“They’re coming!” – These were the chilling words that a Stellenbosch protea farmer shouted to his wife while doing a security check after hearing that a farmer in the region had been shot dead.
“It’s devastating,” an emotional Gerald Knight told News24 about being robbed hours after Louiesenhof vintner Stefan Smit was murdered.
“We’ve lived here for 25 years and right now, I feel like just leaving,” said Knight.
However, he has his protea plantation to look after, even if he is in terrible pain from the broken ribs he sustained during the robbery.
The Knights were ambushed by three robbers on Sunday night while doing a safety check following an alarming WhatsApp group message about Smit’s murder.
“The WhatsApp message told us to just close everything,” said Knight.
He then went to check if the back door was closed, and as he rounded a corner, he caught sight of somebody through the window.
“I screamed at Marie. I said, ‘They’re coming.'”
Taking deep breaths in between relating the horror that unfolded, Knight said two men broke their burglar bars with a crowbar and attempted to enter the house.
“I actually stopped them from coming in because I didn’t know where in the house my wife was.
“Then, he [one of the robbers] entered with a gun. And as he came in, he knocked me across the room into the kitchen cupboard. That’s when I broke my ribs.”
He was hit on the leg by one of the men who was demanding to know where his watch was.
“I have not worn a watch for 25 years,” he continued.
The second robber ran through the house to find his wife who had by then locked herself and their dogs in the “panic room”.
The couple used to breed Dobermanns.
Knight is convinced that their dogs would have been shot dead if they had let them out.
His wife activated the panic button just as a third robber tried to get in.
Knight said they took a 32-inch television set, a camera lens that was on the kitchen counter, cellphones and his wallet.
“They were literally in and out in five minutes. It was absolutely horrible.”
Their security company and the police arrived shortly afterward.
“The police were fantastic,” said Knight.
Earlier, Western Cape police spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel André Traut said investigations were ongoing into the Louiesenhof murder as well as a robbery at the Glen Gall Farm in Klapmuts outside Stellenbosch on Tuesday morning.
In that incident, a woman and children were robbed.
At Louiesenhof, the Smit family trust recently concluded the sale of a portion of land on Watergang to the Stellenbosch municipality for R45m after it was occupied by a group of backyarders who renamed it Azania. The deal is still in the transfer stage.
Farmers in the region are jittery after the murder and robberies, which happened soon after Bonnievale wine farmer Tool Wessels was killed and his wife, Liezel, was seriously injured in May.
Condemnation of the attacks and sympathy for the victims have come from all quarters, ranging from farmers associations and political parties to farmworkers’ association.
Vinpro and AgriSA have appealed to President Cyril Ramaphosa to take strong action against attacks on the agricultural sector and improve rural safety.
Louiesenhof is ironically next door to Beyerskloof, which has hosted meetings between presidents and farmers, most recently Ramaphosa.
Vinpro spokesperson Wanda Augustyn said: “As can be expected, the mood following the attacks is sombre.
“From Vinpro’s side, we are calling on wine-farming communities to be vigilant with regards to their own security and work together by becoming involved in policing or safety initiatives in their areas.”
Western Cape safety and agriculture MECs Albert Fritz and Ivan Meyer said they would urgently take up the matter with the police and the National Prosecuting Authority, adding that they would also start working on extra rural safety measures.
In the meantime, Knight said they had not gone for trauma counseling, adding that he would prefer to work through it himself. However, they are receiving good support from their family.
This news release does not necessarily reflect the opinion of SA-news.