Unorthodox anti-crime methods questioned

CRUEL vigilantes or caring community protectors? The jury is out.

While many have welcomed unorthodox methods used by Isikebhe Community Forum to prevent livestock-theft and bring swift justice in the region, affected residents and farmers believe their violent approach to justice is a violation of human rights and has triggered a public turmoil.

Outraged Ntambanana community members expressed their concerns when they came face-to-face with Isikebhe members at Ngwelezane Magistrate’s Court on Monday.

The community came to support farmer and female victim Nokwethemba Biyela (62), who opened a criminal case against Isikebhe, after the group allegedly threatened her and attacked herd boys on her farm.

Isikebhe is a community crime-fighting association affiliated to the KZN Department of Community Safety and Liaison to fight crime.

Their main target is to reduce stock theft and bring criminals to book, however, according to residents their methods are fraught with intimidation, assaults and questionable methods.

According to the elderly victim, the group recently kidnapped and severely attacked her workers while searching for stolen cattle.

‘They don’t produce any identification and their violence has resulted in injuries and deaths. They burn victims’ feet and many are in hospitals after being beaten.

‘They took one of my herd boys to the Luwamba Cemetery where he was beaten and have continuously terrorised us. We fear for our lives,’ she said.

‘They also accused me of being involved in some of these thefts but they don’t produce any evidence.

‘When they first introduced this group we thought it will be an answer to our problems because we do have a problem with stock theft, but police have to be involved as well. We can’t have a group of men terrorising people.’

Written to Premier

Biyela has called for government leaders to intervene and curb the escalating attacks.

‘I have written a letter to the KZN Premier and SAPS Commissioner in search for answers.

‘I am being harassed by these people and since moved from my farm because I fear for my life and don’t know what will happen the next time they come,’ said the 62-year-old pensioner

People’s Revolutionary Movement (PRM), an organisation which protects human rights, has also intervened.

‘Victims must be compensated and the issue must be addressed urgently. Small and emerging farmers who keep their cattle on their farm as well as the people who are responsible for that farm have their businesses disrupted and earnings lost.’Herd boys have been badly assaulted with some still in hospital. This is a violation of people’s rights and we demand for proper channels to be followed regarding these stock thefts,’ said PRM national spokesperson Nhlanhla Mhlongo.

The case against isikebhe Community Forum members was postponed to 3 March, to give Biyela enough time to acquire a legal representation.

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  AUTHOR
Wellington Makwakwa
Journalist

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