Margate's beacon of shame

2011-08-20 00:00

LOCALS on the lower South Coast have reacted strongly to the fatal assault of a young man who was attacked at the Lighthouse Pub & Grill in Margate in the early hours of Sunday morning.

While some maintain it was an act of blatant racism, others condemn it as pure hooliganism.

Lwandile Mampofu (26) was playing pool at the pub when five men assaulted him.

Petros Opperman (46), Jakes Nicholas Putter (33) and Dovin Christian van der Walt (33) appeared in Ramsgate Magistrate’s Court on a murder charge on Monday. The case was postponed until next Tuesday for a bail application.

Mampofu’s partner, Lungi Danca, said they had gone to the pub to play pool.

“We were playing when Lwandile lit his cigarette and a white man took it out of his mouth saying it was his.”

She said the man started assaulting Mampofu inside the pub. “He ran away and about five white guys chased after him.”

Danca left the pub and looked for her boyfriend, but she could not see him or the gang of white men outside. “I went back to his house to see if he was there, but he wasn’t.”

She went to a neighbour’s house to ask him to accompany her to the police station. As they left the complex they heard people talking and saw a police vehicle and another car, driven by an Indian man, in the street.

“The Indian guy said he saw Lwandile lying on the road and he tried to assist him. He also phoned the police who immediately came to the scene.”

Danca said it seemed Mampofu was trying to get home, which is near the pub.

“He was breathing when I got to him, but he didn’t respond when I spoke to him.”

Danca said she believes this incident was racially motivated.

A barman at the pub told Weekend Witness that the staff “did what they could” to stop the assault. Victor Bester, speaking on behalf of the owner, said the barmen thought it was an unnecessary incident “initiated by a bunch of trouble makers”.

“There were actually five men involved in this murder, but the police have only arrested three,” said Bester.

Of one of them, he said, “is a biker from The Wild Bunch and is always causing trouble”.

Bester said the arrested men, who have been kicked out of the Lighthouse at least five times, are notorious for causing fights.

The chairperson of the Wild Bunch, Leon van Jaarsveld, denied allegations that the man referred to by Bester belongs to his bike club.

“I would like to know where people got this information from.”

Captain Gerald Mfeka said the police are investigating another three people linked to the attack. “Three suspects were arrested and have appeared in court. We are currently investigating the involvement of three other suspects.”

The first three were arrested after people gave the police information.

He said police have entered into negotiations with the owners of the pub to make it safer for patrons.

“At the moment police will be patrolling the bar area because we have received numerous complaints about the same bar,” he said.

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OTHER victims of assault at the Lighthouse Pub and Grill have now spoken out.

Exactly a year ago Wynand van Staden (39) was assaulted and left for dead outside the same pub. Van Staden said he often “hung out” at the pub and was with friends when a fight broke out.

“I tried to stop the fight, but ended up the victim of a terrible assault,” he said.

Van Staden spent a month in hospital. His spleen was removed and his pancreas was severely damaged.

“I was a regular at the pub and it was notorious for fights,” he said.

He said the owners rarely intervene to try to stop altercations.

“The worst thing is that the perpetrators have not been charged,” he said.

Van Staden reported the incident to the police after he was discharged from hospital and said he has been told the docket is “in court and still awaiting a decision”.

Another man, who wants to remain anonymous, said his nephew was assaulted at the bar almost a year ago. “That pub has a terrible reputation,” he said.

He said his nephew was beaten with a baseball bat and his attackers chased him by car when he fled.

Robert Sember, who is gay, said the crowd at the pub is not only racist but homophobic too.

“I haven’t been back to Margate since my friend was attacked,” he said. “They are racist and sexist and the owners just stand and watch when a fight breaks out.”

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VUYANI Mampofu, the brother of Lwandile, described him as a hard worker who loved life. The brothers lived together in a complex in Margate.

Lwandile had a diploma in information technology from a Durban college. Originally from Flagstaff in the Eastern Cape, Lwandile came from a family of seven and had a three year-old-daughter who lived with her mother.

“We had a meal together and watched a bit of the Kaizer Chiefs match before he left to go out,” said Vuyani.

“That was the last I saw him.”

Vuyani said he was devastated when he heard of his brother’s death. “He was my little brother and my best friend,” he said.

“Sometimes, I feel as if he’s going to walk through the door and come back home after work.”

Mampofu’s funeral will take place in Flagstaff on Saturday.

His colleagues at the Margate Country Club, where he worked as a lockerroom attendant, are saddened and shocked by his murder.

Dereck Hirson said, “He was always so jovial and nothing was too much trouble for him. He truly was one of a kind. It’s very sad that this had to happen to him.”

Hirson said Mampofu was hired as a temp in January 2010 and by April they had made him a permanent employee. “He always took the initiative. I knew if I gave him something to do it would get done right.”

He said of the attackers, “It is just malicious what they have done with no regard for human life. They deserve the harshest sentence possible.”

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