Eastern Cape farmer arrested after worker killed
An Eastern Cape farmer accused of clobbering to death a farm labourer was arrested on Saturday, two weeks after the incident.
Sithembele Ngene, 45, was assaulted with a knobkerrie on the head on August 25 in Haga Haga and died the following day in hospital.
There are allegations of an altercation between the employer and his employee.
Grant Reckless Miles appeared in the Komga magistrate’s court on Monday before his case was postponed to September 18 for a formal bail application.
Residents say Miles was not immediately arrested “because he is white” – an allegation police dismissed on Tuesday.
The Ngene family and activists say police had arbitrarily decided the farmer had killed Ngene in self-defence. They say police caved in to community pressure and arrested the man on Saturday.
Ngene’s widow, Nonkumbuzo Siphikeleni-Ngene, said police kept on telling them they were still investigating.
“He told the cops he only beat him once on the head.
“I saw his body at Frere Hospital. We took pictures. He was badly beaten up.
“He was not breathing at the hospital and could not speak.
“He has been working for him since 2016. Sithembele was the only breadwinner in the house. His mother, I and our son, who is nine, depended on him,” the grieving wife said.
“Police have not given us a single update [until Tuesday], and they told me they could only meet me this coming Thursday and in town.”
Police spokesperson Captain Mluleki Mbi confirmed the incident and said: “A 48-year-old man was arrested on Saturday, September 7 and is charged with murder.
“He appeared before the Komga magistrate’s court on Monday, September 9. He has been remanded in custody pending his bail application on September 18 at Kei Mouth.
“The last time I heard the story was that the dead man walked in drunk in the property. He was chased away, and returned with a knife,” said Mbi. “He was beaten with a knobkerrie on the head.”
Siphikeleni-Ngene said the family did not know why it took two weeks to arrest Miles.
Great Kei youth council chair, Zuko Patluko, said they had marched to the local police from Thursday to Saturday demanding Miles’ arrest.
“Police said they were told that it was self-defence. We asked them if it was not for the courts to determine that.”
Kei Mouth councillor Moureen Kantshashe said there had been relentless protests calling for the arrest of the farmer. She said she had heard about the killing from the ward committee.
Independent forensic investigator Leon Nel said he had received a phone call from Kantshashe, who asked him to look into the matter. Nel said there were indications that it was not only one knock to the head that led to Ngene’s death.
Mbi denied claims that Miles was protected by the police.
“The senior public prosecutor was consulted because there were claims of self-defence and the farmer had opened a case of burglary. The prosecutor had instructed the investigating officer to do further investigations and he will make a decision whether to charge or not,” said Mbi.