The farming community of Blue Water in the Great Kei local municipality is living in shock and fear following the murder of farm owner Jason Winrow.
The body of 47-year-old Winrow was found in a pool of blood at his farm’s gate on Saturday morning with two gunshot wounds and a stab wound.
Winrow’s death is believed to have taken place amid an interrupted robbery and the suspected assailants to have fled with his Toyota Hilux bakkie, a cellphone and a wallet.
Police confirmed they were investigating a case of murder.
The incident brings into sharp focus the rising number of farmers murdered in the country.
This comes as South Africa prepares to hold the very first International Rural Crime Conference next month, which will focus on crimes affecting farming communities.
The gathering has been organised by several groupings with interests in farming and security industries – including AgriSA – to discuss issues like stock theft, the influence of cross-border crime on the local agricultural sector, farm killings and the role – or lack thereof – of the criminal justice system in farming and rural communities.
Workers at Winrow’s farm – and neighbouring farmers – are living in fear that their lives may be in danger too as the assailants are still at large.
Speaking to the Dispatch, farmworkers said they feared that the killers might come back to rob the farm. The hijacked bakkie had the keys to Winrow’s safe and also to his house.
“I have barely slept since Saturday because I stay with my eyes open until 5am because I am scared those lowlifes may come back,” said a man who has worked at the farm for five years.
Winrow’s friend Eric Williams-Jones, who has taken over the farm in the interim, has in the wake of the incident allayed workers’ unemployment fears, saying even if the farm is sold, part of the terms would be to retain staff.
Winrow employed four farm workers to look after his livestock and also had a driver.
The driver died yesterday morning, as a result of natural causes following an illness. Winrow, who was affectionately know as “Chickenman”, specialised in breeding chickens, cattle and pigs.
He had more than 40 cattle, 52 pigs and more than 2000 chickens, according to employees.
Although killing of farmers has long been a hot topic of debate in South Africa, Winrow’s neighbour – who has been farming in the area for more than five decades – said this was the first murder in the area although there had been random attacks and break-ins.
This neighbour’s son was the one who discovered Winrow’s body in the early hours of Saturday morning when he was out hunting.
The neighbour, who asked not to be named, said gunshots were heard between 7pm and 8pm on Friday night.
“Jason was a nice guy who lived in this small community of farmers who live in peace but now there is a sense of panic because of this,” said the neighbour.
“At this stage everybody is worried about their safety because we do not know who they may be targeting next if they get away with this.”
Police spokesman Captain Nkosikho Mzuku confirmed that they were investigating the case as a murder.
No one has been arrested, he said.