KNYSNA NEWS - The death of a 22-year-old man following an alleged mob justice attack, has led to a racial rift in Concordia.
Franklin Stroebel, a member of Concordia's so-called "coloured" community, was picked up from his home by the police after he was allegedly implicated in a burglary on the weekend, when an undisclosed amount of money was stolen.
It remains unclear how the community got their hands on him after his arrest.
Two men have subsequently been detained in relation with Stroebel's death, one a 36-year-old black suspect whose house was broken into on Sunday 20 October. This suspect's house and all his belongings were burnt by community members after Stroebel's arrest.
Knysna police spokesperson Sergeant Chris Spies said more arrests could be made as the investigation unfolds.
The area's councillor, Thando Matika, said the incident has created racial tension in Ward 8, which is why a meeting between relevant parties in the community, including the police, was arranged for 22 October, to seek clarity and maintaining peace and order. "The suspect is black and the deceased is coloured," Matika said. "There are allegations that are fuelling the situation, so we have asked the police to assist in giving us answers to maintain peace."
During the meeting on Tuesday, the deceased's mother, Shelly Stroebel, was comforted by family spokesperson, Magdalene Moos, who told those present that Stroebel was picked up unharmed by the police at about 22:00 on the night of the incident, but by about 02:00 they learned he was assaulted. "What happened between the time he was picked up and the assault?'' Moos asked. "What is even more painful is that the family didn't learn about his passing through the police in whose care he was left. This is why the community reacted the way they did. When will this end?"
The rest of the community were afforded an opportunity to pose questions to the police. One person at the meeting asked how the people knew where to find Stroebel after he was picked up by police. Another wanted to know why he wasn't kept in police custody.
Amid cries of "lies, lies, lies!" station commander Colonel Atwell Metu appealed to anyone who might have seen the police vehicle picking up Stroebel to come forward with information, "so that I can ascertain if there is any misconduct from the police".
Metu confirmed that two men had been arrested in connection with the case and that the police intend to oppose bail. This was met by applause. "There could be more arrests," he said, but cautioned, "The community needs to shy away from taking the law into their own hands, I cannot reiterate this enough."
Detective branch commander Lieutenant Colonel Siddique Khan said an investigating officer has been assigned to the case and they are waiting for statements from two Knysna police officers to gain better insight into what had transpired that night. Khan also cautioned the community against vigilantism. He explained that because the house of the one suspect had been burnt down, all the evidence he was supposed to gather is gone. He appealed to the community to treat everyone the same: "In as much as he is a suspect, he is also a complainant," Khan said.
He implored those who live near the suspect's house to come forward with any information they might have, and confirmed that the accused men would remain in custody "like we did in the Molosi murder case". "I expect to see the same unity that was demonstrated on that case. What is heartbreaking is that I hear there is a rift between coloured and black people."
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