Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Killed over a bag of potatoes

May 10 2011

The whispers of a young city man on his deathbed has led to the arrest of two men for a vigilante attack over a pocket of potatoes, while a third is still being sought by police. 

Ridhwaan Fester, 23, of Parktown in Athlone died yesterday morning after the attack that left him disfigured and later in a coma. 

He died after his life support machines were switched off. 

Police spokesman Warrant Officer Ian Bennett confirmed today that before slipping into a coma, Fester had whispered the names of his alleged attackers to a family member. 

Bennett said this had led to the arrest of two men, one of 58 and one of 40, just a day later. 

The third man has not yet been found. 

He said the two men had been charged with murder and would appear in the Athlone Magistrate’s Court tomorrow. 

It is alleged that Fester tried to steal a pocket of potatoes from a fruit and vegetable stand in Lower Klipfontein Road in Gatesville last Monday. The stock is left in the stand overnight, and watched over by a security guard. 

According to a witness, who asked not to be named, Fester was caught by a security guard at about midnight. 

In his harrowing account of events, the man described how Fester had tried to run away, but had been caught and allegedly dragged back across Klipfontein Road and tied to a lamp post in the Gatesville parking lot. There he had been allegedly savagely beaten and left tied to the pole, said the man. 

The witness said that at about 5am, Fester had tried to escape. A group of about five men had gone back and turned on him, using pipes, sjamboks and wooden planks with protruding nails to beat him.
“It was brutal. I wish I could have helped him, but I know I would have also been beaten,” said the man.
Bennett said police officers on patrol had seen Fester tied to the pole. The officers had immediately called for an ambulance to take him to the Hanover Park day hospital.
His uncle, Naseegh Fester, said the family had gone to the hospital and could not believe what he looked like.
“He was disfigured. He had two holes in the side of his head where the nails had hit him. He had holes in his legs. He had sjambok marks on his face, back and legs. He was barely conscious,” said Fester.
He said his nephew’s body was covered with scratch marks, as if he had been dragged.
It was at this time that Ridhwaan Fester identified his attackers in a whisper to a family member.
The men were known to the family and Fester was also able to confirm that he had been alone during the attack.
The family then took him home and he went to bed. “I tried to wake him up on Tuesday morning, but he had slipped into a coma,” said his mother, Sumaya Kamalie.
He was taken to Groote Schuur Hospital where he remained in a coma and on life support.
The machines were switched off yesterday morning.
“All of this about potatoes. And it’s not like he even had the stuff. There was nothing on him,” said his uncle after his funeral yesterday afternoon.
Community Safety MEC Albert Fritz said any vigilante actions had to be rejected.
“You can’t kill someone over a pocket of potatoes.
“There’s a tendency of not reporting crime because people want street justice. But they need to respect the rule of law,” said Fritz.
Athlone MP Connie September condemned the murder. “As much as we want a crime-free society, we can’t have a situation where people take the law into their own hands,” she said.
She said that instead of acts of vigilantism, policing, street committees and community policing forums needed strengthening to combat the huge crime wave in the area.
September welcomed the arrests.
Bennett said police were still investigating and asked that anyone with information contact Constable Zass at 021 697 9238 or 084 201 9519, or CrimeStop at 08600 10111. 

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