At least two people are killed per day as a result of group attacks in South Africa, begging a discussion on how the country’s citizens have begun seeing violence as a “normal” part of their lives.
A disturbing video recently went viral, showing 28-year-old Thoriso Themane being assualted and stoned by a mob in Limpopo. Nine people were subsequently arrested for the murder on March 1 2019, and those who witnessed the attack were left traumatised.
The attack was condemned by the National Police Commissioner, General Khehla Sitole.
During an analysis of the 2017/18 crime statistics, South African Police Services (SAPS) determined that 846 of the 20 336 murders that took place during that period could be attributed to mob justice, where a group of people had acted outside of the law to enforce their own form of law.
Crime statistics suggest that many communities across the country experience high levels of crime and violence, and the latest Afrobarometer Survey for 2018 suggests that 66% of locals do not trust police, and 46% do not trust the court system.
Those who are able to, often invest in private security and safety measures such as burglar bars, alarms, dogs and firearms for protection.
The 2018 National Victims of Crime Survey by Statistics SA shows that 52% of households across the country use these measures to protect their homes. Approximately 11% of households employ private security services, with the Western Cape and Gauteng accounting for the majority of this percentage.
Research has also shown that young men are the most at risk of both perpetrating and becoming victims of crime in South Africa. Therefore, it is more likely that they will either be the victims of or perpetrators of “mob justice”.
According to ISS, those who intervene to stop an act of mob justice are punished, and death is usually caused by stoning or beating.
“All types of mob or vigilante action run the risk of targeting innocent people who are in the wrong place at the wrong time. Despite their well-documented shortcomings, criminal justice systems in democracies are designed to be fair, with separate law enforcement and prosecutorial functions,” the organisation said. “Importantly, the accused is allowed the opportunity to respond to the allegations and face the accusers in a safe environment. Most, if not all, of these principles fall away when an emotional crowd takes the law into their own hands.”
“The country needs strong community leaders to condemn violence and take concerns of community members seriously. Children must be raised in supportive environments by parents who demonstrate other ways to resolve conflict besides violence. Social cohesion and tolerance of all people irrespective of nationality, sexual orientation and other qualities is needed. But as long as South Africans feel the state cannot keep them safe, they are likely to seek their own justice, often with horrific repercussions,” it added.