A meeting between disgruntled Seshego residents, the Police and Transport and Community Safety MEC Dickson Masemola in a church in Seshego on Tuesday evening nearly got out of hand forcing the Police to form a line of protection when attendees demanded an apology from government for what they labelled as wrongful arrest of three of their leaders after Sunday’s unrest in the area.
During Sunday’s uproar residents reportedly handed over seven people suspected to be gangsters to Seshego Police. The three community leaders – Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) Provincial Leader Jossey Buthane, African National Congress (ANC) Member of Parliament Boy Mamabolo and Motladi Puxley Setsiba – were arrested on Monday and subsequently appeared in the Seshego Magistrate’s Court on the same day on charges of malicious damage to property and theft after community members went on the rampage a day before.
Provincial Police Communications Head Motlafela Mojapelo said community members in Seshego had on Sunday converged in Zone 3 to discuss the crime situation in the area in the wake of the recent killing of Northern Academy learner Thoriso Kgomo, who was allegedly stabbed by a 17-year-old boy and later succumbed to his injuries in hospital. The crowd then allegedly proceeded to search for people they suspected of being criminals terrorising communities in the area. In the process they allegedly damaged a house and torched a shack. Two cell phones, a router and items of clothing were also reportedly stolen, Mojapelo added. He confirmed the suspects’ appearance and indicated that they had been granted bail of R500 each and were expected to appear in the same court again on 6 March.
Polokwane Observer met with Buthane at the Seshego Magistrate’s Court after his release on Monday afternoon when party supporters were also awaiting him to address them on the outcome of the matter. He indicated they were trying to fight crime which was out of hand in Seshego because Police were reportedly lenient in executing their duties in this regard while the community was living in fear of criminals.
“We cannot sit and watch brothers and sisters being robbed and raped so we needed to take action because the Police are allegedly failing to do their job. We cannot live in fear,” he said.
In a statement later released by Buthane he saluted the residents of Seshego for coming together on Sunday to fight crime and thuggery. He also added that the party was deeply disappointed by the conduct of the Police.
“Our leaders led a peaceful revolution to remove hard-core criminals who have been terrorising and killing innocent people in Seshego. These criminals have multiple criminal records ranging from murder and rape to all cruel atrocities. They were successfully apprehended and handed to the Police. To our shock the Police have been ignoring thugs and pretending as if they do not know what is troubling the society,” Buthane said.
He continued saying: “Our leaders were arrested today (Monday) and given R500 bail for fighting crime yesterday (Sunday) in Seshego. The Seshego Police sleep on duty. We delivered seven gangster members to them and when they woke up, they arrested us. That is how they thanked us for doing what they were supposed to do and which they radically and unashamedly failed to do.”
When programme director, Phuti Sepale wanted to officially start Tuesday evening’s meeting, he was interrupted by EFF member Jacob Lebogo who stood up and demanded an apology from either Ledwaba or Masemola. When Sepale tried to ditch this suggestion, residents started chanting struggle songs while shouting that the meeting cannot continue until an apology was rendered.
After several minutes, Buthane and ANC member Thabo Mabotja took over the podium and drafted the programme afresh with the first item being an apology and the second being a way forward on the case of the three community leaders.
Seshego Cluster Commander Sam Mokgonyana was the first to be afforded an opportunity to apologise to residents but seemingly he did not succeed as he was booed. His attempt was followed by that of Ledwaba and Masemola but they too were booed by the angry crowd forcing the Police to form a line of protection. Disgruntled residents lost patience and requested Masemola and the Police to leave the venue because there was no way the programme could start without them rendering an apology. Masemola tried addressing residents but ended up throwing in the towel as the crowd kept chanting struggle songs.
When the dignitaries left the hall, residents threatened with a shutdown but a conclusion was reached that they would have a community meeting on Sunday to hunt down five more suspects. Buthane said the meeting was collapsed by Ledwaba and Masemola because they failed to give the community what they wanted. Residents demanded a simple thing – an apology – but the two did not cooperate, he stressed.
When narrating what had transpired on Sunday, he said: “Residents arrested seven suspects and handed them to the Police unharmed but we were surprised when we got arrested the following day. These gangsters killed a person and they brag on social media platforms that they will kill again upon their release. Masemola and Ledwaba’s children are protected by bodyguards while ours are being killed, raped and terrorised in the community. If need be, the Police must arrest us every day because we are not going to stop to root out crime in Seshego and other communities.”
Buthane further alleged that there was a Police officer who took a selfie with the ‘Burial 13’ gang leader in the Police cells but nothing has been done about this official and that is why dockets would continue to get lost, he argued.
Masemola informed journalists outside the venue that it was regrettable that he was not given an opportunity to address residents and listen to their challenges. He added that he attended the meeting as the political head to have a conversation with residents and come up with suitable ways to fight crime in the area. He further indicated that he was still willing to meet with residents as he pledged that he would engage community leaders to request that they continue the conversation. Masemola recently met with residents of Seshego during one of his scheduled meetings to address crime.