Row over chief rages as councillor is freed

NO CASE: David Sematla. Pic: ELIJAR MUSHIANA. 15/07/2009. © Sowetan
NO CASE: David Sematla. Pic: ELIJAR MUSHIANA. 15/07/2009. © Sowetan

THE small rural village of Taaibosch in the Blouberg local municipality was a scene of jubilation when their community leaders were released from prison.

Villagers sang and danced when their leaders arrived in the village after spending a day behind bars in the holding cells at Bochum Prison.

The seven, including ANC ward 18 councillor David Sematla, were arrested on Sunday for allegedly defying a court order that forbade them from holding public meetings in the village without the permission of local Chief Lucas Mamadi.

They were arrested while in a meeting at the councillor's house and released on Monday after the court ruled out that there was no case against them.

Elated villagers gathered at one of the forbidden places, called Separakeng, to celebrate the court's decision.

Senior citizens as old as 86 ululated in public and sang derogatory songs about the chief, calling for his immediate removal.

"We are happy that our leaders are back. We say no more to the torturing and maiming of our leaders, who were arrested for protesting our rights. We will fight until the last drop of blood against anyone who takes our leaders away from us," shouted Grace Semenya.

After welcoming their leaders they converged on Separakeng to plan the chief's removal. Speakers spoke about how they were allegedly robbed by the chief through fraudulent levies and collections.

The villagers accused the chief of forcing them to raise R5 a household to pay a local traditional healer after a tokoloshe entered his house.

They also accused the chief of having forced them to raise R100 each to buy a piece of land for livestock and residential purposes and R50 a household to buy him a car.

"Since he collected the money from us he has unable to give us a financial report on how the money was spent. He has divided the community and we want him out because we cannot afford to have a thief as a leader," said Rosina Mabutla, one of the disgruntled residents.

He did not buy the car since the provincial government awarded cars to the 183 chiefs in the province. Mamadi, could, not tell how he spent the money when he was pressed for comment by Sowetan.

He confirmed having received the money but said there were officials at the royal office who dealt with the money and not him.