South Africa

Mothutlung: another fatality, another day with no answers

By G Nicolson & T Lekgowa 21 January 2014

Enoch Seimela, 36, has been added to the list of the dead after the Mothutlung protests, taking the number of fatalities to four. Seimela died in hospital as a result of injuries sustained during the police crackdown on a community water protest. The details of exactly what happened on the day are still unclear; people are demanding answers. By THAPELO LEKGOWA & GREG NICOLSON.

It is difficult to find words when your your husband has been killed because of a service delivery protest. “I will forever miss his jokes, his love and how he used to father our children,” said Matshidiso Ngwenya, Enoch Seimela’s wife and the mother of their children. “I don’t have much to say and it is not easy to express the pain in me. I lost a husband and father to my children. The police have not yet explained to us [as a family] why they killed my husband; we are not even sure of the cause of death, we are still awaiting the postmortem report.”

Enoch Seimela, 36, was the fourth person to die after residents in Mothutlung and surrounding areas protested to have the water turned back on last week. He died in hospital from the wounds he sustained during the police response to the protests. Before him, Mike Tshele, or “Bra Mike” as he was known, died on the scene after being shot. Osiah Rahube was also allegedly killed by police and Lerato Seema died after “falling out” of a police Nyala. Residents are adamant he was pushed.

The fourth death is another tragedy after a protest where ordinary people became victims of a violent police crackdown. Seimela was a community leader and well known in the area. Resident Zambo Kapinya said that when the shooting began she ran into the nearby bushes with some of the protestors. It was then that they had witnessed Seimela getting out of his car with hands up high.

“He was trying to negotiate with the police not to shoot the community as the community was peaceful and had nothing against the police and he was shot,” Kapinya said.

According to Kapinya, Seimela was shot with live ammunition and police left him injured for a long time before attending to him. “We were watching from the bushes,” he said.

Police were unable to elaborate on Seimela’s injuries or how he died. A community leader, however, blames Madibeng Mayor, Poppy Mangongwa. “The community is disturbed because the mayor is not sticking to her word. If he had been moved to a private hospital like she said, I believe the guy would be alive,” said Paul Hendricks. He claims that the mayor promised to move Seimela from a public facility to private hospital, but reneged on the promise. A prominent local fighter for the delivery of basic services has been lost, Hendricks added.

Lizzy Makwela, a community member from nearby Damonsville and a member of Economic Freedom Fighters, who has latched onto the issues in the community, said, “Comrade Enoch loved and fought for the community and he died doing what he loved the most.” If you Google Enoch Seimela, the first result is a Daily Sun article quoting him complaining about a Damonsville chicken retailer who was dumping meat off-cuts in a residential area.

The deaths have outraged the public and the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID) is currently investigating what happened. City Press reported on Sunday that residents claimed that some of the police involved in the shooting were present at as part of the Special Task Force during the Marikana Massacre, where 34 miners were shot dead on 16 August 2012.

“The South African Police Service regrets the loss of life and would like to express their condolences to the families of the deceased,” said North West police spokesperson Colonel Sabata Mokgwabone on Monday. “The incidents are being investigated criminally by IPID and the provincial commissioner of the North West province, Lieutenant General Zukiswa Mbombo, has set up a team to conduct an internal departmental investigation for compliance with policies on crowd management, which shall be concluded shortly.”

But others want more immediate answers. On a visit to Mothutlung on Monday, Democratic Alliance (DA) parliamentary leader Lindiwe Mazibuko said, “The government here has delivered blood, and not water. Instead of basic services you have been met with corruption.” Her speech continued: “While our hearts are heavy, we owe it to the memories of Mike, Osia and Lerato to ensure that what happened to them, and to all of you, is never repeated again [….] It is the story of Ficksburg, where Andries Tatane was killed after being repeatedly fired upon by police officers. It is also the story of Marikana, where 34 mineworkers lost their lives – some of them shot in their backs by members of the police. It is the story of Brandfort, where I walked four kilometres with women to collect water from the water works – because their taps ran dry for weeks and continue to run dry to this day. The story of Mothotlung is becoming the South African story.” Mazibuko said such problems were illustrative of President Zuma’s government and the DA would ask the Public Protector to investigate. DM

Photo: Enoch Seimela died on Monday.

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