Molefe Seeletsa

Compiled by Molefe Seeletsa

Digital Journalist

‘Police are protecting criminals’ – Diepsloot residents defend suspects after mob justice attacks

The killings have been described as vigilantism by Gauteng police commissioner, Elias Mawela.

Diepsloot residents have defended the five men accused of killing seven suspect criminals as their case was postponed to next week.

Community members from the area located in the north of Johannesburg gathered outside the Randburg Magistrate’s Court on Wednesday in support of the five men.

The suspects, aged between 30 and 38, were arrested last week in connection with alleged mob justice attacks in Diepsloot, which led to the deaths of seven men – who were accused of being criminals.

The victims were burnt to death in two separate attacks in extensions 12 and 13 earlier this month.

Two of the seven were confirmed to be South African, while the other five were suspected to be foreign nationals, according to the Gauteng South African Police Service (Saps).

‘We are not condoning mob justice’

Residents have voiced their frustration at escalating crime levels and police inefficiency in the township.

They have since demanded that the “Diepsloot five” be released.

“We are here to support our five community members who have been arrested. We are to [demand] for bail, we want them out,” Diepsloot resident Kagamatso Sekoto told EWN outside the court on Wednesday.

Sekoto defended the five men, saying they were innocent.

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“They were not even at the [crime] scene. Those seven people were the ones who have been terrorising the community of Diepsloot. They have been killing, raping and stealing everything. We are the commuity we know the people who have been terrorising us,” she said.

She, however, said the killing of so-called criminals was not a solution to crime in Diepsloot.

“We are not condoning mob justice at all because we have been trying to police [the area] several times even before the incident took place. We called the police and they told us there were no vehicles. We feel like the police are protecting the criminals instead of protecting the innocent,” Sekoto added.

Another resident told Newzroom Afrika that it was “puzzling” that only five people were nabbed despite “many people” being allegedly involved in a mob justice incident.

“It’s quite shocking to be facing that kind of situation and we don’t know what kind of analysis the police used to arrest those suspects,” he said.

The accused will remain behind bars until court resumes on 18 December after the case was postponed for the state to finalise the outstanding details.

A date for formal bail application will be set thereafter.

It was reportedly heard in court one of the accused’s residential address was yet to be verified. Furthermore, an identity parade had not been completed.

‘Pure vigilantism’

The killings have been described as vigilantism by Gauteng police commissioner, Elias Mawela.

Mawela warned Diepsloot residents in a media briefing on Tuesday that they should not to take law into their own hands.

“No amount of reason must be put forward that residents of Diepsloot don’t trust the police. If they don’t trust the police, do they trust criminals?

“We condemn this incident. This is pure vigilantism. The more we add justifications to it, the more we encourage people to continue with vigilantism,” Mawela said.

READ MORE: Foreign traders in Diepsloot say they’re scapegoats for crime

The commissioner blamed foreign nationals, unemployment and alcohol abuse for the escalating crime rate in the township.

Crime has been prevalent for years in Diepsloot.

Residents embarked on a protest action in April last year demanding that foreign nationals, who have been scapegoated for crime in general, be removed from the township.

The protests forced Police Minister Bheki Cele and Home Affairs Minister Aaron Motsoaledi to visit the area to hear the community’s concerns.

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