South African towns ruled by 'mob justice'

The barbaric practice of mob justice is common in some South African townships as a way impoverished communities deal with crime like rape and theft. SBS reporter Luke Waters visits the township of Diepsloot near Johannesburg.

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Diepsloot is a half-hour drive from Johannesburg's affluent northern suburbs, but it may as well be another country - or planet.

Driving into the township, our car was forced to mount the footpath several times.

The road was filled with craters and other sections were flooded.

Functioning services are rare, homes are little more than lean-tos and crime is rife.

There are police, but in Diepsloot – like many other townships in South Africa - "mob-justice" is the preferred method of meting out penalties to those accused of crimes, usually robbery or rape.

Christoff Takalani is a regular participant in mob-justice attacks. He says he's attended about 50.

"Once we grab you, we make sure you are down," he says. "Once you are down, then we pick up the rocks, and after we pick up the rocks we hit you in your head. Once you lose consciousness, that’s when we come with the tyre (around your neck) and the petrol then we light you up."

Christoff Takalani participates regularly in mob-justice. (Luke Waters) Source: SBS

Mr Takalani regards the monthly mob-justice ritual as a service to the community. He says the formal legal system is unable to adequately deal with criminals.

"No, we don’t feel sorry because their crimes are so brutal," he says. "You can’t feel sorry for someone who rapes your sister - next time is my mother.

"They don’t care if she's 76 years old or a 6-month baby. You can see it's brutal. How can you expect us to feel mercy for you? You can't."

One community leader has taken to filming some of the barbaric rituals. Part-time journalist Golden Mkita believes mob justice is barbaric and that criminals should be dealt with through a formal legal process.

"It’s a very bad feeling to see someone being killed like a snake and it's a very traumatic situation, like one of the mob justices I happened to be there when they were killing the guy that was bashed on his head several times – that one was very traumatic.

It was my first time to experience something of that nature and I’m telling you it remained in my mind for a very, very long time," he says.

Unlikely advocates

Remarkably, some rare survivors of mob-justice advocate the practice.

Diepsloot resident David Kaise is stoney faced as he admits to raping three women.

Police intervened and he survived mob justice but serious injuries landed him in hospital for two months.

David Kaise survived a brutal attack. (Luke Waters) Source: SBS

"They get some tyre[s] and some stones," he says. "They want to beat me again with the stones, they want to light me with a tyre.

"They want to kill me."

He says mob justice taught him a lesson, but the 37 year old still manages to chillingly justify his actions.

"She was asking to drink with me. Then I said 'we can drink'," he says.

"Then I’m asking 'baby we go with my place and maybe making some sex?' She say 'fine'.

"When the time is coming we must go she didn’t want [to], so I think I must taking with my force because she was drinking my beer." 

Source: SBS

Watch the video report on YouTube:

3 min read
Published 27 May 2014 at 6:12pm
By Luke Waters
Source: SBS