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Mob Justice on the Rise in South Africa

Updated on December 19, 2016

Mob Justice: To mention only a few incidents

1. A total of 53 people have been arrested after they took the law in their own hands and killed two alleged gangsters in Etwatwa, East Rand, South Africa on October 26, According to the community the two victims were members of the OVL gang who have been terrorizing the community for too long, and police have done nothing about it.

A sobbing father of one of the victims said he saw his son “lying there like a dog.”

“I know I wouldn't have been able to help him, but I just wanted to hear his voice for the last time. When I got to him he was dead, I couldn't even talk to him," the father said.

2. On October 25, in Erasmia near Pretoria, four armed robbers shot two residents, allegedly the same robbers who had killed another resident during a robbery the previous day. Community members rallied together, caught the suspects, and beat them to death with bricks. The graphic pictures of the dead robbers have been circulating on Facebook and WhatsApp for the past week. “The people have had enough!” says the post.

3. During the FeesMustFall protests three robbers gained illegal access to a female residence at the Walter Sisulu University on Sunday, October 23. The robbers went from room to room robbing the students of their cellphones and laptops. Male residents of a neighboring student-hostel rushed to their defense and took the law into their own hands. In an act of vigilantism they beat one of the three robbers to death. The other two have been admitted to the hospital in critical condition.

4. An alleged serial thief was forced to hang himself with a rope on Monday, October 17. The five self-appointed executioners between the ages of 37 and 57 allegedly gave 22-year old Matau Mafologe a rope and forced him to hang himself in the presence of the crime-struck community in Limpopo, South Africa.

5. In Walmer Township near Port Elizabeth two alleged robbers were killed by angry residents on September 7. The third victim of this mob justice ended up in critical condition in hospital. Lieutenant-Colonel Humphries, said there is no justification in acts of mob justice by members of the community. People cannot resolve crime by committing crime. Community leaders pledged to work with the police in bringing perpetrators to book.

6. In July two men were set alight in a mob justice incident in George. They were doused in petrol and set alight for apparently stealing a laptop. The South African National Civic Organisation (Sanco) condemned this as a “barbaric and ghastly act”.

7. In August of this year a 75-year-old woman was brutally killed by members of the community after they accused her of witchcraft. This is one of many witchcraft-related incidents in the last few months.

8. In January this year a group of white farmers rallied, caught and assaulted two armed robbers before handing them over to police. The severely injured robbers were taken to the hospital where one of them was declared dead on arrival.

This is but only a few incidents of recent mob-justice in South Africa!

Law of South Africa

“South Africa has a 'hybrid' or 'mixed' legal system, formed by the interweaving of a number of distinct legal traditions. The system is composed of -

The South African court system consists of -

  • Magistrates' Courts (the lowest authority),
  • High Courts,
  • a Supreme Court of Appeal (the highest authority in non-Constitutional matters)
  • a Constitutional Court.
  • Specialized courts such as the Small Claims Court,
  • African indigenous courts (which deal exclusively with indigenous law.)
  • The CCMA (Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) is another independent authority that resolves labor disputes.

In South Africa an accused is innocent until proven guilty. (Presumtion of Innocence) Every accused person has a right to a fair trial, which includes the right to be presumed innocent, remain silent, and not to testify during the proceedings.

Free, tax-funded legal aid is available to the poor.

Deficiencies in South Africa’s justice system

Mob Justice is encouraged by a number of deficiencies in South Africa’s justice system.

While some people enjoy VIP treatmant in jail, others languish, waiting in vain for justice.

According to analysts the court system is dysfunctional due to -

Shoddy evidence collected by incompetent and lying police officers. This single deficiency alone has disastrous results: Innocent people get convicted on the basis of a single piece of often-tenuous evidence - and this arouses distrust in the legal system. Or vice versa, guilty and dangerous criminals get acquitted just to continue endangering the lives of law-abiding people.

Bail being approved or denied for no apparent reason after bail hearings that last just a few minutes.

Lengthy delays that keep innocent suspects behind bars for years. Some innocent people stay incarcerated for up to eight years because of court delays.

Transcripts going missing,

Overworked state-funded lawyers not really invested in the future of their clients,

Habitual criminals being awarded bail, or being released after only a third of their sentence has been served,

Innocent suspects being awarded bail, but unable to pay even the smallest amount. (According to Legal Aid South Africa, about 10,000 innocent people languish in South African jails because they are unable to pay bail.

And perhaps the most alarming: too many poorly-trained, indifferent, incompetent, and corrupt police officers force people into a state of despair and hopelessness where taking the law in own hands seems to be the only way forward.

This is but only some of the deficiencies that encourages mob-justice in South Africa.

The humble opinion of an owfma-sa

One video-footage of mob-justice, which I have seen some five years ago, still haunts me. I am not able to wrap my mind over such barbaric brutality. Yes, criminals are unscrupulous and conscience-stricken, and they seem to thrive in South Africa due to ineffective law enforcement and deficiencies in the justice system. Yet no person with integrity should ever lower themselves to the level of a criminal.

But what do I really know about living in the shoes of people who have reached the stage where taking the law in own hands seems to be the only solution to their problems? I am a privileged product of Apartheid, living in a nice and relatively safe neighborhood among law-abiding people. Although armed robbers may surprise me at any time of the day or night, they are not living in my area. They are not even relatives of my neighbors or anybody living in my vicinity. I am also in the privileged position of being protected by affordable security measures. What will I do when my neighborhood becomes the territory of a malicious gang or a single habitual criminal?

Of course, the entire justice system needs to become more sufficient and more effective. Unfortunately this owfma-sa has no powers whatsoever in this field. I can but only hope and pray that those who can make a difference will do it sooner rather than later.

I also believe that prisons should rather have the character of educational and training institutions. Prisons should also be self-sufficient, raising cattle, pigs, chickens, etc., and growing their own vegetables in order to minimize their burden on law-abiding tax-payers. They could even establish profitable factories to be manned by qualified prisoners.

Let me dream on...

And keep on praying that all people will soon be delivered from whatever makes them commit mob justice.

BTW, owfma-sa stands for 'ordinary white female middle-aged South African)


FeesMustFall protests are still going on all over the country. More than 800 people were arrested. and charged. with public violence In spite of student leaders’ condemning violence, thugs among them are still torching buildings and vehicles, ruining the students' legitimate call for free education. According to Statistician-General for Statistics South Africa the 26 universities in South Africa accommodate a million students while it only has capacity for 500 000.

Before delivering the Medium Term Budget Policy Statement on 26 October, the minister of finance, Pravin Gordhan, came out briefly to accept a memorandum from the leaders of a group of thousands students gathered on Parliament's door step.

“All we are asking for is your co-operation and to stick to the agreements you made,” he said to the protesting students.

Yet, while he was busy delivering his statement, students threw stones/bottles/bricks and a burning box possibly containing a petrol bomb at the police, forcing the police to disperse them with tear gas, rubber bullets and stun grenades. Several protesters have been arrested. Students from various universities have vowed to continue the shutdown of universities despite the minister of finance’s shifting more funds towards grants for poor students. The students demand free, quality, decolonized high education for all NOW. (Being ashamed of the thugs among the students of my country, this owfma-sa refuses to add video footage of this debacle.)

South-Africa-being captured by foreign businessmen - After being formally notified that he is an implicated person in this report, President Zuma filed a second affidavit, asking the new Public Protector, Busisiwe Mkhwebane, to confirm whether the state capture report compiled by her predecessor is final. He claimed he had not been given the opportunity to respond to all questions that were asked of him by Public Protector Thuli Madonsela.

In addition to ongoing mob justice in South Africa

The highlight of the week was on Thursday, October 26, when the Minister of Finance, Pravin Gordhan’s, tabled the Medium Term Budget Policy Statement in Parliament. The budget speech announced more money to be shifted to higher education and training despite the tight fiscal environment South Africa finds itself in. It also reveals inevitable tax increases to be implemented in 2017.

While Oscar Pistorius’ murder trial kept the entire world captivated in 2016, Christopher Panayiotou’s trial is going on without much ado in the Port Elizabeth High Court since October 3. Panayiotou is a businessman accused of hiring a hitman to murder his wife, Jayde, on April 21, 2015. Jayde was kidnapped outside her townhouse complex while waiting for her friend to give her a lift to the school where she was a Grade 7 teacher. Her body was found the next day in a veld. She had been shot three times. Among the damning evidence against Panayiotou is a photo of him and his lover in bed, only five days after his wife went missing.

Justice Minister Michael Masutha announced the long-awaited draft Prevention and Combating of Hate Crimes and Hate Speech Bill on Thursday, October 27. This draft law aims to prevent and prosecute hate crimes and hate speech. Besides fines, imprisonment for up to 10 years will be the punishment for hate crimes and hate speech, including racist utterances.

International news I found most thought-provoking and heart-wrenching were the withdrawal of the explosive Samsung Galaxy Note 7, the ongoing war in Iraq and Syria, the release of 145 child soldiers in South-Sudan, and the refugee crisis in Europe.

Let's relax! What will be, will be. Hallelujah!

© 2016 Martie Coetser


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