Sowetan

TENSION AFTER ‘ACTIVIST’ VANISHES FROM VILLAGE

Community turns on man they suspect

- Zoë Mahopo mahopoz@sowetan.co.za

A LIMPOPO community has been shaken by the mysterious disappeara­nce of the son of Robben Island veteran and former MP Mahwidi John Phala.

Yesterday, seven residents from Diphagane village near Jane Furse were due to appear before the Nebo Magistrate’s Court in connection with the burning of a house belonging to a man they suspected of being behind Charles Phala’s disappeara­nce.

However, the arson case could not be placed on the court roll until further investigat­ions.

The Phala family suspects that the 52-year-old, who had been missing for nine days, was targeted by criminals who were not pleased with his involvemen­t in campaigns against crime.

Provincial police spokeswoma­n Colonel Ronel Otto confirmed that a missing person’s docket had been opened with the Jane Furse police station.

Otto said Phala was last seen by a neighbour, adding that circumstan­ces behind his disappeara­nce were still being investigat­ed.

Phala’s younger brother Nkrumah claimed threats were made against his brother and other community activists days before he disappeare­d.

Nkrumah, who last saw his brother on Tuesday July 12, said a window at his brother’s house was found broken but that all his belongings, including his cellphones, were still inside the house.

He said he suspected his brother was not clothed when he was taken. “I just wish that they haven’t killed him. I am pleading with whoever took my brother to please tell me if my brother is dead so I can bury him. But I believe he is still alive,” he said.

Yesterday, Phala’s 86-year-old mother Telekishan­e Phala could only say that she remained strong because of the community’s support.

Nkrumah said the ordeal had added to their mother’s suffering after she had to raise her six children in the absence of her late husband who spent 15 years as a political prisoner, while two of her sons also spent years in exile.

He said the mood in the area had grown tense since his brother went missing.

When Sowetan arrived yesterday, a group of residents who had just arrived from court were singing struggle songs while marching towards the community office.

The house burnt a few days ago stood deserted.

According to the community’s attorney, Lucas Kgaphola, the senior prosecutor decided that the case should not be placed on the roll until further investigat­ions were conducted.

Community leader Daniel Kaledi Maabane said residents went to court in their numbers demanding that they all be charged with arson and not just the seven accused.

Maabane claimed he was threatened at gunpoint by the same man suspected of Phala’s disappeara­nce. He said the community was fed up with the rampant crime in the area.

Maabane later addressed a community meeting, informing residents that Phala was still missing. “We do not know what they are doing to him if he is alive. We also do not know where they have dumped his body if he is dead.”

 ?? PHOTOS: SANDILE NDLOVU ?? FEEDBACK: Community leader Daniel Kaledi Maabane addresses residents about the seven people charged with arson after they allegedly burnt a house (below) belonging to a man accused of being involved in the disappeara­nce of Charles Phala
PHOTOS: SANDILE NDLOVU FEEDBACK: Community leader Daniel Kaledi Maabane addresses residents about the seven people charged with arson after they allegedly burnt a house (below) belonging to a man accused of being involved in the disappeara­nce of Charles Phala
 ??  ?? MOB JUSTICE: The burnt-out shell of a house belonging to a man the residents believe abducted son of ex-Robben Island prisoner
MOB JUSTICE: The burnt-out shell of a house belonging to a man the residents believe abducted son of ex-Robben Island prisoner

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