Cele pleased with police handling of tense situation in Senekal

Minor clashes broke out between some protestors earlier today but the tensions were defused.

Farmers protest behind a police barrier of razorwire during the court appearance of two suspects accused of murdering farm manager Brendin Horner in Senekal in the Free State on 16 October 2020. Picture: Abigail Javier/EWN

JOHANNESBURG - Police Minister Bheki Cele said that several people who were travelling to Senekal on Friday were turned away after being found to be carrying weapons, adding that at least one person had been arrested.

Scores of Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) members had descended on the small Free State town after heeding the call of party leader Julius Malema to protect state property.

Their presence coincided with the court hearing of two suspects who've been arrested in connection with the murder of farm manager Brendin Horner.

The killing sparked an emotive chain of events that saw local farmers take to the streets in protest against attacks and murders on their property.

The EFF's demonstration in the area is unfolding in the presence of members of the African National Congress (ANC) and some belonging to lobby group AfriForum.

Cele is also in the vicinity this afternoon amid fears that tensions in the small town could spill over into violence.

There's also been concern around a lack of adherence to lockdown regulations, with several demonstrators seen without masks, while there was widespread disregard of social distancing protocols.

Cele said that the police's response had been measured.

"They've been here for almost three or four days to work on the situation here. I think it has helped that people here, together with the provincial police commissioner, have been instrumental on working on matters using a soft approach. We have agreed to use a soft approach unless we are pushed."

State Security Minister Ayanda Dlodlo said law enforcement authorities would continue to closely monitor the situation in Senekal.

Dlodolo said depending on this afternoon's court outcome, they may have to beef up security.

β€œThe safety of individuals becomes very important. Because it might incite violent intentions if they are released.”

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