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Why did they beat him for an old, scrap television set?

Man killed, another injured in vigilante incident

Jeanette Chabalala Senior Reporter
Puseletso Zulu, who was attacked by an angry mob in Diepkloof, Soweto.
Puseletso Zulu, who was attacked by an angry mob in Diepkloof, Soweto.
Image: Veli Nhlapo

Three days after being released from the hospital following car accident, a Soweto man finds himself fighting for his life again after a mob falsely accuses him and his friend of stealing a TV set he was gifted by a neighbour.

Puseletso Zulu of Diepkloof is recovering from his injuries at Chris Hani Baragwanath Academic Hospital while his friend, only known as Tshediso, died as a result of the assault which took place on Thursday evening as they were carrying the old TV set in a bin to sell it at a nearby hostel. The incident happened just three days after Zulu was discharged from hospital after he was hit by a car, which broke his arm. 

Speaking from his hospital bed yesterday, Zulu, 49, who does piece-jobs in his community for a living, said he had got the TV from his neighbour Steven Lebelo after he had helped him clean his yard. Lebelo had kept the TV in a storage and had wanted to throw it away but gave it to Zulu earlier last week instead. 

Another neighbour, Neo Mogemi, who had asked them to assist in removing a rat from her house, offered them duvets, sheets and a reflector jacket as a gift.

Zulu and Tshediso were on their way to the hostel when they were stopped by a group of men who wanted to search the bin they were pushing. 

“We didn't have an issue with him checking the bin, I even told him that I got the refuse bin at home and told him where I got the TV set and blankets. We asked to take him where we got those things. But the man called his friends and they started assaulting us. We begged them to stop. I am innocent. I am not a thief, we didn't steal those things,” said Zulu weeping. He said he did not know the men who claimed to have been patrollers. 

Zulu said he and Tshediso pleaded with the group to first verify where they got the items from before assaulting them but their pleas fell on deaf ears as the mob continued to assault them.

They were beaten with hard objects including sjamboks. Zulu managed to escape but Tshediso died on the scene. 

Gauteng police spokesperson Col Dimakatso Nevhuhulwi said police were investigating a case of murder following the discovery of a body with multiple injuries on Friday. “According to information received, the victim was attacked by community members. No-one has been arrested,” she said. 

Lebelo was not aware of the incident until Sowetan broke the news to him yesterday. A sense of anger, disappointment and shock overwhelmed him into tears as he recalled why he gave Zulu the TV.

“I am never going to be okay after this. That TV was old, it doesn't even work and doesn't have an aerial. How could people do this? Why not come to me to verify where he got it from? How am I going to face his family?”

Mogemi, who also confirmed gifting the two, said some community members would call Zulu when they wanted things fixed in their homes.

“He [Zulu] helps us a lot around the house. He is definitely not a thief and I can confidently say he doesn't break into people's houses. We trust him around here. Some people give him scraps because there is a place where he weighs these things [for money],” she said.


Sowetan also spoke to other community members who were shocked about the incident, with one saying he gave Zulu R30 on the day of the accident to assist with his refuse bin.

Community leader and patroller Susan Lekgetho said the community had a crime problem.

“The community is tired and crime is very high here. We are patrolling and we apprehend these people and take them to the police station and tomorrow they are back,” Lekgetho said. 

However, Zulu's aunt Mariah Phooko said the two were just at the wrong place at the wrong time. She said she saw the TV on Thursday in Zulu's shack before he and Tshediso took it to the hostel in the evening. She said on Friday morning neighbours visited her home and asked where Zulu and the refuse bin were.

“We went to his room and when he opened the door. He looked scary [from being beaten] and then the patrollers told him that his friend had died. I was filled with so much emotions and he was also shocked because he thought after escaping the mob, his friend would also do the same. He just went crazy after hearing about his friend dying,” she said.

The incident comes less than two months after five men were killed in Kanana Ext 4 in Tembisa during an alleged mob justice attack. The men were allegedly stoned to death by the community in January.

In December last year, seven people were murdered by a mob in Diepsloot, which recorded 35 killings in just three months last year.  

Last month during the announcement of the crime stats for the last quarter of 2023, police minister Bheki Cele announced that at least 431 murders were linked to vigilantism and mob justice attacks.

Gauteng registered the highest with 84, followed by Eastern Cape with 80 and KwaZulu-Natal with 78. There were 428 mob justice-linked murders recorded between July and September last year. 


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