Protest march at witch-beating case

ROB KNOWLES

A FORMER Ndlambe municipal official accused of beating a woman for “bewitching” his wife, has claimed there was a political motivation behind his arrest.

Thembile Magopeni, who now works for the Amathole District Municipality, and his wife Zukhanye and mother in-law Nomthembiso Baliso, appeared in the Port Alfred Magistrate’s Court on Tuesday, and their case was postponed to May 21.

The three allegedly abducted and assaulted Nompumelelo Mpolweni for being a bad influence on Zukhanye. Mpolweni was allegedly stripped naked and left tied to a gate.

More than 150 residents of Nemato, led by municipal official Lazola Maneli, marched to the court on Tuesday to protest bail for the three accused. Maneli, who works in the corporate services directorate at Ndlambe municipality, said she was on leave for the day, and felt it was worth using her day off to lead the protest and highlight the problem.

“This is all about the abuse of women and children,” said Maneli. “The magistrate must draw the line. We are tired.”

Magopeni entered the main entrance to court, accompanied by his wife and mother in-law, to shouts and jeers from the assembled protestors who called after him, accusing him of being a woman beater. Many in the crowd grumbled that Magopeni was abusing his power and called for his dismissal from the Amathole municipality.

The court was virtually empty as the three suspects were led to the dock and prosecutor Paul Rossouw asked for a postponement of the case to give time for the police to interview witnesses. Jacques Hilpert, who represented the three, did not object.

“We are all enjoying the music outside,” said magistrate Walter la Grange who postponed the case. “Perhaps we should get you back tomorrow and the next day, just so we can listen to the music.”

In a more serious tone, La Grange also warned the three that the protestors outside the court were not there by accident.

“They are here to protest against you Mr Magopeni, so I suggest you take care when leaving the court,” La Grange told them.

In a letter written by Magopeni to TotT, he suggested there was a political motivation for his arrest, blaming political rivals in Cope and DA for the unrest. Magopeni also believes the ANC have contributed to the problem through a lack of clear political programmes of action.

The letter stated that Cope initiated the toyi-toyi to town (during Magopeni’s first bail hearing at the end of March), and that the march was taken over by the DA as soon as it arrived in town.

“The situation got out hand to the extent that one ANC official from Ndlambe municipality went to the crowd and asked them to disperse. The two ANC members who still pay allegiance to Cope in Nemato might have collaborated with Cope overnight to embark on such a campaign but, because of political inexperience, ignorance and immaturity, ultimately their initiative was taken over by DA, which left them disgruntled,” wrote Magopeni in his letter.

He also referred to “three women” being at the forefront of “dirty tricks in order to drag my reputation through the mud”.

Magopeni did not name the three women but he said they were taking orders from a person he described as, “their big-boss boyfriend who put them into council”. Magopeni said all three women share this boyfriend.

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