Middelburg on edge after race attack

The street where Xolisile Ndzongana was assaulted in an apparent racial attack in Middelburg. He later died in hospital./ Thulani Mbele
The street where Xolisile Ndzongana was assaulted in an apparent racial attack in Middelburg. He later died in hospital./ Thulani Mbele

The brutal assault and killing of Xolisile Ndzongana, allegedly by a group of white men in Middelburg, Mpumalanga, has stoked fresh racial tensions in the area.

Ndzongana, 27, was assaulted in the early hours of July 8. CCTV footage from a business complex nearby showed him being severely assaulted by the group. He died in hospital.

He was buried in Mthatha, Eastern Cape, at the weekend.

I broke down and cried. The whole family was crying

At the time of his assault, Ndzongana was travelling to Nhlunzi township with his friends Katleho, whose surname Sowetan could not verify, and Lawrence Nelumoni, who survived the incident.

The trio were driving through the town centre to get home when they came across cars blocking the road.

Ndzongana 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.

"The most painful time for me was explaining to his family how he died," Nelumoni told Sowetan yesterday.

Xolisile Ndzongana
Xolisile Ndzongana

"I broke down and cried. The whole family was crying.

"His mother was shattered. He was her last-born and she believed he would help take care of the family as he was already a breadwinner.

"They spoke about how smart he was and how he loved people. They said he was good in maths and science."

The ANC in the Nkangala region is planning to march against acts of racism and submit a memorandum to the local police station next week.

Spokesman Sello Matshoga said acts of racism had become common in the area.

"This is the same area where Mr Victor Mlotshwa was buried alive in a coffin in another racially motivated act of barbarism," he said.

He said the latest incident could lead to racial tensions.

"No group of people can forever tolerate being treated as objects of abuse ... we could find ourselves in an unfortunate situation where people take the law into their own hands. This has to be avoided at all costs."

Yesterday, workers in Middelburg town told Sowetan the attack on Ndzongana was not a surprise because they were subjected to racism daily. "They call us all sorts of names," said a petrol attendant.

Another attendant said: "This is Middelburg, racism lives here. Even when we report to our managers, they tell us that a customer is always right, so what can we do?"

A third attendant said the worst racism incidents happened on weekends when people were drunk.

"They call us monkeys and then act as though they are playing with you. What hurts me the most is that they use a lot of vulgar language and I do not understand it. A week will not go by where you do not go home feeling useless because of the way someone spoke to you."

The attack on Ndzongana comes barely nine months after farmers Theo Jackson and Willem Oostehuizen were sentenced to 10 years in prison for kidnapping and forcing Victor Mlotshwa into a coffin.

Police spokesman Brigadier Leonard Hlathi said police were investigating a case of murder. He said three men appeared in the Middelburg Magistrate's Court on Thursday and charges against them were provisionally withdrawn.

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