Another Mpumalanga racist attack threatens to bring tensions to the fore

Xolisile Ndzongana (Middleburg Observer)

Xolisile Ndzongana (Middleburg Observer)

The recent assault and murder of Xolisile Ndzongana — reportedly by a group of white men in Middelburg, Mpumalanga — has once again painted a picture of a town marred by racial tensions.

The Sowetan newspaper reported on Monday that Ndzongana, 27, was on his way to Mhluzi township on July 8 with two friends when they came across cars blocking the road.

Ndzongana is said to have asked the owners of the cars — a group of men who were drinking —  to move the cars out of the way so they could pass. It is alleged that the suspects poured alcohol on Ndzongana and his friends, and directed racial slurs at them.

CCTV footage from a nearby business complex shows Ndzongana being pulled out of the car and being brutally assaulted by the group. He died in hospital four days later on July 12.

Three men appeared before the Middelburg magistrate’s court on Thursday on a charge of murder, which was provisionally withdrawn.

Police spokesperson Brigadier Leonard Hlathi told the Mail & Guardian that the South African Police Services is not in a position to shed more light on the incident, but investigations are underway.

“We took them [the suspects] to court, the prosecutor provisionally withdrew the charges and gave us further directives to take this case forward.

“We can’t say much more right now because the investigation is still underway and is between us and the NPA [National Prosecuting Authority].”

Hlathi explained that in the week after the attack, the police started investigating and that they arrested the suspects on July 17. The men appeared in court two days later.

“We can’t say there is a spike or decrease in the number of cases like this. As the police, we are doing our utmost on this case.”

This is not the first time that the town of Middelburg is making headlines for racially-fuelled violence.

In 2016, Victor Mlotshwa was forced into a coffin by farmers Theo Jackson and Willem Oosthuizen who believed he was a trespasser.

The pair were found guilty of assault with intent to cause grievous bodily harm‚ attempted murder‚ intimidation and kidnapping.

Oosthuizen was sentenced to a total of 16 years behind bars‚ five of which were suspended and Jackson was sentenced to 19 years‚ five of which were suspended.

Mashadi Kekana

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