Limpopo taxi drivers severely assault, torture suspected looter
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Pretoria - A suspected looter has been captured, severely assaulted and tortured by Limpopo taxi drivers in the latest incident of vigilantism and mob justice sparked by the unrest in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng.
Taxi drivers immersed the bleeding man in a tank of cold water in full view of the public after he was allegedly caught stealing a chair at a furniture shop in the Polokwane CBD on Thursday last week, witnesses said.
The assault victim, whose name is known to the Pretoria News, was caught by members of the public and assaulted before being handed over to the police.
In a video circulated on social media, the 27-year-old man can be seen sitting naked in a tank full of cold water at the taxi rank.
According to witnesses, the taxi drivers also poured ice in the tank the man was in.
One of the taxi drivers, Isaac Shilubana, confirmed the mob justice incident and torture. He said the man stole the chair and tried to run but was captured by shoppers.
“When we saw the commotion we decided to intervene. People were saying we should take him to the police station but we instead thought we should teach him a lesson. So we got a big bucket on that cold day.
“We put him inside and poured in cold water with ice so that he would not repeat it again,” Shilubana said.
He said the man asked the community to forgive him. Instead he was put in a minibus taxi and driven to the Polokwane police station.
The Pretoria News last week reported that Limpopo taxi operators had warned that violence would not be tolerated in the province, and vowed to take the law into their own hands should anyone be found looting.
“We are tired of people coming here to mess up our business. If we have shops closing down here then we won’t have people taking our taxis to town or work. It’s up to us to safeguard our town,” Shilubana added.
Limpopo police spokesperson Motlafela Mojapelo confirmed the incident. “We can confirm that a 27-year-old man was arrested by members of the community, who handed him over to police. The report we got is that the suspect allegedly took a chair from one of the furniture stores (Railway) situated in Market Street. He was then pursued by community members who were in the area. The suspect was arrested and later detained. He will be appearing in court soon on a charge of theft.”
Moletjie Taxi Association spokesperson Noko Mokwatedi said the organisation was aware of the incident but had nothing to do with it.
Similar cases of mob justice involving taxi operators have been reported in Tshwane, Vosloorus, Diepsloot in Gauteng as well as in Gqeberha in the Eastern Cape.
The incidents came after cases of public violence and massive looting in parts of the country, especially in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng, last week sparked by former president Jacob Zuma’s jailing.
While Zuma’s supporters said they were protesting against his arrest, the unrest turned violent and spread to Gauteng and Mpumalanga. It also turned into a large-scale looting spree.