Trial leaves Coligny wracked by racial hatred and heartache
Ex-mayor claims the murder of teen Matlhomola Moshoeu was racially motivated
Racial division, mistrust and heartache: this is how the murder of 16-year-old Matlhomola Moshoeu has affected the farming town of Coligny.
This was the testimony of a spiritual leader and former mayor of Coligny on Tuesday. David Celo was the second state witness to testify in aggravating proceedings of Pieter Doorewaard and Phillip Schutte in the North West High Court.
The two farmworkers are accused of murdering Matlhomola, who allegedly stole sunflower seeds.
Celo was being cross-examined by advocate Cecile Zwiegelaar, acting for Doorewaard.
He told the court, which was filled with Matlhomola’s family and EFF members in their red regalia, that he believed that Matlhomola’s death was racially motivated.
Zwiegelaar argued that the merits of the case did not indicate that it was indeed a racial attack.
But Celo disagreed and told the court that an innocent boy lost his life.
“I disagree. If it was not a racial issue, a child who is helpless who does not have a power, how can you kill that child? That is not humanity.”
Judge Ronald Hendricks asked Celo if that was his opinion.
“Yes, that is my opinion,” he said.
Zwiegelaar further argued that the unrest in the town was based on the failure of the police to arrest anyone for the murder of the boy.
Celo responded: “If it was true, if it was real, then one of those police officers could have been attacked. There was no policeman attacked and his house attacked.”
Zwiegelaar said the death of the boy did not cause residents of Coligny to distrust one other. She argued that it also did not cause racial tensions.
Celo said: “I do not want to agree with you; the death of the child caused mistrust between the two communities, because of the heartache it experienced.”
Earlier on Tuesday, Celo told the court that life imprisonment was an appropriate sentence for the pair.
He said the court had to set a precedent and “teach them [Doorewaard and Schutte] a lesson”.
“My humble request is for the court to give the accused life sentences and to teach a lesson that if someone commits such a crime, they should be punished,” Celo said.
He said he would not be satisfied if the two men were given a lesser sentence.
Celo told the court he was the first black mayor to be elected in Coligny, in 1996. His job was not easy. He was tasked with uniting the black and white communities.
He referred to the graveyard project where both black and white people worked together to clean the graveyards.
Advocate Pieter Smit, acting for Schutte, asked Celo if the participation across the racial divide meant that “the general community of Coligny is not polarised”.
“There is still some racial division in Coligny even if they can work together,” Celo responded.
After Celo’s testimony, the state called its third witness, Agnes Moshoeu, Matlhomola’s mother.
Prosecutor Rapula Molefe asked her how she felt when she had received the news about her son.
“I wasn’t feeling well and I am still not feeling well now,” she replied.
Molefe put it to her that evidence in court showed that Matlhomola had died for stealing a sunflower.
“I don’t have an answer to that; I am not sure because I was not there.”
Molefe asked: “How do you feel that it has been established that your child has died for stealing a sunflower?”
“I am not happy about that,” she said.
Molefe asked if it was “really necessary” for a child to die for a sunflower?
“It is not necessary for a child to be killed for a sunflower,” she answered.
Asked how Matlhomola’s death had on her as a parent, the mother broke down and court proceedings had to be stopped.
The matter will continue on Wednesday.