Pretoria – Paramedics transported a severely beaten man to hospital on Saturday – one of two men who were brutally attacked and assaulted by a mob in the community of Salvokop near the Pretoria CBD earlier this week.
Deeply scarred and with a swollen face, Abester Muzhambi was found by community members who had organised themselves into search parties since the vigilante attack took place early on Wednesday morning. He was groaning in anguish as he was loaded into the private ambulance.
Some community members questioned the police reaction in the wake of the mob attack.
“This man has been lying in this forest for three days, half dead. No medical attention, and he has been in this veld day and night. Police have not even bothered to question the people who assaulted him. We know the assailants and they are walking in the community confidently. It is police inactivity which makes these incidents part of our life. You would think someone would be arrested for this attempted murder, but the police choose to look the other way,” said Ephraim Masango who was among the team which searched for and found the badly beaten Muzhambi.
Simmering tensions within the Pretoria community reached boiling point this week when Muzhambi and Xolani Ndlovu were seized from their respective shacks on Wednesday by an angry mob baying for blood. The two were assaulted and paraded on the streets. Traces of their blood have been covered by sand on the pavements. Eyewitnesses said rocks and sjamboks were used in the assault. Muzhambi’s relatives had been searching for him at government hospitals, police stations, and mortuaries since the incident.
On Friday night, police were called to quell tensions in the Salvokop area after a community meeting called to discuss the circumstances around the targeting and assault of the two young men almost degenerated into a fist fight.
“Just give us back our brother. There will not be peace in this community if he is dead. This is the turning point. This incident has proven again that we live in a community full of hatred and prejudice. You cannot apprehend a man, try him in your kangaroo courts, and dish out justice. This is not a jungle,” screamed one community member at the Friday night meeting before it degenerated.
Muzhambi was found on Saturday, after he had last been seen in the early hours of Wednesday morning when he was being flogged on the streets.
A video of the mob justice has since emerged, but the man who recorded the early morning incident said he was stopped by the assailants before the assault became worse. Some community members said incidents of mob justice were a common occurrence in the community inhabited by people from different parts of South Africa and other African countries.
“In this community we live at the mercy of these terror groups. It’s like a form of apartheid because you don’t know when they will knock on your door with accusations. Some of them always carry illegal firearms and we are their subjects. Either we obey whatever rule they want you to live by or you are history. People are constantly being hammered in the streets, whenever a whistle is blown. The street committees are unfortunately the law in this part of the world,” said mother of three girls, only identified as Rebecca.
“We see police cars passing by in this area, but they are not here for us. The police have delegated crime prevention to these mobs of youth. If a victim is seriously injured in the assault police only take them to government hospitals. No case is pursued against the perpetrators of violence in this community. Is it because we are poor? I have never heard of mob justice in leafy suburbs. Those days are over.”
An elderly community member William Mudzimba, who happened to witness the assault on Muzhambi and Ndlovu on Wednesday, had assembled the search parties who had been rummaging through the nearby bushy areas and dungeons in the evenings. Muzhambi’s siblings were also part of the search which was called off at around midnight on Friday.
Nursing deep wounds and with several stitches in his face Ndlovu told the African News Agency earlier that he still feared for his life because he had to live in the community but did not know why he was targeted.
“I was awoken as I slept in my shack. The beating started henceforth. I couldn’t tell who was beating me and why I was being beaten. I just had to obey. I was dragged on the streets while bleeding like a dog. I did not know Muzhambi but when I was seized he was already manhandled by the crowd and was bleeding,” said Ndlovu.
“After the assault, I only remember that a police van took me to the Steve Biko Academic Hospital. There has not been any follow-up from the police regarding why I was assaulted. Now I can hardly move; how do I work to feed myself? That incident has left me deeply hurt by some community members I have lived with for years. But I guess that is life,” said Ndlovu through swollen and blistered lips.
Muzhambi’s shack has been destroyed. Some of his possessions have allegedly been looted and the others have been burnt.
Spokeswoman for the Pretoria Central police station Captain Augustinah Selepe said she would look into the incident and then provide police comment.
African News Agency