Convicted ‘vigilante councillor’ fights back

2013-11-14 10:11

Delta Mokoena, the president of a small Mpumalanga political organisation accused of a string of vigilante crimes, has embarked on a campaign to clear his name following his conviction in two cases last week.

Mokoena was sentenced to two years’ imprisonment for intimidation and three years for accusing 66-year-old Ranson Mashile of practising witchcraft and setting his house alight.

The sentences were handed down by the Acornhoek Magistrates’ Court last Tuesday and Thursday.

On Tuesday this week, the Bushbuckridge Residents Association (BRA) president and Bushbuckridge municipal councillor was granted leave to appeal his two-year sentence and released on R10 000 bail.

In this case, Mokoena instructed Aaron Zitha (49) to leave his house in Ga-Boelang village after claiming that his 18-year-old son was a thief. Mokoena threatened to tell the community to set him and his house alight if he did not leave.

BRA secretary Cleopus Maunye said the party would lodge an appeal in the second case next week.

He was found guilty of accusing Mashile of practising witchcraft, and arson.

Mokoena told a community meeting in Ga-Boelang last year August that Mashile had bewitched his close friend and killed him.

Mashile has been sleeping in the Acornhoek Police Station since August 19 2012 after his house was torched.

Maunye said: “We’re appealing his sentence and conviction. We’re still saying that BRA is not a vigilante group and these cases against the president were politically motivated by our rivals [the ANC].”

The Congress of the People (Cope) in Mpumalanga also expressed the same sentiment.

Cope provincial spokesperson Riot Hlatshwayo said politics seemed to have played a role in Mokoena’s woes.

“Cope believes it is not by coincidence that Mokoena happened to be a political enemy of the ANC in one way or another and that hardly a few months after his group allegedly chased away the three top ANC leaders in the province he received a jail term,” Hlatshwayo said.

He was referring to an incident in February this year when BRA members and residents in the area chased away Premier David Mabuza and members of his provincial cabinet after accusing them of using state resources to campaign for the ANC.

Last month, five BRA members were arrested for allegedly assaulting three ANC volunteers who were busy wooing residents during a door-to-door campaign to vote for the ANC in next year’s general election.

Hlatshwayo said justice appeared to be “choosy” as the most dangerous criminals in the area were not speedily sentenced.

Mokoena is set to appear in a third case in the Acornhoek Magistrates’ Court on December 3 following an incident during which he and accomplices allegedly kidnapped a young man on March 3 and assaulted him in the BRA’s offices.

City Press has spoken to residents who claimed they were forced to leave their homes after BRA-led meetings resolved that they were witches and satanists.

More than 20 families have been displaced and scattered because of the BRA’s accusations. Teaching and learning has also been disrupted in schools when the meetings levelled accusations against teachers and pupils.

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