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No time for healing in Coligny

2017-05-21 11:05

Tensions are not about to die down in the racially divided farming town of Coligny, North West, where it has emerged that some of the recently torched houses there have been identified as those owned by alleged racists.

The local police station has also come under the spotlight, with officers accused of sweeping several cases reported by black people against whites under the carpet. Police have also been accused of patrolling farms at night, while less blue lights were seen in the township.

One of the houses gutted during recent violent protests in the area is owned by farmer Henk Keyser, on whose property two bodies were found – one in 2013 and one last year. The two discoveries were registered as inquest cases, but no one has been questioned over the deaths.

The local community, however, suspects foul play.

It has emerged that one of the bodies was that of Kopano Leteane (18) who was reportedly related to 16-year-old Matlhomola Moshoeu, whose death sparked the unrest in the town after it was reported that he was allegedly thrown out of a moving bakkie by two white men who had earlier apprehended him after he was found stealing sunflowers..

Leteane’s body and that of Thapelo Diphae were both found on Keyser’s Rietvlei Farm – in March last year and November 2013, respectively. Diphae’s body was found badly decomposed and floating in a stream on the farm more than two weeks after he was reported missing. Leteane’s body was found on the farm seven days after he went missing. Before the body was found, Keyser had informed the police that he had seen the boy on his farm.

When contacted by City Press, the farmer refused to discuss the matter. However, he told eNCA this week that he believed his farm was attacked because it was the closest to the township.

Coligny resident Tshwarelo Mothelesi said: “People got angry when the two white men [who allegedly killed Moshoeu] were granted bail and they could only think of hurting those they know hurt black people. The community is also not happy about how cases involving black and white people are handled.

“Black people are not taken seriously by our own black police officers, who often advise people not to open cases against whites because they are rich, which means they will get good lawyers and walk.

“We have many cases that don’t receive proper attention from the police, such as that of a man who was hit by a car driven by a white man. He reported the matter and identified the suspect, but, to this day, he still can’t say what happened with the case.”

North West police spokesperson Brigadier Sabata Mokgwabone said investigations into the deaths of Leteane and Diphae revealed that they died of natural causes and that foul play was not suspected.

Mokgwabone said they were ready to engage with residents and look into cases they may be unsatisfied with. He promised that a whip would be cracked where necessary.

“We do not open or investigate cases along racial lines. We do not tolerate unprofessional conduct and, if it can be found that any member failed to do what is expected of them, drastic steps will be taken in accordance with disciplinary regulations,” he said.

Meanwhile, Mothelesi said things were not getting better in Coligny.

“There are efforts to bring blacks and whites together, but I do not see it succeeding. Farm workers are telling us that bad treatment has increased in their workplaces. The truth is that black people are angry and old wounds are being opened again,” he said.

One farm worker, who was attending his sister’s burial yesterday, said his boss often gave his workers an advance on their salaries for emergencies, but this time he refused.

“I asked him to lend me R10 000 so I that could cover the funeral costs, which I would pay back in monthly instalments from my R2 700 salary, but he said: ‘Go ask [Economic Freedom Fighters leader Julius] Malema for money ... How can I help when your people are busy burning our property?’”

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October 15 2017