NEWS

AfriForum: Private Security In Coligny Will Only Step In If Private Property Is Attacked

At least 20 private security personnel have been deployed to protect private homes from being targeted, according to AfriForum.

11/05/2017 06:08 SAST | Updated 11/05/2017 11:56 SAST

AfriForum has deployed at least 20 private security personnel to Coligny despite pleas not to on Monday from police spokesperson Sabata Mokgwabane.

Private security from a Pretoria-based company, paid for by AfriForum, has been sent to the North West town "in case of further attacks on private property", the group's head of community safety Ian Cameron told HuffPost SA.

Solidarity Movement chairperson Flip Buys said he was not sure of the "finer details" such as whether the security is armed, but said that they are "highly compliant with regulations and standards... They are professionals and I trust them to do their work," he said.

On whether the presence of private security might heighten tensions in a town already reeling from violence, Buys said his organisation accepts this may be a concern but asserts AfriForum "made the right decision given the circumstances faced".

"We thought it best not to use a local security company, but rather bring in professionals for support," he said. Buys said the private security would not interfere in public policing or patrol streets and would only respond if people's property is attacked.

Read: HuffPost SA Man's Harrowing Account Of Coligny Violence

While the organisation said it was encouraged by the efforts of North West Community Safety MEC Mpho Motlhabane, security personnel will remain in Coligny indefinitely after houses were set alight on Monday evening. The upsurge in violence followed Coligny magistrate's court decision to grant bail to the two farmers accused of the murder of 16-year-old Matlhomola Mosweu.

EFF head Julius Malema on Monday claimed AfriForum was "sending private security" to the North West town to "protect racist white farmers". Malema, in turn, said reinforcements would be sent to protect "our people".

Malema's tweet 'political opportunism'
Dismissing Malema's "war talk" as politically opportunistic, Cameron said.

"The private security from Hi-Risk Unit in Pretoria is not there to protect any particular racial group or people in particular capacities. It is there for all people in the community to assist in maintaining peace," he said.

Referring to an Indian businessman who lost his house to fire along with the multiple stores looted in recent weeks, Cameron said: "If police had the capacity to protect people's property then this wouldn't have happened."

Buys said the deployment was intended to complement and not rival police. "Police are doing their best, but we have been very concerned about people taking the law into their own hands," he said. "These mostly are not Coligny residents but rather people coming from outside after hearing things on social media. Coligny residents know what's at stake."

Police spokesperson Sabata Mokgwabone told HuffPost SA on Wednesday he was "not concerned about the private security as long as they don't get in the way of SAPS work which until this point they haven't". On Monday, Mokgwabane said police do not need additional help and private security companies shouldn't overstep the bounds of the law.

'Coligny will take years to recover'
Despite recurring violence on Tuesday evening in Tlhabologang, the township adjacent to Coligny's central business district, AfriForum said they welcomed progress made in the community meeting on Tuesday. Buys said MEC Mpho Motlhabane "tried his best to resolve the situation".

"It is, however, unfortunate the MEC has appealed the bail for the accused. It is certainly his right to do so but this sends contradictory messages about his commitment to letting the law take its course," Buys said.

There is "already a lot of tension and this could create a new cycle of conflict," he warned.

On the path forward, Buys said a reconciliation process is needed for Coligny to heal, placing particular emphasis on the role of religious and community leaders. Asked whether racial tensions were worsened by alleged poor treatment of black people in Coligny, as many protestors claimed in recent days, he said the "real problem is poor service delivery and governance, and broken promises from political leaders".

"The municipality here has failed sorely at delivering on its mandate. Politicians make promises they can't keep, and now there is competition between the ANC and EFF to win people over," he said.

Also claiming the problem of purely race-based tensions has been 'blown out of proportion', Cameron said the "majority of people in this town don't have a problem with other cultural or racial groups. Political leaders have used this issue [the death of Mosweu] for their own gain".

EFF spokesperson Mbuyiseni Ndlozi was not available for comment on whether the party intended to send in "reinforcements" as tweeted by Malema on Monday.