Stoned To Death: Vigilante Justice In South Africa, Kenya, Nigeria

Angry mobs and disgruntled neighbors settled scores and meted out rough justice as five men were stoned to death over the last week in four separate cases. From the Gaza Strip to Cape Horn, stoning is not an uncommon event on the African continent. A harsh form of immediate punishment, it has been used by Boko Haram extremists, various independent states, and increasingly in some areas, mobs looking for justice. The recent incidents of alleged criminals and cheating co-tenants stoned to death were spread out from South Africa to Nigeria.

Local police are investigating a brutal mob attack that saw two suspected robbers stoned to death on a mountainside in South Africa. The incident took place in the village of Mogapeng in Limpopo, the northernmost province in South Africa, a place usually renowned for its bushveld and wildlife preserves. On the morning of Friday, February 12, the two men along with a third suspect were allegedly attempting to rob a supermarket in the village. During the robbery, the owner of the store cried out for help and his neighbors heard and responded. The men attempted to run away but two of the alleged thieves were overtaken by the vigilante mob on a nearby mountainside and were subsequently assaulted and stoned to death.

Police are actively searching for the third suspect, who managed to escape the crowd. No arrests have been made and the police have made a public appeal for information that would assist them in their investigation. Investigators are also searching for the guns used by the suspected robbers.

Just last month, a man was stoned to death in Ekpoma-Edo State, Nigeria, over an unpaid electricity bill. Thirty-six-year-old Felix Omokhoa was arrested for allegedly lobbying a chunk of cement block that hit his neighbor's forehead, causing him to die instantly. The two men were co-tenants along with others in a building where disputes over a re-connection fee had resulted in ongoing tensions over the electricity bill. Disputes between the two escalated, and eventually, police became involved as the fight became physical. The matter was initially resolved with a stern warning from police but the fight reignited once the two men were out of custody. The victim died on the scene. Omokhoa faces a possible death penalty.

Earlier this week, mayhem erupted at a casino in Nairobi, Kenya, in the very early hours of Tuesday morning when a man was refused an advance in order to win back money he'd lost at the gaming tables. After the refusal, he left the building, only to return and stab the manager with a Somali sword. He also killed a security guard who had come to her aid and critically injured a second guard who remains in hospital in critical condition. Fellow gamblers who had witnessed the incident cornered the Tanzanian, and he was stoned to death in the melee.

Later the same day, another mob in Limpopo, South Africa, stoned to death another alleged robber. Neighbors heard the loud cries of a pensioner as the robbery was taking place and rushed over to help. One of the suspected thieves died on the scene after being stoned to death while a second escaped. No arrests have been made.

Vigilante killings are a regular feature of the news in South Africa, with many blaming social inequality and a distrust of police for the phenomenon. Limpopo police are taking a dim view of the vigilante attacks, as they detailed in a statement to the press.

"Please stop this tendency, because it is damaging the relations between communities and police relations to fight crime effectively."

[Photo by: Abid Katib/Getty Images]