Memorial for Brits riot victims goes awry

Madibeng Mayoral Committee member (MMC) Douglas Maimane is escorted outside the Mothutlung community hall in Brits, North West, 17 January 2013, after being hit in the face by a water bottle thrown at him by a brother of one of the deceased, at a memorial for three people who died during violent protests in the area this week. Picture: Nigel Sibanda

The memorial service for three victimse killed in violent protests in Mothutlung near Brits this week, turned violent yesterday.

Chaos erupted after a municipal official was unintentionally hit in the face with a bottle of water. Minister of Water Affairs Edna Molewa was on stage as part of a panel together with Madibeng municipal officials at the Mothutlung community hall, when things went awry.

During the service, scathing words against the municipality by friends and family of the deceased had brought emotions near boiling point.

Osiah Rahube and Michael “Bra Mike” Tshele had been killed in clashes with police on Monday. Lerato Seema died on Wednesday from injuries sustained after jumping from a moving nyala on Tuesday during protests, according to police.

During the service, Seema’s godfather Mogorosi Mmope, put it to the crowd that he had been killed by police and that the accidental nature of the death was a lie spun to protect municipal officials who had ordered the killing.

The allegation followed upon the rumour that the all three deceased had information relating to the dubious awarding of tenders for the repair of the three broken pumps, which had left the township without water for a week.

Rahube’s brother, Joconia, made similar accusations as he directly addressed the panel on stage. “Go there and eat their (the three deceased’s) brains because you have failed them, you have failed us,” he said angrily to huge applause.

Late in the day’s programme, George Leputu, a friend of Rahube’s, took to the podium. It was not long before his talk of inefficient municipal officials angered a man in the crowd.

The man, who Leputu described as a “municipal manager or something” from a neighbouring municipality, stood up and shouted that Leputu should not “put him down in front of the minister”.

Leputu stood silently as the man ranted until another man, believed to be the angry man’s brother, suddenly ran on stage and threw a water bottle at Leputu with exceptional force.

The bottle missed Leputu by some margin, instead hitting Madibeng MMC for communications Douglas Maimane square in the face.

This prompted a free-for-all on stage, as residents took the man’s action as an invitation fur further attack on municipal officials.

Maimane was quickly ushered out by a side-door but several community members gave chase and beat him up outside, according to eyewitnesses.

Molewa was not injured in the ruckus. Water had been largely restored to Mothutlung by yesterday afternoon.

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