No place for vigilante groups

DESPERATE times call for desperate measures, or so the saying goes.

It is a sad truth that many people in our region, both rural and urban, feel the long arm of the law simply does not reach far enough.

Stories of violent perpetrators being given bail, only to commit the same offence again, are all too common an occurrence, while there are other stories of criminals being caught red-handed, only to have charges against them dropped because of incorrectly filed dockets.

All of this led to the rise of Community Policing Forums (CPFs) which, working in conjunction with SAPS, have a good track record in fighting crime.

However, the fine line between CPFs and vigilante groups can easily be crossed, as is apparent with the Isikebhe Community Forum as reported on in last Friday’s ZO under the headline ‘Unorthodox anti-crime methods questioned’.

This crime fighting group has taken it upon itself to tackle Ntambanana’s livestock crime, often with violent results.

In the group’s efforts to combat livestock theft, small-scale farmers and their workers are being threatened, held against their will, tortured and left fearing for their lives.

Livelihoods are at stake, as fearful farmers move off their farms and into hiding.

Reports of the group burning alleged perpetrators’ feet and attacking herd boys are causing community members to be fearful of those they thought would protect them.

All this while the forum’s members fail to produce anything to prove they are indeed a legitimate crime fighting organisation.

This is in stark contrast to official CPF groups whose members wear uniforms and often travel in branded vehicles.

While Isikebhe Community Forum is reported to be affiliated to the KZN Department of Community Safety and Liaison, community members feel anything but safe and claim this group roam the streets looking who to terrorise next.

The mandate of a legitimate CPF is clear – work closely with SAPS and within the ambit of the law.

There can be no place in society for vigilantism. Rather members of the public must work with CPFs in bridging the gap and restoring trust between SAPS and the public.

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