South African communities are faced with various crimes and it has been a challenge to every citizen to play a role in bringing all perpetrators to justice by working hand-in-hand with the South African Police Service. However this may lead to communities taking matters into their own hands not knowing that they are also committing a crime that can land them behind bars.
Earlier this year, a 56-year-old male security officer at Sterkspruit's Methodist church was stabbed to death during a robbery at Mokhesi village in Sterkspruit. The old man was on his way home following his 12 hour night shift duties at around 05:00 when he was allegedly approached by a well-known male suspect who demanded money and a cellphone from the deceased. According to an eyewitness, the victim, who had a wooden stick on his possession, refused to be searched by the suspect. The suspect became agitated and took out an Okapi knife and struck the deceased's arm.
The old man struck back with his wooden stick as an act of self-defence and the robbery turned into an ugly fight where it was a knife versus a wooden stick. At the end of the fight, the old man was defeated. He was severely stabbed and died on the scene. The alleged murderer then took the deceased's wallet and cellphone and he fled the scene with bruises on his body and face. The stick of the deceased lay next to his body, broken into two pieces as a result of him hitting the suspect.
The victim's death resulted in a manhunt as more witnesses came forward with information, including the suspect's girlfriend who was present during the robbery. The community then went to the 27-year-old suspect's home and found both his parents who knew nothing about what was going on. A huge mob gathered in front of his home, telling his parents that the courts always granted bail to their son who had been stealing from community members, but that they have had enough of their son.
The mob then started throwing stones, breaking the windows of the suspect's home, forcing his parents to run for their safety. As the suspect's parents ran for their lives, the mob poured petrol around the house and set the house alight with all the valuable belongings of the family inside. They did this while they were singing and chanting "they must go, they must go ..." The suspect was apprehended that same day as his girlfriend gave critical information about his whereabouts. A case of murder and robbery was opened against the suspect but the suspect is still awaiting trial at the Burgersdorp Correctional Centre. The community members who were seen setting the house alight, however, are facing arson charges.
It is vital for South African citizens to understand that taking matters into their own hands is a crime and that everyone accused of a crime is innocent until proven guilty by the court of law. We must work hand in hand with the SAPS by being whistleblowers and give information that will help in bringing perpetrators to justice, not take matters into our own hands.
Const Mthunzi Tsetse
Sterkspruit, Eastern Cape