'Mob justice now KZN law'
Legitimising vigilantes as "crime fighters" is a "dangerous move" that would replace the rule of law with mob justice, KwaZulu-Natal violence monitor Mary de Haas said yesterday.
The KwaZulu-Natal government has decided to combine 14 vigilante groups into a single unit - the KZN Community Crime Prevention Association .
The vigilante groups have become notorious for assaulting and torturing suspected criminals, often causing their death.
"It's worrying. This is a very dangerous move and things are going to be worse," De Haas warned.
"With the state of policing in our country being as bad as it is, this is a very dangerous move.
"I am worried about proper supervision of these people. In our country, even the police need to be monitored as they abuse people all the time. So who will monitor these people because surely it cannot be the police?" De Haas asked.
The groups signed a memorandum of understanding with the KwaZulu-Natal government yesterday under which they are committed to:
- Prevent crime and cooperate with police for the public's benefit and not for profit;
- Have a valid constitution with acceptable governmental and financial management provisions; and
- No involvement with or link to any criminal activity.
Premier Zweli Mkhize said the government's feeling was that the groups were doing a "great job" in dealing with crime, though there were incidents where they "acted outside the perimeters of the law".
"Crime occurs in the communities. There are [criminal] masterminds who drive expensive cars and are respected by some of us. Critically, young people are recruited by these masterminds for all sorts of crimes," said Mkhize, adding the community-based groups were well-placed to curb the spread of crime.
Police department spokesman Zweli Mnisi welcomed the initiative.
"It ties in with our community participation philosophy in which communities play an active part in the fight against crime. We have, over the past three years, emphasised that the police alone cannot fight crime and this fact has been supported by our crime statistics, as well as independent analysts."
Mnisi insisted that in areas where communities partnered with the police, crime declined.
"What is further encouraging about such an initiative is that it brings these groupings under one umbrella body which will assist in better coordination and information sharing," he said.
The elected leader of the KZN Community Crime Prevention Association, Tallman Zuma, vowed the group would work within the law.
Zuma was a member of the Isikebhe (b oat) vigilante group - one of the most notorious in the province.
The group was formed in 2001 in Nquthu, after an upsurge in stock theft in the area.
It is alleged that Isikebhe has regularly been involved in the abduction and torture of suspected criminals
However, Zuma said it was never its intention to assault people.
"Isikebhe was never about violence," said Zuma.