Vehicle belonging to volunteer set alight
DEATH threats, intimidation and the torching of vehicles will not deter community members from taking to the streets once more and attempting to shut down Kimberley on Thursday.
Residents stated that the march to Sol Plaatje Municipality would go ahead “come what may”, unless council agreed to remove the municipal manager and the chief financial officer and terminate the contract of the company that was hired for the disastrous public relations campaign surrounding the R260 electricity levy that has since been scrapped.
The community last week called for the mayor to be removed too, for failing to suspend the two officials.
A bakkie belonging to ANC Phomolong branch secretary and march volunteer, Monwabisi Mabija, was torched during the early hours of yesterday morning outside his home in Vergenoeg.
Mabija said that the suspects had also wanted to throw a petrol bomb into his house, but had shown mercy when they noticed that his three children were inside.
“We were all asleep and had my nine-year-old daughter not woken us in time, we would not be standing here today,” said Mabija.
He stated that his daughter had seen smoke coming through a gap in the door when she alerted him that their bakkie was on fire at around 1am.
“She was crying and screaming. By that time the smoke was thick and the flames were ferocious. We had to use water that we store in an urn and buckets of water to douse the flames, as there is no free-standing tap outside. Our neighbours assisted us with buckets of water and hose pipes, where it took about an hour to put out the fire.”
Mabija added that while it was fortunate that no one was injured, his entire family was traumatised, while he was worried about their safety.
“The suspects told my children to be quiet by motioning with a finger on their lips when they saw them through the window. We are concerned that they might return at any stage.”
He added that the fire had caused damages in the region of R79 000.
“It is my personal and business vehicle and I do not have insurance. My laptop and business documents were destroyed in the fire. My wife and I will not be able to travel into town to deliver the food that we sell, without a car.”
Mabija said that the damage to his bakkie would not stop him from mobilising the community for the shutdown on Thursday.
“This will not deter me as I will be going door to door to visit the community, who are wholeheartedly behind the campaign.”
Mabija’s brother, Ceaser Mokobung, indicated that he had also opened a case of intimidation yesterday after he was threatened by the same suspects that they would come after him too.
“They said they would be making a ‘midnight braai’ at my house. I did not initially take them seriously but after what happened to my brother, I fear that they will burn my property or car too,” said Mokobung.
The chairperson of Wanya Tsotsi, Pantsi Obusitse, said that their members had been placed on high alert in the event of any intimidation or threat to any of their fellow members.
“I have also been told that there are threats against me as well, but I am used to working with criminals on a daily basis and I know how to hunt them down. I will not back down in fighting for the rights of the community,” said Obusitse.
He added that the march on Thursday would continue regardless of whether permission was granted or not.
“There is no logical reason not to grant us permission for a legal march, as it is our constitutional right. I am prepared to die for the cause and I will not sit idly by and allow corruption to flourish. It is because the people have kept quiet for too long that matters have deteriorated so drastically.
“It is unfortunate that government only responds when there is burning and the destruction of property. If you are brave enough to stand up against wrongdoing, you are bribed and if you do not accept the bribe you will be intimidated and terminated.
“The march will be much larger than the first one as the community refuses to be taken for granted.”
Obusitse stated that the community was prepared to call off the protest action once council agreed in writing to suspend the chief financial officer and municipal manager at Sol Plaatje Municipality and terminates the contract with the public relations company that was contracted to do “three days work where they were paid R1.2 million”.
“Underhanded tactics of burning our vehicles and intimidation will only serve to antagonise the community and make us more determined to unite in the fight for what is right.
“At the last march we were shot at, although we were peaceful. We cannot take responsibility should there be any incidents this time – should the community decide to retaliate.”
Obusitse indicated that the six suspects who were arrested on charges of public violence last week during a protest calling for the removal of the two municipal officials, had since been released.