Tzaneen - The ongoing violence that broke out in Relela village outside Tzaneen after police gunned down three protesters has spilt over to neighbouring villages.
It is showing no sign of abating in spite of a reinforced police presence.
On Thursday, the Limpopo villages of Kubjana, Motupa and Moleketla outside Tzaneen were turned into no-go areas for motorists and throngs of journalists.
For a local businessman (whose name The Star is holding back for his safety) it was a day spent in hiding after locals torched his house, his shop and three vehicles in Kubjana village on Wednesday night.
The crowd burnt down the man’s property after a three-year-old boy was found dead in one of the cars parked at his home on Wednesday afternoon.
Two other children, aged 3 and 5, were in the car. They were found alive.
Limpopo police spokeswoman Colonel Ronel Otto said it was unclear why the three children were in the businessman’s car.
“We don’t know why they were in the car and how they got into the car.”
She said police had opened an inquest, and a post-mortem would determine the cause of the boy’s death.
“The community alleged that he (the businessman) kidnapped the children for ulterior motives, one of them being muti,” said Otto.
An already suspicious crowd went into a frenzy, suspecting that the dead boy’s body would have been used for muti.
The businessman’s vehicles were reduced to shells and the roof of his large house was gutted by fire.
At his shop, the only thing that remained standing were the walls. The entire stock, including three freezers, was consumed in the blaze.
“Residents also stoned police vehicles. Police used rubber bullets to disperse the crowds,” said Otto.
Police have taken the businessman and his family to a place of safety.
The mutilated body of Khomotso Ragolane, 20, found last Friday morning, sparked the initial protest.
The only road that passes through the villages was barricaded with burning tyres and stones, forcing taxis from Tzaneen to drop passengers far away from their homes.
Among those affected was a sickly woman who had just been discharged from hospital following ovarian cancer treatment.
The taxi driver dropped Victoria Motseo off about 15km from her home, fearing his taxi would be torched if he dared to enter the no-go zone.
The 47-year-old woman, who could barely walk and was visibly in pain, sought help from a police Nyala, but they, too, refused to help.
On Thursday, a mob comprising mainly young people looted several shops.
Sibert Malatjie, the owner of a supermarket in Kubjana, said the crowd broke into his store after midday to demand lunch.
“They stole cash and everything they could lay their hands on, including maize meal and washing powder. You could not negotiate with them. They only dispersed after I had fired two warning shots,” said Malatjie.
He said he had closed his supermarket after the businessman’s shop, which is located metres away from his, was burnt overnight.
Another shopowner, Ali Mohamed, said his shop was looted at Moleketla village.