Justice delayed again for assaulted farmworker

Community members protest the delays in prosecuting the case against the remaining accused, a farmer, Hilbert Van Heerden whose 72-year-old father was acquitted of the assault of Anthony Koopman. Photo supplied

Violence on South African farms is endemic and farmworkers all too commonly are the victims.

Sole breadwinner, Anthony Koopman of Murraysburg, is now unable to wake up and look for work at surrounding farms after an assault, allegedly by two farmers, that left him with severe head injuries and epileptic seizures. The incident happened on the R63 which connects the small Karoo town to Graaff Reinet in February last year.

Koopman said he used to go from farm to farm in search of work, since the attack he is now unable to work, as a result of injuries. He added that he struggles to pay for medication he needs to help control the fits he now suffers from. “Now I have to wait for days when I feel okay, so that I can collect recycling to make some money. Things have been difficult, especially since I was the only one working in the house,” said Koopman.

Koopman said he was accused of stealing and killing a sheep belonging to the Bloupoort farmers. According to him, they fired blank bullets at his body while he lay helpless on the ground. The two men also threatened to drive over him with their bakkie. He sustained serious injuries, including a blow to the head, apparently with the butt of a gun, which has left him suffering epileptic fits. He claims that he did not suffer from epilepsy before the attack.

The community has expressed unhappiness at how the case has been handled so far. On Friday, there was a demonstration outside the Murraysburg Magistrate’s Court to support a fellow farmworker. According to one of the local community leaders, Thanduxolo Williams, they are not happy with the delays. “Why is everything so delayed? We want justice for Anthony! We want justice for our communities. It is important that there is a thorough investigation on these offenders, who we believe have assaulted others, and they should face the full might of law. We cannot have farmers treating people this way and get away with it!” Williams said.

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Police spokesperson, Captain Malcolm Pojie has confirmed that the case is before court: “Carel van Heerden (72) who was charged with assault has been found not guilty and his son Hilbert Van Heerden’s (38) case was postponed to 17 May and he is out on R1,000 bail.” Pojie urged the community to be patient to allow justice to be served.

Agri Western Cape said it condemns any form of violence on farms and encourages good working relationships between employers and employees in the agricultural sector. “Rural safety is of great importance to us. We encourage our members to adhere to all our country’s legislative requirements,” said the CEO of Agri Western Cape, Jannie Strydom.

Attacks on farmworkers by farmers is common in the Western Cape and around the country. In 2018, Martin Visser was sentenced by the Western Cape High Court to life imprisonment for the 2015 murder of Adam Pieterse.

A short documentary about what happened to Anthony Koopman by Co-Creator Collective

Speaking for the community, Neville Van Rooy said that Koopman’s life is not easy at all since the attack. “His health is not too stable, and he constantly stresses about how he and his family will get food, so he can take his medication, and other basic necessities,” Van Rooy said.

The case was postponed to 17 May.

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