NEWS

Lichtenburg Residents Speak Frankly About Race Relations

"White people still have that apartheid mentality."

12/10/2017 18:24 SAST | Updated 13/10/2017 08:33 SAST

Racial tensions are an underlying problem in Lichtenburg, with people often bringing up the race of murder-accused Jaco du Plooy, who allegedly fatally shot 15-year-old Joseph Spense Tshukudu on Tuesday morning.

During court recess on Thursday morning, small groups of people gathered outside the courtroom where they discussed the oppression of black people in the community.

Their anxiety over the murder case was caused not only by the fact that a white man had allegedly shot the child, but also concern that Du Plooy would be set free.

Coligny spillover

Spense's cousin, Elisa Marope, said the violence and racism had spilled over from close-by Coligny, where another child was shot earlier this year.

"It seems like we are experiencing the same issues like the people of Coligny."

Even after the magistrate decided to deny Du Plooy bail, Marope raised concerns about whether justice would truly be served.

"Look at how we live. Then look at how white people live."

"The accused's lawyer was speaking about how he has rights and should be released on bail, because he has four children. What about Spense's rights?"

Marope said their poor living conditions were a contributing factor to people's anger and that is why there have been several protests recently.

"Look at how we live. Then look at how white people live," she said, pointing to her surroundings.

Police bribes

Another Lichtenburg resident told HuffPost SA that police officers allegedly receive regular bribes, especially from white people in the community.

"White people still have that apartheid mentality. They also have money and some officials take bribes from them. We have no one to stand up for our rights, we can't trust the police," said Johannes Lekanyane.

"In February, we had to bury another child in Coligny. So can you see what white people are doing," he added.

Drastic steps

A group of angry young people waiting outside the court said drastic steps needed to be taken against Du Plooy.

"If the tables were turned, then circumstances would be different," said Refilwe Sebakanelo.

"Anyway, white people can afford lawyers and we can't even afford bail," she said.

Spence's mother, Lilian, still looked distraught in court on Thursday. Her eyes were filled with sadness, making it difficult for journalists to speak to her.

Her head was wrapped in a doek and she had a blanket over her shoulders just like Spense, before he was shot.