Joyride turns into horror experience

A planned Sunday afternoon joyride turned into a horror experience after a group of motorcycle riders drove into an area where an initiation school was in progress.

A man who responded to a call for help and ended up being in the midst of negotiations, spoke to the Middelburg Observer but requested for his name to be withheld.

He said that eight young men went for a joyride in the veld between Botshabelo and Avalon. One of the motorcycles broke down and the driver phoned for someone to come pick him up in a vehicle.

Another motorcyclist stayed with him whilst he pushed his bike out of the mountainous area where they were riding in the direction of the Loskopdam Road. The motorcyclist said that at one stage he saw a large group of men walking his way and he assumed that they were coming to help him.

Things took a turn for the worst from there. The group confronted the motorcyclists, asking them what they were doing in the area and threatening to assault them. The motorcyclist who pushed his bike, left it behind and jumped on the back of his friend’s motorcycle to escape the group of men.

When they later returned, with a pickup truck to load the motorcycle they left behind, they were informed that the motorcycle was taken by the initiates.

A large group of people, belonging to safety organisations in Middelburg, responded to a call for assistance and gathered some 800 metres away from the initiation camp.

The situation was tense, with some of the men involved in negotiations for the motorcycle, being held against their will and assaulted in the process.

Also read a previous story: Cyclist attacked with bricks and a panga

Both the Middelburg and Mhluzi police arrived on the scene. The men being held captive managed to escape but they had to leave their motorcycle behind.

At one stage another group of initiates wanted to pass where people who responded to the scene gathered.

“I asked the men to move back after we were requested. We tried to handle everything with respect, but it is difficult when you do not know what the rules are and when you are doing something wrong,” the man who spoke to the Middelburg Observer said.

He said that the group passed them without any incident.

Another king and a group of initiates and elders came to negotiate for the motorcycle. The person driving the vehicle, initially called to pick up the broken down bike, tried to negotiate with the group on his own.

“We could see him standing with the initiates but we were too far away to hear what was happening,” the eyewitness said.

A delegate came to inform them that the king insisted that the motorcyclists involved must come and apologise and give him cattle or money as a token of their apology.

The eyewitness said that the motorcyclists got onto the back of his pickup truck and he drove closer to the group of initiates.

“It was only when I arrived there that I realised just how tense the situation was. People were circling the guy, singing songs with knob-kierries in their hands. They would not let him leave.”

He said that he decided the situation was too tense to try and negotiate, and with his arrival drawing attention away from the man being blocked by the group, he advised him to also get in his vehicle and leave.

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“I told the guys with me that they must rather go to the police and report their motorcycle stolen. It was just too dangerous to try and retrieve it from where it was.”

At the Middelburg Police Station, the men were referred to the Mhluzi Station. When they arrived, the king as well as a large group of men who were present at the initiation school, were already there. The situation was extremely tense.

A police constable tried to negotiate with the king, but he was adamant that without an apology and some sort of compensation, he will not let the motorcycle go.

Whilst the motorcyclists attempted to open cases of assault, kidnapping and theft, the king threatened to lay a charge of trespassing.

Meanwhile it came to light that one of the eight motorcyclists who went to the area together, was missing. It was later established that he was also assaulted by the group before police came to his rescue by locking him and his motorcycle in the back of a police vehicle.

After intense negotiations, it was concluded that a police officer, the king as well as one “white man” will be allowed to go retrieve the motorcycle from the mountain.

“I was supposed to go, but it was 18:30 already and I decided it was too dangerous. I said to the police officer that I do not feel safe enough to return to the scene. We decided to go home and try again the next day,” the eyewitness said.

After about 30 minutes he was called to say that the motorcycle was at the police station and that they could come and collect it.

“The worrying thing was that we were never trying to disrespect anyone, yet we were treated as such. How must we know what the laws are if they are being kept secret? How must we know that a place that is known for its bike tracks, is suddenly a no-go area?”

The king informed them that the area is a no-go for the next two months.

“We were submitted to racial insults and false allegations. At one stage I went to sit in my vehicle to avoid tension at the police station. They accused the motorcyclists of trespassing, but there is no fence and no sign what so ever to inform people of what is going on. It might sound stupid, but they must put up a sign if they do not want people to go there.”

• Initiation season, sees young men and women entering into adulthood by being taught traditional customs and being submitted to traditional rites and practises at initiation schools, normally held in remote areas.

Jana Boshoff

Award-winning community news journalist with over a decade's newsroom experience. Passionate about hard-hitting news stories!
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