Charmaine Intenhle Mhlongo’s 19-year-old son Sanele Mngomezulu was killed inside a minibus taxi during the unrest in Phoenix last week. I Tumi Pakkies/African News Agency(ANA)
Charmaine Intenhle Mhlongo’s 19-year-old son Sanele Mngomezulu was killed inside a minibus taxi during the unrest in Phoenix last week. I Tumi Pakkies/African News Agency(ANA)

#SAUnrest:Families want justice for those killed in Phoenix

By Thabo Makwakwa, Thobeka Ngema, Willem Phungula Time of article published Jul 23, 2021

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Durban: The families of those who were killed in Phoenix during last week’s violence and looting have called for justice to prevail.

Charmaine Intenhle Mhlongo’s 19-year-old son, Sanele Mngomezulu, was shot and killed while inside a minibus taxi in Phoenix. She spoke to the Daily News yesterday ((THURS)) at her home in Amaoti. Going into details about the tragedy, she said her son was blown away with what appeared to be a pump action or a shot gun on the left side of his chest. The Daily News has seen the graphic images of which the mother has requested the paper not publish.

She blamed Police Minister Bheki Cele for “showing total disregard for black lives” because he failed to go to Phoenix and search for the weapons used to kill people during the unrest in the area.

Sanele Mngomezulu, 19, was killed in a minibus taxi in Phoenix during last week’s unrest. I SUPPLIED

“When our children were brutally murdered, Bheki Cele was quiet and only appeared when it was calm. He is now busy harassing black people searching their houses for groceries when there are weapons in Phoenix used to kill black people.”

She felt that had people from other race groups been murdered, the government would have reacted differently.

Mhlongo said the government had failed its people because “some of the leaders were the ones who incited violence and encouraged the people of Phoenix to commit crimes and kill blacks”.

“If the justification is that they were looting, then why kill them and not send them to jail? How were they even able to identify whether one had looted or not? I am pained by what I have seen. Even when I went searching for my son, we were being chased away by Indians.”

Philisiwe Ngcobo’s brother, Bhekinkosi Ngcobo, 34, and a neighbour left Amaoti township on Monday afternoon last week to fill up petrol in Phoenix and never returned home. Describing his body, she says her brother was hacked to death with either a panga or an axe. His head was severely wounded with gashes on both sides. She explained that the only thing that would wipe away their tears would be the arrest of the killers. Prior to his death, the family says Bhekinkosi owned a small business and took care of his family. He was also semi paralysed so he could not flee his assailants when they attacked him.

Bhekinkosi Ngcobo was killed in Phoenix. I SUPPLIED

The surviving neighbour told the family that her brother and their other friend were killed allegedly for asking to fill petrol.

“We are still shocked and devastated by the killing because my brother and their friends never went to loot. We call on the police to arrest the killers so that we can start healing. We found our brother hacked at the Phoenix mortuary,” said Ngcobo.

Affected families keep arriving in numbers to the Phoenix Medico-Legal Mortuary to identify the bodies of people killed in Phoenix during the unrest last week. I Tumi Pakkies/African News Agency(ANA)

When the Daily News team visited the mortuary to verify the correct number of bodies at the mortuary from the Phoenix murders and to also speak to the families who arrived to identify bodies, security guards prevented the team from entering. They said they received instruction from the health authorities not to allow the media inside. The Daily News was chased out and told to wait for the families outside the mortuary premises.

Provincial Health spokesperson Ntokozo Maphisa said the department was concerned about talking about the number of state mortuary bodies without having the facts. Maphisa said more than 30 bodies were still unidentified at the Phoenix mortuary.

“The 30 bodies still unidentified are not necessarily of the people that were killed in the Phoenix during the unrest. People must remember that the mortuary receives bodies from all areas around Durban and sometimes from as far as Eshowe. Some bodies were brought by hospitals so the backlog of more than 120 bodies did not mean that they were killed in Phoenix,” said Maphisa.

Health MEC Nomagugu Simelane had visited the mortuary on Tuesday.

In contrast, A Phoenix mortuary employee who spoke to the Daily News anonymously outside of the premises said many of the bodies were those of people who were allegedly attacked by Phoenix residents and that only a few were injured as a result of looting.

Bodies were still being found in bushes while others were being fetched from hospitals.

“I can’t be sure how many bodies because I did not count, but what I remember is that on July 11, people working the night shift fetched about 30 bodies alone and the next day we fetched about 15, in Phoenix, not other areas.”

“Some were shot, hacked with pangas and others were burnt. Cases I went to, I fetched bodies with gunshot wounds and others were hacked. In some bushes, some were found necklaced and others (three) were found in a bush that had been set alight.”

The employee said some bodies were fetched near Inanda which is just outside Phoenix.

The employee said there were women’s bodies but most were those of adult men.

On another investigation, the Daily News visited the Pinetown Medico-Legal Mortuary where it was found that a significant number of people had also died in the unrest.

An employee at the mortuary, who asked not to be identified, said almost 100 bodies related to the unrest were brought in.

According to the individual, people were injured in the looting, items had fallen on them and others were drunk from looted liquor.

Their casualties were aged 30 and above, also mainly men, but no seniors, he said.

“Some suffocated and were eventually trampled. There were a lot of different causes of death because some looted liquor, drank it, then fought over what was left which resulted in stabbings and shootings.”

The employee said they were exhausted from processing the bodies from the unrest.

“It was my first time seeing something like this and I’ll never forget it.”

Acting minister in the presidency Khumbudzo Ntshavheni yesterday said since the unrest the latest death toll of 337 comprised 258 deaths in KZN and 79 in Gauteng. The rise in reported deaths was due to some of the people who were injured dying, she said.

The police were investigating 42 cases of murder in Gauteng and 37 inquest dockets have been opened. In KwaZulu-Natal, 171 cases of murder have been opened and 87 inquests filed.

The Daily News

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