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Judicial CP - January 2000

Corpun file 5291

Daily Mail & Guardian, Johannesburg, 25 January 2000

Vigilante group sweeps the suburbs

South Africa's largest vigilante group, Mapogo a Matamaga, is spreading its influence into the suburbs of Johannesburg and Pretoria.

By Evidence Wa Ka Ngobeni

SOUTH AFRICA'S largest vigilante group, Mapogo a Matamaga, is spreading its influence in and around suburbs of Pretoria and Johannesburg. Last year the group, which has become infamous for its sjambokking and brutal assaults of alleged criminals, formed branches in Alberton, Springs, Vereeniging, Hammanskraal, Centurion and Pretoria.

Leaders of Mapogo claim that no fewer than 10 000 members have already signed up with branches around Gauteng -- in addition to the 40 000 members the group claims to have had in its traditional stronghold of the Northern Province and Mpumalanga.

Mapogo president Monhle Magolego says his group has also been called to form branches on the East Rand, but Mapogo will take its time before expanding further. He says he is not surprised at his organisation's popularity in Gauteng.

"Naturally, as crime is escalating in all places, almost everyone wants to join Mapogo. They feel protected by us because of our approach to crime.

"The main thing that attracts members to join my organisation is that we know how to deal with criminals. We believe in corporal punishment and that really works."

They say their investigations are effective because they work with the community: they get tip-offs from community members, then "arrest" the alleged criminal. Magolego says it is rare for a day to go by without one of Gauteng's branches "arresting" suspected criminals or recovering stolen goods.

Before handing them over to the police, members mete out their own brand of "medicine" to the suspects to "cure them from their bad ways".

Mapogo's "method" has got many of its members in trouble. More than 20 members of Mapogo, including Magolego himself, have been charged with attempted murder; there are also members who have been charged with murder. The cases are still pending; there have been no convictions yet.

Mapogo -- which also has an English name, Business Shield -- was formed in 1996 by businessmen in the central region of the Northern Province, after the murder of six local businessmen and a spate of burglaries.

Mapogo's popularity in Gauteng was in evidence this Monday, when the Mail & Guardian visited its Pretoria office. The telephone rang continually as Mapogo members reported crimes committed over the weekend. The Mapogo staffers in charge of the office, decorated with headlines such as "Mapogo hit town" and "Sjambok-man Magolego deserves an award", wrote down the complaints and referred them to "footsoldiers" or "investigators".

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