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Q: What happened to Willemien Potgieter?


There have been cases of murder over the last decade in South Africa that have shocked us all. For example, when Henri Van Breda murdered his family with an axe in 2015, killing three and injuring a fourth family member. Or the mass murder of seven members of the Khoza family in 2018 in Soweto.

In 2010, Attie Potgieter, his wife Wilna and their two-year-old daughter, Willemien Potgieter, were killed by a gang of six robbers, on their farm in Tweefontein during a raid on their safe.

Pathologist Dr Robert G Book said that Attie Potgieter had 151 stab and laceration wounds when he examined the body. When asked by State prosecutor Jannie Botha on his first impressions of Potgieter’s body, Book said: the deceased “had been tortured to death”. Potgieter’s wife, Wilna (36) had several deep lacerations to the head and a gunshot wound to the neck. Willemien, their daughter, had a cut to her head and was shot dead.

Farm manager Attie Potgieter was believed to have withdrawn R7 000 from the bank on the Wednesday afternoon before the attack, to pay salaries. One of the killers testified in court that the plan was to get the farmer’s wife to open the safe inside the house during the robbery.

The six criminals faced three counts of murder, one of robbery with aggravating circumstances, and charges relating to the illegal possession of firearms and ammunition. Two of the criminals (Aged 19 and 20) were sentenced to three life sentences each for murdering the family. The gang included farmworkers, and one of them knew the family somewhat.

This was a terrible murder that included torture – an entire family was murdered, including a child. It hardened the resolve of those working to fight rural crime, and stop farmers and farmworkers from being attacked by criminals! However, it also became the go-to example of “farm attacks” used by white rights activists. It is an extreme case as most farm attacks actually:

A) Do not involve torture B) Do not involve an entire family wiped out

From the 2011 documentary “War of the Flea” to Ernst Roet’s book “Kill the Boer” to Katie Hopkin’s “The Killing Fields” – the case of the Potgieter family murder is always front and centre, as an example of a typical farm attack. This is highly misleading to say the least.

Caroyln Holmes, an assistant professor of political science at Mississippi State University, conducted extensive field research in South Africa and in the findings she shared with the Washington Post, she stated lobbying and advocacy groups like Afriforum and other more explicitly militant white-nationalist groups, such as the Suidlanders, rely on anecdotes, not trends, to convince their audience that they are uniquely targeted because they are white.

She compiled 18 months of public statements and quotes from white activist organisations from their own websites, including transcripts of their videos, texts from their press-releases and media articles from their news blogs. Once analyzed, she found that “white rights” activists use victims’ names often – more frequently than “attack” or “murder.” When all put together as a category, the names of victims are the ninth-most commonly used word in activist media, whether written down or spoken out loud.

For example, the spokesperson of a white rights activist organisation will, without fail, tell the story of Willemien Potgieter’s death at a press release, on camera, or on the web. We are of the opinion that the brutal and tragic death of this family is being exploited for political agendas. The likes of people like Katie Hopkins are the last people I would entrust with the story of this family’s murder.

The most important take-out about this ever-present example is that almost a decade later, it is still being put front and centre. Why? It was one of the most vicious farm attacks ever in history, and yet it is presented as a routine or typical South African farm attack.

Obviously, no links to any involvement by the ANC government were found in the thorough investigation of this murder, something Ernst Roets tries to insinuate in his book.

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