Village in battle over chieftainship and mining rights attacked during meeting.
THE police in Limpopo stand accused of ignoring a warning of an apparently known-in-advance attack on a community mass meeting at the tension-filled Ga-Mphahlele village outside Lebowakgomo a week ago.
The Mphahlele Royal Council wrote a letter to the Lebowakgomo police station commander, which African Times has seen, warning him of a plan to disrupt a meeting that took place on a Sunday, 18 February 2018, at Solly Colman Hall: “We therefore request police patrol to monitor the situation around the precinct of the hall and immediate vicinity,” the letter read in part.
The police allegedly did not respond to the letter, and on the day of the meeting, two busloads descended on the meeting and several people were injured after the attack.
Charges and counter-charges have since been laid at the Lebowakgomo police station.
Limpopo police spokesperson Lieutenant-Colonel Moatshe Ngoepe said the allegations being levelled against the police were serious: “This will need a thorough investigation,” he said.
The Royal Council vice-chairperson Machobane Matabane said: “No police came to protect us on the 18 February 2018.
“A mob came to disrupt the meeting in two busloads. They assaulted and robbed people attending the meeting.”
He said the leader of the mob – whose name was given to African Times – alleged that the Royal Council officials were in violation of a restriction order: “This restriction order has been appealed against in the Limpopo High Court pending a set down date,” Matabane said.
Ga-Mphahlele remains a village gripped by fear and loathing as the battle over chieftainship and mining rights continue to bedevil the once closely-knit community.
In the middle of the battle is the Royal Council, Mphahlele Community Development Trust, the regent Sophia Ngwanamohube Phatudi-Mphahlele (commonly known as Ngwanamohube), her son Thabo Malekutu Phatudi-Mphahlele and Dithabeng Mining.
The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) was once implicated in the battle by the Royal Council for “meddling in the affairs of Ga-Mphahlele”. However, this was refuted by the party’s provincial secretary Jossey Buthane.
It all started when Dithabeng Mining signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Ngwanamohube for prospecting rights of chrome and other minerals in the area.
But the Royal Council cried foul, stating that the prospecting rights lie with the Community Development Trust and the MOU was therefore null and void.
The Royal Council, together with some local structures, then launched an application made of two parts in the Polokwane High Court.
The first part was to seek an order which declaring the prospecting as illegal mining of which the court concurred.
The second part seek to remove Ngwanamohube as the regent or the leader of the Bakgaga Ba Ga Mphahlele Traditional Authority. The date for the hearing still has to be set.
One of the reasons for the application for her removal is that she has unlawfully ceded powers to her son, Thabo Malekutu, to run the affairs of the Bakgaga Ba Ga Mphahlele traditional affairs.
The other reason is that she no longer possesses a certificate of recognition that has to be reviewed by the Premier every after 12 months in accordance with the Limpopo Traditional Leadership and Institutions Act.
But in an affidavit filed with the court, Ngwanamohube denied: “I am compelled to repeat that the appointment and recognition of Chiefs and /or Regents rests with the Premier.
The Premier has not appointed nor recognised the first respondent (Thabo Malekutu) as suggested by the applicants.”
The Royal Council has also written a letter to the Department of Cooperative Governance, Human Settlements and Traditional Affairs dated 8 January 2018 requesting the suspension or review of the salary Ngwanamohube.
However, the Department has since indicated that it cannot entertain the matter as it has to be first settled by the court.