Stellenbosch wine farmer killed in land dispute

62-year-old wine farmer Stefan Smit of Louiesenhof Wines was shot and killed in front of his wife by four armed suspects on Sunday 2 June due to a land dispute.

Stefan Smit of Louiesenhof Wines was killed in Stellenbosch on Sunday over a land dispute

According to Times Live, Smit, his wife Zurena and a family friend were having dinner at 7pm when four men wearing balaclavas entered through an unlocked door and shot him.

The Stellenbosch Agricultural Society and Stellenbosch Wine Routes have released a joint statement to the press condemning the murder.

“Stellenbosch Agricultural Society and Stellenbosch Wine Routes vehemently condemns this act, which has left the farming community angry and disturbed, especially considering the continuous killings of farmers and farm workers in the Cape Winelands, but also the country at large,” said release co-authors Mike Ratcliffe, chairman of Stellenbosch Wine Routes and Piet Carinus, chairman of Stellenbosch Agricultural Society.

The statement continued: “Farm attacks are having a crippling effect on the agricultural community, both at a socio-economic and economic level.

Smit worked for Louiesenhof Wines in Stellenbosch

“The volatility of farm attacks is also a major risk to international and domestic tourism, if the fear that farm attacks induce isn’t managed by eradicating the risk, one of the Cape Winelands’ most important economic contributors will be lost.”

According to South Africa Today, Smit became embroiled in a land dispute in 2018, when residents of a nearby township erected shacks on his land, and refused to leave. Smit had sought a court injunction to have them removed.

However, the situation was compounded by an going political debate about amending the South Africa constitution, to allow land to be seized from farmers without having to compensate them.

Murder and violence across the Western Cape remains a major concern –Transvaal Agricultural Union, an organisation that represents the interests of farmers, recorded 84 farm murders in 2017.

A further 15 people were killed on farms in the first three months of 2018.

“Stellenbosch Agricultural Society and Stellenbosch Wine Routes holds the government to account, and calls on them to act with extreme urgency to ensure the safety and security of all farmers, farm labourers and their extended families,” the statement said.

Alexander Waibel, co-owner of Constantia Glen, said that security measures had been increased at the estate in recent times.

“We’ve always had pretty good security with a guard house that is occupied 24/7. We also use cameras and laser beams not only to ensure our safety, but the wellbeing of our many guests,” said Waibel.

“We have also recently introduced an electronic scanning system for all cars entering and leaving the farm, which would highlight any stolen or misused vehicle. This is unfortunately an ongoing process,” he added.

Waibel described Smit’s murder as “shocking and senseless.” He commented: “The murder is so awful, particularly as the land disputes on the farm had already successfully been resolved.”

Smit is survived by his wide Zurena and children Louie and Martine. The suspects remain at large.

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