Villagers say will fight back

Villagers say will fight back

BUTHA-BUTHE – IN Kao’s Ha-Shishila, villagers who survived a police revenge attack that left one dead are irate and itching for justice against the police and a local mine they accuse of trashing their rights. It is almost a month after their festive season was plunged into mourning and the villagers are refusing to let go, saying they have sworn to fight to the bitter end to ensure justice prevails.  The villagers poured their hearts out at the memorial service of Poshoane Moloi, who was murdered by the police on December 27 during an infamous raid that saw men in the village being rounded up and tortured by the riverside.
Police have tried to justify the raid and indiscriminate beatings, which followed the assault of a police officer who had tried to intervene to stop a beerhall brawl.
Butha-Buthe police boss, Senior Superintendent Teboho Khesa, told thepost cops “took the whole village because, for example, if a sheep has lumpy wool all the sheep in the kraal should be dipped”.

But at the memorial service for Moloi held last Thursday and attended by hundreds of people, the sombre mood was punctuated by speeches of defiance by the villagers and a recorded voice of Moloi in his earlier speech condemning the police brutality.
Moloi’s voice was accompanied by a hymn booming from the public address system.
The villagers described Moloi’s death as premeditated.

“We will not back down,” shouted Tšitso Tšemane, who said he was Moloi’s friend, as the crowd agreed in unison and occasionally clapping their hands in disbelief of what the police did.
“We will fight until we have nothing left in us to fight with. If they think that it is over because Poshoane is dead, they are mistaken,” said Tšemane.
He claimed the police had a list of people marked for death and he was one of them together with Moloi.

“Poshoane my man you can see us, you died in the line of war, do not sleep,” Tšemane said, pointing with a finger like he was looking at Moloi.
Calling for a fight back, Tšemane counted his friend among those who will fight shoulder-to-shoulder against the police brutality and restore human rights in the village.
“Fight this war with us, you are now by the Father’s side. You know the trouble that befell people of Kao, you died for the rights of the people of Kao,” he said.
He added in a forceful voice: “Woe to you who gave that list to the police, woe to the one that instructed death on this village. Know that the day is coming, how will you come before God?”
Moloi’s death at the hands of the police was not the first in the village in recent months, residents said.

In January last year, police killed another villager, Terene Pitae, while crushing a protest by locals against Kao Diamond Mine.
The Kao community complain that the mine is destroying their water sources and polluting the environment, a charge the mine says is not true.
They also say the compensation paid by the mine for their fields is too little while they also want the mine to employ locals.
“I will fight for my mother’s fields. Who has the audacity to pay M6 000 annually for two fields?” Tšemane said.

“This is not enough! Who is going to bury my mother when she passes on with such little money? I therefore won’t stop fighting for the rights of our people, the rights of my people.”
’Maseaka Lekhela, a member of a committee coordinating negotiations between the mine and the community, praised Moloi for fighting for the rights of fellow villagers against the mine operations and other injustices.

“We needed toilets in the village but when the mine had to build us toilets it said four families would share one toilet because the village is too big. We said not in this village. Poshoane fought for each of us to have a toilet,” Lekhela said.
“The bridges were built because of the influence of Poshoane. He fought for the grazing land that was paid for at just M2 000 from 2010-2017. The remaining M391 000 was paid because of him,” she said.

“He made sure that those working as casual labourers at the mine, who were paid at M8 per hour, were paid M12 per hour,” she said, adding: “He was our warrior. He fought the hardest battle.”
Tumahole Lerafa, the MP for Motete, said it was sad that Parliament had remained silent on the suffering of people in Kao.
“This death was orchestrated by people with no heart, with hatred and on purpose,” the MP said.
Lerafa said the state has turned against its people.

“When we hope that those given power will protect us, we see them drunk in the power given to them,” he said.
“You can ask yourself over and over again on the issues of Kao as to why the government is so silent about it. Is the blood of a police officer holier than the civilians’ blood? This is evil,” he said.
Poshoane was laid to rest on Saturday.

Rose Moremoholo

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