Festival at Hartbeespoort Dam cancelled after alleged Hartley Ngoato racial assault

A festival scheduled to have been held at the Hartbeespoort Dam in the North West next month has been cancelled because of a recent alleged racial attack.

Schoemansville Oewer Club chairperson Willie Meyer said on Thursday they had cancelled the Oewer Festival‚ because of the “real danger of racial incidents”.

“The threatening‚ sinister and abusive tone of the hundreds of reactions convinced the club committee that it would be unwise to proceed with the festival.”

This comes after an attack on National Arts Council chairperson and lawyer Hartley Sandy Ngoato at the club on Sunday.

The festival would have been held from September 5-8. In a statement about the incident‚ Ngoate’s family quoted Thembelani Mpakati‚ a colleague and friend of Ngoato’s‚ who was reportedly with him at the time of the attack. Mpakati said they had spent the afternoon cruising on the dam before returning to the club.

“I jumped off the boat with Mr Ngoato to go and assist him to reverse his bakkie‚ which had a boat trailer hooked at the back. As Mr Ngoato was reversing‚ a white man‚ who had spent the afternoon picnicking at the Oewer Club‚ approached the driver’s side of Mr Ngoato’s bakkie and banged on the door.”

Ngoato opened his door because there was an electrical fault with the window. “Before Mr Ngoato could even speak‚ [the man] started shouting at him and asked Mr Ngoato what he thought he was doing. From what I could hear‚ [the man] was accusing Mr Ngoato of speeding‚ something which was highly impossible taking into consideration the limited space available to speed from where Mr Ngoato had parked his bakkie and where his boat would be hooked.”

Mpakati said racial remarks were hurled at his colleague.

“[The man] clearly and loudly kept shouting ‘f**k these blacks!! They must go away.’ In no time‚ three or four other burly white men had approached Mr Ngoato’s bakkie and were encouraging [the attacker] on. The entire situation was very heated and soon became aggressive. Mr Ngoato kept asking them what exactly he had done wrong to rile them up so aggressively‚ but none of the men gave him a coherent answer.”

Mpakati said they then pushed Ngoato to the ground.

“[The attacker] continuously smashed Mr Ngoato’s head against the concrete ground. None of the other white men did anything to stop [him] at that time. Instead‚ they allowed the physical attack to continue and blocked me from going to assist Mr Ngoato‚” Mpakati said.

Mr Ngoato eventually managed to stand up and reached into his bakkie. He brought out a spanner and threatened to attack them in self-defence‚ and it was only then that [the attacker] and his crew drew back.”

Ngoato posted photographs of his injuries‚ including an open wound to his head‚ on social media which went viral. The family said in their statement he had also sustained scarring to his left leg‚ swelling to his right hand and bruising to his face.

Ngoato wrote in the post on social media which has subsequently been deleted: “Attacked by whites in Hartbeespoortdam for been (sic) black at the Ouwers club. The same place SABC Carte Blanche interviewed me for the betterment of the dam. Now [a] few months later‚ I am denied to enjoy the same dam by whites who are opposed to [the] black guy to occupy a piece of land that belongs to [the] government.”

Meyer said the club did not tolerate racism. He added it was up to the police to investigate and that they would not respond to the Ngoate family’s statement.

“Most of the visitors to the club are black and there has never been a racial incident for as long as the present committee has been in office.”

Meyer said Ngoato had joined the club two months ago and said they were informed about the incident late on Sunday afternoon.

“Information available at that stage indicated that two of the club members were allegedly involved in an argument that led to an assault. The committee and personnel of the club did not witness the incident.”

Lieutenant-Colonel Amanda Funani said a suspect had been arrested on Sunday and charged with assault with intent to cause grievous bodily harm.

“He was taken to hospital‚ treated and then put in a cell. He then appeared in court on Monday and was granted bail.”