These shocking numbers were revealed in a written reply by the police to a question by community safety standing committee chairperson in the legislature, Reagan Allen. Picture: Ayanda Ndamane African News Agency (ANA)
These shocking numbers were revealed in a written reply by the police to a question by community safety standing committee chairperson in the legislature, Reagan Allen. Picture: Ayanda Ndamane African News Agency (ANA)

Shock as police reveals an average of 177 mob justice attacks a year in Western Cape

By Sisonke Mlamla Time of article published Nov 19, 2021

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Cape Town - An average of 177 mob justice attacks have been carried out every year between 2018 and this year in the province – or 532 attacks between April 1, 2018, and March 31 this year.

This was disclosed in a written reply by the police to a question by community safety standing committee chairperson in the legislature, Reagan Allen.

The reply revealed 65 suspects were prosecuted out of 293 complaints filed – a prosecution rate of 22%.

Vigilante attacks are taking place in spite of several law enforcement programmes being rolled out, including Neighbourhood Watches, Community Police Forums, Walking Ladies, metro police officers, SAPS officers and the Law Enforcement Advancement Plan.

Institute for Security Studies crime hub manager Lizette Lancaster said the true figure was probably far higher, because motives could not be established in all murder cases, and the police did not formally quantify vigilante violence.

Last week a 27-year-old man was burnt to death after he was accused of stealing three cellphones in Makhaza.

In September, eight people were allegedly murdered by community members meting out their own justice across the province. Four of them were brutally beaten and set light and were found in an informal settlement in Samora Machel, Nyanga, after it was alleged that the men had been involved in robberies and house breaking.

Provincial Community Policing Forum board chairperson Fransina Lukas said the figures were shocking and speaks to the increasing trust deficit between communities, the police and the rest of the criminal justice system.

"It is definitely why certain people take the law into their own hands," said Lukas.

She said a number of precincts had been identified as hot spots for mob justice incidents, and residents from the affected areas had been engaged regularly through legitimate community structures in an effort to bring much-needed awareness of the crime of mob justice.

Police spokesperson Novela Potelwa said mob justice incidents were a concern to the police management in the Western Cape.

Potelwa said a number of precincts have been identified as hotspots for mob justice incidents, and residents from the affected areas have been engaged regularly through legitimate community structures in an effort to bring much-needed awareness of the crime of mob justice.

Community Safety MEC Albert Fritz said “We believe that neighbourhood watches are the ideal antidote to mob justice, and so we are working to encourage the accreditation of more neighbourhood watches as a way for communities to participate in the fight against crime and mob justice in a legal way.”

Allen said violence does not occur in a vacuum.

“When we witness instances of mob justice we have to ask why trust in the police is so low and why more isn’t more being done to increase confidence in the justice system? This presents yet another desperate call for the lead agency, nationally, to do more to protect citizens from crimes," he said.

Allen said the low levels of trust in the police service could be attributed to the failures in the criminal justice system.

“It is imperative that we fill the cracks in the justice system because justice must be seen to be done. The prevalence of mob justice can never be acceptable. The rule of law must be supreme,” said Allen.

Lancaster said violence had been so normalised in society that “ordinary" people committed horrific acts, at times in response to high levels of crime and perceptions that police and government crime-reduction strategies were ineffective”.

She said the country needs strong community leaders to condemn violence and take concerns of community members seriously.

ANC provincial spokesperson for community safety, Mesuli Kama, called on communities to desist from taking the law into their hands, and for more police visibility in crime ridden communities.

“We reiterate the calls to address the skewed patterns of police resources so that more police could be deployed to the hotspot areas where they are needed,“ he said.

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Cape Argus

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