South Africa’s government has condemned an “anarchic” protest by white farmers who stormed a court building and burnt a police vehicle on Tuesday.
Police reportedly fired stun grenades to disperse protesters, who were demanding that two men detained over a farmer’s murder be handed over to them.
Some protesters held placards reading “Boer Lives Matter”. Boer is an Afrikaans word which refers to farmers.
The killing of white farmers is a highly emotive issue in South Africa.
Some conservative groups say the farmers are victims of a genocide and the government is not doing enough to protect them.
The government dismisses the allegation, saying the farmers are victims of crime in remote areas and efforts are being made to step up security.
Afrikaans-speaking farm owners were a bedrock of support for the system of apartheid, which legalised discrimination against black people.
Decades of white-minority rule ended in 1994, with Nelson Mandela becoming South Africa’s first black president.
What happened at court?
The latest flashpoint of tension was the rural town of Senekal in Free State province following the brutal murder of 21-year-old Brendin Horner.
His body was found on Friday tied to a pole on the farm he managed.
He had been killed by suspected stock thieves, local media reported.
Farmers in the Free State set this police vehicle on fire. They were demonstrating earlier at the court in Senekal where two men appeared following a farm murder. pic.twitter.com/042QjK9O0g
— Yusuf Abramjee (@Abramjee) October 6, 2020
Two men – Sekwetje Mahlamba and Sekola Matlaletsa – appeared in Senekal Magistrate’s Court on Tuesday over his murder. They have not yet been asked to plead.
Several hundred farmers, some of them in tractors, arrived at the court to protest against Mr Horner’s killing.
The demonstration descended into chaos, with police saying protesters fired two shots but no-one was injured. A spokesman for the protesters denied the allegation.
“They damaged the court property while forcing their way to the court cells. A police van parked outside the building was also overturned and burned,” police spokesman Motansi Makhele said.
In a statement on Wednesday, Justice Minister Ronald Lamola described the violence as “anarchic”, and an “inexcusable assault on the rule of law”.
“The disturbing scenes of members of the public damaging property have no place in a free and democratic South Africa,” he added.