Engineer killed on farm in Eastern Cape


A well-known civil engineer, Thys van Niekerk (64), was found dead on Wednesday morning in a house on a farm between Cradock and Hofmeyr in the Eastern Cape.

Van Niekerk lived alone in the house on the farm Uitkyk while he was working as a resident engineer, attached to the company SNA Civil and Structural Engineers, on a road reconstruction project on the R390 route between Cradock and Hofmeyr. He would have stayed in this house for the duration of the project (about three years).

The project started about two months ago and it would have been Van Niekerk’s last major road construction project. He would then officially retire as an engineer.

Johan Swanepoel, Van Niekerk’s project engineer, says that Van Niekerk did not show up for work on Wednesday morning. His colleagues went looking for him and then found him in a pool of blood in the house.

“He didn’t move and his colleagues couldn’t feel a pulse either,” says Swanepoel.

According to Sgt. Majola Nkohli, police spokesperson, said the police were called to the scene at around 09:30. There they found Van Niekerk with stab wounds to his torso. The attacker(s) allegedly also cut his throat.

“The suspect(s) fled in Van Niekerk’s Toyota Prado. This vehicle was later found with two flat tires on the Conway road in Hofmeyr,” confirms Nkohli.

“The circumstances of the incident are being investigated and no one has been arrested yet.”

According to the police’s information, Van Niekerk was already murdered on Tuesday at around 16:00.

Swanepoel says it seems as if Van Niekerk had just arrived home on the farm when he was attacked and killed.

‘Tread deep tracks’

According to Swanepoel, “Oom Thys” (as he was known on the construction site) made a deep mark in the civil engineering industry, especially in the area of ​​upgrading and building national routes right across South Africa.

He was particularly known for his excellent work with the construction of the N4-Maputo corridor which took place from 1996 to 2010. He then worked on several other national routes in the Eastern Cape and the Free State.

“He was known among most major road construction contractors and everyone on the various sites looked up to him as he was very gentle and had an incredible amount of experience,” says Swanepoel.

“The contractor he was currently working with on section 1 of the R390 is Roadmac Surfacing Cape. The specific team of the contractor, under the supervision of Oom Thys, completed the last phase of section 5 of the national R67 route between Fort Beaufort and Queenstown about four months ago.”

According to Swanepoel, all the staff on the site as well as his colleagues at SNA Civil and Structural Engineers, who worked with Van Niekerk, were very shocked by the events. “Some have already had to receive medical treatment for shock as well as counseling as a result of the senseless events.”

‘Family man, hard working’

Van Niekerk grew up on a farm in the Free State, after which he obtained his degree in civil engineering at the University of Pretoria (UP). He started working at SNA Civil and Structural Engineers soon after and was still employed by this company at the time of his death.

Swanepoel and Van Niekerk’s paths crossed in 1988 when they worked together at SNA Civil and Structural Engineers.

Swanepoel describes Van Niekerk as a family man and he often visited his son in Nelspruit and his daughter in East London. His wife died of cancer a few years ago and he lived on his own since then.

“He was extremely proud of his grandchildren and only they could play with his large collection of scale models of road construction equipment. He was very sentimental and lived for his family and often went on holiday together as a family. He had a very healthy sense of humor and never complained.

“He will be remembered by many people as a religious, hard-working perfectionist who cared about his fellow man.

“We are all going to miss you very much Oom Thys!”