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Sjambok beatings lead to stabbings as town erupts over vigilante violence

Youths accused of being gangsters take revenge on anti-crime forum members

Enrico Classen of Enon location after being beaten by anti-crime forum members.
Enrico Classen of Enon location after being beaten by anti-crime forum members.
Image: GroundUp/Mkhuseli Sizani

Chaos erupted in Kirkwood, in the Eastern Cape, in the neighbouring communities of Bersheba and Enon on Thursday.

Scores of Bersheba residents shut down the area at 5am by blocking the major road to town with burning tyres, rubble and trees. Workers on public and private transport were turned back. Only nurses, teachers and pupils were allowed to pass.

The trouble started two weeks ago when anti-crime forum members from both areas carried out raids for stolen goods and searched for suspected criminals. Youths in Enon were accused of being gangsters and tik addicts terrorising the community, and 17 were severely beaten.

On Tuesday afternoon, youths took revenge. Three forum members were stabbed as rumours of a hit list circulated.

On Thursday, the communities were in an uproar, with Bersheba residents protesting and Enon youths, supported by their parents, blocking roads with burning tyres.

Mzimkhulu Nogampula, an anti-crime forum member from Bersheba, told GroundUp: “On Tuesday afternoon about eight of our members went to Enon location to find out why one of our members was klapped [ hit] by youth from that side. As we walked into the area, we were attacked with knives. I was stabbed five times in the head, arm and leg. Two of my colleagues were also stabbed, and one is badly injured and is still in hospital.”

A forum member who refused to be named said the community had to rescue them “from those thugs”.

“Two weeks back, we raided stolen goods here and we beat the suspects. We did not hand them over to the police because the police don’t come when we call them for crime,” said Pieter Maarman, chairperson of Enon anti-crime forum.

He said: “I was stabbed on Tuesday together with the members from Bersheba. I had to escape and went to hide in Bersheba. But I came back, and these boys came to my house this morning [Thursday] and insulted me and my wife. They even threatened to burn down my house.”

A youth, Martin Tshefu, said, “We are fighting back because this forum is abusing us for crimes we never committed. At least 17 of our friends were severely assaulted for no good reason. Most were severely beaten with sjamboks and knobkerries. They suffered broken arms and legs and head injuries. They pointed guns at us and then handcuffed us before taking us to Bersheba, where they took turns beating us.”

“On Monday they burnt my aunt’s ID and beat her boyfriend with sjamboks and knobkerries.”

His said his aunt had been accused of stealing livestock.

Fredlin Klaas said: “My nephew was beaten by a mob of about 250 people. His situation is very bad. His whole body is swollen and he can’t walk due to severe internal injuries.”

Enrico Classen said: “Three forum members beat me with knobkerries and sjamboks. My back is full of sjambok marks and my arm is fractured. The beat us without any proper explanation and police don’t stop them.”

Police spokesperson Sgt Majola Nkohli said, “We have not made an arrest because two of the three victims who were stabbed on Tuesday have not opened a case. One has laid a charge. Another one is in hospital and we can’t visit him due to Covid-19 regulations. One case of assault with intent to cause grievous body harm was opened.”

• This article was first published by GroundUp

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