A white house of hope and sorrow in Coligny

Coligny – A newly built white house on the borders of Coligny and Scotland informal settlement in the sleepy maize producing town is set to bring a ray of hope.

Coligny made news headlines in 2017 when teenager Matlhomola Jonas Mosweu was killed and his death heightened racial tension in the town.

Matlhomola, 16, which translates into sorrow, was killed by Pieter Doorewaard and Phillip Schutte on 20 April 2017. The pair was sentenced to 18 years and 23 years imprisonment respectively on 6 March 2019. 

They claimed they caught Matlhomola stealing sunflower heads worth R80 from their employer’s field. They loaded him onto a van and drove off intending to hand him  over to the police in Coligny about 3km away but, he jumped off the moving vehicle in an attempt to flee. 

But the North West High Court found that Schutte pushed him off the van while it was moving. Doorewaard was the driver.

For the North West provincial government, the house built by the Gift of the Givers is a beacon of reconciliation for the community of Coligny. "This is a partnership that is exemplary of what can happen if government and its social partners work together towards a common cause. 

"Matlhomola’s life will never be replaced but this house will stand as a memory to try and heal our brutal and divided past as a people – co-existing on both sides of the divide as black and white communities," North West Premier Job Mokgoro said.

Mokgoro said the provincial government and its partners saw it befitting to hand over the house on Human Rights Day, saying that Matlhomola’s death reminds many people of the 1960 Sharpeville massacre, and that his death was viewed as a continuous battle for freedom and human rights.

The house is a fully furnished two-bedroom with an open plan kitchen and lounge – a far cry from the dilapidated mokhukhu (shack) the family occupied at Scotland informal settlement. 

The house was a donation from  non-governmental organisation (NGO), Gift of the Givers, and the Ditsobotla local municipality donated the land and installed all services. 

The family has access to running water, electricity and the street is tarred compared to the dusty streets of Scotland. It has a car port and the yard is larger than yards at Scotland informal settlement. 

It is located at Gerdoren Park, not far from the spot where Matlhomola was killed and close to the graveyard where he was laid to rest. 

Agnes house - A white house of hope and sorrow in Coligny
Murdered Coligny teenager Matlhomola Mosweu’s mother Agnes Mosweu (far right with a baby) with family members at a ceremony to hand over a four-roomed house to her on Human Rights Day. Picture: Molaole Montsho

For Agnes Mosweu, the house brings joy and sorrow: joy that it is better than the shack she occupied in Scotland and sorrow in that she would see the graveyard where her son is buried and the dusty road where he died. 

Matlhomola suffered neck injuries and died on his way to hospital in Lichtenburg about 30km away. 

Emily Thomas, the project co-ordinator of Gift of the Givers Foundation, said they were hopeful that house would be turned into a home. "With this house, we want to say to the Mosweu family that as a country, we were crying with them at the time of their son’s death, and that we hope that house will bring them joy and special memories," she said.

"We are giving this house to you mama Mosweu and hope you will turn it into a home."

Matlhomola’s father Sakkie Dingake expressed displeasure at how the house issue was handled. He was a reluctant participant in the handing over ceremony. 

On arrival he occupied the back seat in the VIP tent, and refuse to join other family members in front, stating he was not invited to the ceremony. 

Dingake felt he was not consulted and was also not formally invited to the handing over of the house. Dingake and Mosweu do not live in the same house in Scotland.

He felt the house should have been built in Scotland not in town near white people, whom he said would still accuse his children of stealing from them.

saki house - A white house of hope and sorrow in Coligny
Murdered Coligny teenager Matlhomola Mosweu’s father Sakkie Dingake was a reluctant participant at the handing over ceremony of a house to his family. Picture: Photo: Molaole Montsho

According to the free encyclopedia, Wikipedia, Coligny was originally named Treurfontein  an Afrikaans word for spring of sadness or sorrow. It was renamed Coligny when it became a town on July 23 1923, after Gaspard de Coligny, a Huguenot leader who died in the Massacre of St Bartholomew in 1572.

It was a sad day for the black community when Matlhomola died and a sad day for the white community when Doorewaard and Schutter were sentenced to a lengthy jail term for his murder. 

Despite the sadness both communities experienced, there is a house to bring hope and unity,  a beacon of reconciliation.

School principal Stan Mynakama told the North West High Court that the black and white communities of Coligny need each other and all must play a role towards unity. 

He said Coligny was like a piano, to hear a harmonised melody you must play both black and white keys. " We alll have a role to play. I will bring my part and you should bring your part too. South Africa needs everyone. 

"It is like a piano when you play the black pieces only, you will not hear the melody; when you play the white pieces only, you do not hear the melody; but when you play the black and white pieces together you will hear the melody,"  he testified in court during mitigation and aggravation of sentence. 

African News Agency/ANA

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