Vigilantism growing in South Africa

Thousands of soldiers were deployed to provide reinforcements as the violence spread to Johannesburg, the country's financial hub.

22 July 2021 | Economics

Do not infringe on the rights of others and do not take the law into your own hands. Xolani Dube, political analyst: Durban

SOFIA CHRISTENSEN

Armed community members and vigilante groups have stepped in to tackle unrest in South Africa, taking matters into their own hands and sometimes stoking violence as security forces struggle to restore order.

Understaffed and heavily reliant on private security companies, the police were rapidly overwhelmed when riots and looting first flared last week in the south-eastern province of KwaZulu-Natal (KZN), sparked by the jailing of graft-accused former president Jacob Zuma.

Thousands of soldiers were deployed to provide reinforcements as the violence spread to Johannesburg, the country's financial hub.

But with tensions still high in parts of KZN and a toll of over 100, some worried citizens have taken up arms to protect their communities and their property.

Such grassroot mobilisations can easily turn violent and deadly in a country where it is not uncommon to own a handgun.

AFP journalists witnessed one particularly brutal incident on Wednesday, when dozens of local commuter minibus operators beat up seven township dwellers caught rummaging through the debris of a ransacked mall in south-eastern Johannesburg.

Law

The victims, which included two women, crouched helplessly against a metal gate, wide-eyed and screaming in pain as the mob clamped down on them with whips, sticks and rusty metal rods.

One man who tried to escape was hit over the head with a glass bottle and dragged back, blood streaming down his neck.

Eager to show off their prowess, the group proudly paraded to police vans parked outside the mall's main entrance.

There, they handed in their captives, whose faces were swollen and their hands were tied tightly behind their backs. Some were released on the spot.

Residents had meanwhile gathered in a nearby cemetery around the body of a teenage boy, allegedly shot earlier in the day.

Acting Minister in the Presidency Khumbudzo Ntshavheni warned against "a situation where members of the public are at loggerheads with the law after their attempts to protect their lives and their own lives".

"Do not infringe on the rights of others and do not take the law into your own hands," she said."South Africa is ruled by mobs," said Durban based political analyst Xolani Dube.

"When you have so many unregulated security companies and arms floating around who's going to be in control when the country ignites?" he asked, noting that both the police and army were poorly equipped.

Protection

Deadly scuffles broke out over the weekend between armed locals and alleged looters in the town of Phoenix, 25 kilometres northwest of Durban, according to witnesses.

Police Minister Bheki Cele said racial tension had fed into community protection efforts in Phoenix, where the majority of residents are of Indian descent.

Fifteen people are known to have been killed in the town since the violence started, he said. This week Cele condemned "vigilantism" and urged citizens to work with police rather than set up parallel structures.

In Pietermaritzburg, KZN's capital, local volunteers armed with anything from paintball guns to baseball bats are taking turns to watch over residential suburbs and shopping centres.

Resident Bernie Naidoo, 43, told AFP the situation had remained peaceful, with grateful civilians providing food and coffee to help their protectors face chilly winter nights.

"You will see a few [police] vehicles riding around but they are severely outnumbered," said Naidoo, an investment advisor. "It could definitely escalate into clashes," he added. "That is exactly why the guys are arming themselves."

Citizens have also gathered peacefully around shopping malls in Johannesburg and Pretoria, forming human chains to deter potential looters. Security expert Johan Burger cautioned against labelling all community security initiatives "vigilante action”. -Nampa/AFP

Similar News

 

Border posts’ revenue in Zambezi falls

2 days ago - 23 July 2021 | Economics

Border posts in Zambezi recorded a 26% decrease in revenue during the 2020/21 financial year, regional governor Lawrence Sampofu has said.Delivering his State of the...

New electronic transfer system to be launched

3 days ago - 22 July 2021 | Economics

A new electronic funds transfer system has been gradually introduced into the Namibian market, with all stakeholders in the banking industry collaborating on the wide-ranging...

Vigilantism growing in South Africa

3 days ago - 22 July 2021 | Economics

SOFIA CHRISTENSENArmed community members and vigilante groups have stepped in to tackle unrest in South Africa, taking matters into their own hands and sometimes stoking...

Developing countries are addicted to coal

3 days ago - 22 July 2021 | Economics

JOHN KEMPCoal-fired power plants are proving hard to shut down in developing economies because they are cheap and convenient, but keeping them going is pumping...

Zambezi customs revenue drops by N$23m

3 days ago - 22 July 2021 | Economics

KENYA KAMBOWERUNDUThe directorate of customs and excise in the Zambezi Region recorded a N$23 million reduction in revenue collected during the 2020/2021 financial year. This...

Namibia’s construction sector still on mute

4 days ago - 21 July 2021 | Economics

PHILLEPUS UUSIKULand delivery was one of the challenges pointed out in the recently released First National Bank (FNB) residential property report.According to the report, for...

SA tourism on edge with double virus impact

4 days ago - 21 July 2021 | Economics

GREGORY WALTONGraced with rolling vineyards, bountiful big game, the iconic Table Mountain, endless sandy beaches and vast cultural riches, South Africa would have expected to...

Investors capitalising on low property prices

5 days ago - 20 July 2021 | Economics

PHILLEPUS UUSIKUThe accommodative monetary policy and struggling rental market has created a window of opportunity for property investors to capitalise on distressed sales.According to Frans...

'Freedom day' in England despite warnings

5 days ago - 20 July 2021 | Economics

London - Virtually all pandemic restrictions were lifted in England yesterday but "freedom day" was met with deep concern from scientists as coronavirus cases surge...

SA unrest to prove costly for economic activity

5 days ago - 20 July 2021 | Economics

The current unrest in South Africa will likely prove costly for the country in terms of damage to property, dampening subdued confidence and weighing on...

Latest News

Bridging the healthcare divide saves...

2 days ago - 23 July 2021 | Columns

Celia Sofia StephanusIn December 2019, Covid-19 became something for the world to worry about. It was no longer something that was just happening in Asia....

Give me Namibia’s unemployment problem...

2 days ago - 23 July 2021 | People

Wetumwene Shikage She was born in Katutura, in a settlement known as Gemeente, which she describes with pride saying that after apartheid during...

Border posts’ revenue in Zambezi...

2 days ago - 23 July 2021 | Economics

Border posts in Zambezi recorded a 26% decrease in revenue during the 2020/21 financial year, regional governor Lawrence Sampofu has said.Delivering his State of the...

Making his way up the...

2 days ago - 23 July 2021 | People

Desiree GasesEddie King was born and raised in the Western Transvaal town of Klerksdorp. He grew up in a home with loving, committed and hard-working...

Maria Louw manages an integral...

2 days ago - 23 July 2021 | People

Michelline NawatisesAfter being at Paratus for 14 years, Maria Louw considers herself to be “part of the furniture”, but Paratus considers her part of the...

Meeting the legal needs of...

2 days ago - 23 July 2021 | Business

Rivaldo Kavanga The firm is a general law practice. Their main areas of practice are criminal defence, labour law, commercial litigation, corporate governance, administrative law,...

EDITORIAL: Namibia must listen to...

2 days ago - 23 July 2021 | Opinion

The oil search in the Kavango East Region gives Namibia another glimmer of hope for a prime resource breakthrough, but this has not been without...

Breathing deep

2 days ago - 23 July 2021 | Business

During the first week of the Breathe Namibia campaign, Agra and Woermann, Brock & Co staff handed over more than 50 Oxygenators to recipients in...

Emilia Eino takesing up her...

2 days ago - 23 July 2021 | People

Emilia Eino has been in the ICT industry for the past ten years. She first served as a development planner responsible for ICT infrastructure development...

Load More