Phoenix and Inanda community leaders hope for peace following unrest in KZN
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DURBAN - THE death toll from last week’s unrest and looting in KwaZulu-Natal and parts of Gauteng has risen to 337 as the authorities continue to count the cost.
Acting Minister in the Presidency Khumbudzo Ntshavheni provided an update on the police’s investigation into the unrest yesterday. She said the latest death toll of 337 comprised 258 deaths in KZN and 79 in Gauteng.
The police were investigating 42 cases of murder in Gauteng, and 37 inquest dockets had been opened. In KZN, there were 171 cases of murder, and 87 inquests dockets opened.
On reports that there were unclaimed bodies at the Phoenix mortuary, the minister said that was still under investigation, adding that the government had condemned the violence that had taken place in the area. Whether it was linked to vigilantism was still under investigation, she said.
Community leaders from Inanda and Phoenix told The Mercury yesterday that it would take years for the two neighbouring communities to live together in peace. Leaders of the two communities, which are separated by a main road, said the recent racial tension was concerning as more than 22 people had died, and more than 20 vehicles had been torched during the violence.
Ntuthuko Ngcobo said he has been living with a bullet in his head since last Monday. The 27-year-old said that while travelling in a bakkie with his friends, they were stopped at a roadblock in Phoenix. It is alleged that Phoenix residents manning the roadblocks turned away black people from their area.
“When we reached a four-way stop, another bakkie came and started firing gunshots at us. We turned around and started driving back home, but they continued to chase us. I felt a lot of blood dripping from my face. My face and head were numb. I thought I was dying,” he said.
His friends drove him to Mahatma Gandhi Memorial Hospital, and he was told that a bullet had hit him on the side of his head and was lodged in his left jaw. Ngcobo said the hospital gave him an injection to reduce the swelling and told him to come back on July 27 for the bullet to be removed.
“Since Monday last week, I haven’t been able to eat, sleep or even stand for too long. I’m lucky to be alive. We were not going to loot their homes. We were just passing by to get to Cornubia Mall. I’m still angry,” he said.
The family of 31-year-old Njabulo Dlamini, who died after he was allegedly attacked in Phoenix, said they would not rest until justice prevailed. Dlamini’s sister, Xolile, said the family was devastated by his death. He was buried on Wednesday.
She said her brother was travelling to the shops with five friends in a taxi when they were stopped at a roadblock. She said they were told to get out of the taxi and were assaulted before it was set alight.
She said they were told to get back into the taxi, but her brother refused and he was shot in the head.
“His death has hit the family hard as he was a breadwinner. Since when are there places in this country where we can’t go just because we are black? My brother was killed only because he was black.”
Another Phoenix resident, Tashleen Moodley, the mother of teenager Faybian, who was allegedly shot dead last week at one of the roadblocks, called for justice for her son. Moodley said her 17-year-old son was caught in crossfire when a group of Indians and Africans were shooting at each other.
“I was told that a bakkie full of African men was stopped at a roadblock. After they were turned away, they then left and returned a few minutes later, firing towards people at the roadblock. My unarmed son was shot and died at the scene. I don’t blame or hate black people. I blame the government for acting late on this,” she said.
Another resident, who asked not to be named, said it was difficult and scary to walk or even drive at night since the racial tension started.
“It’s hard, brother. We are living in fear. My friend was hit by a car, and after he was on the floor, two men went out and openly shot him. The situation is bad here, and it’s sad that some people are acting as if people are making this up,” he said.
Bhambayi councillor Moses Zulu said that complete peace between the two communities was unlikely to happen in the near future due to the tensions prevailing in both communities.
“We were living together in peace, and this has showed us as the Inanda community that the Phoenix community was just pretending. The racism has always been there, but we were able to ignore it. However, going forward, I doubt that will happen again,” he said.
Jonathan Annipen, a Phoenix community leader, said there was a lot of anger between the two communities, and that would take time to resolve.
“As leaders and families, we want justice, and people, either from Phoenix or Inanda, must be arrested and held accountable for dividing these communities. Even if some people were protecting their assets, they were not supposed to kill people,” he said.