Big protest at ‘witch’ beater case

JON HOUZET
 
 
ABOUT 300 women staged a protest outside the Port Alfred magistrate’s court last Friday against bail being granted to a couple accused of kidnapping and beating a Nemato woman for “bewitching” the man’s wife.
CROWD CONTROL: Port Alfred station commander Colonel Lizette Zeelie addresses a crowd of 300 protestors who gathered outside the magistrate’s court last week for the appearance of three suspects who allegedly kidnapped and beat a woman they accused of witchcraft Picture: JON HOUZET
Carrying placards and shouting, “You strike a woman, you strike a rock!”, the angry crowd awaited the arrival of the suspects – Amathole municipal official Thembile Magopeni, his wife Zukhanye and mother-in-law Nomthembiso Baliso.
 
The three allegedly abducted Nompumelelo Mpolweni for being a bad influence on Zukhanye, by taking her drinking when her husband was not home and selling her medicines to make her fall in love with other men.
 
They allegedly took her back to their house, stripped her naked and beat her for hours, before tying her to the gate. Neighbours called the police who arrested the suspects.
 
When a large crowd started gathering outside the court last Friday morning, police hastily organised marshals and got permission from magistrate Walter la Grange for the crowd to stage a protest on the other side of the road.
 
More police vans and traffic police arrived to direct traffic past the swelling throng.
 
Among the protestors was Thembile Magopeni’s own sister, Lungiswa Magopeni, who said: “He’s my brother but he’s dangerous. He accuses his own family of witchcraft.”
 
“We don’t want him in the township,” was a common refrain among the crowd.
 
“It’s not the first time he’s beaten a woman,” said Nontombi Dosi. “He’s beaten his own sister.”
Veliswa Singatha said the Magopenis were well-known in Nemato and claimed Zukhanye had many boyfriends.
 
“We don’t want them in Port Alfred,” she said.
 
Sinoxolo Yose said the victim had been beaten so hard she had a period. “She was kicked in the private parts, and children saw her without her clothes,” Yose said.
 
When word arrived the case would only come up at 12.30pm, Port Alfred station commander Colonel Lizette Zeelie asked the crowd to disperse peacefully.
 
“People should report cases to us rather than taking the law into their own hands,” she told the crowd.
She said La Grange would take into consideration the protestors’ request that the bail the suspects were granted at a previous court appearance be rescinded.
 
La Grange postponed the case to April 17 and extended bail of R1 000 each. He warned the three suspects not to return to the Port Alfred area for their own safety.
 
The Magopenis have another home in East London.

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