Wednesday, 28 June 2006

Farmers want end to 'guerrilla war'

June 27 2006 at 07:48AM

By Graeme Hosken and Janine du Plessis

Farmers east of Pretoria are demanding police step in and end what they call a "guerrilla war" being waged against them by criminals.

The demands come after Cullinan farmer Jan du Preez was arrested when he opened fire on three men armed with handguns and a hammer moments after they attacked him and his family.

Du Preez was at his home on the farm Nooitgedacht with his wife Gerda, four-year-old daughter Anrie and son PJ when they were attacked on Thursday night.

'They know what to look for'

The Du Preez family live with their friends Barry Visser and Riaan van der Merwe and their wives and children, who were also assaulted in the attack.

Their neighbour Andries Benadé was critically injured two weeks ago when gunmen, armed with R1 and R4 semi-automatic rifles, opened fire on him, shooting him in the leg and arm. He spent two weeks in the intensive care unit of Eugene Marais Hospital.

The previous owner of Benadé's farm was shot and killed nearly six years ago in an attack that left two other people dead.

Benadé has blamed the lack of service from the Cullinan police station as one of the reasons why farm attacks are on the increase.

He said he was amazed at the number of attacks in the area. "This happened 300m away from my house, where I was shot twice. I was still recovering in hospital when it happened. There have been a lot of farm attacks, assaults and attempted housebreakings. In the past two months it has been on the increase - there have been four recently," said Benadé.

'It was chaos'

"The police... took over half an hour to arrive after my shooting incident. Luckily most of the people in the region have neighbours nearby who can help or alarms which make the criminals run away.

"The police say these are ordinary robberies, but they are well-planned and professionally carried out. They know what to look for. If they wanted to steal my VW Golf they could have broken the ignition, they did not need to storm my house with an R1 and R5.

"The police are not doing anything about it either. Why must they wait for an attack before they investigate? It will not stop and will continue," said Benadé.

The three families attacked on Thursday were singing karaoke in their lounge when the men burst into the house, kicking down a door and smashing furniture.

Du Preez, who was released on R500 bail after appearing in the Cullinan magistrate's court on a charge of possessing an unlicensed firearm on Monday, said he did not know what was happening.

"One moment we were talking to each other and the next it was chaos with people screaming as these men charged into our house," he said.

Du Preez's wife, along with Visser's wife, managed to lock themselves in a back room, while Visser and his 13-year-old son Marco grabbed Anrie and hid in another bedroom. Du Preez and Van der Merwe apparently tried to fight back, but were overpowered before allegedly being hit with a hammer and whipped with electrical cables.

As one of the gunmen kept watch over the two, his accomplices searched the house for guns and money. The gunmen, who found Visser and the children, fled when Visser attacked them as they threatened to shoot his son.

"I saw one of the men point a gun at Marco and knew I had to do something. I jumped up and punched him before grabbing his gun and hitting him over the head with it," said Visser, who was pistol-whipped by the second gunman.

The attackers ran away without taking anything. As they fled, Du Preez allegedly grabbed Visser's father-in-law's gun from the safe, and fired three shots at the fleeing men. None of them was hit.

Police Inspector Katlego Mogale confirmed the attack and the arrest of Du Preez.

She said because the bullet cartridges had been removed from the scene, the investigating officer had become suspicious about the account of the attack.

This article was originally published on page 3 of Pretoria News on June 27, 2006


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