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KwaZulu-Natal - In a brutal act of mob justice that has been slammed by police, two young uMlazi men were allegedly assaulted on Monday and forced to drink acid by members of the community who accused them of being thieves.
One has been permanently blinded after the chemical spilt on to his eyes and face as he fought off the men who were allegedly forcing him to drink it.
Njabulo Mwandla, 20, and Ngcebo Dube, 22, were allegedly assaulted for about 10 hours by men who suspected them of stealing a braai stand and boots from one of their yards.
Mwandla’s family said that after about eight hours of physical torture, the acid was brought out.
According to the area councillor, this was the fourth incident of vigilantism in the area this month.
“It’s not just a U-section thing, Z-section also has had incidents where members of the community have taken the law into their own hands,” said the area councillor for U-section, Ziphathele Nzama.
He said communities in most sections of uMlazi were sorting out the criminals themselves.
“If police were doing their job, people wouldn’t be doing this (vigilantism),” he said.
Police spokesman, Colonel Jay Naicker, said two counts of attempted murder were being investigated.
He confirmed that both men had an acidic chemical poured on them.
“They sustained serious injuries and the reason for the attack will be established during the pending investigation,” Naicker said. “No arrest has been made at this stage and the community is strongly warned against taking the law into their own hands as the police will not hesitate to arrest anyone implicated in this criminal and barbaric deed.”
Nzama said the situation was a difficult one, because inasmuch as he was a leader in the community and did not condone vigilantism, “I also don’t blame people for doing this”.
He said the increase in drug use, particularly woonga, had contributed to escalating crime in the area that included theft, robberies and house-breaking.
“I don’t want to blame the police too much because the bottom line is that life in this ward has become bad in terms of crime and it needs to be dealt with a hard, strict hand,” Nzama said. “Even schools are being vandalised to feed the drug habit.”
Speaking to the Daily News on Tuesday, Dube’s sister, Jabu, said when she arrived at the scene, she was told that the men had been forced to drink the acid and one of them had fought back.
“Njabulo’s lips were as white as a sheet of paper when I saw him and where the acid had (been) poured on to his skin,” she said. “It was scary
Jabu said she was told that her brother managed to escape and hid in the bushes not far away.
She said when they found Dube his eyeballs were almost out of their sockets and his eyes had rolled back.
“I had to put him on my back and carry him across the river so that we could take him to hospital,” Jabu said.
Mwandla’s mother, Zanele, said she did not have the strength to go and watch as her son was being beaten up.
“They tied his hands behind his back,” she said.
“The jeans he was wearing are finished where the acid (was) poured on to him. I cannot begin to imagine what this acid has done to the inside of his body.”
Zanele said that doctors at the hospital had said that Njabulo’s liver would not recover from the acid damage.
Naicker urged communities to report any crime to police, promising they would effectively investigate and prosecute the alleged offenders.
However, Mwandla’s sister, Nompumelelo, said she phoned police as soon as she had heard of the attack, but they did not arrive.