Police Minister Bheki Cele has said the South African Police Service “will be ready” for the likelihood of violent protests breaking out at the Senekal Magistrate’s Court in Free State when two suspects in the death of 22-year-old farm manager Brendin Horner make their second appearance on Friday.

This after a violent protest erupted outside court last Tuesday when the suspects were due to make their first appearance.

Cele said “This time we will be ready,” adding that the police will be there to protect state property, the state’s integrity and members of the public who will be at the court, “even when those people are suspects”.

He said suspects cannot be handed over to the public “to deal with them” because the country’s laws do not allow for people to take the law into their own hands.

The minister called for the arrest of the people behind the violent protests outside the court in Senekal last Tuesday, without fear or favour.

Considering that #FeesMustFall activist Kanya Cekeshe was sentenced to five years for public violence and malicious damage to property of a police vehicle in December 2017, Cele said consistency was necessary because a police van was also set alight at Senekal.

Cele said “Whoever crosses the line, the might of the state will prevail”.

Ahead of the unrest last Tuesday, national police commissioner General Khehla Sitole led a “big meeting” with the leadership of the Senekal farming community and AfriForum dealing with rural safety, Cele said.

The meeting was largely positive, with issues such as the sharing and integration of police and farmers’ resources, the establishment of joint command centres, among others, discussed to ensure the safety of the broader farming community which included farmers, farm workers and farm dwellers.

Cele said “There is that broad discussion that is going on even beyond the Senekal thing”.

He further said The issue of land, relationships in farming community and other issues besides criminality have been raised by farmers, farmer workers and farm dwellers. There are matters that are quiet emotional,” the minister said, making an example that these included issues around grazing rights, stock theft and the capacity of the police, issues which have been raised by both black and white farmers.

“There is a plan that we are working on when it comes to [rural safety],” Cele said, adding that in most farm-based or rural-based cases police have made arrests.

Cele said increasing the police’s capacity to prevent crimes in farming communities and rural areas was crucial rather than reacting to these.

He said considering that one of the suspects in the Horner murder has been arrested 16 times, this begs the question why he was given another chance to commit another crime, a matter the justice cluster will have to grapple with.

Cele said following a question by Freedom Front Plus leader Pieter Groenewald during a parliamentary portfolio committee meeting, about a statement the minister allegedly made that farmers must not complain when they get injured or hurt,” he has combed various media platforms but could not find that statement.

According to the minister, the report that farmers must not complain when they get injured or hurt was done by a journalist who did not attend a recent Rural Safety Imbizo in Normandien in KwaZulu-Natal where Cele allegedly made the statement.

He said the journalist had claimed that these words were relayed to him by a farmer who is not a first language IsiZulu speaker. The farmer alleged that Cele said these words in IsiZulu during the Imbizo convened in the wake of the murders of farming couple Glen and Vida Rafferty in early September.

Cele said it was surprising that the media had not called to confirm whether he had actually said these words. He said his office has taken up the matter with the press ombudsman.

He also urged the Afrikaans media in Senekal to desist from reporting things that were not true in light of how tense and dangerous the situation was in the area and how it could easily go out of control.

The minister said he has committed to meet with the leadership of a political organisation which has been “drawn into the situation” at Senekal, adding that he has met with Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) leader Julius Malema and will in the next 24 hours meet with Groenewald.

Malema and Cele’s meeting comes as the Democratic Alliance (DA) was on Monday expected to lay charges against the EFF leader and the party’s member of parliament, Nazier Paulsen, “over social media posts” the DA said “incite violence” ahead of the court appearance on Friday of the two suspects in connection with Horner’s murder.

Cele said he on Sunday spoke at length with Groenewald about the situation at Senekal and that they both agreed that mature leadership was required to avoid further tensions in the area.

He added that “But that doesn’t mean the state is going to abandon [its authority],” Cele said, adding that the state cannot be bullied by people and that last Tuesday’s events “cannot be allowed” to transpire again.