A video that has been circulating on social media showing what appears to be the aftermath of an assault has been met with shock and outrage and is assumed to be racially motivated.
The ruling party also weighed in on it on Wednesday.
In a statement, the ANC’s spokesperson Pule Mabe said: “The ANC is shocked at the despicable criminal conduct of two white men who were caught on video brutally attacking a black man, in what appears to be a racially motivated attack. Their shameless disregard of the police officers at the scene, who clearly were trying to reason with them, demonstrates their disdain for the rule of law.
“Such conduct has no place in our society and those who believe they are above the law should be ashamed to call themselves South African. No citizen has a right to take the law into their own hands, irrespective of the circumstances. We welcome the swift action of the police to take these suspects into custody.
“We similarly condemn the actions of criminal elements in the community who burnt down a shop and two trucks in the process of protesting the handling of the two suspects by the police. The ANC appeals to the community to allow law enforcement authorities to do their work without engaging in a behaviour that mimics that of the suspects.”
The primary victim in the incident has been named as Godfrey Masuku, and it has been alleged the attack began simply because he was drunk and annoyed a white resident in the town of Machadodorp, Mpumalanga, on Monday afternoon.
The Daily Sun on Wednesday confirmed the man’s identity, claiming he was assaulted by two members of the Community Policing Forum (CPF), both of whom were later arrested.
The police have confirmed the men are aged 20 and 29 and were to appear in court today. According to residents in the area, there have been run-ins with the CPF in the past, with some alleging that they are questioned about being on the street in the evenings and it reminded them of living under apartheid.
The lead-up to the incident took place outside a shop owned by Masuku’s employer, an Indian man. The shop owner called the CPF, alerting them to the fact that there was an altercation outside his store, with a white man from the area allegedly pepper-spraying an inebriated Masuku and grabbing his clothing.
When the CPF arrived, they only allegedly further assaulted Masuku.
In response, the Indian man’s store was reportedly looted and set on fire by angry residents, who felt the incident was racist.
Masuku was quoted as saying he didn’t know what had caused the fight with the white man, whom he claimed to know well.
Racial tension in Mpumalanga appears to be rife.
In July, it was reported that the residents in the town of Middelburg were on edge following the alleged brutal assault and killing of Xolisile Ndzongana by a group of white men.
A group of petrol attendants working in Middelburg told The Sowetan at the time that the attack did not come as a surprise considering the racism they were subjected to daily in the town.
“They call us all sorts of names,” a petrol attendant said.
Another attendant added: “This is Middelburg, racism lives here. Even when we report [incidents] to our managers, they tell us that the customer is always right, so what must we do?”
A third attendant said that racist incidents increased on weekends due to drunkenness.
“They call us monkeys and then act as though they are playing with you. What hurts the most is the vulgar language, and I do not understand it. A week will not go by where you do not go home feeling useless because of the way someone spoke to you.”
Middelburg was also where the infamous coffin assault took place in 2016. Farmers Theo Jackson and Willem Oosthuizen were sentenced to 10 years in prison for kidnapping and assault after forcing Victor Mlotshwa into a coffin.