The Provincial Commissioner of the police in Mpumalanga, Lieutenant General Mondli Zuma is perturbed by the spate of vigilantism experienced in the province in recent days.
Among the incidents was one which took place late last week where an elderly couple aged between 75 and 80 were rescued by the police after the community set them on fire using tyres, for the alleged killing of their grandson. They narrowly escaped death and are currently recuperating in hospital.
In the most recent ones, three people, a woman and two men were arrested, while another appeared in court for fatal mob justice attacks that occurred in three separate incidents at Komatipoort, Schoemansdal and Mhala. This happened after the victims were accused of murder and robberies at these locations.
In the first incident, a 36 year old man, Philip Chambisse, appeared before the Komatipoort Magistrate’s Court on Wednesday, 30 January 2019, for setting alight and murdering a well-known pastor in the area, Antonio Khoza, believed to be in his late 40s, at Orlando in Komatipoort late last year.
His appearance followed after being identified as one of the people involved in the killing of Khoza.
According to information at police disposal, the killing of the pastor was fuelled by the death of another man, a 34 year old husband and father of two, at the same area, who mysteriously disappeared from his house on 4 December 2018. The man’s wife who was in Mozambique at the time was notified by their children that their father did not return home that day. The wife then returned home soon afterwards and reported a missing person’s case at the police station.
A probe was launched and it led to the discovery of the man’s body in the bushes at the Strydom Block road on 10 December 2018.
Subsequent to that, the community mobilised and attacked Khoza, burning him to death after they accused him of being responsible for the death of the man whose body was found in the bushes.
Chambisse, who was remanded in custody, is facing a charge of murder and is appearing at the same court, pending a formal bail application.
In the second incident which occurred at Schoemansdal near Malelane also on Wednesday, a man came to the police station in the early hours of the morning and reported that he had been assaulted by the trio but managed to escape. He further reported that the same suspects were busy assaulting his brother at the time of reporting. Police then rushed to the scene and upon arrival they found the man already in flames.
He was later certified dead at the scene. Two men and a woman aged between 28 and 45, were arrested for assaulting and setting the man alight, accusing him of witchcraft. They are appearing at the Tonga Magistrate’s Court.
The last incident took place at Mhala near Bushbuckridge wherein a 27 year old man was assaulted by community members for allegedly robbing a foreign national owned shop in the area also on Wednesday, around 15:00. Information at police disposal revealed that the man together with three accomplices were allegedly robbing the shop where they took an undisclosed amount of cash, cell phones and airtime.
Upon fleeing, the owner of the shop reportedly screamed for help and community members gave chase, in the process the suspect is reported to have accidentally shot himself on the leg, resulting in the community members catching an assaulting him, while his accomplices managed to escape.
Police were called to the scene where they rescued him from the angry crowd and took him to the clinic, he succumbed to his injuries and died on arrival. An inquest docket was opened for investigation. It has since been established that the suspect was a wanted criminal in the area, linked to several business robberies that were committed early last year.
These incidents took place at various locations within the province, including places such as Vosman, Masoyi, KwaMhlanga and Pienaar. In most of the incidences, the victims often ended up being killed in the process.
Meanwhile police have since arrested the three accomplices who escaped at the Mhala incident, mentioned as the last one. Two of the trio aged 24 and 26 were arrested in a sting operation yesterday afternoon, one at his residence and the other in the bushes where he was hiding. During the arrests, two firearms were recovered. The suspects are also appearing in court, while the third one who was surrendered by members of his family this morning will appear in court on Monday, 4 February 2019.
The Provincial Commissioner of the police in Mpumalanga, Lieutenant General Mondli Zuma commended the members of for the speedy arrest of the suspects as well as cooperation from some sections of the community. He warned community members to stop taking the law into their own hands, urging people to report criminal acts to the police and let the law take its course. “There seems to be an unabated increase of similar incidents in the province, anyone found to have participated in such acts, will be arrested and face the full might of the law”, said General Zuma.
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