TWO victims out of the seven men who were burnt to death in an apparent vigilante attack against criminal activity in one of South Africa’s crime-ridden townships are reported to be Zimbabwean citizens.
The two have since been identified as Talent Moyo, who was 27 at the time of his death. Moyo, according to family sources, originates from Kezi, while his friend, Felix Nkomo is believed to be from Tsholotsho.
The two are said to have been menial workers in the area.
The late Moyo and his friend reportedly met their fate, while on their way to a church service in the area.
“They encountered a mob that was meting justice on five suspected gang members that had been terrorizing the community. They were so much into church and from what we gather they were bound together with tyres and ropes, beaten and burnt to death while they pleaded for their lives,” said the late Moyo’s Aunt Mrs Sibonginkosi Banda.
She said Moyo was identified by his father through his clothes and belongings, which consisted of church regalia and bibles.
Mrs Banda said arrangements were being made to positively identify Moyo through DNA tests to repatriate his body for burial in his rural home – Kezi.
“He was on his way to church and went to pick his friend up for a service. They were intercepted by a mob who believed they were criminals terrorizing the area. They were beaten and hurt before being murdered,” she said. “He was young and was intending on marrying this December. This is a serious tragedy and we hope justice will be served,” said Mrs Banda.
South Africa is afflicted by an increasing murder rate, especially in ungoverned suburbs, such as Diepsloot.
The town is said to be home to more than 350,000 people north of Johannesburg with high rates of killings and rape, has been abandoned by authorities.
According to reports on the incident, police 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,” he said.
Masondo said no motive for the killings had been confirmed but said 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.