Community burns 'livestock thieves'
Two men a mob believed were part of a stock theft syndicate were stoned to death and their bodies burnt to ashes in Stutterheim, Eastern Cape, on Sunday.
A third person survived with minor injuries after he was rescued from the mob by police.
A police vehicle was pelted with stones when it arrived on the scene.
Police spokesperson Khaya Tonjeni said the charred remains of the two men were found at Kubusi village at about noon. Tonjeni said police had responded to information that a taxi transporting suspected stock thieves had arrived from Cape Town.
On arrival, the police found a 28-year-old man from Strand in Cape Town inside the taxi.
There were two buckets of raw meat alongside him.
The man was arrested and charged with possession of suspected stolen meat.
After the arrest, the police later learnt that two other suspects who had ran away were chased and assaulted by community members, Tonjeni said.
The charred body of one man was found by the police at Mngxuma village near Kubusi village and that of the second next to the Kubusi River.
No arrests have been made.
"While police were in the process of trying to rescue another suspect from the angry hands of the mob, a police vehicle was attacked with stones and a small window at the back of the bakkie was broken," said Tonjeni.
Kubusi villager Khayalethu Magadlela said the victims were believed to have been part of a stock theft syndicate which sold livestock to butcheries or other farms.
"People are fed up with losing livestock and the suspects getting away with it. These men were caught red-handed and the people interrogated them and they confessed to stealing sheep to sell to butcheries and other farmers from far away," Magadlela said.
"The people who steal create tensions in our communities because people end up accusing each other when their animals are lost. Would-be thieves will now think twice before doing any wrong around here," he added.
Another resident who refused to give his name to Sowetan's sister publication, Dispatch, said: "For far too long we have been targets. These thieves target certain households and this time they have come to the wrong area. Their time is up. You would not expect people to steal under lockdown."
Provincial police commissioner Lieut-Gen Liziwe Ntshinga condemned the actions of the community members.
"We understand your frustrations at the rise of stock theft," she said.
"We don't take stock theft lightly as it threatens the livelihoods of people who are subsistence and commercial farmers. Our stock theft units throughout the province are working tirelessly to fight the rise of stock theft and we are hopeful that, with the public's support, our efforts will be fruitful.
"We have to stop buying stolen meat from thieves and work closely with police. Apprehend anyone suspected of crime and hand them over to the police for the rule of law to take its course. Every suspect deserves to have their day in court and a chance to prove their innocence before a magistrate. We appeal to the public to exercise caution and restraint, and to work with and through the law," urged Ntshinga.