Mob justice for three 'thieves'

2009-02-26 00:00

A mob of Mpumalanga township residents stoned and killed three people suspected of a string of break-ins and robberies in the area and burnt three houses alleged to have been “crime nests”. Some of the suspects are still missing and are feared to be dead after angry community members went out on a manhunt “to root out crime” in the township.

Fed up with the countless break-ins, muggings and robberies, community members took the law into their own hands on Tuesday night. Armed with stones, bush knives and tomahawks, the mob crisscrossed the township searching for the suspects.

The hunt started at Unit Three, residents going through suspected robbers’ houses searching for stolen items and burning down some of the houses. In two days, more than six people suspected of being involved in criminal activities were caught, stoned and hacked. Only the lucky ones escaped the wrath of the residents, one of them was saved by the arrival of the police.

SAPS spokesman Muzi Mngomezulu said residents caught the suspects and handed them to the police. “Two suspects who were badly beaten were handed to the police by the community on Tuesday, and three were killed by the community on Wednesday. All were suspected to have committed different cases of theft and robbery.”

According to a witness who spoke on condition of anonymity, residents’ patience finally snapped when a local shop was broken into on Tuesday night. “The community was fed up with crime, people were living in fear. If you haven’t been robbed, your neighbour has been robbed or has had a break-in by the people we know.” He said the break-in at the shop was the last straw.

During their search, the mob found one of the wanted suspects and started torturing him, demanding that he point out other suspected robbers.

Three houses where the suspects lived were burnt down.

“Some people recovered items they claimed were stolen from them. Four suspects in total were found and were severely beaten; I don’t think they survived. I heard that one of them died in hospital on yesterday,” the witness said.

Another witness said one of the suspects had his eye poked out and another had his finger cut off.

The Witness spoke to Anna Ndlovu, who said her 29-year-old son Joe had disappeared. “He was not in the house when the community arrived. He has not returned and we are afraid that he may be dead.”

“Residents feel much safer in the streets and their homes, it was the only way of rooting out crime,” said one of the residents.

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