Coligny violence: 48 people arrested, premier appoints task team

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Residents of Coligny try pick up the pieces after violent protests. Picture: Tebogo Letsie
Residents of Coligny try pick up the pieces after violent protests. Picture: Tebogo Letsie

While residents of Coligny are still picking up the pieces after the violent protests, police have arrested 48 people and North West Premier Supra Mahumapelo has appointed “a high level task team” to probe the reasons behind the violence.

The violence broke out after a 12-year-old boy died. There are conflicting reports around his death, but two men have been arrested in connection with it.

Residents claimed the death was racially motivated.

Local businessman Pieter Karsten said his nephew was one of the men arrested for the murder.

He said the violence that erupted was due to external political factors and misinformation about what happened. He said police had let residents down by failing to protect them.

He said he had advised his nephew and the other man to hand themselves over to police.

“The people from the townships love our town, but the people that instructed them and threatened them for action is not community people. There were buses with people that were transported into town. Those buses were loaded with liquor, and loaded with everything that was looted.”

Another businessman, Adam Ssebunya said the protests began peacefully and turned violent. He realised his shoe and clothing store had been looted when he saw people making their way down the street carrying goods from his store. He estimated he lost almost R120 000 worth of inventory.

On Wednesday, police were still doing the rounds in the town, as business owners and residents cleaned litter, rocks, and broken glass from the streets and assessed the damage to their properties.

By afternoon, most shops remained locked, the windows broken, and completely empty.

The police’s Brigadier Vishnu Naidoo said national resources were swiftly deployed to restore peace and stability and ensure that criminal elements were brought to book.

He condemned the violence and damage to property.

“While all South Africans have the constitutional right to protest, this must be done in a peaceful and responsible manner and within the confines of the law. These acts of violence included the torching of a South African Police Service armoured vehicle (Nyala) and this is roundly condemned as it was a pivotal resource of our Public Order Police and their resources are already stretched.”

He said that although the provincial police “managed the situation adequately”, national intervention was deemed necessary and additional deployments from the public order policing unit, the tactical response team and visible policing were deployed to the areas of Lichtenburg, Coligny, Itsoseng and Bothaville.

“The heightened visibility of police members and targeted operations immediately helped to stabilise the area.”

During these stability operations, 48 people were arrested. This included the arrest of six people for public violence, two for setting alight the police Nyala and 42 for possession of goods allegedly stolen during looting sprees.

Although a degree of calm was restored, the police continue to monitor the situation.

“The rumours that spread in certain quarters that the police did not have control over the situation are refuted,” said Naidoo.

Meanwhile the African National Congress in Bokone Bophirima condemned the violent protests and called for calm in the area.

“While we recognise that service delivery concerns are genuine and should be attended to, it is unjustifiable to use violence to try and get the community’s message across. The ANC calls for calm and would like to assure the communities that the movement is aware of the demands in their memorandum, but calls for patience while these demands are being given the attention that they deserve,” said provincial ANC spokesperson Gerald Modise.

He said the ANC was disappointed by the damage to property that included government buildings and private-owned vehicles that have got nothing to do with the delivery of services.

Mahumapelo appointed a high level task team to probe the reasons behind the violence that has marred these protests.

“We call on the people of Ditsobotla to cooperate with this task team as it seeks to find a solution to any problems that might have caused the unhappiness in some areas of the municipality. This requires that our communities isolate criminals who take advantage of their genuine concerns to push their own selfish agendas,” said Gerald Modise.

“We would like to assure the community that the ANC also wants justice to be served and we commend the police for the two arrests that they have made in connection with this matter.”

Police spokesperson Colonel Sabata Mokgwabone said the two men, aged 26 and 33, would appear in the Coligny Magistrates’ Court on Friday. – Additional reporting by News24

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