Petrol, fire, assault, terror
Several people injured as community protests against ANC campaigners
A small Eastern Cape township has erupted into violence, apparently sparked by the arrival of a motorcade of ANC agents hoping to electioneer.
Nine people of Freestone township in Bathurst near Port Alfred were injured and five people were arrested.
Police Brigadier Thembinkosi Kinana said the incidents started at about 5pm on Sunday when local political party agents took part in a motorcade.
During the motorcade, groups of Freestone residents started throwing stones at vehicles and attacking other members of the community.
He said five homes and two vehicles were destroyed and nine people were treated at the local hospital.
Several cases of arson, malicious damage to property and assault were opened for investigation. More arrests were imminent and the five would appear in the Port Alfred magistrate’s court soon.
Kinana said: “Reports were received of a house that was set alight. A short while later three more reports were received of homes being burnt in separate locations. Reports of vehicles that were also apparently burnt were received.”
Cogta MEC Fikile Xasa said he was aware of the situation and had dispatched officials to the area to intervene.
“Officials will meet with all stakeholders to deal with the situation,” he said.
ANC councillor Andile Malgas, the target of the mob, was nowhere to be found. Ndlambe mayor Phindile Faxi agreed to an interview with the Dispatch but later said he was in meetings.
The Dispatch visited the area. The reporters were told that all the targeted people were ANC members. Community members were found gathered on the streets blocking roads with burning tyres.
They said they were provoked by the ANC and set houses of known affiliates of councilor Andile Malgas alight.
“This was done because of the anger of the community. We are targeted by the councillor in this community. There is no specific person who set these houses alight. It’s the entire community. We tried everything else and nothing was done. The ANC came here to campaign when they know our problems,” community leader Xolile Makhuthu said.
He said community members gathered at the hall for a meeting when they received calls that ANC members were assaulting the community.
“We have exhausted all avenues. We protested for proper sanitation, water and proper houses and the mayor came to address us. He left saying that he would return with answers to our problems, but that has never happened. We don’t want this councillor. We want him gone because he uses his own people for tenders and jobs. He is not our councillor.”
The community vowed to continue with their actions until their service delivery problems were addressed.
“First we want the councillor out and then we want the government to come and speak to us,” said community member Ntombivuyo Gayi.
Freestone residents Irene and Mthuthuzeli Msimanga escaped their blazing home through a small bathroom window. The couple had just retired to their bedroom when they heard loud chattering. A mob had forced their way into their home.
Mthuthuzeli immediately jumped out of bed and ushered his wife to another room as an angry mob pelted stones into their house. The couple hid in the wardrobe while the mob drizzled petrol on all their belongings. Shortly after, they heard a deep voice saying: “Burn them alive”.
Smoke came rushing into their hiding spot. The couple could not escape as the door had been blocked with their fridge. They squeezed out the bathroom window and fled with with the clothes on their back and bruises to their bodies. “We were lucky we had no burglar bars. We ran for our lives,” Irene told Dispatch.
Mthuthuzeli, was only wearing his underwear when he knocked on the doors of neighbouring homes and was finally let in by one neighbour after countless pleas.
The couple’s home was the first of five homes that were torched during a community outburst.
Mthuthuzeli never imagined he would be sent images of his home burning.
“I saw my house burning and there was nothing I could do. Our photos, our IDs, our lives, my car, everything, everything burnt to a crisp.
“Why would anyone do this to us?” Mthuthuzeli said with tears welling.
Shortly after the community was done with the Msimangas, they moved to Mzuvukile Cinywa’s home. Cinywa who was enjoying time with his wife and three children said he heard noises coming from the Msimanga home and knew he had to flee. Cinywa said he and his wife gathered their children and ran for cover.
“All that drove me was my children. I knew I had to get them away from danger. I saw smoke coming out of my friends’ home and I knew I was next.”
Three other homes of known ANC members were burnt down. Remnants of their belongings lay in a pile of ash, dust and rubble.
Another community member Mcedisi Dyantyi was taken to hospital after he was assaulted with bricks and a pickaxe. When Dispatch visited Dyantyi in Port Alfred hospital, his jaw was wired shut and he could barely form a sentence.
He still managed to say he was standing at the gates of his home when an angry mob started attacking him. “They took my wallet, phone and watch. They beat me in my face, lower back and the back of the head. I was in and out of consciousness. I don’t know why this happened to me,” he said.
His wife and children fled the scene fearing for their lives. He lay in a pool of blood in the streets of Freestone when police found him and took him to hospital, he said.
“I don’t know what happened to my house. I don’t know if I have a house.
“My wife and kids are scared. We are scared to go back. We have nothing,” said a pain-wracked Dyantyi.
Eastern Cape Provincial Commissioner, Lieutenant-General Liziwe Ntshinga condemned the incident as “cowardly acts of arson. We cannot allow people to burn or torch other peoples’ houses or property despite any disagreements or reasons. The 72-hour activation plan has been implemented to investigate, track, arrest and bring to justice those suspected and responsible for such violent acts within this community,” she said...