Johannesburg – Tired of being victims, fed up South Africans are fighting back.
There has been an increase in reported incidents where citizens have gone head-to head with robbers and come out tops.
But experts warn that there is a fine line between self-defence and mob justice, which could turn the tables on victims.
Two weeks ago a robber was shot dead in Vereeniging when he tried to choke a 79-year-old grandmother. Her daughter shot him through the car window, and images of his bloodied corpse were circulated on social media.
Another recent incident involved a Joburg businessman who two weeks ago fired rounds in a desperate bid to scare two men who were attempting to rob him in broad daylight.
Although he did not injure the robbers, the Mulbarton man’s bold actions resulted in the pair fleeing the scene in a panic and failing to make off with any possessions.
Mondeor police spokesperson Captain Lorraine van Emmerik told The Saturday Star that the man was in his house in the south of Johannesburg when he heard a loud bang. When he went to investigate he found the men in his bedroom, brandishing a firearm.
Van Emmerik said the man managed to get hold of his firearm and fired.
“He was not sure if he hit any of the robbers,” she said.
The pair escaped.
She added that police inquired at several hospitals to establish whether any of the robbers were injured during the shooting, but were unable to find out any information on the matter.
“The docket is being investigated by the specialised Johannesburg central task team and no one has been arrested,” the spokesperson said.
This week a 64-year old man chased and caught a thief who had robbed a Bethelsdorp shopkeeper in the Eastern Cape.
Two men robbed the shop of cigarettes, cash and a cellphone.
Police spokesperson Colonel Priscilla Naidu said that a 64-year-old man witnessed the robbery and gave chase.
He managed to apprehend one of the robbers, a 16-year-old.
Cigarettes, a toy gun and some cash were recovered. The teenager was taken into police custody.
Institute for Security Studies researcher Lizette Lancaster said it was always difficult to work out if there was an upsurge in citizens taking on criminals.
“It is always difficult, because we need better crime statistics,” she said.
Lancaster also warned there was a fine line between self-defence and mob justice.
“It is very dependent on the situation. Self-defence is during the commission of the crime, while mob justice is after the fact,” she explained.
According to Lancaster, the latest Afrobarometer Survey for 2018 showed that 66% of people mostly don’t trust the police. The 2018 National Victims of Crime Survey found that 52% of households used measures to protect their homes.
“Even with these measures many still feel vulnerable,” Lancaster wrote in an article for the institute.
Meanwhile, a women also appeared to have had enough of criminals.
CCTV camera footage showing a woman fighting for her handbag as two men tried to wrestle her for it in Auckland Park in September took social media by storm.
The men have since been taken into custody.
A few months ago a female Durban driving instructor with a knife to her neck shot and killed one of six men trying to hijack her.
Jonathan Deal, a firearms instructor and committee member of the South African Gunowner’s Association, said that he had noticed an increase in the number of women approaching him for firearm training.
“Last year I trained 100 women, usually it is about 25,” he said.
“They come back to tell me that they feel empowered and not scared anymore.”