It's half past seven in our house on Silkaatsnek just outside Pretoria.
On TV is a story unfolding or ten police cars on the road to a house in Dallas where a mentally disturbed us citizen is threatening to commit suicide.
The men of Dallas’s (swat) unit are equipped with a field hospital and a mobile office out of which they are negotiating with the aspiring suicidal individual. Things are looking good and it seems as if they will be able to negotiate with him and safe his life.
On my new civilian band, two way radio in the background I also hear voices. A security guard of royal security has just been shot , just this side of Kallie Knoetze's place . They are urgently requesting backup and assistance.
Be very careful they warn everyone. He is armed and dangerous. A telephone cable has been cut earlier in the day, and it is here where the guard has been shot by the cable thief. “I am standing here with the wounded man,” reports a male voice. “Delta control, can you phone for an ambulance it looks like a shoulder - and arm wound.”
I now switch the television off. American reality TV has become irrelevant. Why should I care if some mentally disturbed person is threatening to end his own life with a revolver on the other side of the continent while the best trained police with the best equipment are trying to save him from himself?
Just outside my farm gate is a much deadlier battle against crime and my very survival fought by a very small group of dedicated civilians with very little to no equipment.
They are taking a stand while the police are unseen somewhere on the background. It’s been only ten days since I acquired our civilian radio which we are using to connect our De Wildt self-help community. In the 14 years we have been living here in the little Bushveld at the foot of the Magalies Mountain we have been well aware of the escalating crime.
This was however faceless, and mostly been rumors and small insignificant little articles in the local newsletter. Somewhere someone was shot in his kitchen someone was abducted from his home when he walked in on the burglars.
Everything was far enough and anonymously enough so that we did not have to concern ourselves too much whilst we were going about our business of trying to make a living and planting some more indigenous trees to enhance our little piece of Bushveld.
Just to ease our concerns we installed alarm systems, burglar bars, and motion detectors on all 3 properties on my farm. I joined an armed response company that provided 24 hour security with panic buttons and some more dogs for good measure.
Shortly afterwards my one tenant in one of my rental homes on the property phones me at two in the morning. Surprisingly calmly, she informs me that there are two men in our living room . ” I am half asleep and don’t react as well as I should and ask some silly questions.
When did this happen? She tells me her husband was woken by some noise and went to investigate. he stumbled upon two men busy disconnecting the TV. I am now fully awake and tell the wife to call the cops. I also hit my panic button which sets of the siren that makes an unbearable noise in the otherwise quit night. I phone my armed response company ADT, for assistance
The Brits police are the first to eventually arrive. It is a new constable who does not know the area and that is why he responded as my home is not in their jurisdiction.
One hour and eight minutes later the armed response arrives. They had gotten lost.
It was two young guys, says Frik my tenant. They had broken the burglar bars and the window and managed to get hold of the keys and the panic button. They then opened the front door and proceeded to take whatever they considered as valuable and were busy disconnecting the TV, when I interrupted them.
Fortunately there was no loss of life everyone is quick to remark. No one was shot, raped or injured so we should count ourselves very lucky.
We cannot live in isolation on our little island my wife remarks, we have to get involved with the community.
That is when I get the radio. Just prior to this incident I had no interest in joining the neighborhood watch because I would not part be of something which polarizes white and black even further.
Now I purchase the two way radio so that I have contact with the outside world and my community safety network. This has become essential as the telephone lines are always cut before an attack or robbery.
And now for the first time I am alarmed to hear that the man shot in his kitchen was in fact my direct and closest neighbor Flip Joubert, and the man abducted from his farm, lives at the next farm from Flip. We were just oblivious to what has been happening right next door as they were unaware as to what happened at my place.
And here we are, all part of the rainbow nation and we don’t even know what happened to our neighbor. Just like no one even heard our siren that night. We are all living from day to day trying to pretend that we are carefree.
We just do not have a choice anymore.
This is a war. And we now have to choose a side I tell my wife Johanita.
When the radio finally goes quiet are we go to sleep. Three o clock the next morning the radio starts all over again .
Royal security reports that nine men have been spotted crossing the De Wildt- road in the area where cables were cut the previous night, and very close to where their colleague had just been shot. Cable thieves again.
In the silence of the night we lie in our beds and listen how the drama is unfolding on our doorstep. Calm voices are giving advice and instructions. You ride down to the gate, wait there for reinforcements. You go to get a dog at the dog school. They have been spotted down in the ravine, direction Ga-Rankuwa.
And always the warning : “be very careful men they are armed ”
“These are all civilians from our bush war I tell my wife. You can hear the calm and collected way they are handling this with military precision. They obviously know exactly what they are doing. The bush war was a done deal in 1989.
Twenty years later this war is now raging in this narrow stretch of woodlands on a mere 25 km from the bright lights of Pretoria`s church square.
While the cable thieves are being tracked, comes another report on the radio. Werner Schreuder's pump house has just been broken into. They have stolen all the cables.
There has just been a break in at Trevor louw's barn. An electrical pump is stolen.
Yet another break in reported, this time at the world famous De Wildt cheetah wildlife sanctuary. Liquor and computers are stolen and a car has also been broken into on their property.
Now Johan Marias reports that there are unidentified suspects walking around on his property. Bertie Hotzhausen says they have also stolen his cables for the pumps.
Two suspects have been spotted on Ockie Oosthuyzen's Smalholding. His perimeter fence has been cut and they had tried to force open his garage door. Fortunately nothing has yet been stolen.
In the mean time the radio is alive with the relentless pursuit for the armed and dangerous cable thieves. Guys be careful not to confuse Mike with the thieves. He and the dog are approaching the area from a northerly direction. Be very careful and don’t shoot.
Another report on the radio, Thinus Schoeman has informed us that the telephone cables on his farm have been cut. The cables are still lying there so they may return to collect them.
There is a new report of thieves at Dr. Jannie Hugo's place. Thieves tried to break in when the alarm when off. They heard screams from their workers rooms as the intruders tried to break down their door.
And suddenly the radio goes eerily quiet.
It is now 4am and we will report back after sunrise to see if everyone is still safe. We survived one more night in De Wildt.
This has been a busy night says Helpmekaar's Jan lemmer. He also owns a local security company on the main road of De Wildt and this is where I meet him at midday. He seems very relaxed.
This was a typical evening although a little more busy than usual as it is weekend and there has been more drinking. The crime on De Wildt is neither exceptional or out of the ordinary.
Lemmer has been in the Commando`s for a long time. “This is the same thing that happens everywhere else in our country he remarks, the only difference is that other community’s sometime see this in print and we are more involved and our members are informed about what is happening in our own community”
There are far worse areas in Pretoria but the inhabitants don’t have contact with one another and they cannot compare notes. Some people, he said, prefer it not to know of the crime. They find it to unsettling. “but we believe we can be better prepared if we know exactly what is happening in our community ”
This area of De Wildt to which I am referring , is a 25 km stretch along the De Wildt road along the Silkaats neck mountains on the western outskirts of Pretoria – North. It is 12 km diagonal up to the railway line on the way to Ga-Rankuwa. A total surface of 300 km², now covered by a network of civilian two way radios that may just keep us alive one more night.
This above letter was written 2 weeks ago.
Regrettably not even a fraction of farm attacks, farm murders and crime in general is ever reported in the South African media and this article was only found in an Afrikaans news report.
I am not going to translate this word by word, but here is what happened in a nutshell. The farmer in this article is the direct neighbour of the author of the above article and someone I have known for many years.
Two weeks later
Farmer gets bail after incident with 4 on farm
Boer kry borg na voorval op plaas met 4
A farmer of De Wildt appeared in court on charges of attempted murder, assault with intent and pointing a firearm
Now let’s see what transpired.
· Criminals had broken into his property on 5 occasions
· His dog was poisoned and killed the night before
· He found 4 unidentified people walking on his farm
· Two of the 4 were illegal Zimbabwean aliens
· He approached them with his other dog, and asked them who they were and were they were going.
· They started threatening his life and attempted to assault him
· He let his dog loose and he was also bitten in the process.
· He attempted to arrest them and drew his firearm and fired a warning shot when one escaped.
· The police did not answer the telephone, and a security company had to take the 3 to the police station, so that the farmer could lay charges
· A few hours later this same police station that did not have the manpower to answer their emergency number dispatched 20 police in 7 cars to arrest the farmer in his house on assault charges and the pointing of a firearm
· The perpetrators were taken to hospital for treatment of their wounds.
· He was put in the same sell as these criminals and refused medical treatment.
· The prisoners were given a mattress and blankets and whilst he was denied a mattress.
· There was no sell inspection during the night.
Why did he confront 4 unknown men on HIS farm? This is surely the duty of the police?
The De Wild area has had seven farm attacks during the last few days in broad daylight.
The farmers dog was poisoned the day before, which is a guarantee of an imminent attack
These four were on his property to steal plunder and murder anyone that gets in the way as has happened to the more than 3000 farmers that have been tortured and murdered.
No one answered the phone at the police station, which has become common practice when gangs are about to attack.
The police then managed to muster up 7 vehicles and 20 police to arrest a law abiding citizen in his house.
The cops then lock him in the sell with these criminals, although he could not possibly be considered a danger to the community or a flight risk.
In addition to this he gets no mattress and no medical treatment.
Just to make sure he does not go unpunished, he is put in a cell with this gang and they deliberately don’t do the required hourly sell inspection.
Do we have the right to apply for political asylum?
Farm murders in South Africa