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OPINION: Here we go again, Your Honour

“TO speedy justice in the Piet Retief case,” said Luke the Dude, “for the five farmers facing suspicious-looking murder charges. Doesn’t this bring back bad memories of the Coligny case, Steve?”

Stevie the Poet had kept the company of concerned conversationalists at the local Grill and Garden informed about the two Coligny farm lads who were falsely accused and wrongfully convicted of murder – before justice finally triumphed in the Appeal Court. 

“There are reasons to be concerned,” said Stevie.

“Well, tell us, dear boy, tell us,” encouraged The Prof.

“I can tell you what I have learned from reporting by Gabriel Crouse of the Institute of Race Relations and from a statement by the IRR’s CEO, Dr Frans Cronjé, reported in Daily Friend,” offered Stevie, “and of course reporting in the newspapers; Rapport is doing a good job.

“We have two versions plus independent evidence of what happened on April 9. Briefly:

“Version 1 includes the allegations of state witnesses as summarised at the bail hearing. A group of men came to look for work on the Pampoenkraal farm outside Piet Retief. One of them was assaulted and tied to a tree; the others went to call reinforcements.  The farmers, farm workers and local leaders also called for support.

“The two groups faced each other across the road, one wanting the release of their detained friend, the other refusing and telling them to leave. They didn’t and in the process two of them were shot dead. End of Version 1.

“Version 2 states that the group of men who arrived were aggressive towards the current farm workers, who called a farmer, Werner Potgieter. When he tried to talk to the aggressors, he was assaulted with a knobkierie. The assaulter was detained and the police were called before 11 a.m. Potgieter was taken to hospital. The police did not react until after the shootings, more than an hour later.

“The two brothers who were later shot, Zenzele and Amos Coka, were on the scene and seen arguing.  

“During the stand-off, Amos Coka hit Hans Moolman, a neighbouring farmer, on the head with a steel pipe, knocking him out. Coka managed to grab his unconscious victim’s gun and run for safety behind a bakkie. He was shooting while he was running, accidentally hitting his own brother, who died from the fatal shot. Then the shooter himself was shot, allegedly by Johann Klingenberg, in self-defence when Amos Coka was firing at farmers through the bakkie’s open windows. 

“Moolman was taken to hospital and is being treated for very serious injuries.

“Those are the two versions. The independent evidence includes security videos covering part of the scene, including the conduct of the confronting parties and aggressive behaviour by the late Coka brothers. And then, importantly, the conduct of the police. Despite being merely some 10 minutes away, they finally arrived only after being called again because of the shootings, and then proceeded to arrest four farmers and the farm manager of Pampoenkraal.

“Their methodology in detecting the five alleged criminals was, shall we say, eye-opening. The police lined up in the middle of the road, between the two sides, and asked the intruders to call out the names of the farmers who shot at them. Then the cops booked those men and locked them up on suspicion of murder and other serious charges. No assaulter was arrested.

“This unusual piece of police work is a travesty. For instance, there is reason to believe that one of the arrested farmers, Naas Steynberg, was not even on the scene when the shots were fired. He arrived only about 20 minutes later, another farmer told Rapport.

“Then there is the very troubling behaviour of the police in court. In a podcast on the first bail hearing, Gabriel Crouse relates that the State had called the investigating officer to testify. While doing so, the witness’s attention repeatedly shifted to a policeman sitting out of view of the magistrate and the Defence. This person was holding up a board with writing for the witness to read. New messages followed as the evidence progressed.

“After about an hour of this witness tampering – while the witness was on the stand! – the Defence noticed and interrupted to inform the magistrate what was happening literally behind his back. The policeman hastily tried to hide his board and claimed vehemently that the papers were merely his notes. 

“The Defence was having none of that and an adjournment was called by the magistrate to see the State and the Defence in chambers. There was no further attempt at witness interference when the hearing resumed. 

“But as of today, the final word has not been spoken on the admissibility of that investigating officer’s evidence, at the very least.” 

“Right, gentlemen and beautiful ladies!” called The Governor. “Our learned friend adv. Stevie must have a parched throat by now, so let’s give him a break and refill our glasses.” 

“Hmmm,” pondered Big Ben, “why do you think this is the same as the Coligny case?”

“May I, Stevie,” interrupted The Prof, no doubt in consideration of Stevie’s throat, “some of the circumstances are the same, enough for race-driven politicians to twist, in order to inflame the community with a narrative of white farmers vs black victims – to the extremes of prejudice where truth and justice are expected to take a back seat, under threat of violence. 

“Such intimidation has been evident. Among the vehicles stoned by a bail-protesting mob, was one where a large stone hit the side of a man’s head, probably through an already broken window. He was left for dead and his full recovery is not guaranteed.

“The evil warning has been spoken: If the accused get bail, the town goes up in flames.

“It took the involvement of Afriforum to finally get justice in the Coligny case. The good news is, they have appointed a lawyer to monitor the Piet Retief case. And the bottom line to cheer you all up: the IRR are doing their own, truth-driven, investigation of the facts.”


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