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Cape Town - Experts warn that frustration with the police and the justice system will see vigilante killings continue to rise.
Nearly 80 vigilante killings were reported over 12 months in the Western Cape, most of them in Khayelitsha , and experts said this trend could grow if service delivery issues were not addressed urgently.
Last week, Joseph Hipandulwa, 33, was beaten before a tyre filled with paraffin was placed around his neck and set alight by Brown’s Farm residents. He had allegedly tried to burn a resident’s shack down in what is believed to have been a revenge attack.
Axolile Notywala, Social Justice Coalition spokesman, said vigilante killings occurred because people had no faith in the justice system, including police, metro police and the National Prosecuting Authority. “That is why people are taking the law into their own hands. Residents can report a crime at the police station, but they are sometimes chased away. Victims are not informed when suspects are out on bail so the community take it into their own hands.”
According to police reports, 78 vigilante killings were reported between April 2011 and April last year.
Notywala said it was difficult to convict perpetrators involved in mob killings.
Last year, Premier Helen Zille set up the O’Regan Commission of Inquiry after a comprehensive complaint was compiled by the Treatment Action Campaign, the Social Justice Coalition, Equal Education, the Triangle Project and Ndifuna Ukwazi, all represented by the Women’s Legal Centre.
The commission is tasked with investigating allegations of police inefficiencies in Khayelitsha.
But Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa applied last month to the Western Cape High Court for an interdict suspending the inquiry.
The court is expected to hand down its decision today.
Notywala said the problem was not only lazy policing but a lack of resources.
“If you look at the Cape Town CBD, there are cameras on every street corner, but in Khayelitsha there is one CCTV camera for the whole area,” he said.
Dr Johan Burger, senior researcher in the crime and justice programme at the Institute for Security Studies (ISS), said South Africa had a history of violence.
He said people appeared to believe that extreme violence like necklacing worked in the past so it should work now.
“People believe that using extreme measures will be a deterrent, such as killing someone in a gruesome manner. Some communities are just so fed up.”
Burger said that there had been a deterioration over time in service delivery.
“People are becoming frustrated, being victimised and believe that police won’t do justice. Frustration starts off with aggression and violence.”
Burger said people became emotionally charged as a group and sometimes acted irrationally.
“The danger in this situation is that there may be occasions where communities act against the wrong person. They kill or injure for a criminal act that does not justify such extreme results. And those involved in vigilante acts make themselves guilty of a crime, but people can’t understand why they get arrested.
“I think a lot of explanation for this behaviour, in essence, is the same as service delivery protests. (There is) the whole issue of frustration and what people believe they are entitled to… when they register a complaint at a police station… there should be a good reaction from police, especially in poorer communities like Khayelitsha.”
Burger said he supported the commission of inquiry.
“There are three police stations for Khayelitsha. But I think it may get worse unless authorities improve service delivery.”