Phoenix killings: victim found out his 3 friends were killed after waking up from 3-week coma
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DURBAN - A NTUZUMA resident is still having flashbacks after he was shot four times and his three friends were killed at a roadblock in Phoenix during the July unrest.
Mzokhona Nzuza, Robert Jiyane and Simiso Nsele died. They were travelling together with Ntethelelo Mkhize and five others. They were returning home after visiting a friend in Cornubia, near Phoenix on July 12.
Mkhize, a lecturer at a local college, was driving his Nissan bakkie when he was stopped at a roadblock in Palmview.
The unrest broke out in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal. Community members set up blockades and patrolled the neighbourhood streets after the start of mass looting. In Phoenix, checkpoints were set up at strategic access points to the area. The problem started when those operating the checkpoints turned to vigilantism and started racially profiling people, preventing them from entering the suburb.
In August, the government announced that the unrest claimed over 330 lives in the two provinces.
Mkhize said the road was barricaded with tyres and other objects that were set alight. Mkhize saw two groups of about 20 people and thought it was a service delivery protest. They stopped him and demanded to search his bakkie. While searching, Mkhize said the group hurled insults and derogatory remarks at them.
“When they allowed me to drive off, a young boy struck the back of the bakkie with an axe. The group started banging the bakkie and pelted it with stones.’’ One of the men inserted his firearm into Nsele’s mouth. In the fracas, Nzuza and Nsele were shot when they alighted the vehicle.
“I tried to drive off but the road was closed. I was shot twice while seated in the bakkie. I got out to run but fell to the ground. I was shot twice again by a different man. They took pictures and recorded videos on their cellphones. While I was lying on the ground they took my cellphone, jacket and flip-flops.”
Mkhize ran but collapsed at the gate of a nearby home. He regained consciousness at the Phoenix Unit 10 clinic but then slipped into a coma for three weeks. He was discharged from hospital on August 24.
Mkhize then found out his friends were dead and his bakkie set alight. On Wednesday, he told the commission he had not seen the bakkie since. The police also did not know where it was. Mkhize said his name appeared on the list of 35 people who died in Phoenix. This caused his mother and family emotional stress.
“I have not been compensated. The incident has affected me emotionally. At one stage while I was hospitalised, doctors thought I lost my mind.”
Mkhize said the incident left him in debt and had to repay instalments for the bakkie which he no longer had.
“When we came to Phoenix, there was no ubuntu forum. Neither was there any humanity shown. This incident was properly organised. When you talk about the Phoenix massacre, don’t show us images of people carrying bags of rice. In court, the accused said they had chronic medical conditions. They were released on bail. Did they put the condition on pause when they shot and beat us up?”
KwaMashu resident Mzwandile Magwaza, Mkhize’s passenger, told the commission that when he got to the roadblock he asked the men why they were searching the bakkie when they were not police officers. He also questioned why they had not reprimanded one of the men who struck the bakkie with an axe.
“The group started shooting at the vehicle. I saw the mob hack my friends and shoot them. I ran until I came to a river bank.“ Magwaza found other injured people hiding. He watched one of them take their last breath close to 8pm. He said while they hid near the river banks, the mob had set alight tyres and threw them close to them.
“They were trying to burn the ones they had killed earlier. I called a colleague, Mr Govender, for assistance. He fetched my friend and I and left us near KwaMashu.” Magwaza spent the next day searching for his friends in hospital. He took the initiative to call police detectives.
“It has hurt me and my family. I have not moved on from this incident. The government needs to intervene. Victims need to be compensated for their losses. Maybe that will make us feel better and live in peace with Indians.”
The hearings continue.