Cape Town – Residents in Delft, a township on the outskirts of Cape Town, took the law into their own hands, fatally burning five people who were reportedly involved in house robberies.
According to News24, South African Police Service (SAPS) spokesperson Colonel Andrè Traut said that community members allegedly accused the victims of invading a home and stealing a cell phone.
“They were caught, beaten and set alight. The circumstances surrounding the incident are under investigation, and arrests are yet to be made,” the report quoted Traut as saying.
“Vigilantism is condemned in the strongest possible terms, and those who take the law into their own hands will be pursued and prosecuted as criminals.”
The Colonel also confirmed that another body was discovered by SAPS on Tuesday.
In another incident, the partially burned and bound body of one of the mob justice victims was found by a Pastor in the Church at Tshikota location in Louis Trichardt on Sunday morning, December 25, 2022.
According to a statement, the Provincial Commissioner of Police in Limpopo Lieutenant General Thembi Hadebe strongly warned vigilante groups for taking the law into their own hands and killing people they suspected of crime.
According to SAPS spokesperson, Colonel Malesela Ledwaba, the incident followed a chain of events that commenced with the reporting of a case of burglary business at Makhado police station which allegedly took place at a school at Tshikota location on Tuesday, December 20, 2022.
“On Wednesday 21 December 2022, a vigilante group calling themselves “Tshikota Anti-crime Group” reportedly traced the suspects without knowledge of the police. They managed to locate three African males and accused them of being responsible for the burglary,” Ledwaba saidt.
“They were taken to the local graveyard and one of the victims managed to escape from the mob but the other two were severely assaulted and later doused with a flammable substance and set alight.
“The group initially misrepresented the facts and allegedly told the family of one of the victims that they rescued him from unknown mob after they set alight and that the other victim ran into the bushes while burning.”
The victim, identified as Tumelo Mamitja, 22, was taken to the local hospital and was transferred to Mankweng hospital where he later succumbed to the burn wounds on Friday, December 23, 2022.
The Police have opened two counts of kidnapping and murder. Three suspects, aged between 40 and 50 are expected to appear in Louis Trichardt magistrate court on Wednesday, December 28, 2022.
Lieutenant General Hadebe condemned the acts of vigilantism.
“This incident is highly deplorable and the culprits have to face the full might of the law. People wanting to contribute to the fight against crime must do so within the existing legal structures such as the Community Policing Forums (CPFs), Community Safety Forums (CSFs), Community In Blue (CIBs) or street patrollers.
“Anything outside the recognized and legal structures is regarded as vigilante group and the police will be merciless in dealing with lawlessness.” Hadebe said.
A study conducted by the Department of Community Safety Provincial Government of the Western Cape found that one of the causes for Vigilantism was a lack of trust in the SAPS, as well as a lack of trust in the prosecution system.
“The members of SANCO, PEACA, Provincial Legislature, Social Services, Public Prosecutor, Church leader, Neighbourhood watch, Disaster Manager, CODETA, SAPS Khayelitsha and Business Forum felt that the slow reaction time of the SAPS contribute to vigilante activity.
“Some of them mentioned lack of trust in the SAPS, weak statement taking, poor detective work, no follow-up on cases, no communication between the detectives and community, as well as corruption of SAPS members,” said Benjamin Häefele who compiled the study.
Compiled by Junaid Benjamin