Night vigil against mob justice

| Mary-Anne Gontsana
The SJC held a night vigil at the Solomon Mahlangu Hall against mob killings in Khayelitsha. Photo courtesy of the SJC.

The Social Justice Coalition (SJC) held a candlelight vigil in Khayelitsha on Thursday to highlight the problem of vigilante murders in the township.

Since the beginning of the year, eleven people have been killed at the hands of community members seeking vigilante justice, claims the SJC.

Held at the Solomon Mahlangu Hall in Makhaza, about 300 people attended the vigil to highlight the problem of mob justice.

The speakers focused on mob killings not being a solution to the problem of the failing criminal justice system of Khayelitsha.

Rashied Omar of the Western Cape Religious Leaders Forum said, “We need to use the present crisis by pressurising our democratically elected authorities to stop using crime as a political football, and to come up with a viable plan of action which procures immediate results. Unless we can provide our communities with concrete proof that the law enforcement agencies have the will and competence to rid our communities of the scourge of crime, mob justice will remain the popular, and some may argue the only, option. If there are no legal solutions, our communities will be plunged into, God-forbid, an abyss.”

SJC researcher, Axolile Notywala, said the aim of the vigil was to put pressure on the South African Police Services (SAPS), as well as the Department of Justice. “The Department of Justice should commit to the commission of inquiry and Premier Helen Zille who has shown commitment only in principle, should make the process faster. Another aim is to educate communities and condemn the actions of taking the law into their own hands.”

The SJC, as part of their Justice For All campaign, has been calling for the establishment of a commission of inquiry to investigate the problems affecting safety and justice in the township.

“We should try and work together with the police in fighting crime. We expect communities to educate others and stop the vigilante killings, and for the commission of inquiry to be established quickly,” Notywala explained.

In a statement issued by Zille’s office, she says she received correspondence from the National Police Commissioner, Riah Phiyega, requesting that she puts a three week hold on any process toward the establishment of a provincial commission of inquiry, until an investigation is done by the commissioner’s office into the problems at Khayelitsha SAPS.

“In the spirit of co-operative governance, I have agreed to the request. Given that she (Phiyega) was only recently appointed to her post, it is appropriate that I afford her the opportunity to get full clarification on the issues,” Zille said.

“This, however, will be the last deadline extension to which I will agree for SAPS. After July 20, the time for ‘consideration’, ‘deliberation’ and ‘clarification’ will be over and I will take whatever action is appropriate, within my powers, to ensure that the state of policing is seriously addressed,” Zille said.

Meanwhile on Tuesday, Nkwame Cedile and a few others picketed outside Zille’s offices in Wale Street to raise awareness about mob killings. Cedile has been very outspoken against vigilantism. Last month he went on a nine-day hunger strike to provoke discussion about necklace killings. At the demonstration, Cedile wore a tyre around his neck and held a placard saying, “Burn inequality”. He explained he was on a two-day hunger strike as a follow-up to his earlier nine-day one.

Michael Duffett made a video of the vigil for Face2Face Films. Duffett is making a documentary about mob justice in Khayelitsha. You can view it here.

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TOPICS:  Crime Khayelitsha Commission of Inquiry into Policing

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