this he replied: “I didn’t have air time.”
Cilliers then said that Hlatshwayo was “lying” because he called his aunt from the hill about half an hour later, as he testified on Tuesday. Hlatshwayo claimed that he borrowed airtime from someone to call his aunt.
Hlatshwayo testified that he hid on the hill after the farmers arrived on the farm and fired warning shots.
According to the indictment, the farmers apprehended one member of the group of men, Nhlanhla William Hlatshwayo, on the day, held him against his will and assaulted him.
Hlatshwayo testified that he saw Nhlanhla’s assault from the hill, where he then called his aunt.
“Why did you call your aunt and not the police?” Cilliers asked him repeatedly during cross-examination.
“My aunt was the first person I thought of,” Hlatshwayo replied.
However, Cilliers pointed out that the aunt said in an official statement that she did not live near the Pampoenkraal area.
“Then why call someone who is far away, when the local police station is a stone’s throw from the farm? I can answer you. You didn’t call the police because you know [die groep mans] was wrong and acted illegally that day.”
Cilliers indicated that he would add this statement to his closing arguments of the trial.
According to the defence, Nhlanhla assaulted Potgieter with an object. Both men had to be hospitalized after the incident.
The trial continues.
Read all the reports on the case here.
Leave a Reply