War of intimidation

2013-10-03 00:00

A TERROR spree — apparently by a formation calling itself the “Marikana Group” — on Tuesday night saw a spate of petrol bombs being hurled at targets linked to Richmond councillors in what has been described as a “cold war of intimidation”.

The group allegedly embarked on the attacks to cause instability in Richmond’s Ndaleni and Magoda areas.

At Ndaleni, they burned down a rondavel belonging to taxi owner Thembinkosi Ntunzela, and a house belonging to councillor Douglas Kunene had its dining room partially burnt.

Broken bottles used for the petrol bombs were found in Kunene’s dining room and next to his car, which escaped damage as the arsonists failed to reach their target.

Richmond council Speaker Thulani Shabalala was also targeted for the second time in two months when the canopy of his new bakkie was burnt.

Attempts had been made to petrol bomb his rondavel and his main house. In the previous attack, his car was totally destroyed.

Shabalala was later told that his uncle’s tractor was also burnt during the night.

It appears that the incidents all took place within an hour.

Various sources alleged that the Marikana Group was behind the attacks. They called on acting premier and Transport, Community Safety and Liaison MEC Willies Mchunu to bring external police to investigate the matter.

A source said the Marikana Group was angry because the provincial ANC leadership had not given them a report as expected on the status of four councillors they want removed by October 1. The four include Mayor Andrew Ragavaloo and Shabalala.

Ntunzela told Mchunu, who visited the scene yesterday, that he may have been targeted after helping Shabalala by lending him his car when the speaker’s previous vehicle was burnt.

“I heard them when they were running away, saying that they were teaching me a lesson for thinking that I am clever by assisting the speaker,” he said.

Ntunzela said it was clear his attackers wanted him dead.

Mchunu visited all the areas attacked and offered support to the affected families, assuring them that the police would investigate the incidents.

Kunene’s wife, Nokubonga, said this was the second time that her house had been attacked. “I think they will only be satisfied once one of us has been killed,” she said angrily. She said their house would have burned down if their dogs had not barked and alerted them to the blaze.

Ragavaloo said “a minority of either disgruntled or power-hungry criminals seems hellbent on destabilising Richmond”.

“It seems that their aim is to intimidate councillors into resigning and creating anarchy and chaos. It really is a cold war of intimidation from people who want them to vacate their council positions.”

He said it cannot be that they were not delivering services because they were recognised as the best-performing municipality by the ANC on January 8.

“So clearly this is an act of intimidation by people that want to destabilise our municipality,” said Ragavaloo.

31/07/07: Residents are without water for four consecutive days after striking municipal workers puncture the town’s main supply line.

26/07/2011: Community hall and other buildings torched during infighting within ANC over nomination of candidates for the local government elections.

22/05/2013: Hopewell Ward 3 comes to a standstill for a day as protesters blockade the main road in a service delivery protest.

04/06/2013: Richmond comes to a standstill as a mob blockades the exit and entry points of Ndaleni Township. Eight schools are forced to close as pupils are forced to join the protest.

04/07/2013: A protest over increased taxi fares turns tense as Ndaleni residents cut down trees, which blocked roads and fell on live electricity wires.

16/07/2013: Taxi operations are halted as angry residents block roads in and out of Richmond over taxi fare increases.

23/07/2013: Five shots are fired at Mayor Andrew Ragavaloo’s house. One bullet hits the wall directly behind where he works at his computer.

17/08/2013: Council Speaker Thulani Shabalala and his wife take cover when stones are thrown through his bedroom window and his car is torched.

12/09/2013: Municipal offices are gutted by fire. Damage is estimated at R300 000.

• thobani.ngqulunga@witness.co.za

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