Khutsong factions fight with fire bombs

STREETS AFLAME: This is Khutsong, now in the throes of a violent and often bloody civil war. Pic. Lucky Nxumalo. © Sowetan.
STREETS AFLAME: This is Khutsong, now in the throes of a violent and often bloody civil war. Pic. Lucky Nxumalo. © Sowetan.

Kingdom Mabuza and Sapa

Kingdom Mabuza and Sapa

Khutsong is turning on itself. Prominent members of the community admit that the violence in the township, near Carletonville on the West Rand, is a conflict between those who supported the incorporation of the town into North West and those who were against it.

On Wednesday night the violence flared up again in Khutsong.

Police superintendent Louis Jacobs said residents barricaded roads and threw petrol bombs and stones at passing vehicles.

The same night, the houses of local Communist Party leaders Tebogo Ramokgwatedi and Jack Mathige were petrol-bombed, allegedly by people who support the township's incorporation.

Like prominent local priest Andries Mashabisha, Comrade Ramokgwatedi is adamant that the attackers are locals who support the government's decision to incorporate Khutsong into North West.

Ramokgwatedi said: "We are fighting among ourselves because our leaders have divided us.

"President [Thabo] Mbeki ignored our voices when we made it clear to him and his government that we want to remain in Gauteng.

"Councillors have awarded tenders to some people in Khutsong and they are using the same people to fight us.

"I have been attacked because I do not support the dictatorship of our government," Ramokgwatedi said.

The Reverend Andries Mashabisha, of the Gospel Interdenominational Church, said he was sick of politics and of politicians. He said they were the source of the flames that were devouring Khutsong.

'This township has always been peaceful, but since our people were forced to go to North West peace has disappeared. President Mbeki and the government should come here and talk to their people," Mashabisha said.

Yesterday the schools were closed and most of the people of Khutsong stayed away from work to commemorate the first anniversary of the boycott of the local-government elections last year.

The people refused to vote in protest against the decision to transfer their area from Gauteng to North West.

Police fired rubber bullets yesterday to disperse groups of youths burning tyres and barricading the streets. Stones were thrown at the police.

Ramogwatedi said she was woken by an explosion in her house at 1am.

She escaped from her burning house with her two sons.

The district leader of the SACP, Nkosiphendule Kholisile, said the people's anger would spiral out of control because of the bombing of their leader's house.

"There will be revenge. Those who have done this have provoked the residents," he said.

A councillor who allegedly assaulted a member of the community and pointed an unlicensed firearm was among nine people arrested yesterday.

Community leader Jomo Mogale accused the police of attacking the people: "They are shooting at us for staying away from work," he said.

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