BEREA — Angry villagers on Tuesday night burnt to death two suspected stock thieves in Ha-Ntisa, Belabela in the Berea district, police have confirmed.
Witnesses said the men died harrowing deaths after rubber wheels were tied around their necks before they were set ablaze.
The men could not run away from the flames because they had broken their legs when they fell down a cliff as they fled from the violent mob.
They could only cry, pray for forgiveness or stare in shock as the furious mob torched them to death, a villager said.
One of the villagers whose father’s livestock were allegedly about to be stolen by the unknown men said he was asleep when his younger brother woke him saying the kraal had been invaded.
Tšoloane Ntisa said he saw three men in the kraal. “I immediately went out running to them and at the same time raising alarm but the men ran away,” Ntisa said.
“Other villagers who heard my pleas joined me in pursuit of the men in the darkness,” he said.
Because of the darkness the villagers lost track of the third man while the other two headed towards the cliffs.
“They fell down the cliffs and broke their legs and we finally caught them as they could no longer stand up,” Ntisa said.
“Some villagers neck-laced them with some tyres and set them alight.”
The village chief, Paul Ntisa, said he was shocked by what his subjects had done to the suspects. He said “they could have easily arrested and taken the suspects to the police station since they had already broken their legs and could not run away”.
“They should not have taken the law into their own hands,” Chief Ntisa told the Sunday Express.
He said although the village has been targeted by cattle rustlers in the past he never thought that his people “were so fed up to an extent that they would do such a bad thing”.
“I am shocked by what my people have done,” he said.
Chief Ntisa said when he arrived at the scene the villagers had already burnt the men to ashes.
The chief said he reported to the police at seven o’clock the following morning due to bad telephone network that night.
The police arrived shortly before 3pm on Wednesday, he added.
The Mapoteng police said they collected the charred remains of the two suspects.
Police said it would take them a long time to make arrests because the crime was allegedly committed by many people and it is not easy to find the actual perpetrators.