An unrepentant apartheid-era mass murderer is a beneficiary of a multimillion-rand government land reform programme meant to benefit previously disadvantaged emerging black farmers.
Louis van Schoor, 65, who murdered 39 black people between 1986 and 1989 while employed as a security guard in East London, is now a director and beneficiary of a dairy farm project that is meant to empower black people.
In previous interviews Van Schoor admitted to shooting at least 100 black people he claimed were burglars around Cambridge, a white suburb in East London.
In an interview with a UK-based newspaper 10 years ago, Van Schoor refused to apologise for the killings, saying he was merely doing his job.
“I never apologised for what I did. I apologised for any hurt or pain that I caused through my actions during the course of my work,” Van Schoor told the Guardian in 2006.
Asked by the Guardian reporter if it was true that he had shot more than 100 black people, Van Schoor replied: “I can’t argue with that. I never kept count.”
Now it has emerged that Van Schoor is earning a living through a government-sponsored project that is meant to redress the inequalities of the past.
Kingsdale Dairy Farm, 30km from East London, was bought by the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform in 2011 for R11-million through the Land Redistribution for Agricultural Development programme.
It’s all behind us. We don’t want to open up old wounds. I go into the village, they accept me for what I am giving back
The programme’s online pamphlet states clearly that it is meant to benefit Africans, Indians and coloureds – the groups that were economically sidelined by the apartheid regime’s racist laws.
The initial beneficiaries of the farm were emerging farmers Lunathi Mzimba, Christopher Ngubelanga and Patricia Ngubelanga.
Van Schoor was introduced to the trio in December 2013 as a manager and mentor and later became a director and beneficiary when Mzimba left the project.
When the Sunday Times visited the farm this week, Van Schoor denied that he was unrepentant and claimed he had tried to reach out to his victims.
“I felt remorse a long time ago: that is why I can now go into the village alone and they accept me,” said Van Schoor.
His daughter, Sabrina van Schoor, is serving a 25-year prison term for hiring a hit man to kill her mother in 2002.
In 2008, Sabrina said her troubled childhood was characterised by racism. Certain events, including being ostracised by her mother, brothers and the white community, who objected to her association with people of other races, led to her conspiring to kill her mother.
Professor Lungisile Ntsebeza, the director of African Studies at the University of Cape Town, said it was shocking that the government had chosen someone with Van Schoor’s past to be a mentor for the project.
“It is unbelievable that a criminal like this is a mentor … this raises a lot of questions about the department’s own screening process and how they chose this mentor,” Ntsebeza said.
“In fact, the whole concept of having white mentors is controversial itself; it comes from the premise that African farmers have no capacity to farm on their own. It’s a violation of land reform,” he said, and called the process into question.
Siyabulela Manona, an East London-based land reform expert, described Van Schoor’s presence at the farm as worrying.
“Land reform is intended to benefit historically disadvantaged people … irrespective of his [Van Schoor’s] past, it is not for whites,” he said.
Ngubelanga told the Sunday Times that he was not aware of Van Schoor’s past.
“We got him through the land affairs and we told him that he must not behave like a white person here, but work with us as equals.
“He is working very well with us. But we knew nothing about him and the past. He is a very good person and we share all the responsibilities,” said Ngubelanga.
Van Schoor committed the murders while working as a security guard in Cambridge, East London.
In 1992, he was given a 20-year jail sentence for seven murders and two attempted murders, but served only 12 years. At the time of the trial, Van Schoor inspired racists to paste “I love Louis” stickers on their cars.
Some years ago, Van Schoor’s prison counsellor, Pastor John Stoltz, told the Sunday Times that his charge had converted to Christianity, forsaken racism and even vowed to create work for black street children.
The former security guard is now the beneficiary of the Kingsdale Dairy Trust project, in which he has a sizable stake. It is, however, unclear exactly how much he is paid or what his share is.
Van Schoor and the Ngubelanga family own 90% of the 200ha farm while the 18 workers own 10%.
The farm has a turnover of R400,000 a month, which is about R5-million a year.
The farm also gets money from the Department of Basic Education for distributing milk to its school nutrition programme in various schools in Mdantsane, Newlands, Potsdam and Nxaruni. The farm has 540 Jersey cows, four tractors and three bakkies.
Van Schoor declined to reveal how much he earned from the farm.
He lives on the farm with his wife.
Van Schoor said he regretted what he did during apartheid.
“To tell you the truth, I tried to contact some of them after I came out, but to trace them is difficult.”
Rural development spokeswoman Linda Page said the farm was bought as part of the government’s redistribution programme and that R7-million was approved for recapitalisation.
Van Schoor said he qualified to benefit from the project because of his experience as a farmer.
“I was a farmer on my own before in Thorn Park, as a dairy farmer, and in those years things were tight and I sold the farm and I went as a manager of different farms,” said Van Schoor. He said he had applied for the job to manage the farm after he saw an advert by the Department of Rural Development.