JOHANNESBURG, South Africa — A video showing the brutal mob murder of a Zimbabwean man in a Johannesburg shantytown has shocked South Africans and drawn international attention to continuing xenophobic violence against foreigners in the country.
The horrific murder of 26-year-old Farai Kujirichita by an angry mob of residents was caught on camera by a freelance journalist in Diepsloot, a squatter settlement of some 200,000 people in northern Johannesburg.
Kujirichita’s death was the subject of a recent New York Times Magazine story that details his killing by Diepsloot residents angry about crime in their community. But Kujirichita’s only “crime” was to be Zimbabwean and in the wrong place at the wrong time.
He was bludgeoned to death in a video that shows a man bashing in his face with a wooden plank, and a smiling teenage girl hoisting a large chunk of concrete over her head.
The cell phone video taken by journalist Golden Mtika was obtained by South African newspaper City Press, which on Sunday released an edited version.
The video has drawn attention to the continuing problem of xenophobic violence in South Africa.
A wave of anti-foreigner riots erupted in South African townships in 2008, targeting African immigrants. More than 60 people were killed, while 200,000 were displaced. South Africans blamed immigrants for taking their jobs, and torched small shops owned by foreigners in the townships.
Since then, attacks against foreigners have continued, including the murders of dozens of Somali shopkeepers since 2008.
Two weeks ago in Diepsloot, two Zimbabweans were beaten to death after being accused of robbery, City Press reports. In another incident, a suspected thief escaped with his life after police arrived in time to stop the mob from killing him.
"I have witnessed more than 300 mob justice cases, but that one is the scariest. I still can't believe that I shot that video," Mtika told the newspaper.
"Mob justice is the people's way of dealing with criminals because they don't feel protected by the police. It is so common that people get necklaced almost every week,” he said, referring to the practice of putting a burning tire around a person's neck in order to kill them.
The U.N. special rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, Jorge Bustamante, recently highlighted xenophobic attacks in South Africa and called on the government to strengthen hate crime legislation and establish a permanent body to deal with tackling hate crimes including xenophobic violence.
The community of Diepsloot — a post-apartheid squatter settlement located in one of the country’s wealthiest areas — is the subject of a new book by South African journalism professor Anton Harber.
Harber said the book “Diepsloot” considers the community as an indicator of where South Africa is headed, examining such issues as violence, mob justice, xenophobia and poverty, as well as the area’s vibrant political, social and cultural life.