SOWETAN | Vigilantism no solution to crime

A crime scene
A crime scene
Image: 123RF/Paul Fleet

There isn’t a day that goes by without most of us seeing images of violent crime in SA. 

Whether we are direct victims of thuggery or distant witnesses, violent crime is uppermost in the minds of most people who live in this country. 

Police are often overwhelmed and under-resources to deal with it. In some instances, they too are complicit in it.

This raises the level of anger among ordinary citizens who look to law enforcement for protection and justice. This is why many believe the only way to push back against the scourge of crime is mob justice. 

Crime statistics for the last quarter of 2023 show that at least 431 murders were linked to vigilantism and mob justice attacks in the country. 

Gauteng registered 84 incidents, followed by the Eastern Cape with 80 and KwaZulu-Natal with 78. 

Time and again this publication has condemned the growing practice of vigilantism as a response to crime. It is not only unhelpful and criminal itself but inherently breeds to anarchy.

Today, we report that two men were attacked by members of the community in Diepkloof, Soweto, last week after they were seen carrying a TV. By just seeing the men carrying a TV, community members assumed it was stolen. 

But it wasn’t. It was a gift from a man for whom they had done work earlier in the week. 

The attack on the two was so savage that one died while another is in hospital. 

Proponents of so-called mob justice often say that attacks on people who turn out to be innocent are minimal in the broader context of those who are guilty.

This sentiment is misguided.

No one should ever experience violence because our anger and fear of criminals has led us to turn on one another with savagery. 

Doing so is not activism. It is a reinforcement of lawlessness which ultimately renders no one safe. 

The fact that our law enforcement and criminal justice system often fails to deal with criminals does not mean we ought to create a society where the risk of senseless violence, against anyone, is heightened. 

If anything, we must pile the pressure on those who have the constitutional obligation to protect us to do their job.  Where they fail, as they often do, they must be removed. 

But we must never accept that vigilantism will make our society a safer place. It never has. 

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