Mosoko was dragged to his death by his boss's truck. Now his widow asks why

Click to follow
The Independent Online

A five-kilometre trail of blood, still visible along the tarred roads of Sasolburg, yesterday seemed to paint the latest chapter in South Africa's unresolved race wars.

A five-kilometre trail of blood, still visible along the tarred roads of Sasolburg, yesterday seemed to paint the latest chapter in South Africa's unresolved race wars.

The blood was that ofMosoko Rampuru, who on Friday night was dragged, by a wire tied to his ankle, behind his white employer's pick-up truck.

Yesterday a builder, Pieter Odendaal, 44, who was Mr Rampuru's boss, was remanded in custody on a charge of murder and questions began to be asked about the incident, which appears almost identical to the killing two years ago in Jasper, Texas, of James Byrd by three white racists.

Yesterday, in Sasolburg magistrates' court, 40 miles south of Johannesburg, the family of Mr Rampuru, who was 37, listened to the testimony of a police mortuary assistant, David Dingindlela.

He and colleagues had followed the trail of blood on Friday and seen it develop, as the kilometres went by, from blood into body parts and entrails. Even for experienced officers of the Free State, a province which has seen some of the brutal race tension in South Africa, the Rampuru killing was grotesque.

The police station had, Mr Dingindlela said, learnt of the suspected killing from a member of the public who called in to report seeing a body being dragged behind a vehicle. "We went out to the street the caller told us about. We saw traces of fresh blood on the road and decided to follow that. About a kilometre further down, we spotted the bakkie (pick-up). Suddenly the driver started spinning it around, with the body still tied to the back.

"It was terrible. The body was flung all over the place, while hitting hard against the road surface. Then the driver dumped it and drove away. There were pieces of human flesh and blood everywhere. The man's body had been damaged beyond recognition. It was just a skeleton. It had no buttocks and half of the skull had gone. You could see parts of the brain mixed with blood," said Mr Dingindlela.

Police followed the trail to Mr Odendaal's premises, where they found him having a drink, his hands bloodstained.

Mr Rampuru, it emerged, had been a driver for Mr Odendaal's company, but that was one of the few certainties to emerge yesterday as the case was postponed to Monday, when the suspect is expect to apply for bail.

As he left court yesterday Mr Rampuru's brother, Alfred Mphasa, said: "The whole thing makes me sick."

The victim's widow, Ntjantja, said: "Even a dog does not deserve to be killed like that." Mrs Rampuru, sitting on a mattress in the family home at Zamdela township, where relatives had gathered yesterday, said that when her husband had called her on Friday evening he had not mentioned a problem between him and Mr Odendaal. "He only told me that he was going to be late and that they were still drinking beer with Piet (Odendaal)," she added.

Mr Rampuru's colleagues said that since he had started working for Mr Odendaal's construction firm in January, the two had never fought over anything and that the white employer did not have reputation for being a racist.

Yesterday a police spokesman said that a post-mortem tomorrow would determine whether Mr Rampuru was dead before he was tied to the truck.

But this is only one of many questions that remain to be answered. The most poignant - and the most telling - will be whether, in a country still entertaining profound racial divisions and where black farm labourers still ride in the back of pick-ups while the boss's dog sits regally on the passenger seat, Mr Rampuru's death will inspire anything like the shock and outrage prompted by James Byrd's death.

Mr Rampuru's death is one of the most gruesome reported in South African in recent years. But many attacks that could be termed racist take place on remote farms and never reach the media.

In July last year, in an attack which received widespread publicity, Moses Nkosi, a farm labourer in Mpumalanga, east of Johannesburg, was sprayed with silver paint all over his body by two men including his employer, Frederick de Beer. Mr Nkosi, who received 3,000 rand (£300) compensation when the case came to court, has permanent kidney damage and rashes. He cannot work.

The latest attack comes on the eve of a conference on racism which has been sponsored by the government and which aims to produce a plan of action to reduce discrimination in South Africa.

Comments