Mob justice in many societies has been rampant. That it often results from public distrust of formal institutions—especially courts and security agencies—is undeniable.
The genesis of mob justice world over is broken and corrupt systems.
But mob justice is not the way to go when solving crime.
It is retrogressive and inhumane.
Consider your brother or sister walking to the nearest market to buy vegetables for lunch.
On the way, he or she bumps into a group of people who accuse him or her of stealing onions or tomatoes from the vegetable stall.
Your relative has no time to explain his or her side because the mob has already pounced on him or her.
He or she is severely beaten up to near-death and some in the crowd can be heard murmuring that they should set the “thief” alight.
This is but just one of the many living examples of how mob justice occurs.
How ironic that instead of serving the so-called justice, mob justice serves no justice at all in the end.
According to Ernest Adu-Gyamfi’s article in the Journal of Public Policy and Administration Research, mob justice refers to instant justice when usual people take the law into their own hands and aggressively carry judgement and punishment on a suspected criminal.
The mob, in this case, becomes the executor of the law.
Similarly, John Kay terms it a dangerous way to dealing with “bad” business.
Mob justice undermines the legal system and law enforcement agencies.
Above all, it violates the protection of the fundamental human rights. The Constitution of Malawi clearly stipulates in Chapter 4 Section 16 that every person has the right to life and no person shall be arbitrarily deprived of it.
Section 44 further states that there shall be no derogation, restrictions or limitation with regard to the right to life; the prohibition of torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
Sadly, mob justice seems to be surging in the country if recent police reports from Khama in Blantyre, Madede in Mzimba and Chiputula in Mzuzu are anything to go by.
Suspected thieves in these places were torched to death.
What a barbaric way to solving crime and what an end to life!
But what if the suspected criminals in the above mentioned places were just a case of mistaken identity? What if an innocent person fell victim in the process?
What I find troubling with mob justice is that the accused have no chance to respond to accusations. They do not defend themselves as judgment is hastily passed by the crowd.
Unlike in the court of law, the mob provides no fair trial.
Mob justice also renders police investigations difficult in the case where someone who would provide much detailed information leading to the arrest of main culprits is torched to death.
Nevertheless, some people believe mob justice is an effective way to dealing with crime and corrupt systems.
They reason that mob justice sends glaring warning signals to all citizens when it comes to the dangers of involving themselves in criminal activities.
They are entitled to their opinion anyway, barbaic or not.
The day they will realise that mob justice is misplaced justice is the day their innocent relative falls victim.
My experience on the ground tells me that mob justice does more harm than good in the community. Indeed it takes iron to sharpen iron, but crime cannot be tackled with violence or another crime.
We have a collective duty to tackle and talk issues that matter.
There is need to bring back public trust in formal institutions, including the police and the courts, and educate the masses on the dangers of mob justice.
Let us walk the talk on human rights. n