'Brutal vigilantism' prevalent in Zandspruit, court hears

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Some of the 14 suspects accused of killing eight young men in Zandspruit
Some of the 14 suspects accused of killing eight young men in Zandspruit
Ntwaagae Seleka
  • Vigilantism in Zandspruit continues with impunity despite the arrest of 14 people for allegedly torching to death eight young men.
  • Two of the accused abandoned their bail application.                                     
  • Three were released on R3 000 bail, while nine were denied bail. 

"Vigilantism can only cause chaos in our communities."

This was according to a Roodepoort magistrate, who rebuked the way eight Zandspruit young men were murdered by a vigilante group four months ago.

Magistrate Ruby Mathys said that brutal vigilantism by necklacing (a burning tyre around the neck) was prevalent in Zandspruit.

Mathys said a civilised society must respond to crime when and where it surfaced with fairness and justice.

Mathys was handing down judgment in a bail application by 12 of the 14 suspects accused of killing eight young men between 18 and 19 May 2021.

Tebogo Mabula, Mziwamangwane Witbooi, Njabulo Zwane, Phakiswa Tsengiswa, Maxwell Mpofu, Klaas Masemola, Joshua Mabodze, Alfred Mollo, Everyone Moyo, Phillimon Seemela, Douglas Tshuma, Charles Ramashia, Phiwe Khubeka and Peter Mufamadi appeared before Mathys on Tuesday.

Khubeka, Tsengiswa and Seemela were granted R3 000 bail each, while Mpofu and Moyo abandoned their bail application.

Mathys denied the other nine accused bail.

The accused face eight counts of murder, one charge of attempted murder, nine of kidnapping and nine of housebreaking.

READ | Zandspruit death toll climbs to 8 as Cele calls for heads to roll over slow police response

"The victims were kidnapped from their homes and assaulted in full view of family and friends. They took them to Masemola's yard, where they were interrogated and brutally assaulted until sunrise. 

"They then took them from Masemola's yard to a soccer field where they were further assaulted with all sorts of weapons until 07:00. Police who responded to the scene were outnumbered by a huge crowd of people who militated for public order police to be called.

"The nine victims were necklaced with tyres doused with paraffin. Four died from burn wounds. They were burnt beyond recognition. Four others later succumbed in hospital. One survived the ordeal with burn wounds and is in hiding," said Mathys.

The mob was retaliating to an incident where Masemola and his partner were robbed.

"Execution of people by burning them is prevalent in Zandspruit, and police have not investigated numerous similar cases," said Mathys.

"These brutal incidents continue with impunity ... and witnesses refrain form coming forward in fear of harm. The perpetrators were resolute and acted together, disregarding all laws, rules, and norms that all of us are obliged to live by.

"A civilised society must respond to crime when and where it surfaces with fairness and justice, and vigilantism can only cause chaos in our communities. The amount of pain and humiliation that these victims of these horrific crimes had to endure for more than six hours whilst those close to them had to look on is difficult to comprehend. Unfortunately, that is true."

NPA regional spokesperson Phindi Mjonondwane said they welcomed Mathys' bail ruling.

The matter was postponed to 27 October.

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