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Necklacing is the practice of summary execution and torture carried out by forcing a rubber tire, filled with gasoline, around a victim's chest and arms, and setting it on fire. The victim may take up to 20 minutes to die, suffering severe burns in the process.

In South Africa[edit]

The practice appears to have begun in the Eastern Cape area of South Africa in the mid-1980s. One incident sometimes cited as the first recorded instance of necklacing took place in Uitenhage on 23 March 1985 when a group of people killed Benjamin Kinikini, a local councillor who was believed[1] to be involved in violence and corruption and having links to a vigilante group. Kinikini and members of his family were dragged out of their house, stabbed to death, and their bodies set on fire.[2] Two of those judged to be the perpetrators, Wellington Mielies, 26, and Moses Jantjies, 23, were hanged on 1 September 1987.[3] But in this case the victims were killed by stabbing, and not by burning tires.

Something similar seems to have happened in the killing of Matthew Goniwe and his fellow anti-apartheid activists by the police in July 1985.[4]

Necklacing "sentences" were sometimes handed down against alleged criminals by "people's courts" established in black townships as a means of enforcing their own judicial system. Necklacing was also used by the black community to punish its members who were perceived as collaborators with the apartheid government. These included black policemen, town councilors and others, as well as their relatives and associates. The practice was often carried out in the name of the African National Congress, although the ANC executive body condemned it.[5][6] In 1986 Winnie Mandela, then-wife of the imprisoned Nelson Mandela, stated "With our boxes of matches and our necklaces we shall liberate this country" which was widely seen as an implicit endorsement of necklacing,[7] which at the time caused the ANC to distance itself from her,[8] although she later took on a number of official positions within the party.[8] The number of deaths per month in South Africa related to political unrest as a whole from 1992 through 1995 ranged from 54 to 605 and averaged 244.[9] These figures are inclusive of massacres as well as deaths not attributed to necklacing.

The first victim of necklacing, according to the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission, was a young girl, Maki Skosana, on 20 July 1985.[10]

Moloko said her sister was burned to death with a tire around her neck while attending the funeral of one of the youths. Her body had been scorched by fire and some broken pieces of glass had been inserted into her vagina, Moloko told the committee. Moloko added that a big rock had been thrown on her face after she had been killed.[11]

Photojournalist Kevin Carter was the first to photograph a public execution by necklacing in South Africa in the mid-1980s. He later spoke of the images:

I was appalled at what they were doing. I was appalled at what I was doing. But then people started talking about those pictures... then I felt that maybe my actions hadn't been at all bad. Being a witness to something this horrible wasn't necessarily such a bad thing to do.[12]

He went on to say:

After having seen so many necklacings on the news, it occurs to me that either many others were being performed (off camera as it were) and this was just the tip of the iceberg, or that the presence of the camera completed the last requirement, and acted as a catalyst in this terrible reaction. The strong message that was being sent, was only meaningful if it were carried by the media. It was not more about the warning (others) than about causing one person pain. The question that haunts me is 'would those people have been necklaced, if there was no media coverage?'

Author Lynda Schuster writes,

'Necklacing' represented the worst of the excesses committed in the name of the uprising. This was a particularly gruesome form of mob justice, reserved for those thought to be government collaborators, informers and black policemen. The executioners would force a car tire over the head and around the arms of the suspect, drench it in petrol, and set it alight. Immobilized, the victim burned to death.[13]

Archbishop Desmond Tutu once famously saved a near victim of necklacing when he rushed into a large gathered crowd and threw his arms around a man accused of being a police informant, who was about to be killed. Tutu's actions, which were caught on film,[14] caused the crowd to release the man.

Necklacing returned to South Africa in 2008 when black South Africans turned against black immigrants from the rest of Africa. The influx of immigrants led to violence, looting, and murder in some of South Africa's poorest areas; this violence included necklace lynching.[citation needed] This raised concerns that the latent practice might return once more as a form of public protest in the wake of service delivery failures by the ruling ANC.[15]

Some commentators have noted that the practice of necklacing served to escalate the levels of violence during the township wars of the 1980s and early 1990s as security force members became brutalized and afraid that they might fall victim to the practice.[16]

In other countries[edit]

This practice of lynching is found in the Caribbean country of Haiti. It was prominently used against supporters of Jean-Claude Duvalier's dictatorship at the beginning of the democratic transition, from 1986 to 1990.[citation needed] There were about 45 or so at the close of 2010, including about 40 in Grand'Anse Department.[17]

In the early years of 1960, when the seeds of the ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka (Sri Lankan Civil War) related to Eelam were being sown, Sinhala rioters used necklacing in anti Tamil riots.[18][19]

In the early 1990s, university students in Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire were plagued by burglars stealing from their dormitories. The students took matters into their own hands by capturing the alleged thieves, and then executed them by placing tyres around their necks and setting the tyres on fire. Ivorian police, powerless to stop these necklacings, could do nothing but stand by and watch.[20]

In 2006, at least one person died in Nigeria by necklacing in the deadly Muslim protests over satirical cartoon drawings of Muhammad.[21]

The practice is widely used by drug dealers in Brazil (Rio de Janeiro, Southeast Region), where it's called micro-ondas[22][23] (allusion to the microwave oven).[24] Journalist Tim Lopes was a notable victim (a Portuguese immigrant victim too in São Paulo, but in a car).

Necklacing was also widely used in the armed insurrection led by the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna in Sri Lanka. A graphic description of one such necklacing appears in the book The Island of Blood by journalist Anita Pratap.

In Popular Culture[edit]

  • The Shield season two villain Armadillo Quintero used "necklacing" as a means to kill his enemies. The season premiere opens with the villain killing a rival drug dealer this way and the episode's plot, entails two of the detective characters attempting to find witnesses that link Quintero to the murder.
  • The Americans third season featured a South African intelligence operative being put to death through necklacing, for attempting to false flag a bombing in order to discredit a college based anti-apartheid group, with the help of a South African student in the organization whom he had turned and had acting as a mole. The show's main characters witness the murder, carried out by a black South African freedom fighter, aligned with the Soviet Union and their sleeper program to infiltrate the anti-aparthied movement.
  • Elementary season three (episode 10 Seed Money) has "necklacing" as an important plot point arc. In the episode Kitty tries to find a runaway teen, Sherlock and Joan work a case in which the murder of a brilliant bioengineer looks to be at the hands of a drug cartel.


  1. ^ Ball, Joanna. "The ritual of the necklace". CSVR South Africa. Centre for the study of violence and reconciliation. Retrieved 5 August 2015. 
  2. ^ Parker, Peter, In the Shadow of Sharpeville: Apartheid and Criminal Justice, p. 263, ISBN 9780814766590 
  3. ^ Parks, Michael (2 September 1987), "S. Africa Hangs 2 Blacks for Murder", Los Angeles Times, retrieved 2013-12-14 
  4. ^ Dixon, Norm (1993), "South African cops invented 'necklace' murders", Green Left Weekly, retrieved 2013-12-14 
  5. ^ "The Black Struggle for Political Power: Major Forces in the Conflict". Human Rights Watch. Retrieved 2008-02-18. 
  6. ^ Fihlani, Pumza (12 October 2011). "Is necklacing returning to South Africa?". BBC News. Retrieved 11 December 2013. 
  7. ^ David Beresford (27 January 1989). "Row over 'mother of the nation' Winnie Mandela". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 2008-05-01. 
  8. ^ a b "Winnie Madikizela Mandela: Tragic figure? Populist tribune? Township tough?". AfricaFiles. Retrieved 2013-12-07. 
  9. ^ Elirea Bornman, René van Eeden, Marie Wentzel (1998). Violence in South Africa: A Variety of Perspectives. HSRC Publishers. p. 19. ISBN 0796918589. 
  10. ^ "Truth And Reconciliation Commission". Doj.gov.za. Retrieved 2013-12-07. 
  11. ^ "Truth Commission Looks at First "Necklace" Murder". SAPA. 4 February 1997. Retrieved 2008-05-01. 
  12. ^ Tim Porter (18 February 2003). "Covering War in a Free Society". Retrieved 2008-02-18. 
  13. ^ Lynda Schuster (2004). A Burning Hunger: One Family's Struggle Against Apartheid. Ohio University Press. p. 453. ISBN 9780821416525. 
  14. ^ Cowell, Alan (11 July 1985). "Bishop Tutu Saves Man From Crowd". The New York Times. 
  15. ^ Environment.co.za
  16. ^ Turton, A.R. 2010. Shaking Hands with Billy. Durban: Just Done Publications. Shakinghandswithbilly.com
  17. ^ "Protests over Haiti's cholera outbreak turn violent". CNN. 15 November 2010. 
  18. ^ Subramaniam, Samantha (5 February 2015). This Divided Island. Atlantic books. ISBN 9780857895950. Retrieved 5 August 2015. 
  19. ^ Dalrymple, William (9 March 2015). "This Divided Island: Stories from the Sri Lankan War review – a moving portrayal of the agonies of the conflict". The Guardian. Retrieved 5 August 2015. 
  20. ^ Kaplan, Robert D. (1996). The Ends of the Earth: A Journey to the Frontiers of Anarchy. New York: Random House. p. 14. ISBN 0-679-75123-8. 
  21. ^ Musa, Njadvara (19 February 2006). "Muslims' rage over cartoons hits Nigeria". The San Diego Union-Tribune. Retrieved 18 September 2009. 
  22. ^ Fábio Grellet (24 May 2010). "Autorizado a visitar família, condenado por morte de Tim Lopes foge da prisão" (in Portuguese). Rio de Janeiro: Folha de S. Paulo. Retrieved 2013-07-06. 
  23. ^ O Globo (18 September 2008). "Polícia encontra 4 corpos que seriam de traficantes queimados com pneus" (in Portuguese). Rio de Janeiro: Federação Nacional dos Policiais Federais. Retrieved 2013-07-06. 
  24. ^ "Micro-ondas". WordReference. Retrieved 2013-07-06. .

External links[edit]

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Sat, 19 Sep 2015 23:59:09 -0700

Johannesburg - Two more people have been arrested in connection with the necklacing of the Mayisela twins in Etwatwa on the East Rand. The 53-year-old and the 19-year-old are thought to be behind the abduction and killing of 16-year-old twins Sabelo ...


Thu, 17 Sep 2015 05:41:59 -0700

Boy in critical condition after police save him from necklacing. 2015-09-17 14:41. The spot where the bodies of two boys who had been necklaced in Etwatwa was discovered. (Mpho Raborife, News24). Multimedia · User Galleries · News in Pictures Send us ...
Independent Online
Wed, 23 Sep 2015 03:58:21 -0700

Johannesburg - Confusion reigned over the arrest of two men accused of necklacing twins in Etwatwa, Ekurhuleni, when the suspects failed to appear in court on Tuesday. Police spokesperson Lieutenant-Colonel Lungelo Dlamini said the four men who had ...


Mon, 11 Apr 2016 20:37:19 -0700

Trevor Noah tonight went right at one of the biggest problems of the 2016 campaign: voters want a brilliant politician but also a “best friend.” He mocked all the different ways politicians have tried to show off they're just like you––from Hillary ...

Eyewitness News

Eyewitness News
Tue, 22 Sep 2015 08:03:46 -0700

Authorities make breakthrough in Etwatwa necklacing case. It's understood authorities know the identity of a man linked to the necklacing attacks in Etwatwa. Woman are praying, holding the bible asking for God to stop the violence in Etwatwa. FILE ...

Breitbart News

Breitbart News
Mon, 04 Apr 2016 02:33:40 -0700

The Times of Israel reports: The United Nations has censored an exhibition about Israel set to go on display at the organization's headquarters in New York. Three of the 13 panels in the exhibition “Israel Matters,” which is set to open Monday, will be ...
Mon, 09 Dec 2013 17:02:30 -0800

Necklacing 'sentences' were sometimes handed down against alleged criminals by 'people's courts' established in black townships as a means of enforcing their own judicial system. Necklacing was also used by the black community to punish members of ...

Independent Online

Independent Online
Wed, 01 Oct 2014 22:52:33 -0700

An activist and her husband wanted to “make a point” and express their dissatisfaction with the criminal justice system when they necklaced a man over a stolen TV set. This was according to findings by Judge Robert Henney, who on Wednesday convicted ...

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