Necklacing is the practice of summary execution carried out by forcing a rubber tire, filled with petrol, 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.
The practice became a common method of lethal lynching during disturbances in South Africa in the 1980s and 1990s. The first recorded instance took place in 1985 when African National Congress (ANC) supporters killed a councillor who was accused of being a collaborator.
Necklacing sentences were sometimes handed down against alleged criminals by ‘people’s courts’ established in black townships as a means of circumventing the apartheid judicial system. Necklacing was also used to punish members of the black community who were perceived as collaborators with the apartheid regime. These included black policemen, town councillors and others, as well as their relatives and associates.
The practice was often carried out in the name of the ANC, and was even explicitly endorsed by Winnie Mandela, then-wife of the imprisoned Nelson Mandela and a senior member of the ANC, though the ANC officially condemned the practice.
Photojournalist Kevin Carter was the first to photograph a public execution by necklacing. 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.’
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.
Necklacing returned to South-Africa in 2008 when people turned against 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.
This practice of lynching is also 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. It’s also bee seen in the Ivory Coast, Sri Lanka, Nigeria, India, and in Brazil, where it’s called ‘microondas’ (an allusion to the microwave oven).