A young KZN farmer was forced to use his wits and firearms training to protect his family and his farm during a foiled farm attack on October 21, 2023. The recently married 27-year-old was stirred from his sleep at around 01:00 by the sound of the intruders breaking down one of the backdoors to the farmhouse. He immediately grabbed his firearm and investigated the noise.
As he stepped out of his bedroom, he was confronted by four armed men. One of them was wielding a knife, and charged at the farmer who shot and killed him. The farmer fired at and killed a second attacker and wounded a third. The wounded attacker and his fellow assailant fled from the house into a nearby sugarcane field.
Immediately after the ordeal the farmer phoned a private security company. They tried to track the two fleeing perpetrators but the density of the sugarcane field made it impossible to find them. Local police stated that they are investigating charges of attempted robbery and two charges of murder.
Our legal expert in criminal law, Dr. Llewelyn Curlewis weighs in:
“The circumstances surrounding the shooting by this young farmer from KZN, is just another example of the dire straits that farm owners find themselves in in the current South Africa. I have no doubt that this young man acted within the parameters and scope of the law. The obvious defence applicable in similar situations is one of self-defence (private defence). This defence will ensure an acquittal against any possible criminal charges against the farmer including the two counts of murder in the facts at hand. No court will expect from a person not to act in the manner in which this young farmer ultimately did. In a case like this, the requirement set by law is that such ultimate intervention, namely shoot to kill, must obviously be a final resort and must be in compliance to the limitations set out in our law for this defence to apply.”
A further question arises here:
Would the farmer have acted lawfully if he had shot at the remaining assailants when they were fleeing from the house into the sugarcane field?
Advocate Henk Nolte, a Director of Firearms Guardian explains:
“One of the requirements in a case of self-defence is that an attack on the victim must be imminent but not yet completed. In our current scenario, the attack on the victim stopped and was completed the moment when the attackers started to retract and flee the scene. There was therefore no longer a need for the farmer to act in defence of his life or property. The farmer therefore had no right to fire shots at the fleeing attackers. Firearm owners must assess the situation very carefully in situations like this. Firing shots at a fleeing attacker might lead to successful prosecution. Self-defence is not a means of exercising vengeance or a form of punishment. For this reason, a firearm owner acts unlawfully if he uses his firearm against an attacker if the attack on him is already something of the past.”
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