The killing on Wednesday of a suspected thief by residents of Protea South in Soweto highlights the helplessness felt by citizens besieged by crime.
Many wealthy South Africans have lost faith in the police and are seeking assistance outside the government for protection against crime. This includes the private security industry. But for those who cannot afford these pricey services and rely solely on government, mob justice has become the only option.
When communities feel they are held to ransom by criminals and themselves have to resort to crime it shows how citizens are fast losing faith in the criminal justice system.
What transpired in Soweto, a crime replicated in many parts of the country that is spreading like wildfire, has evoked the dark days of apartheid when suspected police informers were executed by a “necklace”.
It is unfortunate that barbarism perpetrated during apartheid has reared its ugly head again in a free South Africa. Our constitution is admired globally for guaranteeing human rights, including the right to life.
However it makes a mockery of our constitution when some citizens whose rights have been violated by thugs are themselves allowed to mete out justice instead of this task being left to competent arms of state.
The frustration with crime is understandable. So too is extreme exasperation with the wheels of justice which turn very slowly. However, no amount of fury justifies lawlessness and the killing of those suspected of crime without these individuals being prosecuted and convicted by the courts.
No civilised society should tolerate vigilantism. It is a fact police and our courts are letting many victims of crime down.
However, allowing frustrated communities to take the law into their own hands only exacerbates the problem. This crime is so widespread, however very few suspects have been arrested and convicted. Sadly, vigilantism will not go away any time soon because many residents know they can get away with murder.