Jeanette Chabalala, News24
Police are on high alert in Coligny. (Lerato Sejake, News24)
Before April 20, the town’s people worked alongside each other and shopped at the biggest supermarket, the OK grocer on the main road, Voortrekker Street.
Now all that is left are shattered windows, burnt homes, and anger. Businessmen are trying to rebuild, repair and restock following violent protests that started over two weeks ago.
The small maize-farming town, where the poorest residents live in RDP houses and shacks, became a war zone when 16-year-old Matlhomola Mosweu was allegedly killed by two farm workers on April 20.
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Some claimed he was killed because he was black. Others said the protests that erupted were about service delivery.
On Monday, the Coligny Magistrate’s Court granted the two accused, Pieter Doorewaard, 26, and Philip Schutte, 34, R5 000 bail each.
A new wave of protests broke out. Businesses shut their doors and angry residents torched four houses and faced off with police.
The two men allegedly caught Mosweu stealing sunflowers on April 20. They claimed they were driving him to the local police station when he allegedly jumped off their bakkie and broke his neck. An eyewitness alleges he was pushed.
“We used to be very close, but now I would say we are divided as a community and it is sad to see what is currently happening,” a resident who asked to remain anonymous told News24.
Sitting in his bakkie, with his hands on the steering wheel, the 46-year-old man said: “I am afraid that the town is now divided.
“There are lots of things going on coming from both sides of the community, with some crying racism. We have never had a problem with anything and anyone – not even race was a factor,” the man said.
“Even the guy that is working for me is scared to come to work. He works three days a week. He came in this morning and he left early.”
The father of five said he had been living in the town for more than a decade. As protests continue, his only worry was that businesses and property were being destroyed and he feared many families would lose their income as a result.
Since the protests started, children had stopped going to schools. Groups of children milled around the streets or sat on a pavement playing with sand and rocks.
The remains of burnt tyres and rocks littered the dusty streets.
When News24 asked the children why they were not in school – one said: “They said a hippo (police Nyala) will shoot us.”
Another resident told News24 she feared for her safety.
“It is not safe at all. We are so tired. We hardly sleep and we are scared at night,” the visibly shy woman said.
In her 18 years of living in Coligny, this was the first time she had seen violence.
“Racism is nonsense. There has never been ‘I am black and you are white.’ We don’t see colour in this town. We have always been peaceful and we have always been one.
“In such a small town everyone should come together, but since the protests people are scared even when they are in their houses.”
A Nyala was parked on every street corner and police officers were there day and night to prevent more violence.
The situation had made life unbearable for Ismael Seolwane, 56, who had been living in Coligny since 1996.
“Life is not nice anymore,” he told News24.
Sitting on a small chair in front of his RDP house, Seolwane said since Schutte and Doorewaard were granted bail, his family was too scared to sleep.
“Now what this does is that we start to live uncomfortable lives, because we don’t know if our homes will be broken into. Will we be shot in our homes or will we be taken and placed in jail? We don’t know. We don’t sleep.”
Mosweu’s father Sakkie Dingake was upset about the bail decision.
“What about my child?” he asked.