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COPS TURN BACK AS MOB BATTERS, KILLS SUSPECT CATTLE RUSTLER

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PIGG’S PEAK – During their festive season statement, the Royal Eswatini Police Service (REPS) issued a warning against criminals that they will not hesitate to take action, but when a man was being beaten to death about two weeks ago, they turned back.

The incident is said to have happened around the first week of January 2023. The assault, which took place at a location known as Ndlembeni near Pigg’s Peak, left some of the residents shocked and bitter after a man, who was also a resident and in his 40s was assaulted to death. The deceased, Mfanzile Mpila was beaten to death after he was accused of stealing livestock and other household items.

He was also accused of being part of a gang that stole donkeys. Mpila was allegedly brought before the area’s Ndlembeni Disciplinary ‘Khomithi’ (NDK) which also doubles as a kangaroo court. The residents formed NDK to ‘boot out’ crime in the area, after complaints that the police were failing to handle crime in the area. This was also similar to a situation around Matsamo, where some residents formed a police forum that handles crime and also imposed a curfew on residents.

It is alleged that over 300 people were in attendance at a playing field at Ndlembeni during the assault. Before the assault started, Mpila is said to have been questioned about the alleged crimes he was accused of and also forced to reveal others who were involved in the criminal activities. It is alleged that the mob assaulted him and made sure that he does not escape as he was surrounded.

Whipped

Mpila was allegedly whipped using sticks. “His pants were removed before being whipped. The pants were used to cover his face so that he was not able to see who was assaulting him. However, the pants were occasionally removed from his face to ask him questions such as revealing who he worked with,” alleged an eyewitness who preferred to remain anonymous. At some point, he is alleged to have been given water or emahewu to drink.
Some of his close relatives are said to have watched the gruesome assault, but were helpless to assist and all they could do was call the police, but even that did not help.

Mpila was also a resident of Ndlembeni but he had been living around a place known as Mlambotjwala around Ntfonjeni just before the fatal assault. He is said to have lived with his family including his children. According to one of the residents, who were part of the team that was interrogating Mpila, he is alleged to have admitted to some of the crimes. However, Mpila’s relative, *Mike said that Mpila only admitted because he was being assaulted by the mob.

Housebreakings

The residents had also accused Mpila of working with alleged criminals and they wanted him to reveal all the names of the people he is alleged to have worked with during the alleged break-ins and livestock theft. *Jomo, who is a senior member of the NDK, said the residents were angry that the police were failing to take action against Mpila. They alleged that Mpila had been recently arrested but that they were surprised to discover that he had been released.

Jomo said the residents assaulted Mpila with the intention of disciplining him. “They were not planning to kill him,” he stated. He stated that while they were allegedly assaulting him, they called the police to fetch him. He said the police officers from Pigg’s Peak Police Station then arrived, but instead of taking him with them, they allegedly turned back. Jomo said this angered some of the residents because they did not understand why the police did not fetch Mpila while he was being attacked by the residents.

Threatened

Jomo stated that had the police officers  taken him away upon arrival when they were   called the  first time, he would not have died. The police allegedly turned back after seeing the  mob who allegedly threatened them as well, blaming them for releasing Mpila back to the community. He said after the police had left the area, the residents continued to assault Mpila until he was later taken to the hospital where  he died on the same day. Some of the residents alleged that they even called paramedics and also the police  once the mob had left, but none arrived to assist to take him to the hospital.

Meanwhile, the police, through the Deputy Police Information and Communications Officer Inspector Nosipho Mnguni had confirmed the death. She confirmed that a man died after he was assaulted and that this had been reported to the Pigg’s Peak Police Station. Mnguni was asked about concerns that the police had been called, arrived and turned back upon seeing the mob, leaving behind Mpila  who was still alive at the time. This was after some of the residents called the police that Mpila was being heavily  assaulted by some residents.

She responded that whenever police officers responded to a crime, one of the first priorities was to consider their safety. Noteworthy, in the recent past, police officers had become the targets of assault by unknown people and more than 10 had been fatally shot.  This is said to have resulted in police officers failing to respond to incidences, especially during night time. This latest incident of mob attack is one of the many that have taken place recently. At an area known as Nginamadvolo, within the same vicinity as Ndlembeni, two people were beaten to death on different occasions.

Assaulted

The first person was assaulted when he was accused of robbing an airtime vendor. Just like it was done with Mpila, the person who allegedly robbed the vendor was kidnapped while in Mbabane and taken back to Ngimadvolo near Pigg’s Peak. When he arrived at around Pigg’s Peak, he was taken to a play ground where he was whipped in broad daylight. However, he did not immediately die but was taken to the Pigg’s Peak Police Station. He died later while in police custody. Another was fetched by a mob while at his homestead and stabbed to death a few minutes later. He had been accused of housebreaking and robberies in the area.

*Not real names.

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