VIOLENT RESIDENTS TARGET CHIEF IN DEMAND OF MISSING PERSON
Prophet at the centre of the Moiyabana muti saga riot
All hell broke loose at the Moiyabana customary court last Saturday night, resulting in a fiery, six-hour long riot by furious village youth.
At the centre of the revolt was the suspicious disappearance of a resident, 35-year-old Moiseraele “Pitch” Johane.
Police have arrested and detained 29 young people and a prophet in Moiyabana for participating in the violent riot, which left windows smashed and a car on fire.
Angry villagers chanted the name of Moisaraele ‘Pitch’ Johane who disappeared on Monday 16th at Monkgaphokoje farms.
Terrified Moiyabana Customary Court staff cowered under office furniture as angry village youth attacked the kgotla office block with stones and bottles.
Missiles tore through shattered windows, forcing Kgosi Mokopakgomo Kgomokgwana and his Deputy Gosotwamang Keatshotse to take refuge under office desks.
The duo were eventually rescued in the early hours of Sunday morning – six hours after the riot started – when police from Palapye arrived and fired teargas to disperse the protesting youth.
The visibly shaken Keatshotse, whose car was overturned and set alight during the riot, claimed they were lucky to be alive after being ‘held captive’ in their workplace.
“Gatwe motho o jelwe,” (a person has been killed for muti) said Keatshotse, explaining the youth’s anger towards the village leadership.
Keatshotse said he watched helplessly as his car exploded into flames, while the youth manning the premises gates continued with their ruthless and ‘unprovoked’ vandalism.
“From what we learnt the person whose name was chanted disappeared on Monday but we only received a formal notification on Thursday,” he explained.
Keatshotse said the volatile situation in the village was sparked by a prophet who insisted that if given permission he could reveal where the missing man was.
“We could not allow that because we don’t have the jurisdiction,” insisted Keatshotse.
Talking over the narrative, Kgosi Kgomokgwana spoke of how the prophet’s theatrics triggered the riots.
“Things turned ugly when the same prophet returned from his house wearing a red robe complete with his long hat (mitre)
“Word on the street is that we are the key suspects in the disappearance of this man,” continued Kgomokgwana, seemingly unworried at the allegations.
Meanwhile an eye-witness, who stays a stone’s throw away from the kgotla and witnessed his two sons being dragged away by the Special Support Group (SSG) in the middle of the night, Thalefo Lehuti, 59, claimed it was only when police arrived that the rioters turned violent.
“They retaliated by throwing stones and breaking windows. In the commotion I saw a car burning while police continued to fire teargas and rubber bullets,” he said.
“I think another issue that could have triggered the riots is that this is not the first person to go missing. Three other people went missing and only one’s remains have been found so far,” he continued – claims that were partially verified by the Kgosi, who said he was only aware of two missing cases in the last four years.
Lehuti further revealed that SSG troops banged on his door at around 4 in the morning, demanding to know the whereabouts of his two sons, aged 23 and 25.
“They dragged my boys away kicking and screaming,” said the concerned father.
The issue of the missing man, which nearly brought the small village to a standstill, was further put into perspective by his worried sister, Mpho Johane, 38.
Speaking on behalf of the family, Johane said she last saw her brother on Sunday 15th.
“I later learnt that he went to a farm with a Zimbabwean man named Benjamin.”
According to the distraught Johane, on Tuesday (17th) Benjamin returned alone and later claimed to have received a call from some of the farm employees notifying him that ‘Pitch’ was missing.
“Benjamin then told us of how Pitch had a sleepless night. He said he had his flashlight on the entire night and had a spade in his hand. He then accused Benjamin of selling him to people for ritual purposes. His exact words were, ‘Benjamin o nthekisitseditse Mokopakgomo, batho ba gagwe ke ba ba mpata.’ (Benjamin you have sold me to Mokopakgomo and his people are here to take me).”
Benjamin has since been arrested by police as it emerged he was in the country illegally.
“We don’t know what to believe – all we hope is that my brother be found alive,” concluded Johane desperately.