9 January 2018

South Africa: Police Failed to Protect Us From Mob Justice, Says Eastern Cape Family

Man's house burned down after he was accused of a stabbing which never took place

An Eastern Cape family whose home was burned down by an angry mob have accused the police and the justice system of failing them.

The Olayi family, from Libode near Mthatha, lost their home in September 2015 when Bandile Olayi was accused of stabbing a young man in a local tavern. Noxolo Olayi, Bandile's wife, said they had called the police to protect them but had been told there was no police vehicle available.

She said the family had received a letter from the local chief on 6 September 2015, claiming that her husband had stabbed a man the previous day and telling them to leave the area. Her husband had taken the letter to Ngqeleni police. While they were waiting for police assistance she had heard from neighbours that the chief had held a meeting calling for the family to be chased away.

She had reported this to the police but nothing had been done.

"On 30 September the mob came to chase us away and they burned down my house while we were watching. I was not even given a chance to take my belongings. They were so angry you would swear we had killed a chief's son. They threatened us with bush knives. My children had to hide in the garden, and my husband was not even at home when this happened," she said.

"I watched them throwing my furniture away, pouring petrol around my house. They set it alight in front of me," she said in tears.

The young man, it turned out, had not been stabbed at all.

The family of five is now living in a leaking one room shack.

Noxolo Olayi said her husband, who was a security guard until he was recently retrenched, had worked hard to build the house for them.

"Now we are stuck in a one room shack with no electricity," she said.

She said her children were still traumatised.

"My children are always jumpy. They do not like noise and they want the door to be kept locked."

The family survived on social grants for the three children, she said. After the attack, Nyandeni Local Municipality had provided them with six blankets. Municipal officials had promised school uniforms for the children but these had not been supplied.

Speaking to GroundUp, Bandile Olayi said the chief had not even given him a chance to defend himself.

"I want justice for my family. I worked day and night building a home for my children but now we have to squeeze ourselves into one bedroom. My children have to wait outside when I take a bath."

Ward councillor Phila Godongwana said the municipality had "tried" to build a house for the Olayi family but the chief and community members had stopped them.

"We were never given a proper explanation, all we were told was if we build the house, the community will vandalise it," he said, without further explanation.

Warrant officer Nonkonzo Mpama said seven or eight people were to appear in Ngqeleni Magistrates Court in February on charges of malicious damage to property and arson.

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