News / Africa

South Africa Sees Increase in Vigilantism

Protesters caught in teargas, hurl stones at police, unseen, during violent clashes in Sasolburg, South Africa, January  22 2013.
Protesters caught in teargas, hurl stones at police, unseen, during violent clashes in Sasolburg, South Africa, January 22 2013.
Solenn Honorine
South Africa may seem like a peaceful, democratic country, but its high rate of violent crime tells another story. Despite a crime drop since it peaked about 10 years ago, last year South Africa recorded 15,609 murders, or 43 a day. That is four and a half times the global average. The main victims are poor, black citizens whose confidence in South African police remains so low that they at times take the law into their own hands. Although there is no official statistic, mob justice is rife.

Rampant crime

There are almost 1,200 houses in the Thabo Mbeki squatter camp, huddled together in the gentle hills that roll east of Johannesburg. The big city is a mere 30 minutes away, easily accessible from the highway that links it to the capital Pretoria. So easily, in fact, criminals can swiftly get in and out of the settlement - even though there is not much to steal here.
 
The local tavern, or “shebeen” as it is called here, is a simple cluster of buildings protected by high barbwire and closed off with iron gates. But that is not protection enough against the rampant crime.
 
Thabo Mogomele and two friends are sitting under a corrugated roof, drinking beer. Its noon, but they say there is not much else to do in a community where only a lucky few have a job. He describes a recent crime incident.
 
“The robbery happened when we were on the street. The mob there, they were chasing those thugs, and since we knew that they had just robbed here, we followed those thugs, and then threw some stones," Thabo noted. "Out of frustration actually because we knew it was not for the first time, it was maybe the 13th or 14th time. And then we got one of the old guys there. Unfortunately we didn't kill him, but we wanted to.”
 
The man had a gun, as they always do, Thabo says. But that wouldn't deter a community too fed up with robberies to sit tight until the police arrive. Thabo explains why he thinks mob justice works. 

“Our kids now. A small gun, they know it can hold close to 8 bullets. If he can shoot, he will only shoot 8 people. If 100 or 200 people chase you, even if you've got an AK47, you can't just shoot, because one thing for sure, you know you are going to die,” he said.
 
Apartheid-style policing

Johan Burger, a senior researcher with the Pretoria-based Institute of Security Studies and a former policeman, says that there is no specific data on mob justice. But he says it has roots in the apartheid era that ended two decades ago.
 
At that time, he says, the police only focused on repressing black citizens, and didn't care about crime in their neighborhoods. Therefore, he says, they didn't have much choice but to resort to vigilante actions.
 
Community leader Ebrahim Nthite says blacks in Muldersdrift remain a second priority. 

“In our community, in the past couple of months, we had thugs coming from other areas to make robberies here. We tried to call the police for a period of 2.5 hours, they didn't come in the area," he explained. "But in December, some people were killed in the white community. The police took 10 minutes to respond. So you see there are too differences. The service is not good; we are not happy about it.”
 
His friend Thulani Molefe agrees on poor police performance.

“We'll see them here within 5 minutes if it's a case of a man fighting with his woman. Then they'll come running like it's nobody's business," he said. "You see, where there is a danger, they won't come. Up until the community takes the law into their hands. That's the only solution in South Africa, because our law enforcement, they are not active. They are lazy.”
 
Brigadier Neville Malila, a spokesperson for provincial police, denies such accusations.

“Your status in the community does not result in preferential treatment. We treat everyone equally," Malila stated. "Irrespective of where complaints are coming from, whether they come from business areas or from communities or from informal settlements.”
 
Burger with the Institute of Security Studies, says public protests and vigilante actions are on the rise. Last year, police responded to about 12,000 so-called “unrest related” incidents.  That is up from 8,000 seven years before.
 
Distrust in the police reached a new high in the country last August, when officers opened fire on a group of striking miners in Marikana, killing 34. An investigation is underway.

You May Like

Photogallery Americans Celebrate Thanksgiving With Feasts, Festivities

Holiday traditions include turkey dinners, 'turkey trots,' American-style football and New York parade with giant balloons More

Video For Obama, Ferguson Violence is a Personal Issue

With two years left in term, analysts say, president has less to lose by taking conversation on race further More

Video Italian Espresso Expands Into Space

When Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti headed for the ISS, her countrymen worried how she would survive six months drinking only instant coffee More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
To Make A Living, Nairobi Street Vendors Face Legal Hurdles, Physical Violencei
X
Lenny Ruvaga
November 27, 2014 7:05 PM
The Nairobi City Council has been accused of brutality in dealing with hawkers in the Central Business District - in order to stop them from illegally selling their wares on the streets. Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.
Video

Video To Make A Living, Nairobi Street Vendors Face Legal Hurdles, Physical Violence

The Nairobi City Council has been accused of brutality in dealing with hawkers in the Central Business District - in order to stop them from illegally selling their wares on the streets. Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.
Video

Video For Obama, Ferguson Violence is a Personal Issue

Throughout the crisis in Ferguson, Missouri, President Barack Obama has urged calm, restraint and respect for the rule of law. But the events in Ferguson have prompted him to call — more openly than he has before — for profound changes to end the racism and distrust that he believes still exists between whites and blacks in the United States. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Online Magazine Gets Kids Discussing Big Questions

Teen culture in America is often criticized for being superficial. But an online magazine has been encouraging some teenagers to explore deeper issues, and rewarding their efforts. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky went to this year’s Kidspirit awards ceremony in New York.
Video

Video US Community Kicks Off Thanksgiving With Parade

Thursday is Thanksgiving in the United States, a holiday whose roots go back to the country's earliest days as a British colony. One way Americans celebrate the occasion is with parades. Anush Avetisyan takes us to one such event on the day before Thanksgiving near Washington, where a community's diversity is on display. Joy Wagner narrates
Video

Video Aung San Suu Kyi: Myanmar Opposition to Keep Pushing for Constitutional Change

Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi says she and her supporters will continue pushing to amend a constitutional clause that bars her from running for president next year. VOA's Than Lwin Htun reports from the capital Naypyitaw in this report narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Mali Attempts to Shut Down Ebola Transmission Chain

Senegal and Nigeria were able to stop small Ebola outbreaks by closely monitoring those who had contact with the sick person and quickly isolating anyone with symptoms. Mali is now scrambling to do the same. VOA’s Anne Look reports from Mali on what the country is doing to shut down the chain of transmission.
Video

Video Ukraine Marks Anniversary of Deadly 1930s Famine

During a commemoration for millions who died of starvation in Ukraine in the early 1930s, President Petro Poroshenko lashed out at Soviet-era totalitarianism for causing the deaths and accused today’s Russian-backed rebels in the east of using similar tactics. VOA’s Daniel Shearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests at a Crossroads

New public opinion polls in Hong Kong indicate declining support for pro-democracy demonstrations after weeks of street protests. VOA’s Bill Ide in Guangzhou and Pros Laput in Hong Kong spoke with protesters and observers about whether demonstrators have been too aggressive in pushing for change.
Video

Video US Immigration Relief Imminent for Mixed-Status Families

Tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants in the Washington, D.C., area may benefit from a controversial presidential order announced this week. It's not a path to citizenship, as some activists hoped. But it will allow more immigrants who arrived as children or who have citizen children, to avoid deportation and work legally. VOA's Victoria Macchi talks with one young man who benefited from an earlier presidential order, and whose parents may now benefit after years of living in fear.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid