The man, who police identified as Ndidzulafhi Tyson Makhala, died after a large group attacked him with various objects and set him on fire.
The police spokesperson, Colonel Moatshe Ngoepe, told The Independent that the group in the village of Muhovhoya had acted in response to allegations the man had raped the teenager.
“It is alleged that the girl went to the nearby bushes to collect firewood together with other women from the village, when the deceased attacked them,” he said.
“The other women managed to run away, leaving the teenage girl behind, and that’s when the deceased allegedly raped her.”
Col Ngoepe said following the attack on the morning of September 23, the group gathered to look for the man.
“They caught him around the village and attacked him,” he said.
After “frantic calls” were made to police, officers went to the area in the village just outside Thohoyandou, in the north of the country, where they found the badly burnt body.
A murder investigation is under way, but no arrests have yet been made.
In a statement provided to The Independent, the provincial commissioner of the South African Police Service in Limpopo, lieutenant general Nneke Ledwaba, condemned the actions of the mob and reminded members of the public to “respect the rule of law”.
He said it was important that people cooperated with police instead of taking the law into their own hands.
“Those who still participate in these barbaric acts, will be dealt with harshly and without compromise,” he said.
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies