Five alleged criminals including a witch doctor have been
killed by an enraged South African mob in a township, police
say, the latest act of vigilantism in a country plagued with
high rates of violent crime.
The killings in the township of Khutsong follow other
flare-ups in the area known as the West Rand, a sprawling
group of communities west of Johannesburg that has fallen on
hard times as gold mines have closed.
Another township in the area, Bekkersdal, has been the scene
of periodic riots the past few weeks by residents angry at
the failure of the local government to provide services such
as garbage collection, an ominous sign for the ruling African
National Congress ahead of general elections next year.
In Sunday's incident, police said in a statement that about
400 men had gathered in an open field to air their grievances
about gangsters in the area and then split up into roving
They first attacked a 61-year-old traditional healer or witch
doctor, setting his house alight and burning him to death.
Two young men who the police said belonged to a criminal
grouping known as the "Casanova Gang" were then set upon and
also burnt to death. The group then moved to another
neighbourhood where two other alleged gangsters were stoned
to death. Several people were also injured during the
"Police have increased visibility in the area. Currently the
area is volatile," the police said.
Mob justice is a common feature of life in South Africa's
black townships, where poor residents often complain about
gangsterism, violent crime and shoddy policing. But it is
rare for so many to be killed at once.