PRETORIA, June 24 – Police were called to quell tensions at Salvokop near the Pretoria CBD on Friday night after a community meeting called to discuss the circumstances around the assault of two young men by a mob almost degenerated into a fist fight.
One of the battered pair, Abester Muzhambi was last seen in the early hours of Wednesday morning when he was being flogged on the streets. His siblings said their efforts to locate him had come to nought and they were now deeply concerned about his safety.
Simmering tensions reached boiling point this week when Muzhambi and Xolani Ndlovu were seized from their respective shacks on Wednesday by an angry mob baying for blood. The two were assaulted and paraded on the streets. Traces of their blood have been covered by sand on the pavements. Eyewitnesses said rocks and sjamboks were used in the assault. Muzhambi’s relatives have been searching for him at government hospitals, police stations, and mortuaries since the incident.
“Just give us back our brother. There will not be peace in this community if he is dead. This is the turning point. This incident has proven again that we live in a community full of hatred and prejudice. You cannot apprehend a man, try him in your kangaroo courts, and dish out justice. This is not a jungle,” screamed one community member at the Friday night meeting before it degenerated.
A video of the mob justice has since emerged, but the man who recorded the early morning incident said he was stopped by the assailants before the assault became worse. Some community members said incidents of mob justice were a common occurrence in the community inhabited by people from different parts of South Africa and other African countries.
“In this community we live at the mercy of these terror groups. It’s like a form of apartheid because you don’t know when they will knock on your door with accusations. Some of them always carry illegal firearms and we are their subjects. Either we obey whatever rule they want you to live by or you are history. People are constantly being hammered in the streets, whenever a whistle is blown. The street committees are unfortunately the law in this part of the world,” said mother of three girls, only identified as Rebecca.
“We see police cars passing by in this area, but they are not here for us. The police have delegated crime prevention to these mobs of youth. If a victim is seriously injured in the assault police only take them to government hospitals. No case is pursued against the perpetrators of violence in this community. Is it because we are poor? I have never heard of mob justice in leafy suburbs. Those days are over.”
An elderly community member William Mudzimba, who happened to witness the assault on Muzhambi and Ndlovu on Wednesday, has assembled search parties who have been rummaging through the nearby bushy areas and dungeons in the evenings. Muzhambi’s siblings were also part of the search which was called off at around midnight on Friday.
Nursing deep wounds and with several stitches in his face Ndlovu told the African News Agency that he still feared for his life because he had to live in the community but did not know why he was targeted.
“I was awoken as I slept in my shack. The beating started henceforth. I couldn’t tell who was beating me and why I was being beaten. I just had to obey. I was dragged on the streets while bleeding like a dog. I did not know Muzhambi but when I was seized he was already manhandled by the crowd and was bleeding,” said Ndlovu.
“After the assault, I only remember that a police van took me to the Steve Biko Academic Hospital. There has not been any follow-up from the police regarding why I was assaulted. Now I can hardly move; how do I work to feed myself? That incident has left me deeply hurt by some community members I have lived with for years. But I guess that is life,” said Ndlovu through swollen and blistered lips.
Muzhambi’s shack has been destroyed. Some of his possessions have allegedly been looted and the others have been burnt.
Spokeswoman for the Pretoria Central police station Captain Augustinah Selepe said she would look into the incident and then provide police comment.
– African News Agency (ANA)