The South African court's decision to grant bail to the two white men of Coligny who are on trial for the murder of a black youth after what seems to have been trumped up charges, was expected, but the outbreak of renewed racial violence came as a result of deliberate racial incitement against Afrikaners by the ruling party.
The court’s decision was based on “sound legal principles and in the light thereof it is regrettable that the premier of North West is trying to depict the incident as racism”, says Michal Groenewald, leader of the FF Plus in North West.
The two white men, Pieter Doorewaard and Phillip Schutte, have been released on bail of R5 000 each and had to hand over their passports.
White home ransacked
But on Sunday, at the funeral of the youth, the ANC premier Supra Mahumapelo attended the gathering with other black political figures to incite the crowds and inflame the racial debate, essentially telling the crowd to take “justice” into their own hands if the court grants bail.
According to media reports, Mahumapelo said at the boy’s funeral that he died “at the hands of white people”. He also said that the people “at whose hands” the boy was with his death, are “Afrikaners from Coligny”.
The white farm house was burnt down by a black mob in the North West town, almost immediately after the magistrate granted bail to two white farmers spuriously accused of killing 16-year-old Mathlomola Mosweu on April 20.
Violence erupted everywhere as mobs received word that the two men accused of murder would be released on bail. Not only were white homes firebombed, but several others were attacked and ransacked.
A house at Henk and Karen Keyser’s Rietvlei maize farm was engulfed in flames when petrol bombs were hurled inside, less than 30 minutes after judgment was handed down in the bail application. But the Keysers are not in any way linked to the the two accused.
Groenewald said the FF Plus asks that the case must be allowed to follow the legal course unhindered and that people such as premier Mahumapelo should refrain from inciting racial hatred.
If Mahumapelo continues with such statements it may lead to more violence, Groenewald said. “The Premier should take responsibility if any violent protests erupt again as a result of his incitement,” he added.
Groenewald noted that the ANC government was unmoved by the carnage white farmers face in the country. “When white people are killed by black people, it is ordinary crime. When the situation is vice versa, the ANC cites racism. This is unacceptable. Mahumapelo is welcome to tell us how many funeral services of murdered white farmers in the province he has attended and what he had to say about it.”
Groenewald welcomed the court’s view that it would not succumb to the intimidation of rioters. “South Africa is a constitutional state and it would be of great concern if the judgement in this matter will be influenced by riots and intimidation.”
In all criminal matters in South Africa, courts should continue “without any interference or intimidation,” said Groenewald.
The acting National Police Commissioner, Khomotso Phahlane, meanwhile gave the assurance that the police would intervene with reinforcements to calm down the explosive situation and renewed violence in Coligny, according to dr. Pieter Groenewald, leader of the FF Plus.
Dr. Groenewald confirmed that shortly after the two men who were accused of killing a boy were granted bail, groups of protestors became violent. Four white properties were set alight and the police and other residents of the area rushed to the scenes to help the victims.
The houses belong to dr. Rabie Barnard, a medical doctor who is known for the selfless work that he does amongst all racial communities of the area, and the other to a white farmer, Henk Keyser, who lives on a farm nearby the town.
“The FF Plus calls on all politicians, and especially those of the ANC, to tell their followers to respect the rule of law and not to make any racist or populistic statements such as the North West’s premier Supra Mahumapelo has done at the funeral of the boy.
“The situation is extremely explosive, and the FF Plus wants to again point out that a community has the right to defend itself and to protect its property, and this must be respected by everyone,” says dr. Groenewald.
As the fire department and farmers attempted to extinguish one blaze, the white owner ordered journalists to leave his property, but they refused. Not surprisingly, the owner accused the news team of aiding the mob. News reports from mainstream media outlets have so far portrayed the violence against whites as justifiable, valid and warrented as they move together with the mobs.
Homeowners asking laughing, gleeful journalist to leave
“He thought we came there with the protesters [who torched his house] and that we could have warned him about what they wanted to do, but we only arrived after it was already burning,” the journalist maintained, but other witnesses say the black news team had once again accompanied the arsonists.
The owner got angry when the hack refused to leave and focibly removed AFP photographer Mujahid Safodien. Instead of reporting on the details of the problematic news coverage, mainstream newspapers as well as the South African National Editors’ Forum (Sanef) now whine about “press freedom”, because the owner had shouted in Afrikaans: “Where is my pistol, where is my pistol?” while chasing the gleeful journalists taking pictures from his house.
Instead of condemning only the mob violence, police Minister Fikile Mbalula on Twitter condemned the “attacks on the media”, forgetting about the distraught owner of the house now reduced to ashes.
The cause of Matlhomola’s death is not yet known as the court has not yet received any autopsy report. The pair were implicated in the killing by an unreliable witness to the incident, and his claims were dismissed by the court because the accused had not yet participated in an identity parade.
The so-called witness, the court noted, had also not yet confirmed whether it was indeed the teenager he allegedly saw being thrown off the vehicle, because he could give no description of the teenager.
“The state is adamant that if it weren’t for the witness testimony, this case would not be enrolled,” the court said in its bail judgment on Monday, adding that without the identity parade “there is no link between the witness statement” and the pair accused of the killing. [Thus] “there is no prima facie case against the two accused,” the court added.
Despite these obvious facts, the premier of the governing ANC, and black activist organisations, accused the court of bias and handing down a scewed bail judgement, inciting mobs to take “righteousness” to the streets.
Outside the court, the mobs grew increasingly agitated, chanting “no bail” and arguing with members of the public order policing unit clad in full riot gear, calling them “sell-outs” and “white lackeys”.
The National Prosecuting Authority spokesperson in the North West, Frank Lesenyego, said the NPA “respect the judgment but was disappointed because the court failed to consider the interests of the community”.
“When the trial starts we will make representations to the court about the involvement of these two in the killing,” Lesenyego said, but could present no evidence to back up his allegations of their “involvement”.
The area remains on a knife edge. During the night black mobs torched vehicles on the road and tried to attack several white homesteads. According to Jacaranda FM News, police had their hands full until late last night with residents throwing armoured vehicles with petrol bombs.
“There is still a heavy police presence in the maize town, even though it seems calmer this morning, but the situation is fluid and things can change quickly,” the radio news team reported. Black mobs have vowed to continue protesting until “justice is served”.
The first magistrate in the case, Mattheus van Loggerenberg, white, had to recused himself‚ saying he feared for his family’s safety. The bail judgement was handed down by a black magistrate.
Businessman Pieter Karsten, 48, earlier told News24 that his nephew was one of the two men arrested for the murder. The community, which is upset about the way police have handled the matter, has lashed out verbally at the Karsten family, in particular. But they directed their anger at all whites.
“All of our shops were affected, the windows are broken, the burglar bars are ripped off, fixtures and fittings are torn off the walls,” a shopowner in Coligny explained to The Daily Vox that black mobs were not only singling out the Karsten family. “The whole [black] community went up in arms and they said they’ll stop only when one of the Karstens have lost their lives.”
The rioting in the area had initially started out as a result of poor service delivery by government. Brian Setswambung, head of communications for the North West Province, said the black community was upset about the irregular supply of water to some sections of the nearby black informal settlement of Blydeville, in the Coligny area.
“Apparently there are some sections of Blydeville that are not receiving a regular supply of water. The municipality is building a water reservoir and a temporary solution in the form of water tankers are being taken to the community,” Setswambung said.
Protesters looted and torched foreign-owned businesses in Blydeville and blocked the main road in the area, they also torched police vehicles and trucks at a shopping mall opposite Blydeville. Four houses were also set on fire in the adjacent town of Lichtenburg.
The rioting and looting began to die down last week in Lichtenburg, but flared up in Coligny soon after, allegedly over the death of the black teenager. Blaming whites for the death of the black teenager, has been a most convenient way to hide the fact that the government is failing to provide even the most basic services to their voters.
According to the 2011 census, which provides the latest reliable population data available, the Ditsobotla municipality has a population of 168 902 people, and 57 percent of people in the municipality rely on their water from a municipal or provincial water source.