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It was one woman against an an­gry com­mu­nity armed with sticks and crow­bars. El­do­rado Park mother Dereleen James (40) be­came a hu­man shield over the mo­tion­less body of a badly beaten man. With her hands held to­gether as if in prayer, James is seen in a video run­ning around a cir­cle of an­gry res­i­dents, beg­ging them to leave the young man alone. When they did not lis­ten, she stood over his blood­ied and bat­tered body.

“Imag­in­ing this mo­ment alone still keeps me awake at night. I don’t know what got into me,” she said this week.

“I still get night­mares hear­ing the voice of one of the at­tack­ers ask­ing me to pull his T-shirt un­der the dead man’s body. They wanted to load his body into a trash bin and dump it, but I stopped them.”

This was the scene just over a week ago in El­do­rado Park, south­ern Jo­han­nes­burg, where res­i­dents de­cided to take the law into their own hands.

Sick for years of po­lice and gov­ern­ment lethargy, they be­gan at­tack­ing sus­pects, re­leased by the po­lice af­ter ques­tion­ing, in re­la­tion to the mur­der of Ju­naid Kirsten (28), whose body was found un­der the Joe Slovo Park bridge two weeks ago. Kirsten, who lived in El­do­rado Park, had been beaten and elec­tro­cuted.

James’ worst fear now is that mob jus­tice could soon be­come the ul­ti­mate so­lu­tion for a com­mu­nity fight­ing the scourge of drug abuse and crime car­ried out by users who bat­tle to feed their ad­dic­tions.

“Our root prob­lem in El­dos is drug abuse. Mobs will leave us with no fu­ture at all be­cause all the chil­dren are go­ing to end up dead,” she said. Mob jus­tice has been a long time com­ing. Four years ago James and other con­cerned par­ents from El­do­rado Park wrote a let­ter to Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma urg­ing him to get in­volved and help stem the es­ca­lat­ing drug prob­lem in the town­ship.

“A wave of drugs has swept over our com­mu­nity and has taken over our lives ... killing our chil­dren by the day. Chil­dren as young as eight are drug ad­dicts; boys and girls,” she wrote.

“We no longer get to­gether to boast about the achieve­ments of our chil­dren, but rather to share our lives of liv­ing hell and despair.”

In re­sponse, Zuma, ac­com­pa­nied by ministers Batha­bile Dlamini, Angie Mot­shekga, Nathi Mthethwa and then Gaut­eng premier Nomvula Mokonyane, paid a visit in May 2013.

“We won’t make prom­ises and not act. We will act. I will drive the pro­gramme my­self,” Zuma was quoted as say­ing dur­ing his visit. Years later, James says noth­ing has changed. “Surely, Zuma has or­dered some in­ter­ven­tions for El­dos, but noth­ing ever hap­pened other than po­lice op­er­a­tions that got pris­ons packed with drug users and no main sup­pli­ers,” she says.

“The El­dos com­mu­nity is not ask­ing for any spe­cial at­ten­tion, but for some­thing to be done to curb drug abuse and save fu­ture gen­er­a­tions.”

But in the four years since Zuma’s visit, James has changed: the lan­guage she speaks to­day is that of a sea­soned politi­cian. She stood as an ANC can­di­date in ward 18 dur­ing last year’s lo­cal gov­ern­ment elec­tions and Zuma cam­paigned hard for her. She didn’t win.

Mo­ments af­ter City Press met James out­side the El­do­rado Park po­lice sta­tion on Thurs­day, a man walked up to her hold­ing the hand of a girl of about 11 years old.

“This man has just told me this young girl has run

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