Another White South African Farmer Shot Dead by Blacks
A South African wine merchant who spoke out against attacks on white farmers was found dead after being shot on Sunday night while dining with family and friends.
Stefan Smit, 62, had been openly critical of the threat of land grabs on his property - a large estate in Stellenbosch, Western Cape - South Africa's most famous wine region.
It was a murder seemingly fuelled by a land dispute created when a squat straddling Smit's Louisenhof Estate was set up, expanding into a vast settlement.
The farmer had previously complained about how citizens from a nearby township had begun erecting shacks at the back of his farm, culminating in him getting an injunction to prevent people from encroaching on his space.
Smit was killed when four men entered his vineyard through an unlocked back door and shot him dead. His wife and a family friend managed to survive the attack.
Pieter Haasbroek, a friend of Mr. Smit, told The New York Times: 'They were busy eating dinner with friends when four masked men came into the house. They shot Smit dead. What we feared came true.'
The dispute over land has been ongoing and increasingly fractious, but police said it was too early to tell if Smit's death was connected to that or a random murder.
The same dispute saw the murder of Annette Kennealy, 51, a farmer activist from Limpopo province who was beaten to death with a hammer and iron rod in late May.
South Africa's ruling party, the African National Congress, has denounced the violence against farmers, but farming groups still accuse the party of not doing enough to stop it.
Ms Kennealy's and Mr Smit's murders comes as the government, led by Cyril Ramaphosa, pushes ahead with plans to alter South Africa's constitution to allow land to be seized from farmers without having to compensate them.
Both of those who were killed were vocal opponents of the new land measures being proposed and last August, people from a nearby black township flooded Mr Smit's land, building shacks on it to the point where he 'couldn't breathe.'
Annette Kennealy, 51, a farmer activist from Limpopo province was beaten to death with a hammer and iron rod
Zola Ndlasi, the township leader who organized the occupation of Smit's land, said there are 2,000 shacks there now.
'I'm not happy,' he said by phone to The New York Times upon learning of the 62-year-old's death. 'He's a human being. No one is allowed to kill anybody. '
Ramaphosa has said that his much-focused-on land reform is necessary to compensate for the 'historical imbalance' caused by apartheid and colonialism.
Under Section 25 of the old constitution, citizens were granted the right to property which could be expropriated - but only upon payment of compensation.
The power of government to seize land was also limited, meaning that the majority of farmland remained in white hands - despite the majority of South Africa's population being black.
According to a 2017 census, 72 per cent of land was owned by white people, who made up just nine per cent of the population.
However, in December last year parliament voted 209-91 to amend the constitution to say that land could be expropriated without anything being paid in certain circumstances.
Ministers are now preparing a series of 'test cases' for the courts, despite warnings that it could take a decade or more to resolve the issue.
The ANC has sought to reassure people inside and outside the country that its efforts to ensure the majority of black South Africans have better access to land - a long-standing party promise - will be legal and should not be cause for alarm.
Ramaphosa has said everyone should 'relax' about the land reform process and that it would 'end up very well'.
Cyril Ramaphosa has pushed ahead with changes to the constitution which mean land can be expropriated without any compensation being offered
Political parties and NGOs have criticised the government's attempts to change land reform measures.
The issue did not appear to play well for Ramaphosa at South Africa's recent election, the first since he seized power from predecessor Jacob Zuma, which the ruling ANC party won - but with a reduced majority.
Transvaal Agricultural Union, a group representing the interests of farmers, recorded 84 farm murders in the 2017 calendar year. Of these, 59 victims were white farmers.
A further 15 people, including eight white farmers, were killed on farms in the first three months of 2018.