The two men who have been charged with the brutal murder of 21-year old farm manager, Brendin Horner on a farm outside the sleepy town of Senekal, quietly return to the dock today Tuesday 1 December.
The 32-year old Sekwetje Mahlamba and 44-year old Sekola Matlaletsa are alleged to have stabbed and strangled Horner to death in early October, in what the state believes is a stock theft incident gone wrong.
While it has been widely reported that Matlaletsa was released out on R 5000 bail on 22 October, Free State Police Commissioner, Baile Motswenyane, revealed in her address at the Ministerial Rural Safety Imbizo in Bethlehem in mid-November, that Matlaletsa was in fact back in cuffs for a stock theft charge unrelated to the farm manager’s murder. Motswenyane did not elaborate on the details of that case during her address.
However, Free State police spokesperson, Thandi Mbambo, has confirmed that the re-arrest occurred shortly after bail was granted for the older accused. This means both men are still in police custody at this stage.
It is anticipated that more details regarding the separate stock theft incident will come to light during the court appearance.
According to Motswenyane during the profiling of the suspects in the Horner murder, it was determined they had been linked to seven other stock theft cases. Her office, in collaboration with the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) in the Free State, will be probing those cases in the hopes of having them placed back on the court rolls. This is an indication that more trouble is on the horizon for the duo.
When Magistrate Deon Van Rooyen granted bail to the second accused in late October, he cited a lack of direct material evidence linking him to the crime. This is despite the fact that Mahlamba was out on bail when he was nabbed for the farm manager’s brutal murder while Matlaletsa, who has a longer rap sheet, was convicted of stock theft in the past.
The DNA analysis of blood samples taken from Horner’s bakkie at a private laboratory revealed both the accused couldn’t be linked conclusively to the abandoned bakkie. Furthermore, the clothing material found at Mahlamba’s premises, are still being analysed at a state laboratory.
When delivering his order on the bail applicantions Van Rooyen made an impassioned plea to Police Minister, Bheki Cele, urging him to use his influence to expedite investigations into the murder of Horner. Van Rooyen briefly reflected on the sensitivity of the case, furthermore expressing his concerns regarding the possibility of delays, specifically with regards to DNA analysis. He said in his experience, the backlog at the state forensic laboratory could set the trial back anywhere from around 6 months to a year. The Magistrate emphasised the sensitivity on the case, adding that the 21-year-old’s murder has brought “racial tensions, economic divisions in this small town, and the mistrust in the police” to the fore.
Horner’s body was discovered on 2 October at the Bloukruin Estate near Paul Roux. The case was meant to have sat in the Paul Roux Magistrate Court, but security concerns and wide media attention resulted in it being temporarily moved to the Senekal Magistrate’s Court.
When the two men made their first appearance in the bigger courthouse on 6 October, the situation descended into chaos as a group of protesters from the farming community across the country stormed the Senekal courthouse’s cells, in search of the accused. When they couldn’t find them, a police van was torched, and the courthouse property was vandalised. Two arrests were later made in connection with the latter incident.