A police search for four men from Mfuleni in Cape Town, who were allegedly assaulted and thrown into a river over the weekend, has entered its fourth day.

It’s believed the incident was possibly an act of mob justice.  

A search for the men has resulted in two bodies being recovered, but according to police, they have not been identified as any of the four who were reported missing.

It’s believed four men were dumped into the river after they were allegedly attacked on Saturday at COVID-19 informal settlement in Mfuleni.

Community leader, Thembisile Batembu says it’s understood the men were attacked because they allegedly broke into homes in the informal settlement.

Police have been scouring the river since Saturday. 

Two bodies have been recovered, but have not been identified as any of the missing four – Asonele Wanga, Maphelo Mazamisa, Sabelo Rasmeni and Yonela Mdladlama. 

Police Spokesperson, Brigadier Novela Potelwa says community members have joined the search.

 “Police on quadbikes searched the rough terrain along the river bank. A drone from emergency medical servces was also utilised. Police divers in a rubber duck entered the water again as well as Mfuleni police with law enforcement officials and community members joined the search. Yet, no bodies were found,” says Potelwa.

A relative of the two brothers, who are missing, Sindile Rasmeni, watched police search the Vlei area near Driftsands on Tuesday. 

“Inside, I’m lamenting a lot. I have pain because I know Sabelo and I also know Yonela. I grew up with them there in Maclear. You know, I can’t tell you, but if we can get their bodies so that we can bury them, at least. We don’t have a problem with angry community members, but if we can get our brothers. I know they were doing wrong to the community and I know them. They were wrong. But now, we only want their bodies only. That’s all I can tell you,” says Rasmeni.

Incidents of vigilantism or mob justice have been occurring for decades, and not just in this country.

Criminologists say it happens in communities with high crime, where residents want to see perpetrators of those crimes punished, and where there is a breakdown in the relationship between residents and police.  

 

“It’s ultimately about demonstrating to others within that specific community that there will be quite serious consequences when you go and perpetrate crime. And so, this has happened in many other communities throughout South Africa and other parts of the world,” says Professor Guy Lamb of Stellenbosch University.

Police are, meanwhile, still trying to determine the identities of the two bodies which were recovered during the search for the missing four.

They’ve appealed to anyone with missing relatives to contact the South African Police Service.