ANC leader has two faces

2011-06-25 17:27

There are two portraits of Stella Tebogo Mojapelo, a Polokwane ANC ward councillor facing murder charges.

One paints her as the leader of a deadly xenophobic mob and the other as a committed political servant of her community.Whichever portrait emerges as the truth, for now Mojapelo (29) is the only politician that has been directly linked to last week’s xenophobic violence in Seshego township, outside Polokwane in Limpopo.

The violence there saw a Zimbabwean man stoned to death, houses torched and an estimated 3?000, mostly Zimbabwean nationals, fleeing the area.

The state and its witnesses paint the first picture of Mojapelo, whom they say led an angry mob of community members on a rampage last week in which Zimbabwean Godfrey Sibanda was killed.

She has been charged with murder, arson, assault, incitement to public violence – all offences that carry a minimum of 15 years.She appeared in the Seshego Magistrates Court on Monday alongside 11 other community members who were also charged for similar offences. Mojapelo and three others were released on R5?000 bail.

Limpopo police spokesperson Brigadier Hangwani Mulaudzi claims Mojapelo was “pointed out by witnesses who were interviewed by the police”, as a leader who incited the community to kill Zimbabweans.

But those who know her describe a different woman. They say the rookie councillor, who was voted into office during last month’s local government elections, is a hardworking and honest person who has the community’s interests at heart.

Pat Lelahane, a political veteran and ward councillor in the area, says he doesn’t believe Mojapelo had anything to do with the attacks.

“It’s very easy for a community to take its own direction and act out of hand, and then turn around and say she was the leader,” says Lelahane.

He says Mojapelo has been involved in politics since about 2004 as a member of the ANC Youth League and is prominent in her community.

She did a stint working for the provincial Fifa World Cup office before she was elected last month.Ankie Matlou, who lives on the same street as the councillor, claims Mojapelo was called out after the mob had killed Sibanda. “I spoke to her. They called her after they had finished killing him and then they told the police that they were told to do so by her, their leader.”

Mulaudzi says some of the Zimbabwean families displaced last week are being provided with temporary shelter at the Seshego Police Station.

Mojapelo and her lawyer declined to comment.

On Thursday there were still 28 Zimbabwean families housed at the police station, because the city’s disaster management unit had not yet allocated them a place of shelter.

The families said the only alternative they had been given by disaster management officials, who declined to comment, was to go to a refugee camp in Musina, which they had refused to do because they were scared of being deported.“Musina? No ways!” said Christopher Manyanhaire (27).

“It’s a strategy to deport us back home. There will be trucks there waiting for us when we get there.

” Meanwhile, Limpopo ANC spokesperson David Masondo says the charges against Mojapelo are serious and the ANC is “likely to take drastic measures against her if she is found guilty”.

DA leader in Limpopo Desiree van der Walt says she believes Mojapelo should have been kept in custody until her trial.

“Though the court has made a decision, we believe this is a serious charge and she should’ve been kept (in custody) until a court finds her guilty or innocent.”

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