Durban residents plead with Cele to help recover bodies of loved ones killed in unrest
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Durban - Scores of Bhambayi residents near Phoenix pleaded with Police Minister Bheki Cele to help them to identify and retrieve bodies of their loved ones after they were killed in Phoenix, in what was dubbed as racial tension.
The residents said those who have died were more than the 20 that government had reported.
The minister was on Saturday visiting areas in and around Phoenix, including Bhambayi, Amaoti and Zwelisha, to assess the destruction following the week-long violent unrest.
Zandile Mthembu, 25, was carrying papers as proof that she once owned a car but it was torched on July 12 by a group of Indian men.
She and other community members told Cele their experiences.
“I was travelling on Phoenix Highway alone to go and buy chronic medication for my grandmother in-law when I came across a group of people, one car hit my car on purpose. It was like I was in a movie. Realising that I was hit, I parked on the side of the road, they immediately torched it. I watched a car I worked hard for burning in front of my eyes.
“The group of Indian men pulled me out of the car, some said they must shoot me. I was crying, I asked what was happening, they told me that I was looting. They took me to the nearby river, they pointed a gun to my head. I was begging for mercy, I told them that they have already killed me by burning (my car) and beating me up. One man advised them to not kill me.
“With all this beating happening, a woman and her family (also Indian) watched me. When the group was walking away, the woman advised me to go to a bush and use a trail to reach the other side. Indeed when I reached the other side the husband and the son came to my rescue, they drove me to a safe place,” said Mthembu.
Zandile Mthembu tells her story of how she was attacked while driving down the Phoenix highway. Her car was burnt but she managed to save her child. Video: Ntombi Nkosi/IOL Political Bureau
She said she managed to call her partner to the place she was safely kept. Her partner was also attacked by a group, she said, but fortunately police came and arrested him and other black men.
Mthembu said her partner was later released because police had no evidence that he was part of the looters.
Another man said he was hurt because his brother was killed while driving home from work, allegedly because he was black.
“My brother finished work late in the evening, he was driving on the Phoenix Highway, a group of people stopped and killed him and burned his car. As we speak we do not have his body.
“Many of us cannot get the bodies of our loved ones because roads are still closed. My brother was not in a yard or shop of any Indian (home), but he was travelling on a national road,” he said.
The community cried foul and demanded transparency in the investigations into the killings and assault on people.
Cele said the police were aware of the killings in the area, hence his visit.
“We have set up a team of 10 police officers who are not from Phoenix to investigate. Please work with the police. As a community, please elect people who can be your representatives,” said Cele.
The minister visited areas in and around Phoenix, including Bhambayi, Amaoti and Zwelisha, to assess the destruction following the week-long unrest and racial tension.