Mayor under fire

2013-07-23 00:00

THE early morning quiet of the rural town of Richmond was shattered by the burst of gunfire yesterday. It’s a sound the town’s mayor Andrew Ragavaloo knows well. In the 1990s Richmond was known as KZN’s killing fields.

Five shots were fired at Ragavaloo’s house at about 1.20 am yesterday while the family were all asleep. One of the bullets went through the dining room window and hit the wall directly behind where he works at his computer.

Ragavaloo, the author of Richmond: Living in the Shadow of Death, is not sure if he can stomach the violence again. “I cannot risk my family, who went through all of this in the 1990s,” he told The Witness.

The mayor lost three family members and five close comrades during the Richmond unrest of 1997 to 1999, which saw more than 100 people killed in the town.

He does not exclude factions within his own party, the ANC, who may want him and certain other councillors out.

He said violence because of power struggles was making a mockery of families who sacrificed — and those who died — for peace and democracy.

Richmond residents who spoke to The Witness have linked the shooting to a community meeting that took place in Indaleni Junction on Sunday afternoon. They said the meeting was supposed to be a report-­back on a taxi fare protest march that took place a week ago.

However, at the meeting threats were allegedly made against Raga­valoo, council speaker Thulani Shabalala and councillor Douglas Kunene. People stood up in the meeting and claimed they were corrupt and that they wanted them out within seven days, a resident said.

Alpha Shelembe, the chairperson of the ANC’s Moses Mabhida region, who was at the meeting, said it was a public meeting to discuss the taxi protest. He said some members of the public who were at the meeting wanted the mayor and the councillors out. “Communities at public meetings choose to air all their grievances and they were reminded that the meeting was to discuss the taxi fare increases,” he said.

Shelembe said he and other REC members visited Ragavaloo yesterday. They had also pleaded with the police to root out criminal elements within the community right away. ANC structures in the town were also committed to working with the community to calm down the situation, he said.

Chairperson of the Richmond ANC sub-region, Msizi Mkhize, said he did not believe there was any link between the meeting and the shooting at the mayor’s house. He said the issue of the taxi fare increases was about to be resolved and he felt the situation in the town would calm down.

SA Police Services spokesperson Joey Jeevan said that Richmond detectives were investigating a case of attempted murder and malicious damage to property.

She said there were no injuries and no arrests have been made yet.

Investigations are continuing.

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