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Homestead reduced to ashes; Armoured police vehicle in flames

Black mob torches two white homes in old South African northern town

A black mob stormed one of the oldest white towns in the north of South Africa, ​​Coligny in the North West Province. The area around the town was changed into a conflict zone as violent riots by mobs raged this week after a false rumour was spread.

Published: April 29, 2017, 10:13 am

    On Tuesday, local black residents were told to protest because “white farmers had killed a 12-year-old boy”. The alleged death of the child at the hands of a white farmer turned out to be a hoax, but the riots continued anyway.

    Black community leaders later maintained the protests were about “a lack of government service delivery” in the area. Roads to Ottosdal, Coligny and Sannieshof were blocked by protesters.

    All the liquor stores in the town including the hotel bar were looted and two white homes were torched. Private security had to be deployed in both Coligny and Lichtenburg to protect white properties, some 20km from each other.

    Vandalism and looting by black residents of Coligny continued through Tuesday, when apart from several liquor stores, other shops were emptied too. A large group of police officers were deployed in the black Tlhabologang township of Coligny only after the looting spree.

    The Society for the Protection and Care of Animals (SPCA) communicated their utter dismay at some 38 000 one-day-old chicks that were burnt alive during a protest in the Lichtenburg area near Coligny before the start of the week.

    The animal welfare group says protesters targeted a random truck during Friday’s riots, forced the driver out and set fire to the vehicle while the chicks were inside.

    Spokesperson Grace De Lange said, “The black protesters pulled the black driver out of the vehicle, opened the vehicle’s back door, pulled some of the crates out and drove over them and set the remaining ones alight.”

    The national SPCA confirmed that its farm animal protection unit was deployed to the scene, but arrived too late to save the animals. “We emphasise that the suffering endured by these birds can hardly be imagined. It would have been agonising and prolonged. It was also totally unnecessary,” the organisation said in a statement on Monday.

    OptiChicks, the company providing the live stock, confirmed that one of their trucks were attacked.

    White homeowners stood guard to protect their properties, as police reinforcements were only called from Gauteng much later. The police used rubber bullets to chase the protesters, while the protesters pelted the police officers with stones and rocks.

    The distraught white female owner of the one house that was torched, told Netwerk24, an Afrikaans news outlet, that black rioters locked her small pet dog in her dwelling to burn to death.

    Nelson Mandela Drive, in the centre of Coligny was also blocked with large rocks and rubble while an armored police vehicle was burned to ashes. Only six policemen had been deployed initally to stem the violence, FWM learned.

    “The allegation that the burning and looting of shops and houses in Coligny is the result of a racial incident where a farmer caused the death of a 12-year-old black boy, is simply a smoke screen for the looting of shops in Coligny,” says Pieter Groenewald, leader of the FF Plus.

    Groenewald visited Coligny this week and spoke with the Police General in operational control of the area. He said some black community members tried to stop the black rioters and eventually clashed with them. “The black community itself is also well organised. At one stage, they even assisted the police because there was only one Nyala-vehicle [armoured vehicle] with about six policemen present.”

    All petrol stations and businesses have deployed security while a police helicopter also circled the area on Tuesday. Unconfirmed reports of clashes between protesters and police at the nearby Blydeville area were received.

    A government task force has now been appointed to investigate the cause of the unrest in the Coligny area in North West. During the past financial year, the municipality has struggled to pay its employees and service providers.

    The provincial and local ANC government condemned the violence by residents of Itsoseng and Blydeville at Lichtenburg and Coligny, but during the uprising they had been very slow to react.

    Most schools in the area are still closed. The mayor of the Ditsobotla municipality in North West, Daniel Buthelezi, told dissatisfied residents their grievances about service delivery are not an excuse for the violence.

    He said the protest action was purely criminal and exploited by criminals for their own gain. Buthelezi says the protests were no longer related to service delivery and used for other purposes.

    The black rioters told EWN that “white farmers” should plead guilty. “It’s very easy,” one explained, suggesting that the riots will continue if not.

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