Mob burns men alive in street justice fury

By Time of article published May 6, 2002

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A victim of mob justice died and another was seriously burnt when they were beaten, tied up with wire and buried naked under a burning heap of tyres, rubble and wood in Khayelitsha, Cape Town.

Both were in their 20s.

On Sunday the incident brought to at least 12 the number of vigilante attacks this year, most in the Khayelitsha area, where the police say the community is dissatisfied with results from formal policing and the legal process.

The two men were attacked on an open plot behind a church, just off Old Lansdowne Road.

Khayelitsha police spokesperson Thozama Ndongeni said a man known only as Lunga, who later died, and Buyisile Jokweni, who is recovering in Tygerberg Hospital, had been drinking with friends in a shebeen on Saturday night.

They spent the night in the Greenpoint informal settlement.

Ndongeni said they had been woken up by a mob whose members accused them of stealing.

"Jokweni and his friend were then dragged to the open field, where they were sjambokked and beaten with blunt objects. Then they were stripped of their clothes and had tyres and rubble dumped on top of them before being set alight."

A concerned resident called the police, who arrived to see the hand of one of the men protruding from under burning tyres.

They kicked the tyres and wood away and pulled the men clear. The pair were airlifted to Tygerberg Hospital but Lunga died on the way.

Local councillor Phakamile Kula said community leaders were investigating the incident.

"We as leaders of the community are trying our best to to pin down the perpetrators of this crime," said Kula.

Police spokesperson Wicus Holtzhausen said street justice was of grave concern to the police.

"We know of at least 12 'kangaroo court' hearings staged by self-styled community leaders this year, which have claimed the lives of 12 people and left seven seriously injured."

Holtzhausen said the community seemed dissatisfied with policing in the area and completely rejected lengthy court processes, opting instead for instant street punishment.

He said almost half of all crime reported in Khayelitsha was "serious violent crime".

Among earlier incidents:

- On January 13 in Site C, police found the charred bodies of three men accused by the community of killing the owner of a tavern.

- On January 23, a kangaroo court "official" traced a burglary suspect in the same area and tortured him with a hot iron, but the victim survived.

- The next day in Site B, three teenagers, accused of robbing and wounding a man, were kidnapped and brought before a kangaroo court, where they were severely beaten and stoned. They too survived and led the police to one of their attackers, believed to be a kangaroo court ringleader.

- On January 27, a man who allegedly tried to rob a woman at Khayelitsha station was tracked down and killed with his own gun.

- On February 11, at the New Rest informal settlement, two teenagers accused of robbery were kidnapped and remained missing for days. Police found the body of one on a farm near Somerset West. His friend was seriously injured.

- On February 19, a man who shot and wounded another during an argument was tracked down by a mob that killed both him and a friend.

- In Old Crossroads on February 23, a man who stabbed another to death during an argument at a shebeen was stoned to death.

The community laid the bodies side by side before calling police.

- On March 3, a man was stoned to death in Old Klipfontein Road, Boys Town, after being accused of burglary.

- On April 6, a man who allegedly robbed a woman in Town 2 was saved by the police who prevented a mob from stoning him.

- On April 27 in Langa, a group of men stoned and beat to death a man whom they accused of being a thief.

- On May 2 in Montclair, Mitchell's Plain, a man who had broken into a house was shot in the legs by the outraged owner. Unable to run away, the man was severely beaten by a crowd that gathered. He died later in hospital.

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