The five people, all from the local village of Dithabaneng ga-Mphahlele, were arrested between 2am and 4.20am during an operation that comprised members from Crime Intelligence, the Stock Theft Unit and Lebowakgomo detectives.
According to police spokesperson Brigadier Motlafela Mojapelo, nine heads of cattle were allegedly taken to the premises of a family in the area by a man from the adjacent village of Makurung on Wednesday. The cattle were taken there for safekeeping until a trailer could be organised, News24 previously reported.
“On Friday, the same man came back driving a bakkie with a trailer and before he could take the cattle, community members mobilised and accosted a 46-year-old woman, whose premises was used to keep the said cattle, threatening to kill her.
“In the process, she was let go after she managed to point out the person who brought the cattle. The already agitated community members allegedly grabbed the man and two others, stoned them and set them alight,” said Mojapelo.
Police were called and, on arrival, two men had already been killed and the third one was engulfed in flames. He later died on the way to hospital.
The five people, aged 44 to 66, appeared in the Lebowakgomo Magistrate’s Court on Tuesday on three counts of murder and malicious damage to property.
Three of them, and a woman in whose premises the alleged stolen cattle were placed for safekeeping, were released after they could not be linked to the offences.
The remaining two, Nicolas Thamaga, 45, and Happy Sebake, 43, were charged with three counts of murder and their cases were postponed to August 15 for a formal bail application.
Two of the three victims have been identified. They are Mogau Anton Malahlela, 43, from Moletji Masedibu, and Dumisane Dan Malungani, 34, from Giyani. The remaining deceased has not been identified yet.
More arrests are expected as police investigations continue.
The provincial commissioner of the South African Police Service in Limpopo, Lieutenant General Nneke Ledwaba, has commended all the members who played a role in the arrests
“The arrest of these suspects a few days after the brutal killing of the victims should send a clear message that the police are determined to stamp out all incidents of mob justice,” said Ledwaba.