Residents who protested and looted shops in the neighbouring North West towns of Coligny and Lichtenburg this week are angry about two separate issues. The towns are 35km apart and both fall under the Ditsobotla municipality. Coligny residents are protesting the way the police have handled the death of a 12-year-old boy last week, while those in Lichtenburg are protesting over a lack of service delivery.
Coligny residents protest the death of a 12-year-old
On Thursday, April 20, a 12-year-old boy from Coligny was allegedly beaten and killed by three white men. An eyewitness told eNCA that he saw three men beating the boy in a sunflower field and that the men later drove off with the boy in the back of a bakkie. The boy apparently fell from the vehicle. It’s unclear whether he jumped or was thrown from the vehicle, or even if he was still alive at the time.
North West police spokesperson Brigadier Sabata Mokgwabone said it was initially reported that the boy was put in the back of a bakkie, jumped out and was taken to a local clinic, where he died. However, police later received reports that the boy died earlier. Mokgwabone couldn’t comment on why the boy was in the sunflower field.
According to Mokgwabone, police have been unable to identify the boy and have not been able to contact his parents.
Protests broke out on Monday and Tuesday in reaction to the killing. Coligny has a one-street CBD, where protesters looted shops and burnt tyres.
“Apparently people were not satisfied with the way the thing is being handled,” said Mokgwabone.
Police arrested two suspects in the killing on Tuesday. The two appeared in the Coligny magistrate’s court on Friday. According to Frank Lesenyego, regional spokesperson for the National Prosecuting Authority in the North West, one of the men faces a murder charge and the other faces a charge of attempted murder. The men have been named as Pieter Doornward and Phillip Schutte. The case has been postponed to 9 May for formal bail applications.
The magistrate in the case, Mattheus van Loggerenberg recused himself‚ saying he feared for his family’s safety.
Businessman Pieter Karsten, 48, earlier told News24 that his nephew was one of the two men arrested for the murder. The community, which is upset about the way police have handled the matter, has lashed out at the town and the Karsten family, in particular.
“All of our shops were affected, the windows are broken, the burglar bars are ripped off, fixtures and fittings are torn off the walls,” a shopowner in Coligny told The Daily Vox. “The whole community went up in arms and they said they’ll stop only when one of the Karstens have lost their lives.”
Lichtenburg protests are over service delivery
The protests in nearby Lichtenburg are believed to be unrelated. Brian Setswambung, head of communications for the North West Province, said the Lichtenburg community is upset about the irregular supply of water to some sections of the nearby informal settlement of Blydeville.
“Apparently there are some sections of Blydeville that are not receiving a regular supply of water. The municipality is building a water reservoir and a temporary solution in the form of water tankers are being taken to the community,” Setswambung said.
Protesters looted and torched foreign-owned businesses in Blydeville and blocked the main road in Lichtenburg. Protesters also torched police vehicles and trucks at a shopping mall opposite Blydeville. Four houses were also set on fire. The protests began to die down by Wednesday.
North West premier Supra Mahumapelo has appointed a team of five MECs and two mayors to investigate the protests.
According to the 2011 census, which provides the latest reliable population data available, the Ditsobotla municipality has a population of 168 902 people. Only 57% of people in the municipality get their water from a municipal or provincial water source and only 44% of people have access to flush toilets. Only about a third of of the population is employed and the average monthly income is R1 200.