Van Rooyens’ memory tainted by political games…

Speaker of the AbaQulusi council, Michael Khumalo, has been charged with assault, intimidation and incitement to public violence.


IN May last year, the Zwathi community marched for Billy van Rooyen and Ronnie Lombard and people throughout South Africa praised AbaQulusi when black and white stood together against farm attacks.

Now this act of solidarity against crime has been tainted by power hungry politicians.

Speaker of the AbaQulusi council, Michael Khumalo, appeared in the Vryheid Magistrates’ Court on Monday on charges of assault, intimidation and incitement to public violence.

Court proceedings were brief and Cllr Khumalo was released from custody on R10 000 bail under the condition that he would not interfere, speak to, or attempt to communicate with the complainant in the case, Inkosi Douglas Zondo.

Gluckstad station commander, Captain KAC Erasmus, confirmed that the charges related to remarks Cllr Khumalo had made at the conclusion of the march held in May, when the Zwathi community (ward 4) voiced their concerns about crime following the deaths of Billy van Rooyen and Ronnie Lombard in a brutal farm attack.

Even though the case was opened 10 months ago, charges were only placed now because, initially, the court prosecutor declined to take action due to a lack of evidence. The case was then handed to a provincial police unit, which scrutinised a video taken of Cllr Khumalo as he made the comments.

Cllr Khumalo, who is the ward councillor for ward 4, led the Zwathi march and delivered a memorandum to the Gluckstad police demanding that they conduct a thorough investigation.

According to an article published on the front page of the Vryheid Herald on May 19, hundreds of members of the ward 4 community headed to the Gluckstadt Police Station to hand over the memorandum regarding their concerns over the rise of crime in their area.

However, “The main issue raised in the memorandum was that of the killing of farmers, which in turn has a negative influence on the community’s economy as many of those working on the farms lose their jobs,” said the news report.

“These criminals are not just killing farmers, they are killing us as a community,” Cllr Khumalo is reported to have said. “If one was without food, you were able to go to Billy and ask for his help, he would do so with a willing heart. The question now is where will such help come from?”

Captain Erasmus said that the march was legal, and organised according to the correct procedures ahead of time. However, at the conclusion of the march, Cllr Khumalo had apparently accused Inkosi Zondo of being directly involved in the farm attack, and then Cllr Khumalo allegedly threatened to burn down the tribal court as well as the police station if justice was not served.

In an exclusive interview with the Vryheid Herald, Inkosi Zondo said, “The Van Rooyens were like my family. Lood van Rooyen was like a father to me. He helped me with part-time jobs when I was growing up so that I could survive. I now have a large citrus farm, which employs 120 people, and Billy van Rooyen (Lood’s son who was gunned down during an armed robbery at his farm) was managing my farm for me.

“Michael Khumalo told the crowd that I was involved in Billy’s murder, but the police know that I was not part and parcel of that. Michael threw stones at my car and pointed directly at me as he threatened to burn my tribal court and the police station to ashes. Since then, people have been threatening to kill me. The Van Rooyen family knows that I had a good relationship with them. In fact, my wife and I were among the first people they approached for help after the shooting took place, because my wife is a nurse. I was broken by what had happened.”

Inkosi Zondo, who is an ANC member, claims that Cllr Khumalo, an IFP member, was just using a tragedy to play political games.

Blessed Gwala, who spoke on behalf of the IFP, said the matter could not be discussed out of court.

“In terms of South African law, a person is not guilty until proven guilty in a court of law. However, the IFP will be monitoring this situation very closely. We will be dealing with the matter as the court deals with it,” he said.

Asked about the IFP’s decision to appoint Cllr Khumalo as Speaker despite the ongoing police investigation into Cllr Khumalo’s conduct at the march, Mr Gwala became defensive.

“We are not prophets,” he said. “You cannot accuse us of putting somebody in a position that is going to be charged in the future. How many people in the ANC have committed some crime and yet they are still in government? We will prove the fact that there are some covert operations against the councillors to dissolve the IFP and we will deal with it.”

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Estella Naicker

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