SkyNews has today, June 13, 2012, broadcast a worrying report from South Africa. The report included graphic scenes of violence meted out by vigilantes. However looking for a video to post with our report we found that the problem is far from new.
The video attached to this report dates back to 1999. At the time people in the townships had little if any faith in the police force. Instead they were turning to organised vigilantes to provide justice.
There was no trial nor sentencing. No guilty nor not guilty. Once identified as the perpetrator the culprit was stripped and beaten. The first lash of the whip was often administered by the victim.
Many of those pointed out as criminals were subsequently beaten to death. Some were burnt to death. As so often happens with rough justice, the wrong person was sometimes identified. The brutal death sentence, which was carried out, at times was for crimes such as theft.
So the latest report appears to show that little has changed. The people's faith in police officers is still weak. They prefer to allow vigilantes to mete out justice, but what justice? It is far from that. Without a means of being 100% sure who is the victim and who the criminal, a vigilante system will be always wrong. It will always be flawed. It is open to abuse and so much more.
The fact that the people often opt for the vigilante route says a lot for their faith in South African justice. Law enforcemnet officers know what is happening and yet fail to act. That must surely mean that they are complicit in the murder of many?.