Agnes Mosweu and Sakie Dingake, the parents of 16-year-old Matlhomola Mosweu, outside their home in the informal Scotland settlement at Coligny. Picture: Nhlanhla Phillips
Racial and political turbulence have thrust the remote, sleepy town of Coligny in the North West into the limelight following the death of teenager Matlhomola Mosweu, allegedly at the hands of two farmers three week ago.

The small mining town is still smouldering, after houses belonging to the alleged murderers were torched during community protests.

But soon, or maybe later, all will quieten down and life will continue as normal in the town.

People will go to work as normal, children will go to school, and the farming will resume at full scale. It will be business as usual and life will go on. But for Matlhomola’s parents, life will never be the same. A part of their lives has been plucked out.

“We are still very heartbroken about our son’s death. We are depressed about what happened, even his brother is not well at all. I feel the memory of my son returning every time I see other children walking or playing around in the community. That’s what hurts me the most,” said Matlhomola’s father, Sakkie Dingake.

He and his wife, Agnes Mosweu, sat in their home in the Scotland informal settlement of Coligny. The skin from a slaughtered cow lay a few feet away from them, as the last groups of the funeral procession walked past their home.

The community has been up in arms about Matlhomola’s untimely death, and dismissed talk of reconciliation.

Violence escalated when the suspects were granted bail. For many, this has again highlighted how black life is seen as cheap. Black people of Coligny feel that their lives are seen as inferior to white people in the small town.

“We’ve got a lot of issues here, there is still a lot of segregation,” said Buster Motlhawu, a resident of Scotland informal settlement

“This protest is not about service delivery. This is about white people murdering black people in this town.”

With eyes bloodshot, Dingake cannot understand why the suspects were granted bail.

“I would not have known it was my son who was killed if it were not for them (residents). Through them, I could find my son.” said Dingake.

Community leader Stanley Mnyakama believes that Matlhomola’s death provided an opportunity for the government to awaken to the underlying realities of racism, exploitation of workers and lack of services and basic amenities in Coligny.

“The reality of Coligny is the reality of realities. This is the time for everybody in government to stop papering over the cracks. Racism is there

“There are so many young farmworkers who do seasonal work on the farms,” he said, adding that some were still living in mud houses with no electricity, running water or ablution facilities. Some used the bush when they wanted to relieve themselves, he said.

But Mnyakama was also at pains to explain that not all white farmers were racists.

He is worried that the violence might spread to other farming communities. Local farmers who are not necessarily racists might be caught in the crossfire. There are good farmers who did not prevent blacks being buried on the farms. Some attended the funerals with the rest of their families.

“When the government said they should pay R650 (minimum wage), these farmers were paying beyond that. There is a farmer in the area who pays his workers well and the lowest is from R4 000”

When Matlhomola died, Mnyakama said, there was a farmer who donated cattle. “The issue of reconciliation and healing is important,” he said, also highlighting the importance of inclusion among black domestic workers and white families.

“The women who cook for these families should sit with the family at the table. When they eat lunch, they should sit with them at the table. Let them not be marginalised.

“Sit under the tree and engage with them. Blacks have reconciled with white people. After the death of Chris Hani, I was afraid this country would descend into a civil war but Nelson Mandela was able to change that.”

For many residents who are still counting their losses following the fiery protests, it’s the feeling that they would never recoup that hurts.

Naomi Verarie, who owns a tuck shop with her husband, said everything was damaged when her shop was looted.

“I think everything turned out horribly wrong. We feel terribly hurt because we deal with these people all the time. We do business with them and do everything with them, I don’t know what went wrong.

“We don’t know where to go from here because everything’s burnt. Our house is burnt down and I don’t have insurance. We just have to keep on going. We try to fix everything. We try to keep it together for the kids but it’s hard.

“We lived at the dam for a week, as we were offered a place to stay. But now we just try to get along normally although it is hard. The children are not taking it well. Everyone in this town knows my husband, they nickname him ‘Big Show’. They all send their regards when they see him, saying, ‘oh Big Show, we’re so sorry about your house.’”

She said the reaction from the community was good, and it was good to know that some people in the community cared. When they saw their house burn down, she said, there was a guy she saw light up their house and went past her because he didn’t know it was their place.

“Everyone knows that is Big Show’s place but that guy didn’t. So it’s not from our location,” said Verarie.

Asked what her take was on the murder of the young boy, she said she could not say it was because of that and added that she did know what went wrong.

A resident of the town who wanted to be identified as Pieter spoke to The Sunday Independent and said the violence in the town had changed how he saw it.

“On Monday, Coligny was looted. Tuesday morning it was also looted. All of a sudden there are election placards, all because of that accident.

“We must build Coligny again to what it was. We must go back to the town we were - where we can live without burglar bars, with our windows open.

“To face each other with a smile and say hello. To have the opportunity to help the community, to give soccer shirts, to sponsor school activities. That’s what we need to do.

“That’s the Coligny I know. That’s what we’ve done all these years. This violence won’t get Coligny under. We will stand up again, we will work together again. If we’ve got local government to fix the roads to help the community in Tlhabologang. Not just help them. But give them services, to fix the whole town.”

He said he loved the town and stayed there by choice, not because he had to. “We’ve had love in this town before, but the hatred now in this town is something new. This is not the Coligny I know,” Pieter said.

Pieter Doorewaard and Phillip Schutte, charged with murder and attempted murder, were granted R5000 bail and will be back in court on June 26.

Meanwhile, Matlhomola’s father is full of rage and vengeance.

“I am totally disturbed by that. Why shouldn’t they be murdered the way my son was murdered, because they’ve taken someone’s life from the face of the earth.”

Matlhomola was a good boy, obedient and talented, he said, ever reliable when doing errands.

The Sunday Independent