After hearing someone shout ‘Vimba, Vimba!’ students wearing pyjamas have been seen flooding out of residences into the streets, armed with knobkieries and mops to join the chase for the mugger.
This phenomenon where students play the role of vigilante, has apparently developed in and around the UJ residences in Doornfontein over the past seven years. The students take it upon themselves to help one of their own by searching for the suspects and “beat them to bits” if they find them.
Joy Shikwambana and two of her friends were mugged by three men last year. They shouted for help and within five minutes, hundreds of students were in the streets.
“It is a wise form of protection. Crime would definitely be higher around reses without it,” said the second year Environmental Health student at UJ. Shikwanbana explained victims can only yell after the criminals start running, “because they can hurt you when you scream if they have weapons.”
“When the students hear the call there are hundreds of them running out of the res to go and hit these muggers. But then sometimes they get excited and run in the wrong direction,” said Fidelity security guard at UJ Sunvalley Residence, Ntsieni Manezhe.
He said the students get out of hand and grab stones and bricks in the streets to beat the attackers.
“We security guards from Fidelity, Stallion’s and UJ security have to protect these muggers from the mob, because if every one of those hundred students get one hit in they will kill them. It’s not right to take the law into your own hands.”
This vigilante culture has drawn attention because of its violent nature. The purpose of the use of violence is “to send a message to criminals that pain will be inflicted upon them, which tends to keep them away,” said third year Sports Communication student at UJ, Selby Mogale.
In some of these cases UJ students have chased and beat the wrong guy, according to Marnitz Oldewage, a third year Mining Engineering student at UJ.
“I once drove past a crowd and saw students dragging the mugger by his feet down the street while he was full of blood and unconscious,” said Oldewage. He said although it gets violent he is all for this trend because not only does it scare criminals away, but “no matter what race, gender or background you have they will always have your back.”
Oldewage said students think the police only drop off the muggers somewhere else after taking them away from the crowd, to get out of the paper work.
The police are unaware of the Vimba culture in Doornfontein, where many UJ residences are situated, according to Gauteng Police spokesperson, Lieutenant-Colonel Katlego Mogale.