'I don't own anything of my own' - Coligny woman who lost home in protests

2017-06-28 06:24


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Coligny – "I still cry whenever I think about the day I lost everything," says a Coligny resident who watched as her house was burnt down by a group of protesters in April. 

Diana Swart, 45, says she is still reeling with the pain of losing her home and some of her pets after her five-bedroom house was petrol bombed. 

She now lives with her partner in a tiny backroom in Coligny, where her 26-year-old son is renting a house.  

Her 20-year-old son lives with his brother in the main house, she says.    

"I want to live alone again. I hope God helps me find a place of my own. I don't think it is people of Coligny who burnt my house," she tells News24. 

She says she has built a relationship with residents in the township, adding that she couldn't recognise the protesters who attacked her.  

Swart has been living in Coligny for 35 years.

"I cry when I am alone. I can't cry in front the of my sons. Everything I have now is loaned to me. I don't own anything of my own." 

Last week, she went with her son to Home Affairs to get a new identity document.

Dog lost in fire

On April 25, there was nothing Swart could do but watch as angry protesters petrol bombed the house she was renting - with her pets still inside. 

She said the estimated loss was R800 000. 

Several houses were burnt in the area following protest action that was allegedly sparked by the death of 16-year-old Matlhomola Moshoeu.

Among her pets that perished in the fire was her beloved dog, Looi, which she had had for 14 years. 

On Monday, the two men accused of killing Moshoeu appeared in the Coligny Magistrate's Court, where their case was postponed to August 7. 

The case was postponed for the Director of Public Prosecution to give instructions on whether to prosecute or to transfer the case to another court.

Moshoeu's parents sat in the front row during court proceedings.

In May, the court granted the two accused - Pieter Doorewaard, 26, and Philip Schutte, 34 - R5 000 bail each.

This resulted in a new wave of protests.

Businesses shut their doors and angry residents torched four houses and faced off with the police.

The two men say they caught Moshoeu stealing sunflowers on April 20.

'I would like to see the accused in prison'

They claim they were driving him to the local police station when he jumped off their bakkie and broke his neck.

But an eyewitness claims he was pushed off the moving vehicle.

Some claimed he was killed because he was black, while others said the protests that followed were about service delivery.

Following the postponement on Monday, Moshoeu's father Sakkie Dingake said all the family wanted was to find closure.

"I would like to see the accused in prison so that I can be happy," he said.  

The remnants of the violent protests are still visible along the town's main road, Voortrekker Street.

Nearly two months have passed since violent protests erupted in the small North West farming town.

The few shops which have been repaired following a looting spree by residents have failed to bring back the vibrancy of the town.

Several shops still bear the grim reminder of the looting.

'I am still heartbroken'

Andries Meintjies, who runs a small shop which is back in business said he had to close his shop for two weeks following the protest.

"I am still heartbroken," Meintjies said.

"I am not young and there is no start from scratch again for me. This business is everything I have right now. We have seen protests before, but nothing like this. We worry a lot now," he said.

Meintjies claims he lost almost R50 000 when his shop was closed. But he's trying to rebuild.

Dressed in dark pair of trousers and a jersey, Rafikul Islam, who owns an electrical appliance shop, says he had to flee from his shop and go and live in a mosque after Coligny turned into what seemed like a war zone.

"It [the mosque] was the safest place at the time," he says.

He says he receives constant threats that protesters are coming to loot shops again.

"We don’t know if we should buy stock or not, and business is going slow. We don’t trust each other anymore."

'Everyone is scared'

Islam has been living in Coligny for three years.

"We are trying to get our businesses back to normal, but everyone is scared."

Since the protests, some children had stopped going to school.

News24 witnessed some children who have become beggars to survive. They said they didn't want to go to school and, instead, asked every passerby for a rand.

News24 reported last month that, before April 20, the town's people had worked alongside each other and shopped at the biggest supermarket, the OK grocer, on the main road.

But all that was left after the protest were shattered windows, burnt homes, and anger.

A woman, who asked not to be named, said the town would never be the same. She said the destruction of property was regrettable, as some people had worked all their lives for that, and the effect would be felt for a long time.

Read more on:    matlhomola moshoeu  |  mahikeng  |  service delivery

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