News agency, Cape Town, South Africa
Friday December 15th 2017

Necklacing a ‘smoke signal to government’ over lack of justice

Three men suspected of stealing plead for their lives before being necklaced by a vigilante mob in Enkanini, Khayelitsha on Monday evening. Photo: Nombulelo Damba/WCN

The increasing brutality of vigilante killings, highlighted by the necklacing of suspected thieves by an angry mob in Khayelitsha this week, was evidence that South Africans did not believe the government could deliver the levels of justice people sought.

The three suspected thieves were subjected to the horrific practice of necklacing – which was used against suspected police informers under apartheid – in Enkanini informal settlement in Khayelitsha on Monday evening.

Tyres were placed around their necks and piled on top of them before being set alight.

The killing came just five days after the bodies of three men who had been tortured and killed were found in the sand dunes adjacent to Macassar in Khayelitsha.

The three victims, who were suspected of stealing a television and DVD player from a local taxi driver, were bound with wire and believed to have been beaten for hours before they died.

Just some of the vigilante killings reported in Khayelitsha alone this year include 23-year-old Anele Gazi who was beaten and then burnt alive in a bonfire by a vigilante mob on January 19.

His death made headlines as he was thrown onto the pyre alive, with his hands and feet bound.

Then on January 31, on the same day residents marched to the Khayelitsha Magistrate’s court to demand the release of the two people who had been arrested for Gazi’s murder, police recovered the burnt body of an unidentified man in his twenties who had been killed on suspicion of theft.

Eyewitnesses at the scene said the man had been tied by the neck to the concrete fence that separates the Site C informal settlement from the N2 national highway and had a black object around his middle, which a resident said was a tyre. His upper body, above the ‘tyre’ was burnt.

An average of two vigilante killings, controversially dubbed ‘people’s justice’ by some newspapers, occurred in South Africa every day during the period of a 2009/2010 study conducted by the Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation.

Two deaths by vigilantism made up a portion of the 46 daily murders in South Africa that occurred over the period.

Usually vigilantes beat, stone and stab their victims and then move toward burning people to death, particularly by placing a tyre around their chest and setting it alight, is chillingly reminiscent of the apartheid kangaroo courts in townships where suspected police informers were necklaced.

Vigilante necklacing made headlines in June last year when four suspected thieves were subjected to the tyre torture in Port Elizabeth.

Trauma manager at the CSVR, Nomfundo Mogapi, said the brutality of the crimes committed in South Africa put us on the same footing as countries at war.

Although South Africans had no defined enemy, “we fight each other”, she said.

“Necklacing is a result of the unfulfilled promises to and continued socio-economic inequality of the people. In order to get what they want, they feel they need to take the law into their own hands.

Mogapi said that frustration with a lack of support from the legal system led to collective violence “to teach criminals a lesson”.

Additionally, violence was becoming normalised, it was becoming “a language in and of itself”.

“The smoke of the burning tyres is a signal – a message – to the government.”

However, she said the violence was not just a governmental problem, but a societal one.

“We need to ask the people lying comfortably in their beds, the church, the police and local government for help. We need to give these young men a working alternative to violence to bring justice to communities.”

It was not a matter of creating more policies, it was implementation and the effective functioning of local government that was required.

Mogapie’s analysis was reflected by Khayelitsha residents’ committee member Mzukisi Ngalo who said: “As residents we’ve lost hope in them (police), they don’t want to patrol the place.”

Residents have repeatedly complained about criminals being back in the community just days after an arrest, as they are let out on a warning or granted bail.

Monwabisi Park SANCO chairperson Mzimasi Maselane said in many cases numerous reports were made to the police about the activities of known criminals before vigilante action was taken.

Referring specifically to the murder of Gazi, he said “lots of cases” against Gazi were reported to the police.

“But they never arrest him, but now that he’s dead they’re quick to arrest people (for his murder),” said Mekuto. – Nombulelo Damba and Kate Gerber

Tags: Anele Gazi, Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation, Enkanini informal settlement, Khayelitsha, Mzimasi Maselane, Mzukisi Ngalo, necklacing, Nomfundo Mogapi

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3 Responses to “Necklacing a ‘smoke signal to government’ over lack of justice”

  1. [...] to mob justiceIndependent OnlineWater, sanitation form part of key human rights: iLIVETimes LIVEWest Cape News -The New Age Onlineall 22 news [...]

  2. racing says:

    Brilliant stuff, very well written!

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