Mob justice is illegal and unacceptable, but it is increasingly taking place. The legal system is the reason why it prevails in a country, not a source of justification that has become a reason for people to be fearless. In mob justice, a person suspected of being a criminal would be beaten with clubs, stones, or machetes in a crowd by a group of people they had put down with their hands. In some cases, the victim would die from excessive blows or they would be set alight with old car tires as fuel. In other cases, officers stood aside while a mob attacked the suspected criminal.
In Ghana, not only are suspected criminals on trial, but people suspected of being witches, sorcerers, adulterers, or homosexuals may also find themselves in such situations. Due to the lack of confidence in Ghana’s law enforcement system, people resort to taking the law into their own hands and dealing with suspected criminals in their own way. Even when suspected criminals are caught and handed over to the police, many are able to deal with the intricacies of the law and corruption. This alienates the public, who believe the police and courts favor criminals. They consider it counterproductive to extradite such criminal legal systems and to take the law into their own hands. The question of victim quality is of secondary importance to the mob that serves as accuser, judge, jury, and executioner.
The role of the local officials ranged from directly participating in mob violence to being involved in cover-ups. In some cases, police and officials have tried to stop mob violence in some cases, sometimes at great personal risk. In the few cases where mob violence led to investigations and arrests, none resulted in convictions.
Taking an example from recent events, An angry crowd of an estimated 2,000 people threw stones at a community official who was forced to flee his home. Taxi associations are notorious for their violence in South Africa, where they oversee an informal public transport network operated by white vans of the brand. Minibus owners trudge through the rubble of a looted Johannesburg shopping mall that was dragged away by suspected looters after violent beatings. The looting followed protests in South Africa against the imprisonment of former President Jacob Zuma. Zuma is accused of corruption and is seen by many as a defender of the poor.
Moreover, most people in Africa perceive the police as corrupt and demotivated. According to media reports, Nigerian police chief Solomon Arase complained that there are fewer than 8,000 police in the state of Niger.
Many law enforcers in Tanzania do not deliver, and people live in fear of not being protected. In the case of Zandspruit, community members I spoke to said that the police rarely took action when reporting crimes in their informal settlements and alerting the police to criminals. The problem of not trusting the police is even worse in large cities.
Such actions can provoke hostilities between different communities and ethnic groups. In civil war countries, a high number of illegal weapons are procured by criminals, leading to an increase in crime.
In the wake of the Zandspruit Mob murders, a number of issues have come to the forefront, such as the failure of the criminal justice system, the lack of trust, and the lack of trust in police authorities by community members – supported by an Afrobarometer Survey in 2018 which shows that 66% of people in South Africa do not trust police or courts – and that the mentality of their society and its relationship to a violent past, and present need deeper discussion. Violent murders and the judiciary of the mob are symptoms of a larger social problem that points to a deeper psyche within society. They are an indication of the outbreak of unresolved problems from a traumatic past that has not been addressed.
Human Rights Watch (2010) reports that the participation and collaboration of civil servants in mob justice cause serious human rights violations by neglecting, supporting, or covering up the abuses of mob justice, officials are preventing criminal suspects from getting the right to a fair trial, abusing their authority and failing to defend residents and the means to ensure security. The interaction characteristics of the mob’s patterns of action differ in relation to different basic patterns, which are known from different literature, which assume that the participation of public officials in the action is mob justice.