Skielik: Racial fault lines exposed

Residents of the impoverished Skielik community on Saturday buried three loved ones who were gunned down last week, allegedly by 18-year-old Johan Nel.

Enoch Tshepo Motshelanoka (10), three-month-old Keditlhotse Elizabeth Moiphitlhi and her 31-year-old mother, Anna, were buried at the Swartruggens cemetery.

They were the first black people to be buried at the town’s cemetery.

The body of the gunman’s fourth victim, Sivuyile Danani (35) was returned to his home in the Eastern Cape earlier this week for burial.

The murders of the four and the attempted murder of six others were labelled as ”racist” by prominent politicians attending the ceremony.

Nel allegedly entered the settlement in the late afternoon of Monday, January 14, and using a hunting rifle, gunned down his victims as he walked down the only dirt street.

‘Young, brainwashed racist’

Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) secretary general Zwelinzima Vavi said the alleged killer, was a ”young, brainwashed racist” with ”no regard for human life”.

African National Congress (ANC) member of Parliament Patrick Chauke said: ”We are gathered here because we still have to deal with racism.”

North West Premier Edna Bomo Molewa said the issue of racism was often glossed over and that her provincial government had launched an investigation into the causes of racial tension in the area.

‘This is a peaceful community’

A lone white face at the graveyard was tearful as the three coffins were lowered into the ground.

Johan de Wet said that he had been a neighbour to the residents of the Skielik informal settlement for years.

”I heard the shots that day, I could not believe my eyes when I ran to see what was happening. I saw the bodies.”

This is a peaceful community, I don’t understand how someone could do something so horrific to such peaceful people,” he said.

De Wet said that he had not witnessed any racism in the area and that he was not afraid for his safety after the incident.

” Why should I be? I work with these people, they are my neighbours,” he said.

Earlier in the day at the funeral, the family members sat in front of the stage, weeping and listening to speeches.

In front of the family stood three white marble-coloured coffins laden with wreaths.

The smallest coffin, not more than an arm’s length, held the baby Keditlhotse.

The families were joined at the cemetery by nearly 2 000 people from the surrounding community.

‘We have not yet won the liberation’

The soil poured onto Tshepo’s coffin was collected from where his blood was spilt, said ANC member of Parliament Patrick Chauke.

Pupils from the Mazista Intermediate School choir, where Tshepo went to school, sang a hymn while standing over the grave of their fellow pupil.

Chauke talked about how African people in the Anglo-Boer War had been used as migrant labour and were never recognised. He said the British and Australians people whom they had served were buried and recognised in the Swartruggens area.

”So we say to them [the victims], tell Oliver Tambo and Chris Hani that we have not yet won the liberation, but a time is coming when we will be treated as equals.”

Nel is expected to appear in court on February 12 when Magistrate Andre Kleynhans is expected to transfer the case to the High Court. – Sapa

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