Police Minister General Bheki Cele. Picture Henk Kruger/African News Agency (ANA) Archives
Police Minister General Bheki Cele. Picture Henk Kruger/African News Agency (ANA) Archives

Government investigation over Phoenix cases looks at police top brass, four security firms

By Sihle Mavuso Time of article published Aug 4, 2021

Share this article:

Durban - The government is probing the Phoenix Police Station and its top brass while at the same time investigating the dirty role allegedly played by four local security companies in the Phoenix murders that left 36 people dead and scores injured.

The top priority investigation would be carried by a special team of 31 top detectives drawn from national and provincial levels, and it was announced by Police Minister Bheki Cele on Tuesday while addressing the media at Inanda police station in the north of Durban.

Cele detailed how the killings happened and further expressed shock that some of those who were killed were either shot or hacked to death and some were even burnt.

Cele said, so far, 22 people are currently in custody and facing prosecution for their role in the killings. He said 33 of those who were killed were black people from KwaMashu, Zwelisha, Amaoti, Inanda and Bhambayi, which are predominantly African townships around Phoenix in the north of Durban.

Only three of the victims were of Indian ancestry, and the number could still rise as investigations are still going on.

The press conference was also jointly addressed by KwaZulu-Natal Premier Sihle Zikalala, who said most of those who were killed were innocent people who were passing by Phoenix when the attempted looting and killings started on July 12.

At Cele’s side, Zikalala vowed that all the private security companies would be held accountable, and all those who lost their loved ones should be assured that justice would be served.

“Detectives are investigating the role of private security firms in the violence. The response of the local SAPS to these events will also be looked into. Working closely with the Private Security Industry Regulatory Authority (PSIRA), the team of investigators has seized (152) firearms from four private security companies working in the area.

“112 illegal firearms have also been seized during police operations in Phoenix. The seizure of these firearms is within the ambit of the Firearms Controls Act, and the firearms have been sent for ballistic analysis,” Cele said.

Cele said he could not comment on allegations that four police officers from the Phoenix police station took all the illegal firearms confiscated during raids and distributed them to vigilante groups that staged illegal roadblocks under the guise of protecting their properties and businesses from looters.

“There are issues and questions raised … issues wrongly done by our own members, and we did say the investigation is continuing, Ipid (Independent Police Investigative Directorate) is part of that, but police themselves are investigating some of these cases.

“So until we really find out what is the story there we will not be able to comment. But rest assured that investigations are going on and those investigations the public will know what exactly happened… as soon as the result are found,” he said when asked when are they going to suspend the police fingered in wrongdoing.

It has also been repeatedly alleged that some SAPS officers who are residents of the township used state cars and firearms to kill people.

Meanwhile, Zikalala said KwaZulu-Natal, the epicentre and the flashpoint of the looting and violence, suffered economic damage worth R2.1 billion, and they have since asked the national government to help as the budget is too heavy to be carried by the province alone.

“These figures are not final and are expected to grow. We can confirm that with the work done so far, the situation is beyond the provincial and municipal capacity to deal with the cost of public riots and unrest as reported; We have therefore recommended to submit for classification to the national disaster management centre in terms of section 23(1)(b) of the Disaster Management Act. The declaration of a provincial state of disaster will support the re-prioritisation of budgets to implement the repairs and recovery programmes.”

[email protected]

Political Bureau

Share this article: