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SOWETAN | Vigilantism no answer in Diepsloot

A partial view of Diepsloot.
A partial view of Diepsloot.

For the better part of this year and even longer, residents of Diepsloot, north of Johannesburg have been singing the same song about escalating crime levels in their area.

Promises have been made, community meetings held with ministers and interventions promised, including deployment of more police resources to deal with the problem. Yet, hardly any change on the ground is evident, according to residents and the police’s own crime statistics.

If the second quarter figures released by the Gauteng police two weeks ago are anything to go by, Diepsloot is one of the worst places to live in the province.

According to the crime figures, serious crimes such as murder increased 40% between July and September while attempted murder saw a staggering 114% increase in the same period. In fact Diepsloot is ranked number one in Gauteng in terms of reported cases of assault with intent to cause grievous bodily harm and second across the country with 41.9% increase in cases reported in three months.

Violent crime in Diepsloot is not intermittent. It is a lived reality of many such that common robbery shot up 122% between July and September and robbery at residential premises increased 70%.

Behind these alarming figures are the lives of humans that have been lost including those killed in acts of vigilantism. At the weekend seven young men were rounded up, killed, and set alight allegedly by the angry community that says it is fed up with crime.

The mob justice victims were accused of being behind a spate of heinous crimes in the area. The incident is indicative of a community pushed to its limits for they believe such killings will strike fear in the hearts of lawbreakers.

But there should be no room for vigilantism in our society. It encourages criminality, which has serious consequences for the mob who perpetrate it. Breaking the back of criminality that has characterised Diepsloot over the years requires competent police intelligence gathering and good detective work. 

While the people of Diepsloot may be justifiably frustrated by what they see as lack of action to keep their streets safe, mob justice will not help either.  It will simply turn the township into an arena marked by a vicious cycle of violence where no one will be safe for many years to come.

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