The late Annette Kennealy pictured with her two daughters Astrid (left) and Meghan (right). Photo supplied.
Date: 24 May 2019 By: Andries van Zyl
The court will have to determine what had allegedly caused a loyal employee of many years to turn against his employer and brutally strangle her and beat her to death with a hammer.
Residents of the Soutpansberg were left in shock on Tuesday morning with the news that the much-loved and well-known local artist and activist against farm murders, the 51-year-old Ms Annette Kennealy, was herself found murdered on her farm Welgevonden along the Louis Trichardt/Thohoyandou road.
“I am without words ... an absolute tragedy. She was so badly beaten that I could not see her. Maybe it is for the better, because I want to remember her as she was the last time I saw her on Saturday,” said Kennealy’s 72-year-old mother, Ms Kim Labuschagne.
Kennealy’s murder sent shock waves through the farming community, both locally and abroad. Within minutes of the news breaking about her death, the Zoutpansberger received calls from across the whole country and even Australia. The only thing they wanted to know was: Is it true?
Unfortunately, it was true.
Friends and family, basically the whole of the Soutpansberg, were left in total disbelief as details of her brutal untimely death started to emerge.
According to reports Kennealy was found in a pool of her own blood at her farmhouse. She had severe head injuries, presumably caused by a bloodied hammer found close to her body. It is believed that she was also strangled. The police’s official statement on cause of death, however, indicated that she was stabbed to death.
“She was not stabbed! She was beaten to death,” said Kim.
As to the motive for the killing, the court will have to determine that. What is clear, though, is that it might have had something to do with an argument Kennealy had with her only farm worker staying on the farm. Apparently the worker absconded from work and Kennealy confronted him about it. The worker became a suspect in the murder, as he could not be found when Kennealy’s body was discovered. In initial police statements, police urged him to contact his nearest police station to assist the police in their investigation.
It is believed that Kennealy might have been killed as early as Monday morning (20th). Kim said she had communicated with her daughter at around 09:00, but battled to get hold of her after that. Due to the fact that nobody could reach Annette, Kim asked a neighbour to go and check on her on Tuesday morning. It was then that the neighbour made the gruesome discovery.
Following the discovery of her body, an extensive search began for her killer(s). This led police to a house in Mauluma village in the Nzhelele area where a 40-year-old man was arrested on Tuesday evening. Although the police did not indicate whether it was the farm worker they arrested, all indications are that it was him.
“I cannot understand why he would do something like that. He had worked for her for so many years. He called her mom,” said Kim.
Whether or not her daughter’s murder had anything to do with her outspokenness about farm attacks in South Africa, Kim said she does not know. “We will not be able to fix this broken land of ours,” said Kim bitterly, adding that her daughter was taken from her way to soon. “She and I were planning for the future safety of the family,” said Kim.
Andries joined the Zoutpansberger and Limpopo Mirror in April 1993 as a darkroom assistant. Within a couple of months he moved over to the production side of the newspaper and eventually doubled as a reporter. In 1995 he left the newspaper group and travelled overseas for a couple of months. In 1996, Andries rejoined the Zoutpansberger as a reporter. In August 2002, he was appointed as News Editor of the Zoutpansberger, a position he holds until today.