(AFP) — Extra police patrolled one of South Africa’s most violent townships Sunday after a “mob” tied-up and burned to death seven men accused of a crime wave, police and residents said.
South Africa is afflicted by a steadily increasing murder rate, but community leaders say Diepsloot, a town of more than 350,000 people north of Johannesburg with high rates of killings and rape, has been abandoned by authorities.
Police said they had started a murder investigation after the charred bodies of the seven young men were found.
An alert over two “burned bodies” was raised late Friday night, police spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Mavela Masondo said in a statement to AFP.
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.”
Protests were held over charges made against three community leaders who led demonstrations in the town in June. That followed a series of murders and robberies including the bombing of a petrol station.
South Africa, with a population of about 60 million, averaged 68 murders a day in the second quarter of 2023, an increase of nearly 20 percent on the same period in 2019.