Mentally ill Soweto woman accused of witchcraft dies after being set alight

  • Soweto police have appealed for information on the people who beat mentally ill 59-year-old Jostina Sangweni so badly that she died.
  • The police said Sangweni was accused of witchcraft and attacked in Mapetla. 
  • She was found severely injured on 26 March after her family reported her missing, but she did not survive her injuries and died this week. 

The brutal beating of a 59-year-old mentally ill woman, Jostina Sangweni, has caused outrage and demands for justice.

The police appealed for information to help them find the people who rounded on Sangweni in Soweto and accused her of witchcraft and attacked her.

Police spokesperson Brigadier Mathapelo Peters said police officers based in Moroka were alerted to an incident of alleged “mob justice” in Mabalane Street, Mapetla. 

Peters added at the same time, a family came to the police station to report their mother missing. 

In South Africa, “mob justice” is an expression used to describe a situation when people round on a person accused of a crime or wrongdoing and instead of handing them to authorities, they either beat them severely or set them alight. 

Victims often do not survive these attacks and the police struggle to find witnesses who will go on the record.

The police and Sangweni’s family left for Mabalane Street and to the family’s horror, their mother was found in a critical condition. 

“Ms Sangweni was rescued and rushed to hospital for medical attention and sadly passed away on 5 April 2021,” said Peters.

No suspects have been arrested at this stage. 

“Police are therefore appealing to the community for assistance with information that could lead to the apprehension of the perpetrators of this violent crime against a woman who was allegedly accused of witchcraft when in fact preliminary evidence reveals that the deceased was mentally unwell,” said Peters.

To add to the horror, a video emerged of men swearing at her and hitting and kicking her as she sat on the ground answering questions they were firing at her.

Her daughter, Elizabeth Nkosi, told SAfm her mother was a spiritual healer.

She was diagnosed with schizophrenia in March and was spending some time with a spiritual healer in the hope it would complement her medical treatment. 

Nkosi said they were told her mother was missing, and after going to the police they rushed to the scene and saw she had been burnt.

She was still alive. The police were initially investigating an attempted murder case, but when she died on Monday, they changed it to murder. 

Gauteng police commissioner Lieutenant-General Elias Mawela ordered the investigation into Sangweni’s death to be prioritised and said the police would do everything in their power to ensure justice was served. 

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