A man suspected of stealing a cell phone is in a critical condition after Diepsloot community members tried to burn him, Gauteng police said on Saturday.
Lt-Col Tshisikhawe Ndou said police had been patrolling in the township when they came across a mob assaulting the man.
"The allegation we picked up from the street is that the man and his friend were accused of being cell phone thieves," he said.
"When police arrived he was badly assaulted and they wanted to burn him. His friend escaped," he said
Paramedics on the scene "insisted that he had burn wounds to his body" when they received the patient, said Synock Matobako, spokesman for Johannesburg Emergency Services (EMS).
EMS had earlier reported that the man was forcibly removed from a police van where he was in custody, then assaulted and set alight.
"We received information that the community had overpowered the police and took him out and burnt him," said Matobako. The paramedics had five police vehicles with them, but Matobako said the paramedics felt that it was still not safe for them to advance into the area.
"So the police went in and brought the patient to us... he had first degree burns to his whole body. We weren't able to ascertain if they used petrol or if they used a tyre," said Matobako.
Ndou said a case of attempted murder had been opened.
The unidentified man in his 30s, was taken to the Thembisa Hospital.