Thursday, April 29, 1999 Published at 04:10 GMT 05:10 UK
Nightmare vision of mob justice
The face of justice in South Africa's townships
By Jeremy Vine in Johannesburg
Footage of township vigilante groups dispensing their own brutal form of summary justice has been broadcast on South African television.
The film, shot by a crew from the South African Broadcasting Corporation, shows a girl who says she has been gang raped by 10 young men.
But instead of taking her case to the police, she and her relatives tell their story to a kangaroo court - part of the local taxi association.
Lost faith in justice
Instead the cab drivers go to the homes of the boys who the girl says raped her.
The accused are dragged from their homes without even being given time to get dressed, tied to a lamppost and beaten.
Descent into lawlessness
The vigilantes are taking revenge, and the rape victim joins in, whipping the boys as they cower in terror.
Much of what happened is simply too disturbing to broadcast.
But it is not just these vigilantes who decided the courts have failed them.
Last week, BBC footage showing police assaulting handcuffed suspects caused uproar across South Africa, with many people saying the officers were actually doing a good job.
Together the two films have prompted experts to warn of the collapse of the legal system.
"At the same time, the police are acting like vigilantes and rather than enforcing the law, they're undermining it."
All this is taking place as South Africa approaches its second democratic election on 2 June.
The years of white minority rule may have ended, but this remains a very violent society.