Following a gruesome incident where a ‘mob’ tied up and burned seven men accused of a crime wave, additional police were deployed to patrol one of South Africa‘s most violent townships on Sunday, as reported by both police and residents.
The escalating murder rate in South Africa takes a toll, and community leaders claim that Diepsloot, a town north of Johannesburg with over 350,000 residents and high rates of killings and rape, has been overlooked by authorities.
A murder investigation has been initiated by the police following the discovery of the charred bodies of seven young men.
Police spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Mavela Masondo confirmed in a statement to AFP that late Friday night, an alert was raised concerning two “burned bodies.”
Another five bodies were discovered in the early hours of Saturday in a nearby district of Diepsloot, he added.
‘Preliminary investigation suggests that in both incidents, the victims were assaulted and burned by the mob,’ Masondo said.
The bodies of the five men, all aged about 20, were found on a pile of bricks on wasteland in the town.
‘They were all chased, caught and tied before being killed, yes it was a ‘necklace’,’ said one resident, referring to the use of tyres or rope put over the upper body of victims before they are set alight.
‘There are more police today and we hope they will stay because we need them,’ the resident added, speaking on condition of anonymity because of tensions in the township. ‘There have been a lot of robberies and people are angry.’
Masondo said no motive for the killings had been confirmed but commented that police ‘strongly condemn acts of vigilantism and the community taking the law into their own hands, as that constitutes a serious criminal offense.’
The charging of three community leaders, instrumental in organizing June’s town demonstrations, led to renewed protests, fueled by a series of murders, robberies, and a petrol station bombing.
South Africa, home to around 60 million people, saw an average of 68 daily murders in the second quarter of 2023, reflecting an almost 20 percent rise compared to the same period in 2019.