'He was Mannetjies, my brother' - family of murdered seasonal worker speak

The only photo the family of Adam "Mannetjies Dukvreet" Pieterse has of him is the one in his ID, which was taken when he was only 17 years old.

Although his sister Cathleen Sekiellie, 26, had not seen her brother since he left home in search of work in 2008, she was able to identify his body from a tattoo he had as a teenager.

"He wasn't just a drifter, a farmworker that nobody cared about. He was Mannetjies, my brother. And the way he was killed just wasn't right," she told News24, shortly after a Lutzville farmer was convicted of using a spade to beat him to death.

On Tuesday, Martin Visser was found guilty of murdering Pieterse, 33, who worked on a neighbouring farm, by beating him with a spade, using a quad bike to drag his body, and forcing the farmworker's two friends to bury him in February 2015.

READ: Vredendal farmer guilty of murdering worker, dragging him with quadbike

His sand-covered body was unearthed three weeks later, when a seasonal labourer saw Visser behind the vineyard of his father's farm twice and contacted the police when she took a closer look and noticed flies buzzing around the disturbed earth.

The cause of death could not be confirmed due to the advanced state of decomposition of the corpse.

Sekiellie listened intently as Judge Nathan Erasmus delivered his judgement in the Western Cape High Court, sitting in Vredendal. It had been the first time that Pieterse's family had been present during proceedings. They couldn’t afford to travel from Bonnievale and Prieska where they lived.

Sekiellie was accompanied by Pieterse's two aunts, who had raised him.

She and Pieterse grew up in Prieska and had different fathers, she explained.

"He got his nickname because he loved eating," Sekiellie said, recalling that they would often argue because he never had the patience to wait for the food to be properly cooked before tucking in.

She identified his body by only seeing his arm as his remains were wrapped when she was taken to the mortuary.

He was much thinner than she remembered, Sekiellie said, and she recognised him by his "FFB" tattoo.


The only photo that Pieterse’s family have of him is the one in his ID document, issued when he was 17 years old. (Tammy Petersen, News24)

In 2008, Pieterse boarded a truck to Lutzville to find a job as a seasonal worker because work in Prieska was scarce, his aunt Katriena Sekiellie said during sentencing proceedings.

She didn't know that the day he hopped onto the vehicle carrying only his thinning mattress and one bag of clothes would be the last time she would see him alive.

Aunty Mol, as she is known, took care of Pieterse when he left school after finishing Grade 8.

"He was like my own child," she told Judge Erasmus from the witness stand.

Her nephew was not a fighter, she insisted, but when he was drunk, he would become rebellious and confrontational.

'He was normally a good man'

"When trouble came his way, he would retaliate. But he never went looking for it. He was normally a good man."

A year after Pieterse left for Lutzville, his mother Magrieta was murdered on Christmas Day, allegedly by her then boyfriend. His family could not reach him to inform him of her death.

Aunty Mol said she was hurt that Pieterse had died in such a violent way, but added that she didn't hate Visser.

"I forgive him for what he did. I must, so that God can forgive me. But I just want justice."

Anna Louw, Pieterse's paternal aunt, said she had been contacted by a woman three years ago who informed her that her nephew was missing, and later to tell her his body had been found.

Although money was scarce, they trekked to Vredendal with a hearse to collect his body and sort out his affairs.

Louw was taken to Pieterse's modest home, which was still spattered in blood.

They returned to Prieska the following day and gave Pieterse a "decent burial".

"I am deeply hurt and broken [by the way he died]. You don't even hit an animal like that," she said.

Farm murder

Billy Claasen of the Rural and Farmworkers' Development Organisation also testified and said he hoped Visser's conviction would lead to other assault and murder cases, involving farmworkers, being investigated with the urgency they deserved.

"I am waiting for AfriForum to condemn this as a farm murder. 'Plaasmoord' is a racist term. It's only called this when a white person is the victim. But when it's the other way around, then it's nothing," he said.

"Crime is crime. But the perception in the Platteland is that if you are of a certain class, you get better treatment by the law than if you're poor.

"People come here to work. Their families know their child is here, and he will eventually come home. But some don't. And others go home the way Adam Pieterse did."

Claasen said farmworkers have been oppressed by their employers for too long.

"It is farmers like these that need to be taken out of society and put away. It is people like them who stand in the way of a better life for all. We want to request government to expropriate [Visser's] farm without compensation and give it to the farmworkers."

Sentencing proceedings continue on Wednesday.