Unrest in Pongola

2014-07-11 00:00

SPORADIC unrest continued in Pongola in a week that has seen homes, businesses and government property torched, sparked by the brutal murder of a four-year-old child.

And under intense pressure by the community, acting MEC for Safety and Security Sbongiseni Dhlomo was forced to intervene and help release 15 suspects arrested earlier this week for allegedly burning a church precinct in the Ncontshane township.

But in an ironic twist a further 10 people were arrested yesterday for torching and looting the Simdlangentsha Magistrate’s Court on Wednesday evening — in protest over the non-release of the 15 arson-accused.

Even national police commissioner General Riah Phiyega has weighed in, calling for calm, and the provincial cabinet is expected to have a special sitting in Pongola today in order to try and defuse the situation.

A police helicopter hovered over the township and SAPS armoured personnel vehicles patrolled while the SANDF took various surveillance positions.

“Taking the law into your own hands and committing crimes in the process is not helpful at all,” said Phiyega.

Ntombi Ngubane — the aunt of Lungisani “Kiki” Ntuli (4, also known as Ngubane), whose dismembered body was discovered last Saturday in a clinic on the St John’s Church precinct — said justice must be served.

“I cannot say the man found guilty for this must die but we must get justice. But he is not working alone. There are more people linked to this but the community must allow the police to do their work and make sure they find the real criminals,” she said.

An eyewitness living close to the courthouse said he was at a tuck shop nearby when a small group of youths came looking for the court security guards.

“They came shouting where are [the guards]. I ducked into a dark corner behind houses and watched as a large group of people headed down to the courthouse,” he said.

“They burnt the guardhouse and they ripped up the steel gate and marched carrying it and used it to break down some of the doors. They set the courthouse alight and the car inside the court.

“The police took a while to come and when they did they started grabbing all those they found in the street.”

The witness said the protesters, mainly youth, had become uncontrollable.

“If the leaders do not get control of the situation it could get worse.’’

Dhlomo, when asked if a peaceful solution would be found quickly, said the government was aware of the “extraordinary situation” in the area and would do whatever it can “to deal with it”.

Speaking in Zulu, he said members of St John’s were coming forward with information. He said Premier Senzo Mchunu would visit the area today.

The SAPS confirmed that of the 15 released, four had charges withdrawn and the remainder were released with a warning and restrictions.

Police sources confirmed that further arrests had been made in connection to the boy’s mutilation but that they were “just being questioned”.

A 51-year-old man — believed to be the pastor of St John’s Church — is expected to appear in the Pongola court today.

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