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By Alex | Jan 28, 2010 | COMMENTS [ 0 ]

THE villages of Khopo and Lephepane outside Tzaneen were covered in smoke after angry villagers stoned a man to death and burnt down a tavern, a bottlestore and two houses.

The villagers' anger was sparked after the body of a four-year-old girl, Modjadji Malatji, who went missing on Friday, was found partly decomposed in the murdered man's house.

One of the houses that was burnt down belonged to the man who was stoned to death, while the other house and the bottlestore belonged to a businessman suspected of masterminding the girl's killing.

Schools in the area were temporarily closed on Monday after the incident as police searched for the perpetrators of the violence.

Ritavi police spokesperson Inspector Seth Magadzi, said the attack took place at 6pm on Sunday and was sparked by the discovery of the girl's body.

Magadzi said police had arrested three people. They have been charged with murder, public violence, arson and malicious damage to property.

He said during the investigation of the scene, the girl's body was found wrapped in a bag of maize meal with some of the body parts missing.

"After the discovery of the body incensed community members gathered at an open space and went to Matome Stanley Mokgoloboto's house and set it on fire.

"A few minutes later the group, which was armed with an assortment of weapons, found Mokgoloboto in the neighbourhood and stoned him to death," said Magadzi.

"As if that was not enough, the group went on to torch the house of his brother in which the girl's body was found."

According to Magadzi, the disgruntled community members then proceeded to set alight the house of local businessman Solomon Maunatlala, who also owns abottlestore.

During Sowetan's visit to the village yesterday, Maunatlala's family were sitting in despair outside the smouldering house.

Some of the furniture, including built-in cupboards, a stove and a television set were still in flames.

"We have not eaten a thing since yesterday because all our groceries and money were lost in the fire.

"Our beds have also been set on fire and we had to seek refuge with neighbours," said Maunatlala.

"We pleaded in vain with the police to come to our rescue, but our pleas fell on deaf ears," he said.

The three people arrested in connection with Mokgoloboto's murder and the torching of the properties will appear in the Ritavi magistrate's court today.


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