A man was beaten to death by community members in what is believed to be a case of mob justice in Eldorado Park on Friday. The man is one of five people who the community suspects of being involved in the alleged murder of 28-year-old Eldorado Park resident Junaid Kirsten, who was reported missing on Sunday. Kirsten’s body was found under a bridge on Tuesday, 14 March.
Anti-drug activist, Dereleen James, spoke to The Daily Vox about the incident that took place on Friday afternoon when the man was beaten to death by a group of Eldorado Park residents.
“The root causes of issues in the community is poverty and corruption. We have got a lot of kids that go missing in this area and because the area is known for [being a] drug infested area, people also don’t take us seriously and think, ‘argh they’re just out at lolly lounges’. Cases don’t get given the attention it deserves.
Even though Junaid was a user, his family and friends said he was a loving boy and not the type of person to hurt anybody. His body being found and based on the fact that he was a loving child that went missing – that told the community that something went wrong and that there was foul play. I think it sparked a lot of in anger in the community. Four people were taken in for questioning and they were released because there was not enough information to link them to the crime, and automatically the community assumed the police were releasing the murderers although it was pending further investigations. To the community it came across as, “You found the murderers, why are you letting them go?” And then they took the law into their own hands and started going after the suspects one by one.
On Friday morning, we managed to get one person to a place of safety after community members vandalised her home. The second person, we took to the police station for them to secure his safety. He told me where another of his friends would be found. I asked a SAPS member to please accompany me to this area; they said can’t because they needed specialised crowd control members. To me, the crowd wasn’t that big because people were waking in dribs and drabs.
As groups of people passed me at the police station they said, “ons gaan hom dood maak” – we are going to kill him. At this time I was frustrated with the police because they could get a van to follow the crowd. Soon I heard a woman scream: “They killing him, they got him,” which means he couldn’t have been too far. I then ran up the road and realised I couldn’t run too far so I went back and took my car. I jumped into the car and as I took the corner close to the police station, I saw a group of people had gathered and a commotion going on.
I jumped out the car and ran into the crowd and saw the man on the floor and people beating him. I ran out of the car and put myself over him. I put my one leg over him, I was on my haunches, on my knees and just begged everyone to stop, to stop. I said “Stop, please everyone, stop hitting him.” A part of me said, put yourself over him so they can’t hit him.
While I was over him I just felt him move again and I looked and saw someone pull his ankles. This was already a lightweight body. He was frail. As I turned around I could hear the wheels of a bin behind me and these guys were going to take his body and put it in the bin and dump him. As blatant as this was I thought, where were the cops? I turned around and pleaded with them and told them to run and they picked up their shirts and walked away. The community members who allegedly killed this person walked past the police with all their weapons and told SAPS to their faces, “We killed him, you can go pick up his body”. It was that blatant. Not once did the police search them or stop them and take away what they had in their hands. The EMS [emergency medical services] came and took his body.
Police’s lack of care contributes to what is happening in the area. All that happening now is people are praying for calm and peace. The community want to hear concrete steps being taken – not something is going to happen, it must be happening. The community is fed-up. All these acts, it’s like we are turning on each other. We shouldn’t be turning on each other but [we are].
I have spoken to Junaid’s mother and she is angry. There are a lot of allegations going around. Had the police acted swiftly, they could have gotten this man before he was killed and taken to a place of safety.”
According to the police’s captain Kay Makhubela, Junaid Kirsten’s body was found two days after he was reported missing.
“Five men came forward with information surrounding the death of Kirsten and gave their statements to police. The community suspected them of killing Kirsten and first attacked a person at their flat but [the person] was saved by police. They then gathered at the police station on Friday while another group attacked and killed a man in extension 1,” he said.
He said no arrests have been made yet relating to the murder of Kirsten or the mob attacks. Makhubela was unavailable to address the allegations levelled against the police by Dereleen James.