Mdantsane residents come out in support of vigilantism accused

March in support of members of an anti-crime forum charged with murdering a security guard

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Mdantsane residents outside Magistrates Court last week, demanding the release of anti-crime forum members who were arrested for murder. Photo: Nombulelo Damba-Hendrik

  • Mdantsane residents have come out in support of members of a community anti-crime forum accused of vigilantism.
  • Four members of the forum were arrested earlier this month for murder and assault. They are due back in court on 2 September.
  • During last week’s hearings, dozens of people marched to the court in support of the accused.
  • Other members of the forum say they have gone into hiding because they are targeted by police for exposing “police failures” in Mdantsane.
  • Police have urged them to come forward and report any criminal activity by police officers, anonymously.

Residents of Mdantsane, East London, have come out in support of four members of a community anti-crime forum who were arrested after the murder of a security guard.

The four have been charged with assault with the intent to cause grievous bodily harm, kidnapping, torture and murder.

Mdantsane Police spokesperson Nkosikho Mzuku this week confirmed that the four suspects were arrested after a security guard was murdered on Thursday, 8 July, in Highway. Mzuku said the suspects were also accused of assaulting two more people later that day, saying they were thieves.

The four forum members briefly appeared in the Mdantsane Magistrates Court on Thursday and Friday. They were not asked to plead. The case was postponed for a bail hearing this week after a court staffer fell ill with Covid-19, and is expected to return to court on 2 September.

During last week’s hearings, dozens of people marched to the court in support of the forum members.

Forum chairperson Sipho Plaatyi said he was told that the four had been called to intervene in a fight between the security guard and criminals. He said he could not give more information at this stage.

He said the forum had been started four years ago and had become more active on the ground since July 2020, due to rising criminal incidents and inaction by the police. “Our duty is to patrol our area day and night. We accompany those going to work in the morning to bus stops and train stations. In the afternoon, we always make sure they get home safe,” said Plaatyi. He said residents had been coming to the forum to report house break-ins and other theft.

Plaatyi acknowledged that the forum was known to take action against suspected criminals they catch.

“We demolished a number of shacks used by drug dealers and we seized drugs in some of the shacks, which we handed over to the police. But they told us that the drugs were small and won’t stand in court,” he said.

Plaatyi said that they tried to work with the local police officers, but they had grown tired of seeing suspects being released from custody with little or no consequences for their actions.

Meanwhile, some other members of the forum have fled their homes because they are afraid of being targeted or arrested. One member who had left her home said she had lost faith in the police. “Our police are just good at making affidavits and putting stamps. I was once turned away from Mdantsane police station after a neighbour threw me with petrol. Police told me that they couldn’t open a case because the neighbour didn’t burn me,” she said.

Mzuku said police “always strive to maintain a good relationship with the community” but did not condone vigilantism. He said SAPS management viewed the allegations by the forum as a serious matter.

He urged the community to come forward and anonymously report any allegations of corruption or criminal activity to their station commanders.

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