Rural crime watch group accused of gender-based violence

Celani Sikhakhane

The Isikebhe Crime Watch, a community crime watch in northern KwaZulu-Natal, has been accused of terrorising multiple women who they suspected of committing theft.

The group was formed to fight stock theft in many parts of KwaZulu-Natal, but in Nongoma, its operations have drawn the ire of local communities.

One person who did not wish to be named claimed that the group used to only beat male suspects but now they have begun inflicting beatings on female suspects of crimes.

“The problem is that they don’t even go to the police to lay charges. They just fetch you from home and beat you without any evidence,” the source said. 

He said that in September last year someone was killed when the group forced entry into the home of a woman who had been accused of stealing clothes and then abducted her.

“That woman was fetched from her home by the group of males who were accompanied by a woman. They took her to the nearest bush where they beat her.”

He said that community members tried to intervene but it was beyond their control. 

“A gun shot was fired and one community member was killed. This thing happened In September this year,” he said. 

Last week a man accused of stealing goats was kidnapped and was later found in a forest where he was badly beaten. 

Leader of Skebhe Joseph Manyathi told Scrolla.Africa that he did not want to talk about the incidents of vigilantism.

He did, however, say that community members work too hard for their stock to allow criminals to take it and get away scott free.

“The worst part is no one ever praises us for all the good work we have done to fight criminal activities,” Manyathi continued. “All we get is criticism and insults.”

Manyathi said that Skebhe has never broken the law, and he urges those who are apprehended by the group to go to the police.

“I always advise victims of Isikebhe to report it to the police because our operations are within the ambit of the law,” he said. 

He refuted the claim that male members of the group have apprehended female suspects and administered beatings as punishment.

He said they don’t allow males to prosecute women, and only female members of the group are allowed to prosecute them. 

KZN community safety spokesperson Thuba Vilane said crime watch groups are always advised to report suspects to the police and avoid taking the law into their own hands.