Police have warned community members against taking the law into their own hands after a recent spate of vigilante attacks in Makhanda, some allegedly organised via social media. Provincial spokesperson for the South African Police Service Captain Khaya Tonjeni confirmed the following incidents:
17 July 2020, 5pm, Extension 10
Residents from Joza, Extension 10, Extension 8, Extension 9 and eNkanini gathered outside an Extension 10 home they believed was being used to store stolen property.
When one of the group called the owner and told him they were looking for him, he told them he was out of town. They kicked the door open and waited for the police to arrive to accompany them inside the house.
Joza SAPS responded to the scene and the property owner gave permission for all the allegedly stolen property in it to be removed. Items included a DVD player, a printer, three duvet covers and a door.
The property was handed over to the Joza SAPS.
17 July 2020, 7pm, Extension 1
Two men sustained serious injuries and were taken to hospital for medical treatment after community members accused them of breaking into people’s houses and assaulted them with pangas. The police managed to rescue them from an uncontrollable crowd and loaded them into the back of a police van. A case of assault GBH was opened.
18 July, Joza
A mob came to the house of a woman they accused of always covering up for her son, whom they said regularly broke into houses in the area. One of the group slapped her and she laid a charge of common assault.
Date not given, Hlalani
A 41 year old man from Hlalani was tortured by a mob who accused him of a housebreaking at a property where he had lived. They allegedly assaulted him over the head and all over his body with steel pipes and pick handles. They stopped when he told them they were accusing the wrong person and the police arrived. When the police left, however, they regrouped. They called the man and when he came closer, they grabbed him and threw him down in the street. The police returned and stopped them.
21 July, I Street
Shortly after 5pm, a group of eNkanini residents driving in two black VW Golfs went to the L Street, Fingo Village homes of three suspected thieves. There They loaded the three men into the boot of the vehicles and drove to I Street. There, community members allegedly assaulted the three men asking them where they had sold stolen property. The three men were taken to hospital. No case docket was opened.
21 July, I Street
Immediately after the I Street incident, a man was killed during an argument with another man. A murder case was opened and a suspect has been arrested.
There have been sporadic gatherings of community members carrying knobkieries and pangas in Johnson Street, I Street and M Street and the police have been maintaining a strong presence.
What the police say
“The issue of mob attacks by the community members in Makhanda is a cause for concern,” said Tonjeni. “As the Provincial police we would like to warn members of the community to refrain from taking the law into their own hands.”
Those participating in vigilante action against alleged criminals would themselves be arrested for breaking the law.
“A criminal record can have negative consequences for any person, especially young people who still want to explore other opportunities in life,” Tonjeni said.
“As the police, we hear people’s frustration. However, one can never do a wrong thing to correct a wrong thing,” Tonjeni said. “We implore community leaders to work with the police because when people act according to their emotions, they do things they will later regret.
“The police are mandated to fight crime. The public may be of the view that they are not doing enough to fight crime; however, the violent assault and even murder of suspected does not bring a solution.
“All interactions and interventions must be within the ambit of the law.”
Tonjeni also warned against inciting violence on social media.
“This is an offence and those using social media to incite will face the consequences.”