People's justice 'barbaric'

2012-03-31 13:19

Monday the 19th of March when firefighters are called to put out a fire, normally if the address is an informal settlement; you would assume that it’s a shack that is on fire but on that day, men were on fire.

Residents of Enkanini, an informal settlement in Khayelitsha had had enough of criminals helping themselves on goods bought with their hard earned money.

When residents can no longer depend on the state for protection, they take that responsibility themselves so when all faith is lost on the justice system; it is commonly accepted that the people shall mobilise and do something.

However, burning a human being alive is simply barbaric. If you take a chicken to eat it, you must first kill it before burning it. What kind of a human being are you to take a tyre, put it on a man’s neck and light it? All this the while man is pleading for his life.

If you see someone take a nasty fall, the natural instinct is to help that person get up but now how does one watch while a man burns to death?

To attempt to answer this you must look at the circumstances that drove the people to committing such an ugly act.

When you are poor, all you work for is to get through the day with food in your tummy and ensure that your children are provided for. You get up at 3 o’clock in the morning because the boss could fire you if you show up late. Now not a lot of Khayelitsha residents work in Khayelitsha or close to Khayelitsha so one must consider travel time to work using public transport.

The hooligans hide in between the many shacks so they can get a clear view of the potential victim; if they hear the sound of female shoes walking on the road then it’s a lady and don’t think they won’t attack if you are walking with a male because a girl was raped while walking to the train station with 3 men.

At times the criminal could strike while you are still getting ready for work. A women had gone outside to throw the dirty water into the storm water drain; when she turned around, the hooligan told her not to scream (a knife is used to ensure that she thinks twice about screaming and more sophisticated hooligans will use a gun), escort you to your shack, then they simply help themselves on whatever goods they can carry.

Then one mama had a Kettle full of boiled water when a hooligan started working, she simply reached for the kettle while the skoli was busy helping himself and threw it on his head then screamed for help; the people who were on their way to work and neighbours responded then the police found the hooligan dead on Bayana Avenue in Site B.

So you work hard trying to survive and the hooligans want to help themselves on your goods hence the people have no mercy when a hooligan is caught in the act unless there is a relative near-by, that hooligan will be dead before the police arrive.

One Pastor put his life on the line when he had just got off the train from church on a Sunday then saw people next to the rail as though someone had been hit by a train only to discover that the people had caught a thief; instead of calling the police, they decided that he must die and were going to tie him on the rail tracks for the express train top kill him.

Then the Pastor begged the people not to and someone had called the police so the Pastor pleading for the man’s life bought the police enough time to save the hooligan. Normally in a mob justice situation if you do anything to try and save the hooligan; the question you are asked is do you wish to die with the hooligan?

Another incident of people’s justice was in my high school years; maybe this should be called pupil’s justice as it involves school children. A boy got up while the teacher was busy writing on the board, when she turned to face the students, there the hooligan was, pointing a knife at her demanding all her jewellery and cash.

This upset the learners but they let him finish his job then when he was leaving the school premises, all the school’s athletes went after him, caught him then every learner wanted a piece of him. He was unconscious when the police arrived and I ran home.

But more disturbing was a boy who had been ‘abusing’ his gogo, I hear the gogo slept on the floor while the boy was busy banging girls on her bed. He would also take most of her pension grant if he didn’t rob enough people for the day.

He robbed the wrong person one day and that was the last person he would ever rob because the people beat the crap out of him, cut his balls off and took them to his gogo; the gogo said “Thanks God”.

There are many stories of People’s Justice that would give you nightmares but hooligans do not always pay with their lives. One was forced to eat faeces from the bucket when we had the bucket system. Just imagine the humiliation of walking around covered with shit and being forced to eat it or die.

And a few people feel sorry for these hooligans, of course you would if you didn’t have to go to sleep with a knife or Axe under your pillow with your electric fencing. When you step outside you wonder if you are going to make it to work or you will get home from work safely.

People are fed up with being held hostage in their communities but the crazy part is that they also contribute to this crime by buying stolen goods. I was in a taxi once and a man came to sell children’s clothes. By looking at him you could see that this man needed the money to buy alcohol because he reeked of alcohol.

When I raised this issue with the women who bought the nice clothes for R5 per item I asked them if they know that they are contributing to crime. The women had the best excuse for this, “no, it’s not stolen, he must have gotten them from his boss” the women said.

Perhaps boss John and the Madam should not give employees old stuff when they are buying new ones but then again, people will come up with another excuse.

Although people should not be encouraged to take the law into their own hands, I completely understand why people do it because you call the police today, they take the hooligan and the next day or month the hooligan is back on the streets robbing people again.

We were promised a review of the criminal justice system but again that promise was made by a politician so we should not expect changes anytime soon so the people will kill the hooligans when they are fed up with crime.

In the old days you would kill one hooligan in an area and the entire area would be almost crime free for the next couple of months so sacrificing the life of a hooligan for peace is more effective than our justice system. How else do you think people managed to curb the number of house breaking incidents in the informal settlements around Khayelitsha? The good work of the SAPS? I doubt it very much.

The justice system should address the gross violation of human rights by hooligans and not refer to robbery as ordinary or common assaults because we all have a constitutional right to feel safe. When one holds a gun against your head demanding all your valuables; it becomes difficult for you to feel sorry for a hooligan being burnt to death so People’s Justice reigns until the people gain confidence in the criminal justice system.

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