- Article compiled by By Bev Mortimer
Two murders in the suburb of Centerton in Hankey on 29 May led to five days of unrest, riots and the closure of the Patensie Hankey road until it re-opened on 3 June.
- Caption: Photos by Smhart Security which helped restore law and order in Hankey/Patensie area
Ordinary citizens and businesses complained they were affected by the road closures and could not travel to do collections or deliveries or even get to their place of work.
The SAPS says the reason for the protest action is that the Hankey community in Centerton allege Lesotho foreigners living in the area are responsible for the death of the two 45 year-old Centerton residents. Three murders took place during the early Sunday hours of 29 May.
In the first murder, a body with multiple stab wounds was found in a street. A few streets away, a second body was found with two stab wounds.
According to the statement issued to St Francis Chronicle this morning by EC:NMB District: Communication: Cmdr BP-Colonel Priscilla Naidu, in both murders, the motive and suspects are unknown. Two cases of murder are under investigation by the SAPS.
Col Naidu says: “It is alleged that on 30 May at around 6 pm about 300 community members from Centerton held a meeting at their community hall and when they had finished, they marched to an area predominantly occupied by seasonal farm workers from Lesotho.
The Centerton group tried to attack them and the seasonal Lesotho workers retaliated by throwing stones at them. The Centerton group then retreated to the taxi rank and burnt tyres on the road between Hankey and Patensie.
One person was arrested the next day, 31 May, and was detained under the Criminal Matters Amendment Act for damage to infrastructure, public violence and hindering or obstructing traffic on a public road.
Col Naidu says it is further alleged that on 1 June at about 2.10 pm, the Centerton community and a group of Lesotho nationals were embroiled in an altercation in Pearl Road in Centerton where they attacked each other. During this physical altercation, a 28 year-old Lesotho national sustained severe injuries.
The Lesotho national succumbed to his injuries in hospital. A case of murder is under investigation. No arrests have been made yet.
On 1 June between 6 pm and midnight, Lesotho nationals who are residents of Entabeni/Mountainview informal settlement were escorted out of the area by police to a neighbouring area for their own safety.
“Some shacks were set alight. Some of the local people who also reside in the same area, also left. The community also pelted the police vehicles with stones but there were no injuries or damages.
“There are no residents in Mountainview/Entabeni at the moment. The situation is currently calm and Public Order Police remain in the area for monitoring.”
She adds that the road between Hankey and Patensie was opened by Friday afternoon, 3 June.
Meanwhile some highly disgruntled business people say they were non -operative for five days. The Kouga Traffic department in Hankey had only one visible employee who turned away people venturing there,it was reported. Some residents of Hankey and Patensie were too frightened to go out of their homes, not even to buy groceries.
At the end end of the business week, on 3 June, Kouga Municipality released a statement on its website that about 180 foreign nationals and 220 nationals from across South Africa, including young children, were safely taken from the Entabeni informal settlement in Hankey to a place of safety on Wednesday night and Thursday.
The KM statement also said in conjunction with Lesotho Embassy it was trying to secure busses to transport Lesotho nationals to Lesotho, while South African nationals would go back to their homes.
According to comments at the end of the KM statement on its website, not all foreign nationals were evicted. Claims were made of some foreign shop owners being still around and Zimbabweans, Malawians and Mozambicans still there. Only Lesotho nationals were evicted, some commentators say.
It was also commented that some Lesotho nationals deliberately set fire to their own homes before they left the area so locals would not benefit from them, though this and other allegations made could not be substantiated.