Anglican bishop joins calls for accountability over 220 SA unrest deaths
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Durban - Religious leaders of all races called on authorities to arrest those responsible for the killing of 22 people in Phoenix during the violent looting and rioting which crippled KZN last week. But, they said, racial divisions were being exaggerated to serve political agendas and did not reflect the post-apartheid decades of harmonious living between Indians and Africans in Phoenix, Amaouti and Bambhayi.
Bishop Rubin Phillip, who serves as deputy chairperson on the KwaZulu-Natal Social Cohesion Council, said the racial divisions being reported in Phoenix, Durban, was not a true reflection of the entire community and that the “mischief makers” needed to be handed over to the police.
Speaking to Independent Media yesterday, Bishop Phillip said reconciliation needed to be the principal aim.
“People ought to be careful not to act on anything anyone says. There are mischief makers who exacerbate the situations,” he said.
He made a desperate plea to leaders of the community to play a more active role in building bridges across the divides.
“We need to put behind us the wrongs that have been committed and work to build a new community to live together as friends,” he said.
At least 220 people have been killed in KwaZulu-Natal since last week. KZN Premier Sihle Zikalala had said that police had put in resources to investigate the cases and arrest the killers.
“A total of 22 people died, they did not get sick but died tragically after they were shot, stabbed and other vicious ways of being killed. Many say this was a massacre, this is because too many people died at once,” Zikalala had said
Chief Whip of the IFP in eThekwini, Mdu Nkosi yesterday warned communities not to play into a political agenda by creating divisions among themselves.
Nkosi has appealed to communities, especially in Phoenix to work in harmony and collaboration in pointing out the criminals and to refrain from destroying good relations in the process.
He said that the so-called racial tensions in Phoenix were nothing more than an agenda to deflect from their own shortcomings.
“People have been living together for so many years. Those communities have intertwined and come together in so many aspects. Indians and Africans work together and are employed by each other, they marry each other, they build communities together. It’s important for people to come to their senses now and let the law enforcement agencies deal with the criminals.
“We cannot allow extremists to take control. The community groups must work with the police but they cannot take the law into their own hands. There must be law and order,” Nkosi said.
He said that as the IFP, the party also valued the relationship with all races and cultures.
“Everyone is suffering. When the unrest happened, everyone struggled with food, petrol, bread, unemployment. It is extremely sad that lives were lost in Phoenix but those criminals must be taken to task,” he said.
DA KZN leader Francois Rodgers said those fuelling racial divisions in the community were “weak”. He also called on the police to act swiftly on those who committed murder.
“We strongly condemn any racist opportunists who are using this anarchy to drive racist agendas. We are a rainbow nation and should be protecting each other.
“Those political leaders who are driving their racist narratives are exposing themselves for what they are, weak and fuelling the flames of anarchy,” he said.
Peace activist Ela Gandhi, who was born in the Phoenix Settlement in the Inanda district also added her voice to the call for peace in the area.
“The majority of people who live there want peace. It is the extremists who need to be found and dealt with by the police,” she said.
Even retired Judge Thumba Pillay echoed the call for peace and calm amidst the violent alleged killings of over 20 people in Phoenix.
Judge Pillay urged people not to take the law into their own hands and called for perpetrators to be arrested.
He said he was “extremely upset” that this has taken such a racial overtone and said the problems were much deeper as it rose out of factionalism, poverty, homelessness, and unemployment
He said the politicians were concentrating on factionalism rather than the suffering of the people.
“We call on all communities to restrain and think about our glorious past where we've worked together and fought for freedom and we got it. Let us not spoil it with this criminal behaviour.
“An eye for an eye makes the whole world go blind, that's what Mahatma Gandhi said. Communities must act responsibly, leaders must come out and speak up and restrain people from taking the law into their own hands. Perpetrators must be arrested,” said Judge Pillay.
CEO of Private Security Industry Regulatory Authority (PSIRA), Sam Chauke said he was investigating the conduct of security companies in the unrest in KwaZulu-Natal.
The organisation received a number of complaints about how the security industry had handled the riots.
"We have complaints from Phoenix, Bhambai and Umlazi, mainly the four black townships, about being abused by security companies. They have shared with us some videos where people have been shot," said Chauke.
Peace Committee member Pastor Mervin Reddy said they were busy planning programmes of reconciliation and social cohesion between the different communities which were affected by the tragic events that unfolded in the last week.
He said that the 30-year achievements were lost in one week and there needed to be a two-way street to lead to a successful healing process.
“Part of the process for the families relief is a process of people being arrested for their criminal acts,” Reddy said.
He said they can play their part as the peace committee in rebuilding the communities in the sense of ubuntu.
“Those who lost their loved ones also need to get some sort of comfort from police, who are doing a sterling job on the ground investigating cases.”
In a peaceful march to Phoenix Police station on Wednesday morning, Bishop Vusi Dube said religious leaders have taken it upon themselves to remind South Africans that “black lives matter”.
“The perpetrators of the Phoenix Massacre cannot go unpunished, the nation is angry like a volcano ready to erupt. To calm this volcano we urge the police to work with the utmost urgency in ensuring that arrests are made to avoid bloodshed,” Dube said.