Cape Town - 140413 - The body of a man was found in a river in Khayelitsha next to Mew Way. It is reported that the man's pants were down and he had a gunshot/stab wound to the midsection. It is alleged to be a mob justice attack. Pictured is are residents walking past the area where the body was found. Reporter: Zodidi Dano Picture: David Ritchie

Cape Town - The body of a 21-year-old man – thought to have been killed in a vigilante attack – was found floating in a polluted stream in a Khayelitsha informal settlement after he had been hacked to death.

The body was spotted by passers-by under the Mew Way Bridge in the RR Section on Sunday.

Witnesses said the man’s face was bloodied and his pants were around his knees.

Police spokesman Captain FC van Wyk said the body had several stab wounds, but police could not confirm reports that the man had been killed in a vigilante attack.

Site B Community Policing Forum (CPF) spokeswoman Nomawethu Mosana said the man was known as a burglar and had been caught breaking into a house before being beaten and stabbed by residents

“He had first lit some herb at the doorstep, to make the people in the house sleepy, and then he broke in and took goods,” Mosana said.

“The people in the house heard him while he was in there taking their goods and they caught and attacked him with the help of other residents,” she said.

RR informal settlement resident Nomini Peni said this was not the first time such an attack had occurred.

“Many people have been beaten near this swamp and threatened that their bodies would be dumped here,” Peni said .

“Police do not patrol this area and they know that this swamp is a problem area.”

Mosana said that despite the CPF’s plea to residents to not take the law in their own hands, many saw vigilante-style justice as the best course of action.

“The people feel justice has failed them. Criminals are released early… people fear that if you arrest one and he returns he will come after you.”

She added that police had difficulty responding to calls in in informal settlements because of the lack of infrastructure.

“Police vehicles cannot enter there and there are also no street names or house numbers. This makes it even harder to get to a crime scene in time.”

Van Wyk said no arrests had been made but a murder docket had been opened.

A Khayelitsha commission of inquiry was established by Westen Cape Premier Helen Zille in August 2012 after complaints from NGOs and civil rights groups about policing in Khayelitsha.

During the hearings earlier this month, Western Cape police commissioner Arno Lamoer said there was no link between vigilante killings in Khayelitsha and a lack of trust in police.

Lamoer said a spate of mob killings in Cape Town was the work of opportunists.

He denied the mob attacks were linked to justice system failures.

“People want swift justice… and people want their belongings back. Criminals use the same kind of attacks to eliminate their rivals.”

Lamoer’s testimony was similar to that of Khayelitsha officers who claimed the vigilante attacks were spur-of-the-moment incidents, especially when residents were robbed.

“People start running and screaming and automatically community members react,” he said.

He acknowledged there were instances in which police failed to act swiftly, but added: “That doesn’t warrant anybody taking the law into their own hands.”

The commissioner was adamant that vigilante action was not unique to Khayelitsha or the Western Cape.

Lamoer was previously a divisional commissioner for visible policing at the national office in Pretoria.

Hearings at Khayelitsha will resume next month.

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Cape Argus