Close to 300 vigilante-inspired murder cases recorded this year, says top cop

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A general view of a scene where 4 people were killed in an alleged mob justice attack in Zandspruit.
A general view of a scene where 4 people were killed in an alleged mob justice attack in Zandspruit.
(Photo by Gallo Images/Luba Lesolle)
  • Major-General Thokozani Mathonsi said close to 300 vigilante-inspired murder cases were recorded during the fourth quarter of the financial year.
  • Mathonsi was speaking during a webinar on vigilantism and human rights.
  • South Africa has seen a rise in incidents of mob justice recently, notably the Zandspruit murders

Major-General Thokozani Mathonsi has said close to 300 vigilante-inspired murder cases were recorded by the police during the fourth quarter of the financial year.

Mathonsi was speaking at a webinar, which was hosted by Government Communication and Information Systems and the National Press Club on Thursday, on vigilantism and human rights.

It was attended by representatives from the police, SA Human Rights Commission, and the Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation.

"Vigilantism, or mob justice as it is called, we are talking about the action when an ordinary person or group of people take the law into their own hands in order to deal with an alleged crime or criminality.

"For instance, during the fourth quarter of the last financial year, which would be January to March, from our side, we recorded 298 murders emanating from mob justice."

Mathonsi said the police also recorded 69 attempted murders and 403 assault with intent to do grievous bodily harm cases, which equated to 770 cases in just three months.

READ: Lizette Lancaster | Vigilantism: A symptom of a violent underserviced society

He added there was no justification for people to take the law into their own hands.

There is no justice about vigilantism. It perpetuates further criminality and contributes to violence.

Mathonsi said only the police have the constitutional mandate to enforce the law.

He, however, noted the Criminal Procedure Act allowed for anyone to effect an arrest under certain circumstances, for instance, a Schedule 1 offence.

"For instance, if you see someone commit a crime, they have broken into your neighbour's house and are running and carrying a TV, as a citizen, you are allowed to arrest [them]."

Mathonsi added the arrest should be effected within the prescripts of the law.

"The incidents of vigilantism are illegal and constitute a serious violation of individual rights. Every person is innocent in the eyes of the law until proven otherwise by the court of law, not an individual person."

South Africa is no stranger to vigilantism or mob justice, with the most notable case being the Zandspruit murders that took place in May.

READ | Zandspruit vigilante killings: Families of victims still haunted by screams of their sons

The incident made headlines when nine young men accused of terrorising residents in the area were abducted from their homes.They were taken to a soccer pitch, and their hands were tied behind them.

Sticks, steel pipes, wooden poles, and sjamboks were used to assault them, and they were stoned before they were doused in paraffin and petrol and set alight.

Some were necklaced, News24 reported.

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