Respected animal nutritionist latest victim of farm murders

A Limpopo farmer and animal nutritionist has become the country’s fifth farm murder victim this year. The shooting of Francois du Toit(38) on Kwalata Farm near Roossenekal has left his family and colleagues devastated, and has seen Roossenekal farmers doing as much as possible to assist the police to apprehend the three alleged killers.

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According to Limpopo’s SAPS headquarters, Du Toit and his wife, Eunice, were asleep at home in the early hours of 23 January when they were woken by a noise caused by three men who had entered the main bedroom through a sliding door that had been left open to allow the family’s dogs to move in and out. Apparently Du Toit fired at the attackers, but missed. The suspects then returned fire, hitting Du Toit in the head and chest. He died at the scene.

“The suspects tied up the wife and two children, Francois (12) and Stephanie (9), and demanded the keys to the safe,” explained Lieutenant Colonel Ronel Otto. “Mrs Du Toit handed them the keys and the suspects took four firearms – two rifles and two pistols – from the safe, as well as an amount of cash and cellphones. They also demanded the keys to the vehicles and fled with two Nissan Navara bakkies.”

Both vehicles were recovered, added Otto – one on the farm and the other a short distance away. Eunice du Toit and her two children were not seriously injured. Alzu Feeds managing director Paul du Toit (no relation) said Du Toit’s death is a tremendous loss. “He was truly an irreplaceable asset to us, not only as an expert in his field, and not only for his valuable advice, but also as a colleague and dear friend.”

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Chris van Zyl, safety and security head at TAU SA, said that he was very concerned that if farm murders continue at this rate (with five having occurred by 22 January), 2012 will be a terrible year.

“It’s shocking that victims are murdered in horrific ways for items of little value,” he added. “Sometimes the criminals wait for hours for the victims to first come home. Why don’t they rob the house while the victims are away? “Why do we have to see extensive physical abuse of farm attack victims by the criminals?”

Hennie Laas, head of Agri Mpumalanga, urged farming families to never let their guard down when it comes to farm security. “Every farmer and their family must beware, because it’s something that can happen to anyone, any time and anywhere,” he said. “Nobody is excluded from the risk of attack. Don’t think that it won’t happen to you. Be alert all night and all day. Have a security plan and follow it.

“Also, don’t be predictable in your routine. Routine is a big, big enemy of security on farms,”added Laas.

At the time of going to print no arrests had yet been made in the Du Toit murder and robbery case, but the case is being investigated by the elite Hawks Organised Crime Unit. According to TAU SA’s figures, between January 1990 and the present, South Africa has had 1 552 farm murders and 2 726 farm attacks. But Van Zyl said this statistic is probably conservative, because farm attacks are often not reported through the official channels where TAU SA gets its figures.