MEC shocked at vigilantism
Pietermaritzburg - Don’t take the law into your own hands. That’s the plea from Community Safety and Liaison MEC Willies Mchunu after two 25-year-old men were allegedly beaten then burnt to death by a mob of about 200 angry Pietermaritzburg residents.
A total of 15 people have now been arrested in connection with Monday night’s deadly vigilante attack at the Bob Mattison informal settlement near Copesville.
One of the victims has been identified as Nathi Gwala. The other was known within the community only as “Rasta”.
It is alleged that the mob suspected the two men, and three others, of having committed a string of robberies in the settlement after finding a stash of stolen items in their homes.
The men were dragged out of their houses into the open road and attacked with spades, hammers, sticks, pangas and spears. Their houses were then torched and they were also set alight.
Community members claimed that the men were robbers and rapists who had been terrorising the residents of the settlement for months.
While praising police for the swift arrests, Mchunu said on Wednesday he was dismayed by the violent meting out of vigilante justice.
“I am shocked at this incident because we have continuously been urging communities to report incidents of this nature to the police and not take the law into their own hands.”
The MEC urged communities to rather hand over suspects to police so that they could face the full might of the law.
“While we understand the anger of the community in this case, it is, however, proper to work with the police in dealing with such matters,” he said.
Police spokesman Captain Thulani Zwane said 14 suspects, aged between 21 and 58, were arrested for the murders and arson early on Wednesday in a joint operation by the Mountain Rise tracing team unit, serious and violent crimes unit and the Midlands K9 unit.
One suspect was arrested on Tuesday, while two others were arrested in connection with robberies at the settlement.
Among those arrested on Wednesday was a 27-year-old man who was allegedly found in possession of an unlicensed firearm and ammunition.
“He was found in possession of a home-made shotgun with two live rounds of ammunition. A panga and a knife believed to be used in the murder were also found and the man will be charged accordingly,” Zwane said.
Zwane said further information received at the informal settlement led police to Durban where they traced three suspects linked to fraud cases committed in the Mountain Rise area.
“Three suspects, aged between 36 and 44, were arrested in Point and Sea View. They were found in possession of a fraudulent cheque book, an amount of R8 000 cash and R20 000 worth of groceries,” Zwane said.