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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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    • MartieCoetser profile image

      Martie Coetser 15 months ago from South Africa

      Hi Svetlana, your empathy and good wishes are sincerely appreciated.

      Anger and frustration, despair, and yes, fear of a hopeless future most certainly turn humans in primitive primates who tend to eliminate whatever, even themselves, rather than allow an external force to determine their fate.

      Again we are facing 'human behaviour' - a most intriguing study as a spesific source of failure could also be a source of success, depending on individual responses on stimuli.

      We cannot turn jackals into wolves, or lions into elephants, or a certain type of human into another type. Fact: It takes all kinds to make a world.

    • kallini2010 profile image

      kallini2010 15 months ago from Toronto, Canada

      It makes me think, like everything else makes me think...

      Where does one draw the line?

      Normal people in the normal situations will not burn people alive.

      But once that line is crossed, the rest comes much easier. You burn one, why not another?

      The problem is the discrepancy between what is and what we think should be. Whatever people do, they have a certain agenda. Cruelty is often fueled by fear. It is typical for that kind of situations - it's not going to get much better until it gets much worse.

      The anger like water always find its way.

      I have just watched "Blackout" - about the blackout in New York in the summer of 1977 - New York was in a bad (to say the least) shape and the poorest of its inhabitants (blacks) were even worse. So, during the blackout - there was looting and arson. It would have been less likely if people were not so poor and so angry.

      During that year, the reasons for arson were many and one of them was boredom and an appetite for a spectacle. And that is America, and that is the city that just a decade ago thrived.

      I can only express my empathy and good wishes for quick and sensible resolution.


    • MartieCoetser profile image

      Martie Coetser 15 months ago from South Africa

      @ PegCole17 – Thank you so much for reading and commenting. Somehow the knowledge that other countries suffer the same adversities keeps me positive.

      @ always exploring – Exactly the status quo in South Africa! Absolutely chilling! Take care of yourself, dear Ruby :)

      @ Nell Rose – I am not sure if it’s getting worse. Looking back, I see the repetition of the same events in different circumstances. Over and over again. What is, was, and will be again. The only difference: Today, and thanks to TV, we know what’s going on in all corners of the earth. Whatever whoever tries to hide, find its way into the open.

      @ MsDora – I agree with you. Having peace of mind is our only preservation. At the end of the day, whether your name is Pharaoh or Moses, man proposes and God disposes.

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 15 months ago from The Caribbean

      Martie, these horrific news situations are difficult to handle. Most frustrating is that there seems no way to arrive at appropriate justice. Responding to crime with more crime means that crime is progressing. I pray for your safety and reasonable peace of mind.

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 15 months ago from England

      Hi Martie, it seems that instead of calming down there its getting worse. I don't know what to say only keep safe, and please one of these days it will be peaceful, from owfma-uk yep I can see this owfma catching on!

    • always exploring profile image

      Ruby Jean Fuller 15 months ago from Southern Illinois

      Martie, it seems like it's getting more serous which is alarming. Sometimes people must rise up to protect themselves and their property. I am glad you live in a safe community. We have more violence here during this election season. Two policemen were killed execution style in Ohio yesterday. People are fed up with the status quo, demanding a piece of the pie. The top one percent have the wealth here in America. Thanks for the update. Stay safe. Your friend, O T H in the USA. ( Over the hill. )

    • PegCole17 profile image

      Peg Cole 15 months ago from Dallas, Texas

      This outbreak of lawlessness and vigilante repercussion is becoming the norm throughout the world, it seems. It's interesting to read about the home made justice and yet alarming that police have lost the respect and integrity they once had, and sometimes for good reason. I like your suggestions about the prison population, to become self-sufficient, growing their own crops and learning new skills that could help them prosper if (when) they are released. I was surprised at the length of time the accused have to wait for a trial.

    • MartieCoetser profile image

      Martie Coetser 15 months ago from South Africa

      Alicia, chilling is the word. Whatever the perspective, all of this is terribly disheartening. Thanks for reading and commenting :)

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 15 months ago from British Columbia, Canada

      You've shared some chilling news, Martie. The incidents that you've described are horrible. The violence in South Africa is worrying, as is the violence that exists in other parts of the world at the moment.

    • MartieCoetser profile image

      Martie Coetser 15 months ago from South Africa

      Dear billybuc, fear and anger triggers deplorable violence. I wish this was not a fact.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 16 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Not all that different from the States, really. People are afraid. People are tired of seeing different laws for the rich. There is a general feeling of unrest in the United States, and mob violence, really, is to be expected even though it is deplorable.

    • MartieCoetser profile image

      Martie Coetser 16 months ago from South Africa

      Flourish, I wonder if humans will ever get all systems in perfect working order? Thank you for sharing your thoughts :)

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 16 months ago from USA

      Vigilantism occurs when the justice system cannot be trusted to do its job. It's occurring more and more all over the world in civilized societies and it's so brutal. Your examples here are shocking.

    • MartieCoetser profile image

      Martie Coetser 16 months ago from South Africa

      fpher, keeping mind over matter is my motto. I am not judging, but simply observing. One cannot blame anyone who takes the law in their own hands down here; between criminals and corrupt politicians this country is going down the drain.

    • MartieCoetser profile image

      Martie Coetser 16 months ago from South Africa

      Dear Mike, my poor ego! But I love the hint - this, too, will eventually be swept into history's garbage bins. But not in the near future, I guess. Just an hour ago I watched a documentary about gangsterism in my country. The number of children involved predicts a bloody civil war within the next 10 years. Mark my words! But then, WW2 was quite an effective mop, almost like a fire in a weed-invaded forest. It stimulated new growth and made room for new development. So, let's allow the what-must-be to be. Thank you so much for your support :)

    • fpherj48 profile image

      Paula 16 months ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

      Martie....Since you and I have spoken about this a while back, at some length, you know how I feel about this unbearable situation for you. It is seriously worrisome and I feel your concerns. It has to be such a helpless feeling.

      For someone of your strength and need for lawfulness, I can imagine how you stress often. My hugs, love and hope.

    • MartieCoetser profile image

      Martie Coetser 16 months ago from South Africa

      Dearest Mar, I don't see the end of this and other primitive activities in the nearby future. We need a miracle :)

    • mckbirdbks profile image

      mckbirdbks 16 months ago from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas

      Hello Martie - I think once that url is assigned that is it. But no worries. I kind of liked the original title. It read as though things were going to get 'cleaned-up.'

      Kidding aside, I liked your balanced reporting of the issue. The pendulum has swung too far in one direction, and the people are going to force it back to a place more tolerable. We may see this happen more and more around the world.

    • marcoujor profile image

      Maria Jordan 16 months ago from Jeffersonville PA

      Oh dear Martie,

      One heinous act after another in this week's noteworthy news...and yet the beat goes on.

      What a pure sounding and hopeful version by Pentatonix of "Hallelujah".

      Loving this series though not necessarily the specifics.

      With love and hugs from this ofwma-usa...!

    • MartieCoetser profile image

      Martie Coetser 16 months ago from South Africa

      PS: I hate not being able to edit an url! Tips will be appreciated.