The small farming town of Coligny, North West, resembled a war zone on Tuesday afternoon with large clouds of smoke billowing from different parts of town.
The main road linking Coligny and Lichtenburg remained closed as protesters who barricaded roads with burning tires and rubble clashed with police officers. All entry points into town were guarded by armed white men who said they were protecting their properties.
They would not allow anyone entry, including white people they did not know.
“It is dangerous around here. Please find alternative routes,” they advised motorists trying to enter town.
Inside the town’s residential area, white farmers and residents stood at different points guarding the properties after three houses were burnt and damaged on Tuesday morning.
They said a bottle store was among several businesses cleaned out by protesters.There were also unconfirmed reports of three trucks that were torched this morning. Several houses were burnt in the violence-stricken area of Coligny in North West on Tuesday afternoon in the wake of a service delivery protest by residents.
The main road linking Coligny and Lichtenburg remained closed to traffic for the better part of the day as protesters who barricaded roads with burning tyres and rubble clashed with police officers.
The area where two houses have been set alight remains volatile and a no-go area, as not many police officers have been spotted there. Some of the officers are guarding a nearby furniture warehouse that has also been looted by protesters.
Residents of Tlhabologang township, which is divided by a railway line from the town of Coligny near Lichtenburg, are calling for the arrest of a farmer they alleged had assaulted a 12-year-old boy he found in his maize fields last Friday.
According to a community leader, Jonny Leteane, the boy has died. He said the protest “is not going to end until the perpetrator is arrested”.
“The community is really angry. We are, however, condemning acts of violence and damage to property but we have some elements among us who are drunk and using our genuine protest for their criminal acts,” Leteane said.
Police were patrolling the town while a helicopter hovered over the tense area.
Coligny resident Adrian Groenewald said he received an alert from the residents’ WhatsApp group that his house was going to be attacked.
“I quickly told my wife to pack up whatever she could and we drove. Minutes later we could see the flames of our house from a distance,” he said.
“They have cleaned me out. My computer, my internet hardware, television set and all other appliances are gone,” he said as he walked through the ransacked house.
In front of the house, the thatched-roofed storeroom was still in flames and the roof had collapsed.
“I have good relations with the community and I don’t believe it is my neighbours who did this. They must be people from far away.
“I consider myself lucky that they only burnt the storeroom, stole from the house and did not torch my son’s carpentry workshop and the actual house,” he said.
Groenewald’s house is among the few that are on the outskirts of the mainly white area close to Extension 6, which is an RDP housing settlement. His neighbour, who had also come to check on her house, came out running and crying, saying she could not find her dog.
“My dog is gone. It is dangerous here,” she said, calling on those who came with her to get into their cars, fearing other people would come and attack them.
“Let’s go! Let’s go! Those people are coming,” she said, weeping.
They drove off believing that their dog had perished in their partially burnt house. About 20km from Coligny, police remained on high alert amid service delivery protests.
A wave of violent protests swept through Lichtenburg since last weekend with reports of more than 30 000 live chicks burning to death when the truck ferrying them was torched together with two other trucks on Friday.
A police van was overturned and an armoured police vehicle torched in Lichtenburg on Monday with more shops looted overnight.
North West police spokesperson Sabata Mokgwabone said three houses were torched.
“Three trucks and a tractor were burnt earlier before they turned to the houses.
“The situation remained tense and one could see these people were up to something,” he said ,adding that police were monitoring both Lichtenburg and Coligny as well as Itsoseng township where there were incidents of looting yesterday.
Meanwhile, in Coligny, the protesting community sat on railway tracks looking at the groups of white people guarding their houses.
“Niyaba saba na? Hhayi asibasabi, siyabafuna! [loosely translated to: Are you scared of them? No we are not! We want them!],” chanted those on the railway line.