Date:10 December 2016 - By: Elmon Tshikhudo
Incidents of mob justice are becoming a way of life for residents of Vhembe with many suspected criminals having been killed or maimed by angry residents. In Thohoyandou alone, no fewer than four people were recently attacked and seriously injured, while others died during the attacks.
Just a month ago, a man who was terrorising shoppers earned the wrath of the people, was stoned and an attempt was made to burn him. Only the swift appearance of the police at the scene saved his life.
On Sunday morning, residents of Mbilwi had a rude awakening when a man who was allegedly stealing from houses was caught and received instant justice. Residents are still in shock, following the necklacing of the man in the village. It is alleged that angry residents caught up with the robber who had by then robbed four households, using pepper spray. They allegedly beat the man, aged 25, with an assortment of objects before burning him to ashes.
His burnt-out body was found lying on the road by a passerby. Some burning materials were still visible at the scene of the murder. This is one of the many incidents of mob justice where suspected criminals were killed in the Vhembe area in recent months.
In all the incidents, residents have blamed the police for being lenient on criminals by arresting and then releasing them within a short time. A community leader who preferred anonymity said crime was at an all-time high. "We are very concerned as a community, but we are giving a warning to would-be criminals not to dare venture into our village as their safety will not be guaranteed. The community is angry and the police will not always be there to protect them," he said.
Limpopo police spokesperson Lt Col Moatshe Ngoepe said the latest incident was a source of great concern to the police. "We have launched a massive manhunt for a group of community members who have brutally murdered an unknown man. The motive behind this killing is still unknown. The suspects are unknown and there is no arrest and the police investigations are still continuing," he said.
Meanwhile, the Limpopo Provincial Police Commissioner, Lt-Gen Nneke Ledwaba, has reiterated his special call to all members of the community to refrain from taking the law into their own hands. Whenever they come across or know the whereabouts of a suspect, or witness a person committing crime, they must conduct a citizen's arrest without harming or killing that person or they should call the police, who will come and arrest that person, Ledwaba said.
Ledwaba also encouraged members of the community throughout the province to support all the community-based crime-prevention initiatives and strategies, including the community police forums, the sector policing, street committees, the rural safety and the neighbourhood watch with the sole objective of strengthening the partnership with the police.
Those with information about the incident should contact Captain Sotlo Boshomane at 084 322 1341 or the nearest police station or the crime stop number 08600 10 111 or crime line 32211 all hours.
Elmon Tshikhudo started off as a photographer. He developed an interest in writing and started submitting articles to local as well as national publications. He became part of the Limpopo Mirror family in 2005 and has since been a familiar name among the newspaper's readers.