WATCH | Alleged racial attack in Middelburg leaves one man dead
Four men from the Mpumalanga town of Middelburg have been arrested for allegedly beating a man to death in an apparent racial attack.
The publication has learnt that despite having the attackers’ details‚ it took police over a week to arrest the suspects‚ who are said to have been charged with murder and assault.
Police spokesman Brigadier Leonard Hlati yesterday failed to respond to requests for comment despite repeated requests.
Middelburg was the scene of heightened racial tensions last year after farmers Theo Jackson and Willem Oosthuizen were sentenced to 10 years in prison in October in the infamous coffin assault case. The duo were found guilty of attempted murder and assault with the intent to commit grievous bodily harm after they kidnapped Victor Mkotshwa and forced him into a coffin.
In the latest attack‚ which was captured on a CCTV camera of business complex‚ 27-year-old Xolisile Ndzongana and his friend‚ Lawrence Nelumoni‚ were driving through the town centre to get home during the early hours of the morning on Sunday July 8 when they came across cars blocking Cowen Ntuli Road.
The attack is believed to have begun moments after Ndzongana - who was the sole breadwinner for his family in Mthatha in the Eastern Cape - asked the driver and passengers of one of the cars to move out of the way.
The suspects are said to have thrown alcohol‚ which they were drinking‚ over Ndzongana and Nelumoni‚ allegedly calling them the k-word before apparently dragging Ndzongana out of the car.
When Nelumoni ran to help his friend‚ he too was attacked.
The attackers are alleged to have repeatedly kicked and beaten Ndzongana‚ who was thrown to the pavement. Despite security guards and police arriving on the scene‚ none arrested the alleged attackers.
The publication has learnt the attackers were arrested earlier this week after they were apparently asked to hand themselves over to police.
Nelumoni said they were driving to Mhluzi township when they found a "couple of Afrikaners" blocking the road.
"I could see that they were drunk. They had beer bottles with them. They poured alcohol on us through our open windows when we asked if we could drive past."
He said those who initially began the attack were joined by others.
"The situation intensified … I'm not sure how Xolisile got out of the car. It could have been that he was taken out forcefully. When I saw them beating him‚ I tried to intervene but they also beat me. I had to get out. I couldn’t watch my friend get killed right before my eyes."
Nelumoni said he thought the attack would stop when the security guards from Mid Alarms arrived but‚ "they [the attackers] kept on calling us k*****s.
"They did not help us."
He claimed that when the police arrived they told him to go to the police station.
"They said they could not help because they were heading to another scene. They had just happened to stumble upon us."
He said he drove Ndzongana‚ who was getting worse‚ to the police station where an ambulance took him to Middelburg General Hospital.
Nelumoni said Ndzongana was transferred to Witbank General Hospital.
"When I saw the doctors on Monday at the hospital I was told this case should not be regarded as an assault case‚ but rather one of attempted murder. They told me Xolisile's injuries were bad and the chances of him living were slim because of the brain injury. They said if he lived‚ would never live a normal life."
He said when he returned to the hospital on Monday night‚ he was told "Xolisile was gone".
"They did not give me details of how he died‚ but it seems it happened after the operation."
Nelumoni‚ who says he gave police officers the suspects' vehicle registration‚ said he had tried follow-up with police what was happening with the case - but he had been told to “give them a chance to do their work".
Mid Alarms owner Andre Wessels denied that their officers did not assist.
"Our officers have told us that when they arrived at the scene everything was over. They knew nothing about what happened.
"Out officers radioed the control room who in turn summoned the police."
Banele Nkosi‚ Nkangala ANC regional executive council spokesman‚ said they were planning a mass march in the town on Monday.
He said they would be marching on the police station to establish why the police had taken so long to act in arresting the suspects.
Prudence Magutle‚ spokesperson for the Steve Tshwete Local Municipality‚ said they were concerned about allegations of racism in the town.
"It portrays our town as racially divided‚ which we believe we are not. We are in fact warm and welcoming.
"During the coffin case there were racial tensions‚ but we can't say that is the situation now."
She said they were monitoring the situation.
Magutle said they were putting measures in place and would partner with community stakeholders to address such issues - "to see what our town's social community problems are”.
"We need to do a lot more to address the issues in our town."
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