The mood turned violent as someone cast the first stone. A barrage followed and the suspected thief died in the hail.
These scenes, the latest incident of mob justice, unfolded in Protea South in Soweto on Wednesday when irate residents assaulted four men they accused of stealing from them, among other crimes.
An enraged mob of more than 100 people, mostly women, took matters into their own hands when they assaulted the man they suspected of stealing a grass cutter from one of the houses in Protea South. A woman was reportedly hanging out her washing around 6am when the suspect allegedly entered her yard and snatched a grass cutter.
Residents were alerted to the crime when she screamed.
They forced the man to take them to the accomplices with whom he normally works.
The incensed residents then dragged four of the men across the township to their community police forum (CPF), which then alerted the police.
When police arrived, the mob turned on them too – stoning them and their vehicles.
Bloodstains on the floor of the CPF’s tin shack office were mopped up only hours after one of the suspects died.
When forensic pathology services picked up his body, residents ululated, cheered and shouted “That’s what we do to criminals”.
Police spokesman Captain Mpande Khoza said no arrests had been made.
The three surviving suspects, believed to be in their 20s, were taken to hospital.