Durban victims tell of beatings by ‘vigilante’ groups during July unrest
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DURBAN - A KWAMASHU resident described how he drove with a flat tyre and shattered windows after being attacked at a roadblock in Phoenix during the unrest in July.
The South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) is holding a national investigative hearing into the unrest.
Mbuso Xaba said he left home with three others in his Ford Figo on July 12 to fetch his girlfriend from King Shaka International Airport. Most petrol stations in KwaMashu were closed. He was stopped at a roadblock on Eastbury Drive and Phoenix Highway before he could enter a petrol station.
In July, unrest broke out in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal. Police reports said community members set up blockades at strategic access points to their suburbs and patrolled their neighbourhood after the start of mass looting and unrest in Durban.
The problem started when some people operating the checkpoints in Phoenix turned to vigilantism and started racially profiling people, preventing their entry into the suburb.
Xaba said he was pulled out of the car, made to go down on his knees and struck repeatedly with a bat.
“The mob claimed I was there to loot. They also beat up the others. They ran away.”
Xaba was able to get into his car and drive off. He was stopped at two other roadblocks on Phoenix Highway where he was assaulted with sticks. A brick also struck the back of his head causing him to bleed from the wound.
Xaba told the commission that people at the roadblocks were carrying an assortment of weapons including shotguns. Most were wearing masks and hats.
At the Lenham intersection, Xaba said he was struck on his ribs and hand with a bat. His car tyres were shot and they deflated.
Xaba said a woman who told the group she was a domestic worker was also assaulted. Both were saved when a private security company and police arrived. They escorted him to Westham Drive so he could enter the Inanda area safely.
Near Inanda, he noticed another group of African men parked on the side of the road. They had experienced a similar ordeal.
“One was shot in the chest. He was seated in the car.”
Xaba said he testified before the SAHRC because he wanted justice to be served, more arrests to be made and those guilty to be jailed.
Xaba said his sister lived in Westville and did not experience the type of roadblocks staged in Phoenix, where motorists were racially profiled and attacked.
“It would heal one’s heart to see more arrests and convictions. My life has changed. I have so much anger. There was no reason for them to assault us. They should have told us they wanted a war.”
Bongani Mkhize was driving home to uMlazi via Montclair. On the M4 Freeway, he claimed a private security company vehicle with two men stopped him. One waved a gun at him. While the men searched Mkhize’s car, another car arrived with three men inside. He heard gunshots.
“I believe they were shooting at me. I ran away. I heard one gunshot and I fell. I realised that I was shot in the back. I could not walk. I crawled and held on to the roadside crash barrier. The men had stopped another vehicle and it gave me a chance to crawl across the road.”
Mkhize said he went to a nearby business on Lansdowne Road where he called a relative for help. They arrived with Durban Metro police.
Police escorted his family to Prince Mshiyeni Hospital. His tracking company fetched the vehicle the next day and left it at his home. Mkhize said the tyres were stabbed, car seats slit, the roof of the vehicle was damaged and both windscreens were shattered. There have been no arrests in either incident.