Two suspected thieves were severely beaten by residents of Siyahlala informal settlement in Du Noon on Monday night, with only the arrival of police preventing them from being killed.
The two men, both in their early twenties, according to police, but whose names and ages have not been released, were admitted to hospital after police rescued them from a crowd of residents intent on exacting vengeance.
The attack against the two men came after one of the men allegedly mugged a resident while he was on his way to work on Saturday, and was positively identified by the victim.
Incensed residents, who believed the mugger and a friend of his were involved in a number of robberies in the informal settlement, tore down the shack the two men shared on Sunday before seeking them out.
The two suspects were apprehended on Monday evening by residents who had formed a vigilante squad, and were beaten with wooden poles and stones, said residents interviewed in Siyahlala who did not want to be named as they had participated in the vigilante action and did not want to be identified by police.
Western Cape Police spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Andre Traut said two male victims were assaulted by residents on Monday night at around 8:30pm.
“The possibility that the victims were accused of having committed crimes in the area is not being ruled out,” said Traut.
Siyahlala community leader Thembinkosi Janda said he was sleeping at the time but was awoken by noise outside his shack.
Janda said he went out to find a crowd of about 50 residents a beating up the two suspected thieves.
He said residents had approached him on Saturday to say they planned to “clean up” the informal settlements to flush out thieves.
He said the two men beaten on Monday night were known robbers.
“When residents asked them why they were robbing fellow residents, they said they only robbed nearby affluent suburbs and foreigners, especially Nigerians,” he said.
He said one residents who was a victim to the two suspected thieves had asked why he was then robbed, to which they responded that they had mistaken him for a Nigerian.
Traut said the circumstances around the vigilante attack were being investigated.
“We will not allow people to take the law into their own hands and will make very endeavor to apprehend them, like we do with other criminals,” he said. – Peter Luhanga