Cape Town – Samora Machel residents in Philippi took the law into their own hands, allegedly setting alight four men they accused of terrorising the community.
Their charred bodies were found near a railway line in Sweet Home Farms on Tuesday.
It is believed the suspects were behind a spate of house robberies, murders, and stabbings.
Police spokesperson FC van Wyk said four counts of murder had been registered for investigation.
He said the circumstances leading to the killings were still unknown.
A neighbourhood watch member, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal, said that since last September, crime had spiked in the area and that things worsened over the festive season.
“We condemn mob justice and urge people not to take matters into their own hands. We understand people are frustrated and tired of having their doors kicked down by criminals.
"They must rather hand the perpetrators over to the police, since we at least have a police station now,” he said.
“The problem is that some shebeens don’t close and inadequate street lighting also makes residents vulnerable to crime.
"In sections A, B and C, it’s been five years that some street lights have not worked, while Section Z, where the bodies were found, doesn’t have them.
“All we hear at night are gunshots, and when these youngsters rob, they stab people. The criminals are brave because they also do these things during the day.”
He added that the four men had been beaten and set alight either at midnight on Tuesday or on Monday night, because the rest of the community had only seen the bodies in the morning.
The incident also follows a meeting community leaders had with police on Monday to raise concerns about the spike in crime, and how this made residents fed up.
“Now that there is a new police station, a community policing forum will be established to work with the police, and our neighbourhood watch team might also start working.
‘‘The reason we stopped patrolling is because we weren’t given a stipend and it was risky as the police also didn’t patrol the sections due to inadequate street lighting. Another meeting that will include the residents will be held on Friday,” he added.
Anyone with information about the incident can anonymously contact Samora Machel SAPS at 021 380 3484, 021 380 3490, Crime Stop at 08600 10111 or alternatively SMS Crime Line at 32211.