A white man has appeared in court after shooting at a couple, wounding one of them, and claiming that he thought he was “shooting at a Hippopotamus”.

Paul Hendrik van Zyl, a white South African farmer from northern Limpopo province, faces attempted murder charges.

Ramokone Linah was fishing with her partner in a river adjoining van Zyl’s farm in Lephalale town, when they suddenly came under fire.

Ms Linah, 38, sustained gun shot wounds on her arm, while her partner “managed to hide” before informing police and emergency services, a police report said.

When police arrived at the scene, van Zyl claimed that he thought the couple were “hippos and monkeys”.

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“The arrested suspect alleged that he was shooting at the animals ” police spokesperson, Mamphaswa Seabi, said in a statement.

During van Zyl’s arrest, police seized two rifles, one revolver, one pistol, and two airguns.

Ms Linah was a part of a group of local men and women at the river near Mamojela Park when the incident occurred, according to a local media report.

Following his court appearance, van Zyl was freed on 1,,000 rand (about £51) bail and the case was adjourned until May 18 to allow further investigation to take place

Even today, almost 30 years after the end of Apartheid, deep racial divisions persist in South Africa. A group of supporters from the anti racist Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) staged a protest outside the court about van Zyl been freed on bail.

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In nearby Letsitele a farmer shot and wounded a farm worker with a pellet gun in 2017, after allegedly mistaking him for a monkey.

Gun ownership is commonplace in South Africa, and accidental killings are a regular occurrence.

Deliberate shootings are common too. According to South African police statistics, more than 7,000 murders with guns were reported in the period from 2019 to 2020.

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