House torched as court grants bail to Coligny farmers accused of murdering teen

A farm house was burnt down by protestors in Coligny in the North West, after the magistrate granted bail to two farmers accused of killing 16-year-old Mathlomola Mosweu on April 20.

Protests erupted as Coligny residents received word that the two men accused of murder would be released on bail.

A house at Henk and Karen Keyser’s Rietvlei maize farm was engulfed in flames when petrol bombs were hurled inside, less than 30 minutes after judgment was handed down in the bail application.

Magistrate Magaola Foso released Pieter Doorewaard (26) and Phillip Schutte (34) on R5 000 bail each, sparking outrage among the crowd of about 500 people outside the court – and reigniting protests that brought the farming town to a standstill last week.

As the fire department and farmers attempted to extinguish the blaze, the farmer owner drew his gun and threatened journalists, before attacking AFP photographer Mujahid Safodien.

“He thought we came there with the protesters [who torched his house] and that we could have warned him about what they wanted to do, but we only arrived after it was already burning,” Safodien explained.

Doorewaard and Schutte are accused of throwing Matlhomola off a moving bakkie after catching him stealing sunflowers on a farm adjacent to the township where the teenager lived.

The cause of Matlhomola’s death is not yet known because the court has not yet received an autopsy report.

The pair were implicated in the killing by a witness to the incident, but his claims were dismissed by Foso because the accused had not yet participated in an identity parade.

The witness, Foso said, had also not yet confirmed whether Moshoue was the teenager he saw being thrown off the bakkie.

“The state is adamant that if it weren’t for the witness testimony, this case would not be enrolled,” Foso said in his bail judgment on Monday, adding that without the identity parade “there is no link between the witness statement” and the pair accused of the killing. [Thus] “there is no prima facie case against the two accused,” Foso said. 

The magistrate warned that the continued incarceration of Doorewaard and Schutte while they await trial could result in them suffering “irreparable” harm.

“What if the witness does not identify the accused as the people he saw committing a crime? Or he does not identify the deceased as the person he saw being thrown off the bakkie?” Foso asked, to the relief of the pair’s families, who began shaking each others hands in the court benches.

Mathlomola’s father Sakkie Dingake loudly objected as Foso mulled over the amount at which to set bail.

“My son has passed on and these two are being released to go and work? What about my son?” Dingake said loudly in SeTswana.

Outside the court, the crowd grew bigger and more agitated, chanting “no bail” and arguing with members of the public order policing unit clad in full riot gear and backed up by police nyalas, water cannons and the fire department.

As Doorewaard and Schutte’s family and supporters left the courtroom, one of them was told by a Coligny resident that “this town is very small, you must know that”.

The National Prosecuting Authority spokesperson in the North West, Frank Lesenyego, said the NPA “respect the judgment but was disappointed because the court failed to consider the interests of the community”.

“When the trial starts we will make representations to the court about the involvement of these two in the killing,” Lesenyego added.

Police are patrolling the edges of the sunflower and maize farm where Mathlomola was killed as well as the surrounding farms, while local farmers have gathered at the Rietvlei farm to help extinguish the blaze and discuss what to do next.

The area remains on a knife edge, with small groups of residents from the Tlhabologang township gathering along the railway line, and some blocking the roads leading to the farms with burning tyres.

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Govan Whittles

Govan Whittles is a general news and political multimedia journalist at the Mail & Guardian. Born in King William's Town in the Eastern Cape, he cut his teeth as a radio journalist at Primedia Broadcasting. He produced two documentaries and one short film for the Walter Sisulu University, and enjoys writing about grassroots issues, national politics, identity, heritage and hip-hop culture.

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