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Is vigilantism the answer to crime? Adv. Simelane highlights the issues therein

Is vigilantism the answer to crime? Adv. Simelane highlights the issues therein
"Looking at the implications mob action has on the justice system, Advocate Mzwandile Simelane highlights that it creates a complicated series of challenges, disrupting the very judicial system meant to protect the community."

A mob of angry community members took justice into their own hands, viciously beating six men to such a degree, one man died.

On Sunday, 3 January 2020 at midnight, the incident took place when the community from KwaJobe in Jozini, Northern KwaZulu-Natal, saw two suspicious vehicles parked near a primary school.  

The community mobilised and managed to apprehend six suspects. Instead of handing the men over to the South African Police Services, the community members launched a full-on assault. Afterwhich, the violence only perpetuated, seeing the community turning their attention to the suspects’ two vehicles—setting the vehicles alight.  

Weighing in on the matter, KwaZulu-Natal Provincial Commissioner, Lieutenant General Khombinkosi Jula commended the community, while highlighting the realities of taking the law into one’s hands. “Whilst we appreciate the proactive action by the community, I am also appealing to citizens to not break the law by assaulting suspects and destroying property which is required as evidence.”

Instead of being heroes, due to the community members actions, charges of murder, attempted murder, malicious damage to property and burglary were opened.

During the July to September 2020 period, the SAPS Crime Statistics show police investigated a staggering 203 cases of vigilantism/mob justice. Out of this figure, KZN takes the lead with 68 reported mob justice cases, followed by Gauteng with 43 cases and the Western Cape with 36 cases.

Looking at the implications mob action has on the justice system, Advocate Mzwandile Simelane highlights that it creates a complicated series of challenges, disrupting the very judicial system meant to protect the community. He stresses, “In a legal case when it comes to mob justice, prosecution and investigations become difficult. For example, if a man rapes someone and people attack and kill him, the autopsy will point out the cause of his death. However, who do the police question? With crime, there must be intent and evidence? But how do you show intent when 100 people are involved in the matter?”

With mob justice affecting both police investigations and legal proceedings, Advocate Simelane points out that it is instrumental not to become emotional when it comes to a crime. “Rather let the justice system run its course, as mob justice creates more challenges than solutions.”

As frustrations build around inconsistent sentencing, irregular policing coupled with drastic increases in crime, will we see more scenarios of mob justice in communities?

What are your thoughts on the matter? Share your views in the comment section below?

Authors: Quinton Boucher and Calvin Swemmer

Edited: Calvin Swemmer

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