26/12/2006 12:16 - (SA)
Johannesburg - The South African government's continued failure to bring crime under control is leading a growing number of citizens to start taking the law into their own hands, often with deadly results.
"It is sometimes justifiable," says Frits Kreil, who runs a self-styled "community policing forum" in Johannesburg's northern Randburg suburb.
"People are fed up with crime and resort to killing to protect their lives and those of their loved ones."
In one of the latest such incidents, three members of an armed gang were killed when a local at a pub in the suburb of Emmarentia opened fire as they robbed and pistol-whipped customers earlier this month.
The locals raised their glasses as the robbers lay dying and then rang the police. As one of the drinkers told the Beeld newspaper: "They died slowly, we all stood and laughed."
Police don't come
While reluctant to give their names, regulars at the pub voiced few regrets about the incident to AFP after the shooting.
"We cannot live our lives in fear any more," said one. "Whenever we feel threatened or attacked, we shoot and call the police later."