White residents of Coligny stand outside the local municipal offices to mull the proposed reconciliation plan. File picture: ANA
Coligny – The situation remained calm and tense in Coligny on Friday afternoon following North West premier Supra Mahumapelo’s visit to explain steps taken to heal the violence-torn community.

Mahumapelo met with the representatives of farmers and white residents in a closed meeting before he addressed a public meeting in Tlhabologang township in Coligny.

He told the gathering the white community have committed to be part of the Reconciliation, Healing and Renewal Forum in Coligny in an attempt to bring peace and stability.

“The white community had committed to work with us to rebuild Coligny. It is the responsibility of all of us to rebuild Coligny, we are not going to rebuild Coligny without confronting the truth that our people need land and are poor,” he said.

The premier explained that the white community had raised issues of security and that there were cases of rape that needed to be investigated and perpetrators arrested.

Despite the call for reconciliation in Coligny, Friday morning saw a section of the white community gathered at the NG Kerk hall while the black gathered at the municipal office during a televised debate. The white community apparently went to the church hall for their “security”.

The black residents had raised concerns that there was a “vigilante” group commonly known as the boeremag that harass them at night in town.

Violent protest broke out in Coligny after 16-year-old Matlhomola Jonas Mosweu was killed on April 20, allegedly by two farmers, Pieter Doorewaard, 26, and Phillip Schutte, 34. The pair had accused him of stealing a sunflower from their employer Pieter Kasten’s field near Scotland informal settlement.

A road separates the informal settlement and the field. There is no fence to restrict movement into the field.

The two alleged that they put Mosweu on the back of the van intending to hand him over to the police but that he jumped out of the moving bakkie and injured his neck. He later died on the way to hospital.

An eyewitness told the police that Mosweu was thrown out of the moving van.

His death angered residents and saw Coligny split into bitterly opposed black and white camps. Three houses and three trucks were torched by April 24 and several shops were looted and damaged as raging residents demanded the arrest of Doorewaard and Schutte.

The protest stopped on April 25 after they handed themselves to the police.

But on May 8, a day after Mosweu was buried, the two men accused of causing his death were released on R5,000 bail each. The move angered the community and three more houses were set alight.

Heavily armed farmers attacked journalists and pointed firearms at people who had protested at court, plunging the tiny town further into racial tension.

Resident Kgothatso Mathamela said it was too soon to talk about reconciliation.

“Deep wounds have not healed people are still deeply hurt,” said he said.

Pamla Papenfus, a white resident, said Coligny was not a racist town.

“I walk from town to the township [Tlhabologang] alone’. I was never attacked, instead [blacks] people happily greet me and offer to walk with me. There is no racism in Coligny,” she said.

She said the law must be allowed to deal with two farmers alleged to have killed Mosweu.

“Those who burn houses must be arrested. When a black person kills a white person, whites do not go to their houses and burn them.”

The Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) in North West said racism was rife in farms around Coligny.

“Racism is rife here, farm workers are attacked and evicted without following the labour relation act,” said provincial secretary Job Dliso.

The Economic Freedom Fighters said there could not be reconciliation in Coligny without remorse.

The Forum 4 Service Delivery (F4SD) called on Mahumapelo to appoint a multi-party forum of independent people to probe problems in Coligny and not a task team.

“The establishment of Reconciliation Healing and Renewal Forum is a good move move, however it is not a legitimate government structure, they carry no powers,” said national leader Mbahare Kekana.