Necklace makes a chilling comeback

2012-06-09 18:08

As necklacing incidents in one of Cape Town’s

biggest suburbs spiral, Western Cape Premier Helen Zille has announced that

she’s looking to set up a commission of inquiry into the breakdown of relations

between Khayelitsha residents and the police.

Recorded cases of necklacing in Khayelitsha

are on the rise as residents insist this is the only way to effectively deal

with thugs.


Just yesterday, Eyewitness News reported that

a suspected thief had been assaulted and set alight by residents. No further

details were available at the time of going to press.


It’s not just known criminals who are being

attacked and burnt alive.


Freelance photographer Masixole Feni was at

the scene of a shack fire in Khayelitsha’s TR informal settlement a few weeks

ago, hoping to get a few photos.


A man who was desperately shovelling sand onto

the fire in a vain attempt to douse it became enraged that Feni was taking

photographs instead of helping to extinguish the flames.


The man threatened Feni with a spade, so the

young photographer turned and ran.


The decision almost cost him his life.


Within seconds other residents had taken up the

cry to catch him. Assuming he was a thief fleeing the scene of his crime,

growing numbers of people took up the chase.


Sprinting down the narrow alleyways between

shacks, Feni believed he’d made his escape when a number of youths, spurred by

the baying crowd, rounded the end of the alley.


Running full tilt at them and using his

battered Canon camera as a weapon, Feni only just managed to escape their

clutches and make his getaway.


Feni told City Press he had no doubt he would

have been seriously injured and probably killed had he been caught by the mob.


The practice of necklacing, used to kill

suspected police informers during the anti-apartheid struggle, seemed to

have disappeared in democratic South Africa.

However, four suspected criminals were

reportedly necklaced in Port Elizabeth in June last year and a spate of

necklacings or incidents where suspected thieves have been burnt to death, have

occurred in Khayelitsha over the past five months.


The reason many Khayelitsha residents gave for

the reintroduction of necklacing was simple: it’s a quick way to kill someone.


“Stoning a person to death takes time,

necklacing is easy and quick. Once the person is set alight he may run, but the

wind will only feed the fire even more,” was the way one resident

dispassionately put it.


Community leaders, like those in structures

such as Sanco (South African National Civic Organisation), are appealing to

residents not to take the law into their own hands. It appears to be a losing

battle.


“People are very angry because most of the

time if a suspect gets arrested today the next day they are out doing the same

thing to the people who got them arrested,” said Sanco’s Vuyo Momoti.


He said he would continue meeting with

residents in an effort to urge them to stop vigilante killings.


In response to detailed questions, provincial

police liaison officer Andre Traut said “acts of vigilantism were strongly

condemned by SAPS”.


Traut said “various initiatives” to reduce

“these violent acts” were being applied in communities to make people aware of

“the dangers of participating in vigilantism”.


The issue of necklacing was raised by activist

Zackie Achmat in court papers he filed as part of an application in which former

crime intelligence boss Richard Mdluli was interdicted from returning to

work.


Achmat wrote: “In Khayelitsha, eight people

have been killed in separate incidents by necklacing in acts of vigilante mob

violence over the past three months alone.


“The failure of the SAPS and National

Prosecuting Authority to act effectively and transparently against those accused

of serious offences creates a climate in which the public loses confidence in

our security services and justice system, and in?our Constitution.”


Zille said this week that lawyers were

formulating an opinion on the “applicable legal frameworks” to guide a decision

about the scope of a potential commission.


A number of civil society groups have called

for a commission of inquiry around policing in Khayelitsha. She said vigilantism

and necklacing was “brutal and savage violence” which took South Africa back to

“the darkest days of apartheid”.


The province was doing what it could to

prevent vigilantism, she said.


But an effective criminal justice system that

“enjoys the confidence, goodwill and co-operation of communities” was vital to

reducing crime and vigilante violence.



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